My 5-year-old daughter loves to tell people that girls are superheroes “because we can make people in our bellies.”
She is right. We are pretty magical. Our bodies know how to do amazing things when it comes to reproduction and pregnancy. And once we give birth, those superpowers become even more clear. But that magic can come at a cost – both physical and emotional. And while we are no doubt, very powerful creatures, we need to remember that our strength needs to be nurtured.
Many of us spend much of our lives looking forward to becoming a mom. We dream about the fun we will have with our children and who and what they will become. But we see images of pregnancy that aren’t always realistic, which can lead to surprises for many of us when we do finally experience the real thing for ourselves.
During pregnancy, our bodies go through incredible changes. Sometimes things go back to the way they were, and sometimes they don’t. Either way, pregnancy definitely comes with some challenges. Some of us experience swollen feet, heartburn, thinning hair, sore breasts, stretch marks, back pain, leg numbness, weight gain, and muscle loss, among other things. There are many foods we may love but can’t eat and plenty of drinks we may love but can’t enjoy. Is it worth it? Yes. But experiencing the changes we go through during this time is not always easy to accept. You may find yourself looking in the mirror and hating what you see. (And then maybe feeling guilty or selfish for feeling that way.)
And that’s just what you can see. Inside, you’re likely feeling just as much change. We are on a constant rollercoaster mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Aside from the natural fear and anxiety many women have regarding their (and their unborn child’s) health, as Black women, we are more susceptible to pregnancy-related complications than white expectant moms, and knowing that, adds layers to what we have to emotionally manage during this time.
It can be challenging to keep all of these changes in perspective. But, perspective is exactly what you need to maintain a loving relationship with yourself throughout every stage of your pregnancy. From the first sign of a bump to those last restless nights as you prepare for labor, here are some ideas on how to try to embrace what you’re experiencing, every step of the way.
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings without guilt and give yourself grace. If you’re feeling good, bad, excited, scared, happy, sad, in love with your changing appearance, or absolutely hate it, don’t beat yourself up for feeling how you feel and remind yourself that you are not alone.
- Find support! Talk about how you are feeling with people you trust. If you have pregnant women around you during this time, share what you’re going through. It is always great to realize you are not the only one thinking and feeling the way you are. Open up to your doctor, partner, friends, family, or a mental health professional if you feel you are ready to do so. Putting feelings into words will be a powerful release for you and hearing feedback from others will give you perspective.
- Avoid things that trigger those bad feelings. If unrealistic images of pregnant moms on Instagram send you down a spiral, #unfollow. If your food cravings lead to feeling bad afterward, try to limit those treats to once a week or reward yourself with that snack after a relaxing walk. If certain friends add to your stress, avoid them. Eliminate what isn’t serving you during this time and choose you.
- Document your pregnancy stages with pictures and videos. You may like what you see on camera more than what you see in the mirror and you will want to remember every stage of this time. (Your child will likely love to see it later too!) And talk about perspective – when you’re taking those 9-month photos and look back at the 3-month ones, you can’t help but appreciate how far you have come and the amazing work your body is doing.
- Wear clothes that make you feel fabulous. If you love showing off your pregnancy, wear a bodycon dress or tank and enjoy all the compliments you get on that beautiful belly. If belly attention isn’t your thing, make sure you have comfy, oversized clothes that fit your personality and highlight a body part you want to show off (arms, legs, etc.) There is no denying that looking good makes you feel good and if you’re not feeling great about whatever stage of pregnancy your body is representing, then dressing to accentuate the parts you are feeling good about will help you forget about being self-conscious.
Remember that nothing lasts forever, especially pregnancy. The days may seem long but these months will fly by! You will have plenty of time to get back in the gym (if that’s a priority for you) or wear the clothes you used to love (if that’s a priority for you.) Everything you did before will be there. But my guess is, once you deliver that beautiful baby, your perspective on those things will have changed too.