Body Shoptalk

I would like to talk about my body for a minute. Because of all the weird things that accompany infertility and pregnancy, my changing relationship with my body was one thing I hadn’t anticipated.

If you had asked me how I felt about my body before all this started, I would have said fine. Maybe even great. Like most women, I have one or two things that poke at when I’m feeling low, but on the whole I’ve never really had a problem with my physical appearance. Through some miracle, I had escaped a lot of the self-loathing so many women experience about their bodies.

Or so I thought…

I realize now that I’ve been pretty blessed in that I have been effortlessly thin. I know a lot of people out there are going to hate on this, but this is a fact. I’m naturally skinny and have a kick ass metabolism. I also like eating my greens and genuinely love physical exercise. It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t exposed to screwed up societal expectations of women’s bodies. I simply skirted the issue through the genetic lottery. I could rant and rave about the exploitation of women’s bodies, how harmful unrealistic beauty standards are, why we need to embrace all body types… and then eat a slice of chocolate cake and not bat an eyelash.

Pregnancy has hijacked this body of mine, and with it exposed me to a whole lot of stupid insecurities I didn’t know I had. Early on while I was experiencing the joys of bloating and constipation, I rolled around on my bed lamenting that I was “getting fat.” Mr. Ostrich reminded me that I was, in fact, pregnant. But it still felt like my body was betraying me.

The bump is definitely making its presence known at this point. While on vacation in CA, I wore a few maternity dresses. On one hand, I felt great- it was nice not to be under layers or wearing increasingly ill-fitting pants. On the other hand, I had this compulsion to run around telling people I was pregnant, not chubby.

To be clear, I am not proud of this. In fact, it makes me feel icky. Objectively, I get that my body is doing something really amazing right now. It is building a fricking human. That is some badass shit. At the same time, I now understand I’ve internalized that bigger is badder, and it is hard override the instinct to feel ashamed.

In a strange way, I’m reminded of when I first realized I was infertile. In a whole different way, I was also ashamed of my body. It wasn’t doing the *one* thing it was biologically put on this earth to do. Everyone else seemed to have perfect reproductive organs, whereas mine were clearly less than ideal. I remember feeling betrayed by my body every month, compounding all those other feelings of grief, frustration, and disappointment.

I’m just going to come out and say it. Being pregnant doesn’t make me feel magical. It makes me feel out of control. It was like I had this pact– I was good to my body, and it would be good to me. Now the definition of what “good” is changes daily, and I don’t know how to keep up with it all.

I’m getting bigger which is a good thing when you’re pregnant, but how do you erase a lifetime of voices telling you that your body is better when smaller?

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25 comments

  1. julieann081 · February 19, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry that these changes have been so difficult for you. I’ve read some posts about “feeling fat” that have flat out offended me because I *am* fat AND pregnant. That is how I live my life no matter what I try to do. At any rate, your blog really helped me to understand your experience more and I respect that and I respect your honesty. My hope for you is that you will learn to love your body no matter what size it is. It is a truly awesome and amazing thing that you are pregnant and growing a little one inside of you. S/he will love you no matter what you look like! Appreciate your body for all the things – big and little – that it can do. ❤ (I realize this is much easier said than done. One step at a time.) Hugs!

    • thecommonostrich · February 19, 2015

      This sounds crazy, but this is one of the hardest posts I’ve written because I know how sensitive weight issues are. I have friends who are on the larger side, and I know how hurtful “fat talk” is. I “know” these things, which is why it was so shocking when I found myself saying them. I really thought I was enlightened enough not to think these things, but I realize now how deep these attitudes go. Again, so not proud of this, but it is part of my pregnancy journey.

