Disclaimer: I feel compelled to note that I don’t want or need anyone to reassure me about how I look or feel. The following is simply part of this fascinating pregnancy experience that I wanted to share.
If you’ve ever had an unhealthy relationship with food or weight (I know it can’t just be me, right?), falling pregnant carries a whole lot of scary realities. My history with food, health, weight, and body image is long and complicated. Suffice it to say that I firmly believed carbohydrates were evil from about the tenth grade. I was also convinced that the only way I could lose weight was to completely eliminate carbs. Would you like to know what’s completely unsustainable and utterly depressing? A life without bread.
My beliefs about food and my body were incompatible with living any kind of balanced, normal, social life, which led to a relentless cycle of short-term weight loss, cementing my self-worth to a number on the scale, an inevitable binging on all things hot, salty, and carb-laden, immense guilt and disgust with my failure, and an ensuing weight gain. It seemed that each time I repeated this cycle I gained a little more, until I found myself morbidly obese and unable to fully participate in my life.
I could write an entire book about my journey out of that dark place, but that’s not really what I want to focus on here. The really happy part of this story is that beginning in March of 2016, Donnie and I made a series of changes in the way we ate, exercised (as in, we started actually exercising), and the way we thought about and spoke about ourselves. If you are interested in the ins and outs of what that entailed, I would be happy to share with you outside of this post. We have continuously and successfully lived our new lifestyle for eighteen months, and the ways life has changed for us are honestly unbelievable. One of the amazing changes for me was the ability to get pregnant at all, which was generally impossible before.
After adjusting to the shock of finding myself with a little one on board, I realized that being pregnant meant I was going to gain weight. I have steadily lost weight and focused on my health and fitness for well over a year, so the thought of reversing that pattern immediately sent me into a tailspin. I became obsessed with my weight, a habit I had finally broken after years of obsession, and thoughts of the food I consumed swirled around my head all day. What harm am I doing my baby by eating this muffin? Am I dooming my baby to a lifetime of struggling with her weight because I’m still overweight? Was it reckless to even let myself become pregnant? Add in the terrifying message boards and internet articles I was seeking out, and I kind of lost it.
The reality is that while I am still technically overweight, I am a very healthy person. I walk between five and eight kilometers (3 to 5ish miles) almost every day and exercise four to five days a week. I eat a balanced diet full of protein and veggies and complex carbs (and the occasional Dairy Milk bar because life is fun). My blood pressure is appropriately low, my cholesterol is where it should be, my thyroid function is normal, my blood sugar is regulated. I’ve been living an intentionally health-focused life for quite a while, and the benefits are evident. I honestly don’t say any of this to try to make myself sound good, but more so to reassure myself that I’m going to be ok. Nineteen weeks in and I have a very normal, very healthy baby who is growing appropriately. Just because my BMI is still in a certain category does not mean I am incapable of being a good mother. That sentence may sound ridiculous to anyone who has never struggled with these issues, but it’s something I have to actively choose to believe every single day.
I still struggle with my food choices and my intense desire to limit my food intake. As I’m starting to really “show” (there’s an undeniable bump happening these days) I vacillate between intense excitement that a growing baby brings and disgust and fear with my reflection in the mirror. I constantly wonder if a passing stranger thinks “aw, pregnant” or “gross, fat.” (I realize it really doesn’t matter what a random stranger thinks, and most people probably don’t even notice or think either of these things, but these are the crazy places my brain goes on the reg.) Some days my guilt over feeding my increased appetite or giving in to a random craving weighs heavily on my heart, but most days I feel empowered by the good choices and healthful nutrients I’m consuming to fuel my strong and healthy baby girl. I’m lucky to be surrounded by supportive people who both encourage me and also refuse to let me wallow in self-pity or dumb opinions. This baby and I both have a lot of growing to do, and I speak for us both (is that allowed?) when I say we are so lucky to have our support network cheering us on.