Friday, May 8, 2015

Follow-Up On Pregnancy & Body Image Posts.

[Copied/pasted from the blog's Facebook page]
I wish to make something clear here, in case I haven't before: I think it's obvious that one's body changing rapidly can be overwhelming and can sometimes bring up insecurities.* However, if it were in any way truly debilitating to someone, I'd hope that she wouldn't hesitate to seek help. Also, strangers commenting in a negative way/tone isn't acceptable at any other time in one's life, so I don't think it should just be considered part-and-parcel of pregnancy.
BUT, with all that said, I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. I wouldn't trade my expanding belly for a flat stomach nor do I constantly long for my more defined waist or to fit back into my skinny jeans. In general, I do love my pregnant body and being pregnant. In fact, I've been extremely lucky in how smoothly everything has gone so far, and I feel blessed every day this baby continues to grow. My blog posts merely show how I mentally handle the insecure moments and resolve them. I think most people, pregnant or not, have those moments, and I think it's good to normalize them rather than create a fantasy world in which someone is 100% happy 100% of the time or always thinks about their circumstances in relation to those less fortunate.** As humans, we just aren't always capable of that, so it seems like a surefire way to develop feelings of guilt, failure, and shame.***
I actually personally don't mind when people congratulate or compliment me. It's that "negative tone" I dislike. For the most part, it's wonderful to me to witness how excited and giddy people can get over someone else's impending new arrival, and I often enjoy hearing their experiences. Just because I myself don't mind it, I still think it odd that strangers feel confident congratulating someone without confirming first; many women still look the same for a time postpartum, and I know that's already a difficult enough time for some without people asking when they're due, and I also know plenty of pregnant women would prefer to be left alone. What I do mind for myself and anyone else is when someone's words are obviously discomforting and nudging insecurities to the surface, but they continue anyway.
It simply isn't realistic for me to be happy with my body all the time, but how could I ever not appreciate it when it holds something so precious to me? Now, if only baby would decide to keep kicking while Mr. Nerd was actually in the room...

*I've struggled with body image issues and not seeing what other people see for a long time. At one point in my life it was taking a toll on my health, but nowadays I have a great support system and positive ways of coping (blogging has certainly been a free form of therapy to me), and I've never felt better and more capable of handling it. Of course pregnancy, which by its very nature is all about change, was going to throw something new into the mix. While the "moments" remain, it has, overall, in fact helped more than it has hindered, because I've started to view my body more in terms of its capabilities--the same way someone who starts running might start to appreciate her body for the athleticism it displays--than in terms of looks, and the looks in turn become more beautiful and fascinating to me. 
**Of course I wish everyone's trauma, sadness, and suffering would end, and of course I know that I am lucky for my health, the roof over my head, the food and water to which I have access, and my family and friends. This does not mean that we shouldn't think of people less fortunate than ourselves; only that we as human beings--rich or poor, sick or healthy--all have times when we are more inwardly than outwardly focused.  
***Even if you've finally gotten pregnant after two, five, or fifteen years of trying, it's perfectly normal to sometimes be hard on yourself or not to enjoy every. single. aspect of pregnancy. It does not mean that you aren't grateful to be pregnant or that you're unhappy about your baby. I also consider myself lucky that I've actively enjoyed so much of pregnancy thus far, because I know that's not always everyone's experience. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pregnancy & Body Image Inner Dialogue #3: Oh, the Comments... in Real Life.

*Lines all not in italics: said aloud by me. Lines in bold: said aloud by another person.*

1. Oh, right, you're speaking to me, the so obviously pregnant one.
2. Still not sure why you asked when the "baby girl" was arriving, though.
3. ... Should I ask, "What baby?"*
4. This is our waiter for the rest of the night, though. 
5. May be easiest just to...

Let it go... let it go...

6. Baby will be here in September.  
7. Yes, I still have about 18 weeks to go. 
8. Please don't look that surprised.
9. We don't know if it's a girl.
10. You're almost the first one to say girl; most people are guessing 'boy.'
11. Ah, yes, the science of personal anecdotes; you carried "like a basketball," and it was boy.
12. And I'm "bump all over and out to the sides"... because that remark was absolutely necessary.
13. Thank you for the expressive, expansive gestures that indicate the size and shape of my body at the moment.
14. I don't ever look in a mirror or walk past reflective surfaces, and I desperately need to be able to mime a description of myself to others.
15. *Shrug*. Could be.
16. You do realize that the odds are 50/50?
17. I know several people who had multiple children and carried differently every time, regardless of whether the babies were the same sex or different.
18. Although when I spun counterclockwise seven times, walked backward through an open kitchen door, and sprinkled salt on my head, my wedding ring didn't fall off. 
19. That definitely puts the odds at about 70/30 in favor of a boy.
20. Feel free to stop looking speculatively at my belly.
21. ... Any time now.
22. I guess it could be a big boy? 
23. Did I really just hear that?  Having... trouble...

Letting go... letting go...

24. First of all, according to medical studies done on the subject, boy babies generally grow faster than girls... ?
25. Of course that's still just overall and doesn't necessarily mean anything about my baby in particular or the rate of my own growth. 
26. Because there are other things expanding in there besides the baby, you know.
27. Second of all... I just... really?
28. As far as I can tell, bump size and shape is highly individualistic.
29. Funny enough, many women I know who have been pregnant or given birth recently tell me I look "small" or "about like they did" at 22 weeks.  
30. OK, OK, so it's often qualified by, "Maybe that's just relative to your boobs."
31. Still, sometimes I get the vague impression that many people who are further removed from the pregnancy stage or haven't been pregnant either forget or don't know, respectively, how much bigger women can look throughout pregnancy. 
32. And not because they're "gaining too much weight" either.
33. I mean, when you gain 25-35 pounds (on average) and most of that weight is (frequently) concentrated around one's middle, what do people expect?
34. So... I guess I probably could look larger to other people than I feel like I look.
35. Which... is fine... 
36. It really ought to be fine.
37. My doctor is pleased with how everything is going.
38. Baby looked great on the scan.
39. That's what ultimately matters.
40. I just... Mr. Nerd, you wouldn't say I look like I'm about to give birth any minute now, would you?
41. All right, I look pregnant; that wasn't the question.
42. This isn't a trick question.
43. See, I didn't think so either.
44. What does "definitely pregnant" mean, though?
45. "Like there's a tiny human growing inside you"... Well, yes, I know that's what pregnancy is.
46. Of course because of that I'd be concerned if I wasn't getting any bigger.
47. Well, no... I don't know what I "think I should look like."
48. So I look "like a mommy"?
49. But what does that mean!?
50. Thank you, thank you.
51. "Beautiful" is just what I needed to hear.**

*It has really only been in the past two weeks that I've started getting congratulations and comments from complete strangers, and this is always my first instinct. Even though in general I don't think people ought to comment about a pregnancy unless the woman brings it up first, I'm not confrontational enough in real life to say or do things that make others uncomfortable, even when they make me uncomfortable. It's something I need to work on. Of course, I'm not sure whether that will become more tempting over time, what with 18 weeks left to go and all... !
**While in a perfect world, we would never need external validation, it is OK to have a sincere compliment make you feel better.