Updated version of this post at Elephant Journal, February 8, 2011.
I felt that way at the beginning of my first trimester and I’ve heard it among too many other pregnant women. Instead of equating the swelling belly and increased adipose tissue (fat) with hormonal changes and additional weight designed to support the pregnancy, too many women just feel fat (and hate it).
I always found the pregnant form immeasurably beautiful. Radiant women with full curves and a new life growing inside. I looked forward to the day I would become pregnant and join this league of life-giving, glowing goddess women. I took the home test, it confirmed my pregnancy and one of the first things that went off in my head was, “uh-oh, what about my body?” I am embarrassed to admit that the fat fear was present almost from conception.
I had moments where I felt beautiful but I didn’t embrace my fecundity and fullness in the same way I had imagined. Those “beautiful” moments were sprinkled in among terror over my ever-expanding body. I remember coming home and crying at the end of the first trimester because I felt ugly and fat. My partner would remind me that I had a long way to go and I was not big (at that time).
Reflecting on those feelings of self-rejection and body hatred makes me sad, sad because my beautiful son was growing inside of me. I’ve written about this subject a lot lately because it is maddening that women seem destined to carry their culturally induced body anxieties into what should be an incredible life experience. The tabloids ridiculous obsession with the baby-bump and the post-baby body has not helped pregnant women feel any better about the changes their body goes through. In fact, it’s just “another way to make a woman feel fat.”
To help women cope with body pressures before and after pregnancy, author Claire Mysko wrote Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby.
If you’re like most expectant women, you’re worried about what pregnancy and motherhood will do to your body, your sexuality, and your self-esteem (even if you don’t want to admit it out loud for fear of the Bad Mommy Police). While the journey to motherhood is truly miraculous and brings forth life, it can also bring forth a myriad of legitimate concerns.
Enter beauty activists Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei, who offer a much-needed forewarning on what to expect from your changing body, as well as a reality check for each stage of your pregnancy, exposing the myths, challenges, and insecurities you’ll face throughout pregnancy and beyond—and what to do about them.
Unfortunately, I did not find this book until well after my son was born and deep into the throes of my body loathing. I hope all pregnant women (or soon-to-be-pregnant) will find this book and that it will assist them.
While I think this information can be incredibly helpful, it’s not enough because we’re in a mediated cultural environment that continues to throw jabs from every angle. We need to employ active tools of media literacy to deconstruct these images as well as create and expose ourselves to new images, realistic images. That’s why I love the website, The Shape of A Mother, a website that demystifies the pregnant and postnatal form with images and stories from real mothers without computer retouching or plastic surgery.
As a first-time mother, I admit that I was clueless and surprised at the physical changes I encountered. I felt alone and disappointed that most of the physical and emotional changes I experienced were not discussed honestly and openly by other mothers. I felt like I was thrown into the jungle without the adequate provisions and tools to emerge successfully. We need less stories about women like Ellen Pompeo (who went up to-gasp-size 26 jeans during pregnancy), Gisele Bundchen (kudos on the home birth, though) or Nicole Richie (“svelte after one week!”) and more stories about average women who are pregnant but just feel fat. Maybe if we have more people discussing these issues candidly we can avoid more women spending their pregnancy obsessing over their inevitable expansion and being present to the miraculous process they are engaging in.
Now that would be beautiful.
Me during my first trimester, feeling gigantic (not gigantic at all). Me during the last few weeks.