Tag Archives: pregnancy

Why It’s Hard To Be Happy For Your Pregnancy

img_6312I was sitting in my office, seeing clients, when I made the mistake of checking Facebook in between my 4:45 and 5:30.  I felt like a brick slammed into my gut as I saw yet another jubilant pregnancy announcement.  The woman in question looked joyous and glowing, full of life literally and metaphorically.   The post, albeit wonderful, reminded me of my inability to do the same thing.  I plugged in my phone, plastered a smile on my face, and opened the door to usher in another client.

*****

I am not supposed to talk about this.  I am supposed to be kind and inspiring and supportive of my fellow females.  “There’s a special place in hell for females who put down other females,” coarsely says the recent meme.  But what if talking about my pain doesn’t take away from my happiness for my pregnant sisters?  What if they exist at the same time?  What if the expectations we impose upon fellow females are inhuman?  Because God knows, I’m as human as they get.

My baby was supposed to be born in 5 days.  She was supposed to be a distraction from the current grotesque spectacle of an election.  “The baby will “make November great again,” I had quipped to my husband.  She would make November great again, because my Dad had passed away the same month and so had John’s Nana the past two years in a row.  But then, she decided not to come, and November remained the way it was, cold and foreboding of more cold.  And I watched other friends post sonogram pictures of their healthy, thriving babies.

My mind has brought me several ways to invalidate my feelings about my miscarriage.  One, is that I have a healthy child.  A child that is nothing but full of life.  So why should I be sad about something that wasn’t a child yet?  That was nothing but a clump of cells?  I have one.  Also, nags the voice, you know people that can’t even have one child.  You should be grateful.  It doesn’t help that this voice is backed up daily by well-meaning friends and family members.  But this voice and these well-meaning people make no sense, because we can’t put qualifiers on what can be grieved and what can’t.  Imagine if we had a cutoff for grief and anything that was above that line of awfulness couldn’t be grieved.  Would only starving children be afforded the right to grieve?  But a suburban mom couldn’t?  Where’s the sense in that?

The thing is, it’s as if life said, Hey.  Here is your chance to take care of another human soul.  Here is a chance at joy for your family.  Start to change your plans and take down the crib from the attic.  Stop eating feta and coffee and start to prepare your older child for a sibling.  But wait – 

Just kidding, it says cruelly.  Back up your car, you don’t get to go down that path anymore.  Unbecome a pregnant woman, physically and mentally.  Unprepare your child for a sibling.  The guest room will just be a guest room and the good news is, you can have as much coffee as you want.

*****

I was in Market Basket, shopping, and there she was.  Demeter herself.  A pregnant woman dressed in a beautiful flowered sundress.  She was stunning – she had that knowing look in her eye, and I swear she could smell my jealousy.  And here I was – half Persephone, half Demeter, strung out by no sleep, dressed in running clothes, hair a mess.  I felt less than, less of a woman, even though my rational mind knew I wasn’t.  My body remembered.  My body remembered.

I am well aware that the picture of that pregnant woman on Facebook may very well be the same face of a woman who, like me, cried on the cold slab of the doctor’s table one heartbroken day.  That she may have gone through numerous fertilization treatments.  That she may have been told as a child she never could have children.

But none of that stuff can take away from my imperfect humanity, the stuff that makes you squirm.  My humanity that feels less than and raw and yes, sometimes judges, even if she tries really hard not to.

And please don’t ask me to take it away.  Please don’t expect me to be inhuman.  Women are so much more than one-sided smiley-faced there-for-your-comfort holograms.  We are full people, full of the stuff you like and the stuff you may not want to hear.

Top Three Reasons Why I’m Finally Bikini-Ready.

bikiniready

I remember a time, long ago, when the internet was just a household fledgling and Sarah McLachlan played nonstop on my Walkman.

It was 1996, and I was so unhealthy and sick when it came to my body image.  Now keep in mind, I was also the thinnest I’d ever been.  Weighing twenty pounds less than I should have, my body cried out for nutrients.  But because I’d been told by many a person that I was “Super-skinny”, I decided it was finally OK for me to wear a bikini.  So I bought one and wore it on vacation to Panama City to visit my half-brother, who was stationed there at the time.

And I hated it.  I felt  like I was crawling out of my skin the entire time we went to the ocean or a water park.  I was paranoid people were staring at my body fat and shuddering in disgust.  When I developed the pictures from the trip, I despised looking at my stomach in them.  It seemed to pour over the bikini bottom and just looked, well, gross.

(And the fact was, it was just ill-fitting, and I was so weak I had no muscle tone.)

