how you should feel about your body when you’re pregnant

OK, I promise, I will not constantly, always, endlessly write about pregnancy on this blog. But I think you may need to hang on a moment while I get the initial “I can finally talk about it!” pieces out of my system and can think about other things again. This piece appeared originally on Daily Life, but I wanted to share it here, too. It’s a lot happier than my last one, and I don’t want my grandmother, who reads this blog, to think I’m totally depressed all the time about being pregnant. And also, of course, I need to write about pregnancy and body image. 

(maternity dress. source)

“If this is your first pregnancy, you may be especially bothered by changes in your body image,” said the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, published in 2011. It went on to clarify, “Simply put, you may feel fat and unattractive.”

Oh.

The truth is, feeling “fat and unattractive” was not on my mind at that particular moment. I had dragged myself back to bed from my usual post at the foot of the toilet, a place on the tile that I had grown intimately acquainted with in the last several weeks, and really, I just wanted to read about what was going on inside me. Apparently, there is a baby in there. You know, a tiny, tiny human who will one day in the near future stretch my poor, unsuspecting vagina around its shockingly large head, burst into the world, and change my life forever. I will go from being this regular person who sometimes grabs dinner with a friend on very short notice to being a mother. The mother of a real, living, developing, complicated person. It’s too enormous to comprehend. And in the meantime, I feel like total crap. Am I normal? Is everything going OK? Does my baby have a face yet? Those were my more pressing concerns.

In defense of the Mayo Clinic Guide, the book is actually full of helpful info, and at least the section that covers body image acknowledges that some women may feel nice, or proud, and that body image issues can be blamed on our culture’s obsession with thinness. But a little later in the book, without any such disclaimers, in a brief section on shopping for new pregnancy clothes, I ran into this statement: “Think vertical. As you widen, look for clothes with vertical rather than horizontal lines to make you look slimmer. Dark colored clothes also tend to be more slimming.”

And I felt kind of weird about that.

 

Because it wasn’t just the Mayo Clinic Guide—most of the pregnancy books I read offered helpful tips on how to avoid feeling like a gigantic ugly fat cow while pregnant. You know, with slightly different wording. Many of the books explicitly assumed that I would feel bad instead of good about the changes in my body, particularly surrounding the inevitable and completely healthy weight gain that accompanies pregnancy.

Websites cried, “DEBUNKING PREGNANCY MYTHS: Eating for two is NOT acceptable. There is NO excuse for packing on more lbs than you absolutely have to!!” Regulate your diet, warned books and pamphlets and messageboards. Of course, they giggled, you can enjoy a little ice cream now and then, but don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to eat like a pig!

(but pigs are so cute! source)

But more than that, within the first few weeks of my pregnancy, as I eagerly consumed all of the information I could find about my new situation, the resources were all telling me about how I might lose the weight afterward. How I could reclaim my slender body just three months after giving birth. I quickly learned that I shouldn’t imagine that I won’t be able to immediately dive back into my exercise regimen after welcoming a newborn into the world. Women get right back on the treadmill, because as long as you make it a priority, you’re going to be just fine.

By which they mean, you’re going to be thin.

There are a few things that bother me about all this. For one, I actually am not thinking about how terrible I might look. For two, why is looking terrible almost always synonymous with gaining weight? Why do “fat and unattractive” fit automatically into the same breath? And thirdly, even if one is very afraid of weight gain, pregnancy is totally different from “getting fat.” It’s all about growing a baby. Which, you know, should be fairly obvious. The weight gain is good! It means things are going according to schedule. When women lose weight in pregnancy (when they weren’t very heavy to begin with), it’s considered a problem. Doctors are on the case, investigating. When women lose lots of weight in pregnancy, it often means something is going seriously wrong.

I have spent a lot of my life caring about the way I look. Not because I am fashion-obsessed or concerned with being extremely beautiful or spend hours pouring over my face in the mirror. It’s just there, this quiet anxiety, in the background as I’m studying, working, falling in love, making friends, interacting with strangers. I’ve learned, as a girl and now as a woman, that how I look at matters. It’s hard to live in this world without learning how much importance women’s appearances are lent. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is, and the way our self-esteem, confidence, and even our happiness is shaped is often inextricably caught up in a tangled web of beauty expectations and fears.