      Thanks for not making me feel like a monster. 😉

      • julieann081 · February 20, 2015

        I don’t think admitting to the fact that you were impacted by the societal pressures that all women face is unenlightened. In fact, I think it’s brave! You can’t help how you feel, but you can move forward in a positive direction. Your journey is your journey. Never feel bad for how you feel. Hugs! ❤

  2. thebarrenlibrarian · February 19, 2015

    Let me tell you, it’s definitely not easy when you’ve already struggled with your weight literally your entire life. Even at the peak of physical exercise and healthy eating I’ve never been “thin”. I’ve had periods in my life where I would be considered on the low end of plus size (size 10). If I’m lucky, I can keep myself between a 12 and a 14, which is where I was when I got pregnant, which has made getting “bigger” very, very hard. You’re definitely not alone.

    • thecommonostrich · February 19, 2015

      I think this took me by surprise because I’ve literally not thought these things before, and I didn’t like it for so many reasons. It made me feel terrible about my body, then terrible about myself as a person.

      It’s just so weird. I feel like there is this fiction that all pregnant women should feel beautiful all the time. “Spend your entire life wanting to be small! Now spend the next 9 months getting bigger, and thinking you’re glowing and miraculous!” It’s kind of stupid really.

      • thebarrenlibrarian · February 19, 2015

        So true. For me the worst part has been that I’ve always carried my extra weight in my stomach, so even after I lost so much I still had a little belly. On it’s own it didn’t bother me too much, but now that all that squishy pudge is being pushed out I FEEL EFFING GROSS. Blech. body image problems are the worst.

  3. lovingthemarriedlife · February 19, 2015

    I understand this so well although when I was in my freshman sophomore years I was chubby but when I realized that I was the same weight nonprego as my 8 month pregnant sister I started working out eating right it took me 4 years to go from a size 7 to a size 3 and dropped a total of 42 pounds and I have maintained it ever since through eating right and exercise which I love both things 🙂 but I worry how my self-confidence will be when I hit the numbers I was at so many years ago that I worked so hard to get out of… I have a hard time expressing this worry when I am afraid to offend other women who I know are still struggling with weight problems… I just remember how hard it was to get back on track but on the plus side I was not pregnant the first time and did not have a 9 month time frame of losing a good chunk of whatever weight you gain through out pregnancy… and if you plan to breastfeed it will help you get back to pre-pregnancy weight sooner… so I’m just going to remind myself that after words my body will lose some of the weight and it wont be as hard to work it off as it would be from a non-pregnancy weight gain… keep your chin up! soon you will have a bump that you can’t hide and you will feel more confident again!

    • thecommonostrich · February 20, 2015

      I had this moment during one of my weigh-ins when I realized I weighed the most I ever have in my life. My very first instinct was to panic. It surprised me how immediate that reaction was too.

      As much as pregnancy is natural and all that, it is also a pretty significant change to our bodies. I’m aware that it won’t be the same afterwards- there will likely be stretch marks, things that don’t quite go back to where they once were. All of which sounds fine in theory– even slightly empowering– but I am curious about how I will react to those changes when they happen.

      • lovingthemarriedlife · February 20, 2015

        I feel ya! I’m not pregnant yet but I still wonder about the what if’s for when I get there will I have a lot of stretch marks will it be hard to get my body back in shape … right now I’m at 19% body fat and the fertility dr. said she would prefer me at 21% so that if I get sick and lose weight in the first tri. That I’ll have something to lose… Every morning tell yourself how beautiful you are and maybe the power of positive thinking will help? If you figure out how to handle it better let me know cuz I haven’t got a clue…

      • lovingthemarriedlife · February 21, 2015

        I often find myself wondering the same thing… How will I respond to the changes when they start to happen… I’m still at the starting line of IVF so I wonder how my body is going to react to all the meds and everything I’m planning on putting it through for the next year…

      • thecommonostrich · February 22, 2015

        Ah, IVF… Obviously, every one is different. I did one round and almost lost my marbles toward the end. I also have friends who have done 3 rounds like it is NBD. This is definitely ones of those times when knowing yourself and what you can handle pays off.