Fast forward eighteen years.  (Excuse me while I go have an age-related heart attack.)  I’m twenty pounds heavier, have had a child, and have some rumply skin right above my belly button since giving birth to my daughter.  I also have some rumply skin underneath my arms, just a little bit, that’s popped into existence over the past couple of years.  I have stretch marks, but I’ve had those since I was a kid.

Before this recent Fourth of July weekend, I briefly contemplated buying a bikini.  I hadn’t worn one since that trip to Panama City, and thought maybe I was finally in the right head place to do so.  “No”, I grimaced to myself.  “My abs don’t look like those people’s I see on the beach.  I’m too white.  I’m suppposed to be tan.  People would laugh.”

Then, I realized, I was listening to my old eating disordered voice, and f%$& that s*$%.

I’d been listening to it all along.  Who the hell CARED if my stomach looked fish-white?  I’m supposed to look like that, I’m Scottish, Irish, English, German and French!  Who the hell cared if my bikini bottom was too big and someone saw my ass for a second as my daughter climbed onto me?  It was at a freaking family BBQ.  I realized I’d been missing out on being me, crazy, “who gives a shit”, outspoken Amanda all these years because I was listening to an old tape inside my head.

So I picked out a polka-dotted bikini, and I wore it on the Fourth.  And here’s the reasons why I think I was ready:

  1. I stopped giving a shit about what others thought of me.    Was this easy?  Hell no.  It probably took about eighteen years!  But – the second you realize the things people say about you negatively are directly related to the way they feel about themselves, you are set free.  Seriously.  So that friend who always makes comments about what you’re wearing and how you look in it?  Probably hates herself.  And her body hate doesn’t have to influence the way you feel about yours.
  2. I gave love to the places on my body that needed it.  Some of you may remember the “Tummy Love Project” that I started on here.  I never finished it on the blog, but I finished it in real life.  One of the reasons I never wore a bikini was the amount of hate I had for my stomach.    So, I meditated about it, I gazed at it lovingly in the mirror, and I strengthened it (I find in my recovery that muscle strengthening exercise does not trigger me, but instead makes me feel empowered.)  You may be laughing at the gazing at it part, but it worked.  Why?  For years, I’d been pretending it wasn’t there, silently excluding it from existence.  For the first time, I acknowledged it and respected it.  And that started the hate loss.
  3. I respected my body for what it’s gone through.  The funny thing is, before I’d given birth, I loved my body way less than I do now.  Part of it is – I didn’t know what I was working with before.  I didn’t know that I had this amazing body, capable of producing and giving life to this world.  Again, you may claim corny, but I say it’s astounding that women can do this, and be up and walking the next day.  It’s a miracle!  So, I respected my body – and flaunted its magical prowess when I wore a bikini.  I gave birth, goddamnit.

I’m sorry if you read this article expecting some miraculous not-yet-discovered secret about weight loss that made me look bikini-ready.  I was only bikini-ready because I finally loved my body and respected it, not because I had finally achieved some weight loss goal.  My head had to be in check to wear one.  Interestingly enough, I was less bikini ready when I was thinner.

So here I sit, in my bikini, writing this out in the sun on our front lawn while my little one naps.  My legs are pale white, some fat hangs over my bikini-bottom (PS, we all have it when we hunch over)…

and I’ve never been happier with my body.

I Never Thought I’d Say This, But Lay Off Kim Kardashian.

Any of you who know me understand that I can’t stand celebrities like the Kardashians.  I don’t touch reality TV with a 10 foot pole, and basically think it’s the breakdown of American society.  So I paid little attention when she became pregnant.  I paid a little more attention when I found out they are naming the baby “North”, (read:  full name is North West.  Want to commit heinous crimes.)  and I paid a LOT more attention when photos like this surfaced:

0131-kim-kardashian-akmgsi-3

 

…And of course, critique ensued.  “She’s bingeing on cake, pasta and cereal!”  “She looks fat!”  BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Whoop de ding.  Another female on this planet is pregnant, and she’s gaining weight.  NO.  WAY.

The joke’s on you, you dumbass media.  You’re busy being all sick and gossipy, and Kim probably doesn’t give two sh*$s because she has every maternity designer and personal trainer at her fingertips.  And we don’t give two sh%$s because we’ve gotten pregnant too.

Just lay off.  Pregnancy is not a story anymore.  A million women have gained weight and pushed babies out.  Go find something more interesting to report on.  I hear there’s a small situation in North Korea going on right now.

