As I sit here 38 weeks pregnant, bouncing up and down on my birthing ball, I am taking a few minutes to contemplate the enormity of what just happened. You see, nine months ago my husband and I found ourselves literally “drunk in love.” We had been together for almost a decade and through a Champagne-fueled haze thought it would be a pretty cool story to tell if we conceived a baby in China!
Well, as luck would have it, we did. Because of my time as a dancer and a working fitness professional, I have what I consider to be a very strong mind-body connection. So, after five days and three attempts at making a baby, and two days before we came back to the states “I just knew” that the second I was able to take a test, it would confirm what I already felt. We were about to become parents and from that day my life was never the same.
With all of that said, I have to tell you that I do not take our conception story lightly. I consider it an absolute miracle to be able to conceive so quickly, but it has not come without its ups and downs. At the time of conception, I was working as a full-time fitness model. I was booked every week with major clients and as a 33-year-old woman, I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. My friends and I talk about it all the time as we are all in such different places. If we wait too long we run the risk of being unable to conceive. Too soon and you may ruin your chance at that next big promotion; both scenarios hard to swallow, both harsh realities.
Like most women, I have hit a few speed bumps over the past 38 weeks. Although we often discuss the physical side of pregnancy, like morning sickness, back pain and awful heartburn, there are also many mental and emotional roadblocks that are often much less “Insta-Worthy,” yet just as common. It is so important to pay attention to your emotions during this time. Daily check-ins for your mental and physical well-being are one of the best things you can do for yourself!
I am here to tell you today that if you are feeling any of the following, you are totally normal and not alone!
Even the Most Confident Women Struggle With Body Image while Pregnant
When you first find out you conceive, you literally think you have baby bump very early on. I know I did, and now I look back on photos and feel silly.
You see, as a working model, it was exciting and hard to see my body change. My paycheck basically depended on the physical, and around week 16 I was unable to work with current clients, yet was still too “in between” to work with maternity clients. I had to learn to love this new body as my last belt loop basically hung on by a thread and the calls for work dissipated, I couldn’t feel anything other than bloat and sadness, but I remember the day everything changed.
In Week 20, I gave myself a good cry on my closet floor after trying on a romper that gave me instant camel toe. Shortly after, I felt my very first flutter. The very first sign of life zipping straight up my belly, our son. Wow! How perspective can change in an instant.
In a world of filters and Photoshop, self-confidence and positive body image takes daily work. You need to treat yourself with patience and kindness and let the miracle inside you take over. If you need a little nudge, I penned an “Open Letter of Self Acceptance.” It is all the things I will need to hear on my birthing day.
You Will Feel Resentful
From the second you get the positive pregnancy test, your entire life changes. Your self-centered little world is no longer about you. It is about the tiny soul in your womb. You have to adjust your diet and lifestyle and download every app available to make sure you are doing it all “right.”
Your partner’s life, however, doesn’t change all that much. Even if you have the most wonderful, loving, supportive partner in the world, they still are not going through what you are going through and cannot fully understand how heavy the changes can be. They will go about their day eating and drinking and doing whatever they want and I am here today to tell you, it is OK if this pisses you off. It is OK for you to feel a bit resentful, but you must work on it and remember the positives. They do not get to experience the wonderful feeling of your baby’s kicks and tumbles and the true miracle that is pregnancy. So cut them some slack and your friends too! You will be back drinking wine in no time.
Finding Happiness Takes Work
Like motherhood, every pregnancy has its ups and downs. Feeling happy 100 percent of the time is just not going to happen with all of those hormones floating around. We all are experiencing similar things in different environments and you simply need to take it day by day.
During a particularly down time I purchased a book called Healthy, Happy You, which suggests 365 small things you can do daily for a happier healthier life! They were simple things like filling your fruit bowl or organizing a space or taking time to breathe!
It is amazing how much control we actually have over our happiness, so why is it that we sometimes rely on others to make us happy? Smile and choose happiness today!
Talk About Your Anxiety
Pregnancy anxiety is very real, even if you were the most carefree person beforehand. You have to read every label, talk to your health-care provider and turn to message boards to make sure you aren’t overreacting. If you are feeling more anxiety ridden and cannot seem to snap out of it, turn to your OB, friends or local pregnancy support groups for help. Do not go at it alone!
I was fortunate enough to have three dear friends all conceive within a week or two of me. One was a seasoned mother of two and the others were going through all of this change for the first time! There were so many emotions on what felt like an hourly basis that it felt really nice to have a support system on call when I felt worked up and could not calm myself down.
For the some of the harder choices where it feels like you are getting judged around every corner, I turned to professionals in my community. We hired our Doula during month 5 and I went to support groups and classes at Amazing Births and Beyond, a facility in Miami that offers everything from breastfeeding support to pre/post-natal chiropractic care and even a baby spa! It was an invaluable resource for my husband and I where we were able to ask questions, calm fears and more importantly make educated, science-based decisions about our desired birth plan. It strengthened our bond and gave us the tools to navigate this new world and feel much more in control in a process where it is easy to get worked up around every corner.
Even the smoothest of pregnancies come with anxieties, so my suggestion is to ask questions, read and trust that your body simply knows what to do. There is no step by step directions in any of this and everyone has different ideas about what they think is “right.” If you are anxious, you are not alone; talk to your partner and turn to professionals to help you through.
Trust Your Gut
Throughout this process I have tried my absolute best to make the right decisions for my baby and me. Did I eat a runny egg yolk here or there? Guilty. But I also worked out and ate healthy. I gave into temptation here and there, but I truly feel like I put my baby’s needs first. My husband and I attending birthing class to choose our desired birth plan. We took our stance on vaccines and breastfeeding. Yet somehow, it felt like I would constantly be bombarded with judgment and advice from someone I never met.
At first, I let it infuriate and wanted to scream “do the research,” until I realized the person telling me not to wear my Apple Watch or to simply choose a C-section was only offering me what they thought was kind-hearted advice. From then on, I decided to stay in my lane, ask for advice when I needed it, and let all of the outside noise fade into the background. This is the time to simply “do you.”
Forty weeks with no alcohol gives you a long time to think, and each trimester comes with its own set of lessons. This little man pressing down on my pelvis has already taught me more about selflessness and love than I have learned in my lifetime. I have shared my takeaways from the first and second trimesters, but sharing my most recent thoughts has been cathartic and takes off a bit of the pressure to be perfect. So if you meet a fellow mother, or pregnant woman, go easy on her! She may be smiling on the outside, but on the inside there is so much more going on.