But getting pregnant is the beginning of a crazy, careening, transformative journey, and for me, it flung up big existential questions right and left. What do I want out of life? What do I have to offer a child? What kind of parent will I be? Am I ready? What makes life meaningful? How will this impact my relationship with my husband? How is life so friggin’ fast? And yeah, OK, I even started thinking a little more about my own death. Being thrust into the middle of the circle of life can do that to a person.

Basically, being pregnant has made me think a lot less about how I look, and the little, if pressing and sometimes even incredibly painful, things that have nagged at the back of my mind for so long. This just seems bigger, somehow. And bigger is sometimes better.

Which is not at all to say that pregnant women shouldn’t feel bad about the way they look because they should stop being so superficial and focus on the miracle of life. God no. Women sometimes feel bad about the way they look because we’ve all learned how intensely important it is to look a certain way ALL THE TIME. That is the problem.

And I really, really hope that problem won’t get in my way, as my belly gets bigger.

(I googled “pregnant woman” and many images of pregnant women behaving in the appropriate healthy fashion came up. This one belongs to an article about weight gain, of course. Its subtitle reads “weight gain during pregnancy increases obesity risk.” Which could have used a second look before publication. source)

When I hit twelve weeks, I hauled myself through a haze of morning sickness to the nearest clothing store. I wanted to buy myself a present, to celebrate. I wandered around, touching billowing tunics and loose sweaters. And then I spotted a slinky peach-colored dress. Long-sleeved but obviously clingy. It was made out of a soft, stretchy fabric that felt welcoming under my fingers.

A salesman appeared. “Oh honey,” he said, surveying me in my enormous gray sweater, sweatpants, and knit hat over my greasy hair, “That is a very unforgiving dress. You can’t gain an ounce in it.”

And something came over me. I swept it off the rack. “Well,” I said, “I’m about to gain at least thirty, so I think I should give it a try.”

He stared at me uncomprehendingly.

“I’m pregnant,” I clarified.

“Oh,” he said feebly, but didn’t add anything. So I went off to the dressing room and tried it on. It showed off every bump. My newly swollen breasts, now about a size larger than “miniscule,”  looked positively victorious in it. My belly was clearly visible, bloated and at the beginning of a baby bump. It was clear that the dress would stretch to allow for my upcoming growth, and as it stretched, it would become even more scandalous and skin-tight. I smiled at my reflection. I decided in that moment that I was going to show my body off. No vertical stripes for me. This belly is worth celebrating. It’s not just a miracle of evolution and biology and all that. It’s a body image triumph too. And I won’t let any pregnancy book tell me different.

*   *   *

For those of you who are pregnant or have been, how did you feel about your body? Everyone else: have you ever been surprised to discover other people expecting you to hate the way you look when in fact you weren’t even thinking about it, or were feeling good? Sometimes this happens when someone gains weight. Or cuts off all their hair. 

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in white, with a pink belt that used to be too big on me. I’m feeling a little goddess-y

P.S. I know you guys have already seen the dress, so the end of this post isn’t as cool as it could be. But it’s my favorite pregnancy story about myself so far, so I keep telling it over and over.

49 Comments »

Kate on February 4th 2013 in beauty, body, pregnancy, weight

49 Responses to “how you should feel about your body when you’re pregnant”

  1. Lynn responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    *high-five!*

  2. Sonja responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    I felt so beautiful and sexy when I was pregnant! Sure, there was a point when I got so big that I was uncomfortable, which negated feeling sexy or beautiful, but that didn’t happen until the very end of my pregnancies, so it only lasted a week or two each time.

  3. queenie responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    I had the exact opposite experience. I hated every second of both pregnancies, I hated my giant bloated swollen self, I hated all of the sickeningly cheery people who expected me to be all happy and glowy and delighted.

    And I felt so alone. I didn’t find any books that talked about hating my pregnancy or how I looked. I thought I was going crazy, and I sought therapy. (“Totally normal”, they said. Oh.)

    At least for the second pregnancy I realized that this was how I “do” pregnancy; crabby for the pregnancy, ridiculously euphoric after the birth. So the second time I didn’t let it bother me, I just raged away and then explained that since I was pregnant they should humor me.

    So if you are happy about how your body is growing, yay for you! Enjoy every second of it, and feel free to ignore any of the attitude you encounter. Who cares what they think, anyway?

