When I was thinking about starting a body positive blog, one of my mental debates stemmed from whether I should start now or later. The main reason for this was because I am currently 33 weeks pregnant. I knew it might be a challenge taking pictures of myself, writing posts while managing physical limitations, and tackling (literally and metaphorically) my two boys. However, I realized that this presented a great opportunity for me to not just relate to other mothers, but to show the ups and downs that come from the physical changes of pregnancy.
First off, growing a human life is hard. For me, it’s the roughest ten months of my life from beginning to end. There are many physical adjustments your body makes, along with feelings about your body that constantly shift and attack your confidence. In this particular pregnancy, I have faced more of a mental battle, making the physical limitations I feel play a factor into the stress I feel internally. Whether it is hormones or just the temporary challenges of the day, sometimes I feel frustration at even the smallest tasks that should be simple, but my body refuses to keep up with. For this reason, I wanted to outline three of the major challenges I face physically during pregnancy and how I manage to work through those changes. Keep in mind that for every woman pregnancy is different, so these are examples that personally caught me off guard.
The Rush of Hormones and the Acne Attack
Many of you are probably familiar with symptoms like nausea or fatigue, however there is one symptom that got me good this time. The little annoyance for every human who desires smooth skin: ACNE. I wish it had only been acne on my face, but unfortunately it spread to my shoulders and part of my upper back as well. As someone who doesn’t have breakouts often, I wasn’t the most pleasant person as pimple clusters burst forth on my face and shoulders. On top of being miserable from nausea, I felt like I returned to my teenager days and was reliving those horrible puberty pimples. Not like growing a human was hard enough, right? There was actually a moment I was walking through the mall and a skincare person stopped me and said, “You should try this, it will help your skin,” as she circled her entire face. I politely turned her down, while my mental thoughts silently calmed the hormonal beast within. Right, well that just happened.
How I combated it: I have learned that fighting hormones during pregnancy is pretty much a losing battle, at least until your hormones slow down in the second trimester. The best answer I came to was simple: stay diligent about my skincare. I became more vigilant with things like washing my skin, moisturizing, and paying attention to foods or skin products that made my skin worse.
To give an example of a bad choice, I was shopping one day and instead of buying the lotion I normally use, I made the choice of trying a different lotion. Big mistake on my part, because my skin reacted to the chemicals inside the lotion and along with the boost from my baby hormones, my acne grew more inflamed and puffy. I learned my lesson quickly and went back to my normal lotion again. Even though my acne was still popping up, I could see the older breakouts beginning to fade and heal. Moral of the story: don’t change your routine and pay attention to your body.
Battle Scars from the Bump
If you are a new mother and don’t know what I mean by battle scars, then a more recognizable term for them would be stretch marks. With this being my third pregnancy, I have grown accustomed to the ever present silver scars on my tummy. Nevertheless, as a new mom, I remember how uncomfortable I felt at the stigma of having stretch marks. I know I am not the only one that grew up thinking this way, but to me stretch marks were a sign of being ugly. It was something to fear having, because every woman wants smooth silky skin to give the physical appearance of health. With my first child, I remember looking at my baby bump and my post-baby body, and just wanting to cry. I felt so ashamed and ugly, and my first concern was that my husband would no longer see me as sexy or want to be intimate. First off, that obviously isn’t true, because I am on my third child. Second, I want to point out that these particular battle scars come from doing something amazing, which is in no way shameful or ugly.
How my mindset changed: This took a bit of soul searching for me, but I came to the conclusion I had to change my view on what I deemed physical imperfections. For the longest time I had seen stretch marks as a sign of laziness or being ugly, but that wasn’t the case. I received my battle scars by growing a human life. My body was doing what it instinctively knew to do to accommodate that precious life. I conquered a tremendous feat and won a battle that many women go through. To leave that battle thinking there was no way I would come away unscathed was foolish. Growing a baby is tough, it is no small thing. I did everything I could to keep myself and my baby in good shape. Why should I feel ashamed? The answer simply, is that I shouldn’t. A woman should never feel ashamed of her physical appearance after doing something as incredible as creating life. I know that statement itself is hard for some to overcome, especially when comparing your body to what it was before. However, I guarantee that when your mind goes from seeing imperfections to seeing the small miracles your body performs, your perspective will change. I am proud of my battle scars, because they show how strong my body really is. It just took my mind being just as strong.
Walking like a Penguin
If you are an active person like me, this is something that will ultimately drive you nuts about pregnancy. Yes, I am talking about the end of pregnancy when most mothers start to feel the gloriousness that is lower back pain. The protruding bump that pulls you forward and gets heavier, making it increasingly more difficult to move without looking like a penguin. You feel the baby’s head in your bladder more, sleep is more difficult from baby punches, and you become more calculated in your movement to prevent straining your stretched out muscles. This is the time where I become more ornery and my husband is more careful about his word choices. It is the time when all pregnant women start saying, “I just want to have this baby out of my body. NOW”
What can help: I will go more in depth with this in my next post, but to sum up, you need to move your body. I know, real forward thinking Jenn. I realize the last thing you want to do to your tired body is to move it, but hear me out. In my experience, the more time I spend sitting or keeping my body at rest, the more my muscles and joints struggle to adjust. The nerves in my back tend to pinch easier when I sit for long periods, stand in place for a while, or sit in the same position without adjusting. It isn’t surprising this happens, because the baby’s weight presses down on certain parts of your pelvis pinching different nerves. When I get up and just walk around or even stretch my body, I reduce the pain I feel in my lower back. If you are an active person, walking a short distance can help. If you don’t feel up to walking, be aware of the length of time you are at rest and move around to keep your nerves and hips from locking up.
Tip: If you find that moving isn’t helping with hip pain, then a good solution is to lay down on the side that isn’t hurting, and place a pillow between your knees. This helps your hips realign, and opens up space for the baby to ease pressure off your hips.
Physical changes can vary from person to person during pregnancy. These little changes, despite how strong you are physically or mentally, can be a challenge. Whether you face three or more, I hope you know you aren’t alone in facing them. Pregnancy can be an unfortunate and maddening circumstance, but at the same time it can be turned into something powerful. It’s okay to feel frustrated during this time, but go back and see your body for the amazing vessel it is. Be proud of your cute little end result, and give yourself some credit for doing something only women are strong enough to do. Wear your battle scars with honor and recognize the worth your body has.