Most women have some issues with their body; we all have at least one thing (more likely multiple things) about ourselves that we would like to change. There are many causes for these insecurities, and for most women, it roots from very early in life. We tend to completely forget to also love and honour our bodies for what they do for us every day. Instead of nurturing ourselves and being kind to ourselves, we criticize and rather just try to ignore our flaws. And this is on a good day.
Many women find it difficult to absorb and process the changes that pregnancy brings to their bodies in a positive way. No matter how you turn, your baby bump simply does not look like all the ones you see on Pinterest. Instead, you waddle like a duck. Everything aches. With the charming bump, you seem to grow curves and rolls in many other places. Your feet swell. Your boobs look weird (and they rest on your tummy, a little fact that no one shared with you beforehand).
These changes are especially challenging if you were very active and fit before pregnancy.
Anneke de Silva is a doula and pregnancy and postnatal fitness instructor, with a passion for helping each mom on her unique journey. During her recent pregnancy, she experienced many of the same emotions. She shares her thoughts.
Due to the nature of my work, I am fit and I kept exercising throughout my pregnancy. But during my pregnancy, I had to consciously remind myself again how amazing the pregnant body actually is and that I am being way too hard on myself for having some off days. I had to make a conscious decision to honour and love my body for what it is doing and to appreciate the fact that I am able to continue exercising throughout my pregnancy. Was it always easy though? Definitely not!
Loving my body
As someone qualified in the Pre/Postnatal field of fitness and as a Doula, I should know better than to try to live up to people’s expectations of how pregnancy should be and how a woman should look during the various phases of pregnancy.
But the moment I open Pinterest all I see is “How to have a belly-only pregnancy”, or “Bounce back after having a baby”. I KNOW this is unrealistic and nobody should “bounce back” after having a baby! Headlines like these put unnecessary pressure on women to attain goals which are unrealistic for many. This pressure can lead to unhealthy habits during pregnancy, especially when it comes to the recommended weight gain guidelines and trying to stick to them.
Every woman carries different and when maintaining healthy eating habits and keeping a fitness routine your bump will grow how it should – healthy and at its own pace!
And on the bouncing back post-baby – your body needs the proper time and attention to recover from pregnancy, to regain strength to heal before jumping straight back into an intense exercise routine. The 6-week green light from your doctor doesn’t necessarily mean you can go straight back to what you did before. You may need to take it easier for at least the first 3 months post-baby, and you will need time to regain the fitness level that you had before you fell pregnant (or for that matter to become fit if you were not fit before).
Did all my knowledge on this topic make it any easier to adjust to my growing and changing body? Nope. Not one bit.
And what about people sharing their opinions about your changing body ranging from “oh wow look how big your bump has gotten” to “you must still go for 3 more months, you are going to be huge”? Also a big, fat no!
I have always been on the skinny side my weight never fluctuated more than 1 kg up or down. All the changes brought along by pregnancy was a big adjustment for me. I had to learn to not be so hard on myself and that this is a special phase of life. Realising that in a few months’ time I will actually miss this bump and all the wonderful kicks and butterflies of my baby girl growing inside of me helped me to embrace it more.
Loving my fitness journey
I found out I was pregnant in the very same week we started Crossfit. Even though I was fit and active before pregnancy, this is still a different type of training and intensity than what I was doing before. I made a decision that I would continue with Crossfit as long as I can and as long as I am comfortable while scaling the exercises and adjusting where necessary. I had to make some adjustments to the core muscle exercises, but it went pretty well. Until 22 weeks gestation when I had to stop running because my round ligament pain was giving me a bit of trouble and a slight sciatic nerve pinch in my bum. After that, I started feeling less strong, and my bump started getting in the way. When you cannot physically do what you want to and are used to doing, it is mentally challenging and frustrating as well.
I had to focus on loving my body for what it was doing – growing a brand new little human being – and for how amazing and just plain bad-ass that is on its own. One has to be thankful that you can provide all the wonderful benefits of exercising during this phase of life to your baby. I hope to one day install the love for health and fitness in my little girl as well. I am thankful that I get to be pregnant because that alone is the biggest blessing out of all of this!
In the end, it all comes down to how you are feeling and to figure out your emotions. It is easy to get lost on Pinterest, searching for pregnancy workouts and feeling that you aren’t doing enough, that your body doesn’t look the way you thought it would. You should not compare yourself to other pregnant women.
All pregnant moms want to be healthy and have a healthy baby, but the emotions one feels during pregnancy doesn’t always make this easy. Most women are extra hard on themselves, feeling like they are letting themselves down on the days when they don’t live up to that expectation.
READ THIS: Postnatal recovery – Why patience is key!
I don’t think anything can prepare you for becoming a mother, but making healthy choices every day for yourself and your baby will all be worth it in the end. So be gentle on yourself and enjoy this wild, special, amazing ride that is pregnancy!