  4. Brook responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    I felt like I fit in my body for the first time. I guess because I’ve always been heavy and suddenly I was supposed to be.

  5. Franca responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I spent up to about week 23 fretting about how I wasn’t putting on enough weight. I knew it didn’t matter but it was the one thing I could measure myself. Then in the middle part I finally got a visible bump and I loved it. I thought I looked great and I wore lots of clingy things! Then towards the end I was getting quite annoyed at my size. Nothing fit me even some of the maternity clothes and I was so incredibly uncomfortable. It was more about the way I physically felt with the heartburn and the peeing and the not being able to sleep than the way I looked though. People kept telling me I looked great and glowy, which was nice but seemed kind of irrelevant.

  6. Franca responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Also, I can’t believe that shop assistant! Usually they avoid saying anything even remotely negative for fear of talking themselves out of a sale!

  7. Rachel responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    LOVEEEEEE!! LOVE! LOVE! It’s very convenient that you’re going through major life stages before me, because when I get to them I am going to be so ridiculously prepared. :)

  8. Frances responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Hi love,

    Just CONGRATULATIONS – you and Bear will have a wise and funny and healthy baby, and if nothing else, you will get a lot of good stories out of being pregnant.

    Though I am a million miles away from growing a person inside me, I finished Operating Instructions recently, twice over, back to back. It reads like a guide to being a human being, not just a mother, and I am so grateful for the writers that can show us all of their sides, crazy jealous afraid and funny.

    That is to say, I look forward to reading your version. Hope morning sickness gets better. Dress looks A for amazing.

  9. Melanie responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    I love you for buying that dress. I am lucky in that I am surrounded by folks who don’t believe in body shaming. I proudly declare that I am fat and healthy, and the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    I often get comments at work about how healthy I eat, which I know I wouldn’t get if I were skinny, but I don’t feel the need to confront people about it. I just smile and say, “I like taking good care of myself.”

  10. Lily responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Awesome. Enjoy your pregnancy and your new dress, Kate!

  11. Tobasco responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    During my pregnancy I finally felt comfortable in my body (well, emotionally anyway). I gained a larger amount of weight, 48 pounds. Which I swear to god I was healthy, that’s just what my body gained. My sister has five children and gained about 50 with each, and lost it all in six months with each, without being neurotic. That’s just how her body works. I have to say though that I had much the mentality you had when I was first pregnant. But I have to say after I had my daughter and came home only 10 pounds lighter… All that extra weight became quite a burden physically for me. Thirty of those pounds came of themselves, what I call my true pregnancy weight in the first six months. But then after that I had a child who didn’t sleep, no energy whatsoever, and an extra 20 pounds wasn’t helping. I hope what you take away from all that you’re reading is that pregnancy isn’t a disease that needs to be treated. You still need to treat your body healthy, eat right, exercise (if you do) and that would shouldn’t be afraid of it. You’re not a bad mother if you DON’T indulge. You’re not selfish if you don’t always eat that extra cookie. But you shouldn’t feel bad if you do either (just like when you’re not pregnant… Right?)

    That being said I work at a gym and I see the full spectrum of pregnancy experiences. Very fit women who exercise until the day they give birth, to women who stop exercising the entire time and don’t start again for a year. I see women who get obsessive about the pounds and those who embrace whatever happens. I also see plenty of women whose bodies snap right back so they quite literally look as if they were never pregnant six weeks out, and others whose children are years old and they’re still holding on to five, 10, 20 pounds. I have to say though, in all the years I have worked there, it seems to me the happiest mothers are the ones who do come regularly and don’t feel guilt about it. Some do 20 minutes on level 0 and others train for marathons. The point is that they still see their own needs as being just as valid as their baby’s.

  12. Kate responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    @Tobasco
    I have the same problem with exercise surrounding pregnancy that I do with exercise surrounding the rest of a woman’s life– too often, the emphasis seems to be on weight loss/staying thin and nothing else. Of course, it’s healthy to move your body! And I would love to be getting more exercise myself right now, so that I could feel stronger. But the “health” advice for pregnant women is often mixed up in “keep your body tight!” Just like ALL of the other body-centered advice for women. That’s what I was trying to point out. It’s interesting to hear your perspective, as someone who works at a gym!