      • lovingthemarriedlife · February 22, 2015

        I don’t know to much about how I’m going to handle it I hope I’m one of the NBD people but I’m a worrier so I doubt it lol…but every time I had to do birth control I was fine it never bothered me too bad… It’s so nice to hear one round success stories!

  4. InfertileGirl · February 19, 2015

    Thank you for writing this, I too am a “skinny bitch” but definitely not without body issues (before pregnancy). I’m not showing all that much, mostly just bloat after meals but my pants are getting a little tighter. I’ve been weighing myself just to make sure I am gaining the appropriate amount of weight (so far I don’t think I’ve actually gained much if anything) but the thought of the scale going up makes me cringe (even though I know it is supposed to). I am afraid of my body image after baby when not everything goes back to where it was, or my metabolism doesn’t pick up to what I’m used to. It’s shitty because you’re right, we should be enjoying this time. Can’t win, no matter that size.

    • thecommonostrich · February 20, 2015

      I actually lost weight during my first tri, and it freaked me out. But then I gained weight, and it freaked me out. And as you point out, there is what happens after which is such an unknown. I want to be happy about all this, but it’s hard to feel comfortable about your body changing when women are taught to value our bodies based on their ability to remain perpetually 25 years old.

      One thing you mention is the idea that because you are skinny, you shouldn’t have body issues. This has always sorta annoyed me because just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re immune to thinking you aren’t “perfect.” I’ve found even in pregnancy, people have been dismissive of my comments about showing. I’ve heard stuff like “Well, you won’t gain much.” Or “People will hardly be able to tell.” Who says I won’t gain much? And who cares if other people can tell? I can tell, and it still feels just as weird as if I weighed more.

      • InfertileGirl · February 20, 2015

        Oh yeah, I definitely feel like I can’t say anything about my body issues because I don’t have to fight to be thin. It’s sort of like telling an infertile person not to worry because “they’re young”. It’s a tumultuous time, this pregnancy business.

  5. Twelve Week Eternities · February 20, 2015

    I’m built like you, but have had a whole host of weird feelings over my body during both infertility/pregnancy loss and now during pregnancy. I really applaud you for writing about it, I never feel like I can talk about it bc it is so sensitive a topic, which can be hard. Even with my RE, when I tried to talk honestly about my weight and get advice I felt like I got snickered at by her and the nurse in the room as well as “skinny shamed”. My self-loathing started after my second loss, and I wanted honest advice over diet and how to put on weight in a healthy way, but it was completely unhelpful. Then they freaked me out when I did get pregnant by saying my weight was too low, even though my BMI was still normal range. So I really wanted to put on weight and still got nervous/scared/weirded out when I finally did. I didn’t gain anything in the first tri, and then once my MS subsided gained 10 pounds and went up 3 cup sizes in one month! No matter what when our bodies change so rapidly we are going to have feelings around it. I will say though, the first tri changes are almost harder to deal with (for me) bc the weight gain is so awkward…once I had more of proper bump I stopped caring about the scale and now I am enjoying having curves for the first time in my life! And all the self-loathing has gone away and I feel proud and more comfortable in my skin now than I ever have before. ..(we’ll see if that changes once I hit 3rd tri though! 😉 )

    • thecommonostrich · February 20, 2015

      Skinny shaming! I’ve never heard that, but it is totally true. It’s like you can’t talk about what is happening to your body because “you’re fine.” Then they turn the tables on you… I too had a doctor imply that I was “too skinny” and that might be the cause of my infertility, even though I had a perfectly normal BMI. No wonder we get paranoid about our weight.

      I’m glad you’re embracing this new body of yours. That is absolutely what I’m striving for!

      • InfertileGirl · February 20, 2015

        Yup, I had this too, my GP told me to gain some weight after we had been trying for a year. So dismissive.

      • thecommonostrich · February 22, 2015

        I had my GP suggest that it was because I “ran too much.” At the time, I was running between 15-20 miles a week (had been for years) and was having regular periods.
        I flat out told her no.