(Image provided by tmz)

Pregnancy and Body Image: Some Surprises

I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw the “Yes” on the pregnancy test screen. First there was disbelief, then panic, then later, after crying in a dazed state to my best friend and mother, joy. I had anticipated this for a long time; I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. But I anticipated this with dread and happiness simultaneously. Happiness, because I knew I would (minus the learning curve) be a great mother, and dread, because I didn’t know how I’d react to the weight gain, being in eating disorder recovery.

I seemed to worry less about my weight during the pregnancy. I think (and most doctors would shudder at this) I looked on it as the one time I could eat whatever I want and it wouldn’t matter. It was such an escape from my ED, in a sense. Society was cool with me getting bigger. I DID have to stop myself from calculating possible weight gain in my head, however (“If I’ve gained a pound a week then I’ll be X amount of pounds by nine months…AHHH!”) I was proud of myself though; I faced the numbers on the scale every couple of weeks and for the most part, left them at the OBGYN office. I didn’t hold back on eating.

28 Weeks
28 Weeks

But I worried incessantly about how quick my body would bounce back after. How long would it take to lose X amount of weight? Was I screwing myself by now by not curtailing what I ate? As soon as I gave birth, I looked down at my confused, tired stomach and wondered if it would ever change from it’s current war-torn state.

Still in shock...
Still in shock…

And I proceeded to have the strangest experience.  The weight dropped off like NOTHING.  I know, I know, you can call me a bitch if you want, but it was like a giant F%#$ you to my eating disorder.  I had been obsessing about how I would lose weight, and my body ended up taking care of for me. This began my admiration for the power of the human body.

I marveled at how I simply produced milk for my daughter.  I was astounded by the healing powers of my body when I, six weeks later, was able to run a mile after, well….let’s just say: there were some blood loss issues.  And I was impressed again, when my body truly resumed its pre-pregnancy form post-breastfeeding.   I have a trainer acquaintance who swears up and down that weight loss or gain is all hormone-related; I’m beginning to believe this.  Hormones, in my opinion, are NUTS!  (I’m sure my significant other, John, would attest to that.  Notice that I’m not talking about the emotional piece of my pregnancy.  That’s another book for another time.  Ahem.)

Bottom line…I feel sexier now that I had a child.  Even if I don’t look stereotypically sexier.  Before you think I’m a total Pollyanna, you should know it’s not 80% of the day, when I’m in a shirt that’s been thrown-up on (holy acid reflux, my Fiona had) or my hair looks like Mom hair or when I’m wearing flannels next to John.  It’s moments when I’m walking down the street to my job, and I realize, “I gave birth, goddamnit!  And I’m still here!”  Seriously, does anyone else take pride in that?  I sure as hell do.

goofball.
goofball.

I think the other piece of it the lack of appreciation I had for my body pre-pregnancy.  I just didn’t know what I had.  This amazing, regenerating, life-giving machine that was capable of so much strength.  But because I believed that it was just to be looked at…I hid it.

I don’t have perfect body image.  No way.  I have this little dimpled section of skin above my belly button that is a leftover physical mark of pregnancy.  Do I wish it was there?  Of course not.  But I’m pretty damn amazed that I was able to push a baby out.  I’m…proud of myself.  I’m proud of my body.  And after 14 years of criticizing my body, I’m pleasantly surprised at that.

I know this isn’t everyone’s experience.  I’ve talked to friends who struggle with body image after giving birth.  (I’m convinced whether you gain or lose weight during or after pregnancy is one big genetic, hormonal crapshoot.)   I just wish for all of them that they can feel empowered after what they did.  Cause I “still got it”, and so do you.

Pregnancy and Eating Disorders.

Exactly six years ago, in a land that feels as foreign to me today as perfection, I sat in day treatment unsure and listless.  I was sure my legs were getting fatter by the minute, as evidenced by the tight pull of my size 2 jeans I could still just fit into despite the daily meals we were required to eat at the hospital.  I was busy journalling about a recent love I had lost when a dark-haired, serene counselor walked in.  She possessed a centeredness that I had never known, and I was vaguely attracted to it.

She smiled briefly and led us in a meditation exercise.  After that, she invited us to think of the body part we hated the most about ourselves and write it down on a piece of paper.  Beside it, she wanted us to write a practical use for it.  She then took the papers and read them out loud, so we all could add uses the writer had missed.  It was my absolute favorite intervention there, for it reminded me that our bodies that are capable of accomplishing glorious, astounding things if we just feed them.

On my paper?  I had written “stomach” and for its practical use, “pregnancy”.