  13. Kate responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    @Frances
    I love that book!! I also read it when I wasn’t pregnant. Doesn’t matter– it’s just a good book no matter what.

  14. Kate responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    @queenie
    Oh, believe me, this pregnancy has been anything but fun so far. You can read my last post for a description of that. In fact, the ONLY thing I’m enjoying about it is watching my body change. That part is exciting for me.

  15. Kate responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    @Rachel
    Yay!! Thank you!! <3

  16. Lily responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    A lot of pregnancy books these days veer between extolling the pleasures of pregnancy and how wonderful it is and then saying it’s ok not to feel good about being pregnant and that there are some unpleasant things you have to put up with. I suppose this covers the range of emotions different mums to be feel.

    Personally, I loved having a huge bump. I loved people looking at it and the best bit was having clear skin (first time since teens), glossy hair and a general vibe of good health and happiness. Oh yes and the added boobage was a sheer joy having been given the ‘two aspirins on an ironing board’ label most of my life. So you go for it Kate, show off your bump in whatever form fitting clothing you wish because God knows it’s better than those frumpy 80s smock style pregnancy dresses!

  17. Rosanne responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    I have no experience but I suspect I would join you in the ‘No vertical stripes for me, this belly is worth celebrating!’ team if I ever do get pregnant. At the very least I sincerely hope I would. Go you for celebrating your growing body and keep your stories coming, baby related or not – I love reading them.

  18. Kristin responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Kate, you’re awesome.

    I felt great about my pregnant body – I think for most of the same reasons you described. I was so impressed with what my body was DOING (without any conscious assistance from me! It was just DOING it!), I didn’t think a whole lot about what it looked like.

    That being said, boy, do other people remind you to think about it! There’s something about being pregnant that seems to encourage body comments – from “You’re so tiny! I can’t even tell you’re pregnant!” to “Wow, are you having twins? You’re so big!” I can’t say any of it hurts my feelings, but I always feel at a loss of what to say back. I usually just laugh and change the subject.

    Anyway, glad that you’re loving it, and wishing you the very best. I’ll bet you look glorious :) .

  19. Janet T responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    I didn’t mind being pregnant or even the weight gain. What I really hated was the mindlessness of complete strangers who felt it was their right to touch me- as in put their hand on my belly. I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t walk up to a large bellied man and place their hand on their belly, but pregnant women seem to belong to the general public. Honestly it was one of the freakiest things about being pregnant. I mean, who does that? I had one girl who like to scream “hi Baby” at my belly, that kind of freaked me out too, and I began avoiding her completely. I love the way pregnancies are celebrated today, with tighter stretchier clothing to accentuate, rather than hide the baby bump. The pic of you in your dress is gorgeous- and I can see it with a short jean jacket, in my mind’s eye. To show off that gorgeous baby bump in the midst of your glorious long torso. Just don’t be surprised when strangers want to touch you. (Shudder)

  20. Kate responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    @Janet T
    I’ve heard about this happening constantly to pregnant women! Not to me, so far, because I’m not showing enough. And honestly, I think I won’t mind being touched (I kind of like contact with strangers– not in a sexy way or anything, I just like that sense of connectedness), but I hear that many women hate it and consider it a violation, which makes sense, too.

  21. Aussie Fan responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Having suffered from anorexia in the years preceding pregnancy, I was particularly concerned how I’d feel about gaining weight, how I’d lose it and how I’d feel throughout.

    For the first time in my life I was happy with my body! I loved how it looked (kind of like a large truck but with less pointy bits). I loved by curve of my growing belly and the fact that my tiny breasts were finally less tiny. I gained 27 kgs (which is about 60lbs), BUT I was pregnant with twins. This wasn’t ‘fat’ this was all baby and fluid and healthy goodness.

    After they were born and I’d moved into the ‘hormonal crying about everything’ stage (including my saggy stomach), my mother imparted these pearls of wisdom: ‘It takes 9 months to put the weight on, and it’ll take 9 months to take the weight off’. She was right.

    12 years on, I still have stomach wrinkles but I wear it proudly as my badge of motherhood. Eat well, be happy and grow yourself a lovely healthy baby.