  6. My Perfect Breakdown · February 20, 2015

    It is amazing the relationship we have with our bodies, and I think anyone who goes through infertility and pregnancy is bound to see themselves in a new way. I know for me, while I will never carry a pregnancy successfully, I know my relationship with my body has drastically changed due to our losses – both because of the pregnancy weight and because of the emotional consequences of realizing my body will never do the “one” thing it’s supposed to.
    I commend you for being willing to speak about it, and encourage an open conversation, which based on the comments above is something many women can clearly relate to.

    • thecommonostrich · February 20, 2015

      Honestly, I could have written another version of this post months ago, because I was also surprised at how infertility change my attitude toward my body. Though not an issue of weight, I felt so let down by my body like it was broken. I had never felt like this before. In fact, once I started running, my body was such a source of pride because it became so powerful and strong. Then infertility made me feel like it was weak and feeble.

      I think all women who experience infertility have some kind of fractured relationship with their bodies. It is interesting to me how we start to reconnect and forgive our physical selves as well as our emotional side. (Easier said than done, of course.)

  7. lucy50 · February 20, 2015

    I feel the same way. I was chubby as a kid through junior high, which is the worst time to be chubby. I was teased a lot. I lost the weight by the middle of high school, but those insecurities stay with you. I’ve been most self-conscious about my arms being big, and since I’ve been pregnant and scaled back on regular yoga (just doing prenatal, walking, and some swimming), my arms are showing a lot of my weight. It’s psychologically challenging to look at my bigger arms and back fat (the back fat!) and just be like, well, this is part of it. The belly part is fine, but I have to make myself not freak out when I wear a more form fitting shirt and see the arms and back.

    • thecommonostrich · February 20, 2015

      This is exactly my point. There is this myth that once you’re pregnant, you are some beautiful earth goddess when in reality we’re still carrying all our old insecurities with us. Pre-pregnancy, I found ways to turn the things I didn’t like about my body into sources of strength. We’re taught to change our bodies (by working out like maniacs) but not to accept them as they are. So when pregnancy takes over and does what it wants, we’re still left feeling bad about our arms, thighs, backs, whatever…

  8. torthúil · March 1, 2015

    Here from the round up. While I didn’t worry about weight gain pe se (except that I wasn’t gaining Enough) I could identify with this: ‘Being pregnant doesn’t make me feel magical. It makes me feel out of control.’ The way I see it: Pregnancy involves another human taking over your body and using it for his/her own purposes. Sure there are things you can control such as diet, exercise and avoiding harmful situations and substances. But most of it is not in your control at all, and that was a new experience for me, for sure, and a unsettling one. There are probably women who are totally cool with everything about pregnancy, but I think most people have some sort of insecurity. I didn’t get “used” to being pregnant until about week 30 or something (and by that point I had few nasty symptoms left – that certainly helped). And just when you (perhaps) get used to your pregnant body, there’s birth and the post-partum body hahahaha. Some people have a lot of issues others not so much – again most of it is probably not in your control at all. I don’t know if I’ll ever fit my pre-pregnancy wardrobe again, even if I lose all the weight. I’m not distraught about it though – my baby is more important than any number of clothes. All in all I don’t know what there is to say except that nothing is constant except change!

    • thecommonostrich · March 2, 2015

      Very true- ultimately, the real live human who is helping create these changes is what is most important. Intellectually, it is easy to understand that. What has surprised me is this deep, almost primal voice that freaks out at “getting bigger.” It was like a totally new (and surprisingly insecure) side of me I didn’t know existed.

      You bring up something I appreciate a lot– the idea of being used to being pregnant. I had a near meltdown in a Gap dressing room the other day buying maternity wear. I tried on a few things, and though they fit well enough now, I kept wondering “Would it fit in a few weeks? A month?” It amplified the realization that that there really isn’t such thing as getting used to being pregnant because it just keeps changing.

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