The Hardest Thing About Pregnancy

They say that you take yourself with you wherever you go, that you are your one inescapable feature. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I would agree. You can alter your appearance, but you still look the same inside. You can move to a new city, but you pack yourself with the rest of your possessions. You can start a new relationship, but you have the same wounds and hurt that messed up the last one.

By default, external change does not generate internal change. [pullquote position=”right”]Trying to change who you are inside by manipulating outside circumstances is a dead end[/pullquote]. Transformation that begins in the heart is the only way to change who you are and God is the only one capable of heart transformation. I’ve been learning this lesson first-hand, lately, and it hasn’t been an easy one for me to grasp.

~~~

I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body for years. I’d be hard pressed to pin point one incident that was the catalyst for the dysfunction between me and my body, but rather, I have a host of memories that have contributed to a long standing hyper-awareness between mind and flesh…

Keeping quiet while the other girls at recess compared their weights; my 5’2″ frame holding far more pounds than the average elementary student. Or, my two junior high crushes liking other girls with much slimmer bodies than I had. Or, being nicknamed Big Em by my freshman year math teacher (more for my height than my weight, but still fuel for my poor body image).

By the time mid high school rolled around, I was in full obsession mode. My body and my weight were both things I had previously let control me and now it was my turn to control them. I already prided myself on being goal-oriented and driven in other areas of my life, applying those traits to weight loss and fitness weren’t difficult.

I enjoyed the results, but results became a slippery slope of wanting more. Despite being underweight, I still felt big, like my efforts weren’t enough. Eventually, when my hair started to thin and I became anemic, I realized I may have crossed the line into unhealthy.

[pullquote]In my quest to change my body externally, I totally missed the fact that I was still being controlled internally by my body[/pullquote], just in a more socially acceptable way.

The past ten years have been full of discovery and growth in this area. I know that obsessing about my physical appearance is a way I can feel in control when things in my life feel out of control. I know that I all too often place my value in the world’s standard of beauty. I know that looking a certain way may bring happiness, but it doesn’t bring joy.

I also know that I still struggle with this in a major way.

Being pregnant – knowing that my body was changing to take care of a little one – did not change my struggle. If anything, it magnified that fact that I still let my body control my heart and mind. I brought my body image issues right along with me the past nine months, making my changing form the hardest thing about pregnancy. I’m now three weeks away from James’ due date and am realizing this journey is far from over.

For the sake of this not becoming a novel, I’m breaking this post up into two parts… Tomorrow will be more about my current struggles and what I’ve learned while being pregnant.

Have you ever tried to change who you are by manipulating external circumstances?

photo credit: LeonArts.at via photopin cc

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5 thoughts on “The Hardest Thing About Pregnancy

  1. Oh yes… I don’t want to scare you but just help you be prepared. If you have any body issues (and who among us doesn’t!) they will be majorly magnified after pregnancy. I’m sure you aren’t surprised to hear that your body won’t go right back to normal, but it really takes a WHILE. So be patient with yourself and remember all the amazing things your body has just done and will be doing! (Feeding your baby, carrying him, etc.)

    1. Yes, I got through the first part of my pregnancy by focusing on the postpartum body until I began to accept reality – the reality that postpartum is just as much of a process as pregnancy. I’m trying not to freak out about it :) and to focus on the root of my issues which are generally comparison and misplaced value. Ugh!

  2. As a college athlete, I scrutinized every morsel that went into my mouth. When I was rowing (I also played basketball), it was especially evident because every ounce you gained had to be made up for in speed you could contribute or you were out of the boat. That being said, I got a bit maniacal. And actually, pregnancy and motherhood is what has helped me *almost* get to the point of “recovered”. When I hit 199 pounds a week before I delivered Serafina, I almost flipped – 200 was my no-no number. But a faithful friend continued to encourage me that my body will gain what it needs to gain to bring a healthy child into this world. For me, that was 35 pounds. For one of my college teammates, it’s been 50! And yes, I don’t look quite the same as I did when I had 17% body fat but I can carry my daughter on hikes, run after her when we play, and wrestle with the dog, much to her delight. God gave you a strong body, woman! I’ll keep reminding you. :)

    1. It’s so hard not to focus on the numbers! Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel. I’m going to need a lot of that I think!

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