  22. DianeG responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Congrats, Kate! I really hope you start feeling better soon. I remember my mom telling me that the sick feeling would go away in the second trimester, and I could not see how that would possibly be true (and I know it’s not true for some people). Sure enough, it was like a light switch – one day I woke up and it was gone.

    I loved my pregnant body! It felt so great to finally embrace the roundness of my belly and not worry about whether it was sticking out – it was supposed to! I wore clingy clothes to show it off and felt so proud when strangers smiled at me or congratulated me.

  23. Sheryl responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    When I was pregnant this past summer (it ended rather unexpectedly) I remember having very complicated feelings about what it was going to do to my body. I spent the whole time feeling weak, tired and crazy sick so I was a little bit resentful of that, but I didn’t really reach the point of weight gain.

    The idea of gaining weight and changing shape both awed me, because hey how cool was what my body was in the midst of doing? and also terrified me. I’d reached a point where I was, for the most part, happy with my body and my shape and size and had stopped constantly dreaming about and striving to change all sorts of different aspects of it. Suddenly having this baby come along and threaten to change things scared me. It had taken a lot of work to get to a weight that felt healthy, and a mental state allowed me to be happy with feeling healthy without feeling like I had a perfect body.

    I don’t know how I would have felt had I gotten farther along than I did, but I know that I felt like the good and the bad pretty much evened out.

  24. Amanda responded on 04 Feb 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    I felt no self-consciousness regarding weight when I was pregnant. I ate for four without regret (I had two singleton pregnancies), and I gained 60 pounds with my first and 40 with my second, topping off both times at about the same weight.

    I’m now at my pre-pregnancy weight for #1 and I enjoyed the heck out of my food during my pregnancies, so I figure no harm no foul ;)

    Morning sickness, though, was a beast both times. And with #2, I had about 10 good days between when the morning sickness ended and the sciatica kicked in. Yipes! But at the end I had two awesome boys, who are fast becoming young men.

    The older of the two is now shaving, and his voice is cracking all over the place.

    It passes quickly. Enjoy yourself, revel in it :)

  25. Maggie responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 12:33 am #

    Throughout my 2 pregnancies I was constantly amazed that my body was growing a human being. A person! All while I went about my normal business of work, taking naps, reading, etc. I loved my pregnant belly. My body bounced back fairly well and I’m at a healthy weight. I weigh less now than I did before I got married but it’s not the same. Screw you loose belly skin! It’s different than how it used to be but this body housed and nourished my babies and for that I will always be grateful.

  26. Liz responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 6:58 am #

    I soooo wish I were comfortable with my changing, pregnant body. However, right now, I’m not. Maybe that’ll change once I really start to get a belly. Right now, I just feel huge, bloated, and unattractive. I think I was a little too proud of my slenderness before, my flat tummy (that my husband loved) and now I’m struggling to accept my bulging belly (that my husband also loves) and accept… life!

    Here in France, there is HUGE pressure to not gain a lot of weight with pregnancy and then to loose it within 3 months afterwards. Huge. The pressure in the States doesn’t even come close. That frightens me because although I don’t think I’ll get big and I’ve always eaten well and been on the thin side, just knowing that just letting go isn’t even an option is stressful to me.

    I think I really need to work on *not* *caring* about what others think.

    Thanks for helping me with that.

  27. Cindy responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 9:58 am #

    I was telling my Mom about your posts and pregnancy, and her response was “I know how that feels!” She suffered from the same not-morning-but-all-the-time-sickness that Kate Middleton is coping with. With both my brother and me, she had to get IVs to keep hydrated, since she couldn’t keep anything down. She always said that she was motivated to put just enough in her to feed her baby, but she struggled.

    A few weeks ago, we were cleaning out the basement and found a bunch of her old maternity clothes. Apparently, in the 80s, showing off the baby belly was kind of scandalous, even shameful. At that time (complicated by family reaction), pregnancy and bikinis were a complete no-no. And worse? Maternity clothes looked like baby clothes. There were teddy bears on this one shirt, and the buttons spelled “baby.” And don’t even get me started on pastel gingham. Horrifying.