******

In early May, I found out I was pregnant.  Seeing that “Yes” on the pregnancy test was the most exhilarating thing ever.  And the scariest.  That day, before I told my partner, I contemplated how my life and body would change.  I worried about financial concerns.  I worried about my ability to parent.  I worried about everything.  This worry was alleviated time to time by those who validated my thoughts as “normative maternal worry”.  I knew, however, I carried an extra beautiful complication to the usual ups and downs of pregnancy.  I formerly had a relationship with my body in which I denied it what it needed.  While I wasn’t pregnant, although I hadn’t starved myself for some time,  I had the psychological “backup” of being able to return to restrictive behaviors if things got too hard.  But now, there was to be no denial of needs whatsoever.  Simply put, eating disorders are the definition of control, while pregnancy is the definition of out of control.  No matter how many miles you run or green vegetables you eat, the pregnancy will not hold if it’s not a good genetic match.  No matter how many folic acid vitamins you ingest or hypnobirthing tapes you listen to, you have little control over the amount of labor hours you will go through.  And if you eat a relatively “normal” amount daily, you will have little control over how you gain the weight.  I know naturally teeny women who gained 70 lbs during their pregnancy, average to above-average women who gained 11 lbs during their pregnancy.  Everyone gains differently, with an average of 25-35 lbs.

Even though it had been awhile since I stepped on a scale or monitored what I ate, old surface body symptoms began to resurface once I found out I was pregnant.  First, old thoughts began to pop up during my first trimester.  I was convinced I was gaining weight immediately and that my pants were fitting tighter.  At my first OB visit, I was convinced the nurse practitioner would tell me I needed to stop gaining weight so rapidly.

The joke was on my eating disorder – I had lost six pounds during my first trimester.  A rational food mind would have told me that I probably wasn’t gaining weight due to nausea and a lack of those daily caffeinated “extra-extras” at dunkin donuts.

After this, my mind was fixated on the fact that I wasn’t gaining weight, and became slightly obsessed with the fact that I needed to gain!  I said this to everyone I know – and now know why I did that.  My old, eating disordered thoughts were proud that I had lost weight, and well, some people gain weight right away, so why not flaunt that?  (A very selfish disease.)  And when I did gain weight, my mind swung the other way, and worried that the nurse would tell me I was gaining too rapidly.  I quickly became preoccupied with the idea that my body may never return to its “normal” state.

So, there can be these surface symptoms that reappear, much like trauma symptoms have a tendency to reappear during pregnancy (when you are pregnant, you think about the way you were parented, thus bringing up feelings of satisfaction or bad memories about your childhood).  However, what about the deeper issues of control?  How can these permeate a pregnancy?

Well, let’s look at my pregnancy, although I believe mine was a circumstantial extremity that most wouldn’t experience.  During it, I experienced a residence change, the possibility of being unemployed, and financial instability.  I will make another residence change before the baby is born.  A lot of individuals who struggle with eating disorders note that there is a peak in symptoms during major life transitions.  So, with a refusal to engage in eating disordered behaviors anymore, my emotions rocketed during this time (which often happens when someone puts down a behavior.  You are getting used to life without it, so the events will seem even more emotional and triggering).  This is on top of an extreme hormonal surge (as my nurse practitioner put it, “You are all hormones, Amanda.”).  So yes, I and my partner dealt, and deal with larger emotions that usual.  It’s not easy, and it frankly makes me want to throw things at the women who post pictures of themselves gazing adoringly at their partners while their partners stroke their belly.  I refuse to believe it’s that picture-perfect for anyone.  Just like I refuse to believe perfection on any levels.

What has helped me during this time?  Faith.  Spirituality.  The knowledge that everything will turn out the way it is supposed to.  Exercise has empowered me, but I’ve had to be careful to not berate myself for running a mile and a half instead of my usual three.  What’s especially helped?  Connecting with women who lay it out straight for me; who acknowledge their temporary homicidal urges, who bemoan their oxygen-reducing weight gain, who talk about the ugly stuff during pregnancy that others cringe at.  Pregnant women, in addition to those in any kind of recovery, are the most courageous of all, in my humble opinion.

I know I will have a boy because I’ve always respected and gotten along better with women (you get what you need), but if I was to ever have a baby girl, I would be honored.  Honored to raise a girl who might never even think about the size of her waist.  Honored to empower her, honored to send her healthy messages that I never got – the thought brings me to tears.  It was that very reason I named “pregnancy” that day in treatment; since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to raise a mostly healthy family, and specifically, raise a strong, outgoing (if she wanted to be) young lady.  They say all parenting is a projection – we want things for our children we never got.  I am guilty of this, for sure – but it’s not the worst projection.

It is easy to let the daily worry get in the way of the fact that I was given the biggest personal gift in the world.  For it is not everyone’s dream to be a mother, but it is mine.

(Images provided by www.pregnancynutrition.org.)