Being pregnant has done wonders for my self esteem.
I was an only child until I was 7. I would host picnics for all my cuddly toys, and play with dolls and prams in the garden. I recently saw a study where young apes were given a selection of toys to choose from; lego, meccano, dolls and dressing up. And with no knowledge of gender bias whatsoever, the little girl apes would, the majority of the time, go for the ‘girly’ toys and the little boys would go for the mechanical ones. In this analogy, I am the little girl ape. I was instinctively maternal, so by the time my brother was born I had already developed a mothering streak. I would stuff teddies and pillows up my t-shirts and pretend to be pregnant, and because I was a lucky skinny little thing, catching sight of my rounded reflection was just a part of having a baby, and never associated with ‘fatness’.
When I crossed into tweenagedom and things like periods and first kisses and young-adult novels started contextualising the idea of sex, again the idea of pregnancy, better understood now, was not a scary one in terms of what happens to your body. It’s sad, but I know of woman who doesn’t want babies because she is so worried about getting fat.
Moving up through the years, we mature and some friends get boobs, and some dont, and some inexplicably put on weight or get acne, and some dont, and some develop the presence to fill their new physique, and some lose confidence and shrink inside themselves, the biology lottery seems to be a gamble none of us chose to take yet we’re all on the ride together. Time warps differently when you’re a teenager, and even though at 11 we all start off pretty much the same, and by 17 we are all pretty much the same again, those are the longest and most self-scrutinising years of our lives. That’s when the fat-worry kicks in.
I don’t think women’s intelligence gets enough credit for this. To insinuate that it’s seeing a picture of a size 8 model that depresses us is offensive, we are smarter than this, and our brains don’t work on this simple ‘monkey see, monkey not this, monkey sad’ basis. I think it’s the subconscious knowledge that we know that we are supposed to want to look like that which is depressing. We would all be much happier in our own skin if we weren’t repeatedly being told that we are not. Even the most ‘pro-women’ ad campaigns out there (Dove, I’m looking at you) appeal on the fact that you CAN be happy, whatever you look like. Well, gee, thanks. But since when did we need a marketing scheme to give us PERMISSION for that? By repeatedly implying that we CAN feel good, look good, just accentuates the fact that we dont. Why dont we? Because of decades of marketing of the ideal. It’s like taking medicine for the side effects of medicine. Rant over, my point is, WE SHOULDN’T NEED TO BE TOLD IT’S OKAY TO BE ANY SIZE.
I know, obviously, that pregnancy is different to pies, and that putting weight on right now is desirable and healthy, I am within a healthy BMI and encourage everyone, pregnant or not, to be sensible with their diet, blah blah blah, responsible writing. But, I am piling on pounds and what I wasn’t expecting was for my attitude to take it so well. It’s instinctive to feel icky when we see the scales creep up, or when we stop wearing jeans because we hate the way the buttons dig in but refuse to buy the next size up, and I thought that preconditioned guilt wouldn’t be so easy to shake. But the truth is, after an early scare (Bali, where I lost 3 kilos) I love watching the weight finally start to creep on. I changed shape, but I hovered around my starting weight for the first 6 months, and only now am I starting to see an increase.
Looking back at weekly pictures, I was so proud of my tiny bump at week 15 when I finally started to show, but now I can’t imagine being that tiny. I’m sure I will be feeling the same in 10 weeks time when I look back at today (when I can’t imagine being any bigger) and thinking ‘Wow, I cant imagine being that small!’ And looking back to week 4, I laugh to think that at the time I was trying to lose weight! I’d just signed up to Kayla Itsines BBG 4 week challenge to lose my winter chub when I found out I was pregnant!
But now I’m nuturing and nourishing a whole human being, and feel him growing stronger every week with kicks and punches and stretches, my relationship to food has changed too. Whereas before I would be very mindful of what I ate, plan the day in advance and feel guilty if I had a bad day and not truly enjoy it, now I eat what I like and I am happy. That’s not to say I eat unhealthily; quite the opposite. I still make all my meals from scratch, get at least 5-a day, good protein (a bit more meat than before if anything) and complex carbs. It’s balanced in all the right ways, but what’s different is that I won’t let a cherry bakewell send me into a guilt-downer until I do my next workout.
On the other hand though, the knowledge that what I am eating is directly building a human and affecting his or her long term health, I’ve found it much easier to say no to things I dont really want. Christmas time is a perfect example of this, there’s so many naughties going around that the old me would have felt like I needed to have even if I didn’t really want it- not sure if that’s the FOMO or what, but now I can quite happily pass on on the after-dinner choccie box, before-bed snack or tea time biscuit binge without feeling like I’m missing out.
As I plan to breastfeed, I think this more relaxed attitude will continue, and hopefully become so habitual that I can take it on with me into the rest of my life. Not letting food rule me, but rather, knowing when to say yes, when to say no, and when to stop beating myself up about it.