    Mom took the opportunity to tell me how beautiful the pregnant body is (in spite of its rebelliousness). She would totally approve of that dress! It sounds like you’re rocking this. =)

  28. teegan responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 10:11 am #

    I’ve been thinking about this. I know we already talked about pregnant-body some, but here’s my 4 months postpartum opinion –
    Would I love to be back to my happy-size? Yes. And the weight is coming off, more and more slowly as weeks pass, and the body I know is appearing. But that’s not what’s most important right now. What’s important is that I’ve been giving all of the best nutrients, fats, proteins, vitamins to my kid through pregnancy and nursing, and my body still needs extra care. I still need lots of healthy fats and extra vitamins for me and for him, especially if I want to get pregnant again in the next year. And I know that breastfeeding tends to keep an extra 5-10 pounds on most people’s frames, so as long as I’m within 10 pounds or so of where I’d like to be, then I’m sort of where I’d like to be already. Does that make sense? I look good and healthy, I think, for someone who had a baby fewer than six months ago and can’t do much outdoor exercise given the New England winter. Give yourself time afterward – it will take months for your body to recover because you spent months changing it.

  29. Meg responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 10:30 am #

    This is more about your disclaimer at the top. :)

    I’m not planning on having kids, but I’m glad you’re writing about your body and body image in as honest and open a way now as you were pre-pregnancy. It’s still your body, it’s still something a lot of women go through, and it’s great to have a voice that’s not either “you must love your body, because a baby’s in it!” or “wear vertical stripes to minimize yourself, because YIKES you’re huge!” It’s interesting how much the message about women’s bodies is still put in terms of how you *should* feel about the weight gain, about morning sickness, and about “getting your shape back” after. You’d hope we’d all get a break from people bossing our bodies around while we were busy making other humans, but it’s just not the flippin’ case. :)

    Anyway, I don’t really see it as “pregnancy writing.” It’s just writing about body image during a different stage of female life. I’m sure the topics you write about will alter as you go into your late 20s or 30s or middle age, too. I think they’re all relevant parts of the same conversation.

  30. Kate responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 10:35 am #

    @Meg
    I really, really appreciate this comment. I don’t ever want to only write about one thing. I want to write about being a woman, and what it means for me and other women, and the instructions the world throws at us constantly, no matter where we are and what we’re doing. I am so relieved and happy that you’re reading the stuff about pregnancy that way. One of the things that interests me the most about every new life stage is that the same rules seem to apply– I’m still being told how I should feel about my body and exactly what to worry about in terms of my appearance. Of course, women who decide not to have kids are told plenty of things about their femininity, and I’m always interested in reading about those experiences, too.

  31. Jenn responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I am so so so excited that you are pregnant, because I love to hear your thoughts on things, and since I’m a stay-at-home mom to two kids, I love to read about and talk about pregnancy!

    I’m looking forward to more posts about your changing body image – I normally am kind of hard on myself and struggle with feeling guilty for “just not eating better” or “just not exercising enough,” but pregnancy frees me from all of that. I pull out the skin-tight clothes that accentuate the “victorious boobs” and baby belly, and don’t feel the need for 9 months to suck it in.

    Almost a year ago, my 2nd child, a daughter, was born. I wrote down her birth story, but didn’t finish it until yesterday. I’ll be posting it on the 18th (her birthday), if you’re interested to read it. Her birth was a “natural” birth – no pain meds, no c-section, etc. I have always loved reading birth stories, but I love them even more now that I’ve experienced it myself.

  32. Kate responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 11:48 am #

    @Jenn
    I’d LOVE to read your birth story. Please send me a link when it’s up!

  33. Jenn responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 11:58 am #

    @Kate
    I most certainly will. :)

  34. Val responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    You know sometimes I liked it, sometimes not. I liked the babies kicking, that was always cool.

    But that point about 8 months where it feels claustrophobic like too many people living in one body–sometimes I’d think I couldn’t go on another ten minutes. And then the mood would pass.

    There’s also that 4-5 month point where I just felt dumpy. I didn’t really look pregnant necessarily, but most of my jeans didn’t fit anymore.

    And then post partum, that’s an unfamiliar body (and mind) too. I don’t feel well then, and that’s not fun. I don’t do postpartum well. I feel breakable and crabby, no sense of humor, not much patience. It takes a couple months to feel more like myself, and four months completely.

    Some people bounce back instantly. But if you don’t, you don’t. Everybody’s different.

    In the big picture, I did love being pregnant. It moments, sometimes, not so much, lol. I’ll enjoy hearing your thoughts as you go through this experience and welcome your baby. love, Val

  35. Raia responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Rock that pregnant body! If that’s what works for you! It worked for me. Many days, I felt like a walking miracle.

    It bothers me that so much emphasis is put on woman feeling “fat” before and after having a baby. Thank you for bringing it up.

    The only thing I will add is that, as a mom planning a home birth under the care of midwives, they were very particular about my diet. Not because anyone was worried about how I looked or felt, but because it is important for the baby’s growth and development as well as the mother’s strength and health going into labor. I was eating very healthy for two, adding spinach into every meal, eliminating processed foods, focusing on whole grains, veggies and lean meats in moderation. It was not a cake and ice-cream free-for-all – though they let me off the hook for our week-long trip to Paris at 16 weeks, I ate all the bread and chocolate I could find and it was amazing!

    I would also recommend not investing too much in maternity clothes so many “normal” clothes work just fine – like the dress you bought! Pants, if you need them, are the big exception – maternity pants are so comfortable!

    Enjoy your pregnancy, when you can/ want to :) Hugs from one mom to another.

  36. Molly responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Wait, wait: is the well-behaved pregnant woman in that photo planning to eat an entire bell pepper, whole, sort of like an apple? That’s INTENSE.

    I could go on and on about how I felt about my changing body during my two pregnancies, but instead I want to talk about postpartum bodies.

    After I had my first baby, before I got really engaged with feminism and became aware of fat activists, I felt proud of how quickly my body could be shoved back into my pre-pregnancy clothes and made to look ‘presentable.’ I simultaneously felt crappy and self-doubting because it didn’t really look like my pre-pregnancy body, especially sans clothing. I would not recommend this approach …

    After my second baby (now nearly 9 months old), I’ve stayed significantly bigger for much longer and am still not wearing my regular clothes. I’m six years older now, for one thing, and I’m not experiencing the severe career- and education-related stress that tends to push me further toward skinny. And I love my body. My belly is soft, my thighs and butt are bigger than usual, I’m still celebrating feeling good after an entire pregnancy of nonstop 24/7 nausea (unusual! almost certainly not going to happen to you!), my husband is fond of and fascinated by my body’s constant changes throughout these years of making and feeding our two children, everything is fine. I’ll lose the weight eventually, or I won’t. The only thing that really bites is that we’re broke right now, so I don’t have a lot of clothes that fit me.

    I look forward to reading more about your journey!

  37. Janet responded on 05 Feb 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    Kate, I’ve never been pregnant, but I love this post! I love that you bought a dress to celebrate your body instead of hide it, and to celebrate this season that your body is in. I remember my mom once saying that when she was pregnant she actually felt sorry for women who didn’t have a belly because she was so excited about what was happening to her body. As for people’s comments, I think some of the hardest for me to hear were when I’d lost some weight visibly and people were congratulating me- but I knew that the weight had come off because I’d just been through a super stressful period of my life. I had very mixed feelings about my weight loss, but I never felt like I could express those feelings. I guess that’s another angle on the assumption that all women should be thin and should care about being thin more than anything. When I was thinner because of poor health, people just assumed I’d be happy about it and never bothered checking how I really felt.

  38. Dane responded on 06 Feb 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Kate, I don’t think you need to apologize for posting about your pregnancy! I thoroughly enjoy these posts, even though I’ve never been pregnant and never plan to be. Because it’s a thing I’ll likely never experience, I find the topic even more fascinating and your writing is great as always

  39. Kim responded on 06 Feb 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Rock on, you. I loved my pregnant body (until the very, very end when I was swollen and achy and done). I got to show off and really celebrate all those curves! The trick is to keep enjoying your curves after the baby comes. And you should.

  40. Lora responded on 09 Feb 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    I have never been pregnant, but my fiance and I plan to “stop preventing and see what happens” after we get married this year, probably beginning the experiment in early 2014. I am a woman that has struggled with my weight all of my life, but I have been in a healthy place with my body and weight for the last couple of years with minimal effort; my body weight likes to rest at the high end of my normal BMI, and I’m generally fine with that.

    So, the idea of being pregnant scares me, because I will have even less control over my weight and body, and I’m worried it’s going to be some kind of cataclysmic event: there will be no turning back, my body will be irrevocably changed, and I cannot envision what that will be like. It’s so clear to me that this concern is fueled by our culture and its obsession with thinness and beauty, but the worry is still running around my head, lapping my logical thought processes, which move a lot slower and tell me that all will be well and that my body’s thinness doesn’t have to be my highest priority.

    So yes, it is a struggle for me. I really appreciate reading your thoughts on your pregnancy – they calm me. :)

  41. Amy S. responded on 10 Feb 2013 at 8:49 am #

    When I was pregnant, I preferred the clingy shirts (I’m not much of a dress girl) with shirred, gathered sides that showed off my belly. Plus, the billowing tunics just made me feel like a moose. Dresses were even worse. They would drape over my belly and then fall, making me look like a tent. No thanks. If I was going to bring life into the world, I was not going to try to hide it.

  42. Jenn C responded on 11 Feb 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    I’ve been a away from your blog for a few weeks, so a belated congrats on your pregnancy! I’ve never been pregnant, but I totally admire and adore the women who celebrate their changing shape with awesome clingy dresses and shirts.

    I hope that you feel better soon!

  43. Kai responded on 27 Feb 2013 at 11:42 am #

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=383738128389048

    I found this interesting – I hope the link works! It’s a heavily pregnant person dancing to a cover of ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’, redone with lyrics about pregnancy. I’d be fascinated to hear if you had any thoughts on it.

    Something I particularly found odd was the amount of comments it received saying it’s ‘cute’. I’d say the protagonist looks like they’re feeling pretty empowered about the whole thing, but calling the video ‘cute’ seems to be… demeaning it a bit?

  44. links for thought, January-February 2013 responded on 01 Mar 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    [...] “how you should feel about your body when you’re pregnant” (Eat the Damn Cake) In defense of the Mayo Clinic Guide, the book is actually full of helpful info, and at least the section that covers body image acknowledges that some women may feel nice, or proud, and that body image issues can be blamed on our culture’s obsession with thinness. But a little later in the book, without any such disclaimers, in a brief section on shopping for new pregnancy clothes, I ran into this statement: “Think vertical. As you widen, look for clothes with vertical rather than horizontal lines to make you look slimmer. Dark colored clothes also tend to be more slimming.” [...]

  45. jen responded on 14 Mar 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    This is my first and I didn’t start showing until about 3 weeks ago (I’m now 26 weeks). I freaking LOVE it. I am wearing horizontal stripes on top, horizontal stripes in tight stretchy skirts and it looks awesome. Why do most maternity clothes feel the need to disguise the glorious event taking place? I am fucking creating life, people. It’s beautiful and I refuse to be embarrassed or think it’s ugly.

  46. Eat the Damn Cake » Get your body back!! (and sandals giveaway winner) responded on 08 Apr 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    [...] “Don’t worry,” I read, “it’s normal to feel unattractive at this stage of pregnancy.” [...]

  47. Lindsay responded on 18 Apr 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I know I’m late to responding, but just noticed your post “Get Your Body Back” and was led here. I’m on pregnancy #3 with identical twins. I’m huge at 24 weeks. I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself between the weight gain and swelling. While it’s hard to be so unfamiliar with someone so familiar, it’s also a good reminder that I am not myself. This isn’t how I normally am; I’m more.

    While I feel uncomfortable and unattractive, it’s the one time I’m being asked to put that aside for someone else. In a high-risk pregnancy, I’m doing an amazing job at keeping them safe and growing them strong and healthy. I’m being asked to put aside my need for greater physical exercise. I’m being asked to consume more calories. I’m being asked to take care of them at my own expense.

    So, while people keep asking me if I feel incredible or glowing, I’m fairly honest that no, I don’t, but that’s OK. There will be time for that later when my body is my own – changed and altered – but at least my own.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy.

  48. Todd responded on 14 Nov 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Pregnant women are sexy and beautiful!!!!! There are many men who find pregnant women extremely unattractive and post comments on various sites that are downright rude and ugly and uncalled for.Ladies,don’t listen to those insensitive jerks because what they’re saying simply isn’t true!!!!! I now want to discuss an issue that’s a real dilemma for many pregnant women.That would be pregnancy bellybuttons.A jutting bellybutton doesn’t make your belly any less attractive.I feel that such buttons make a pregnant belly that much more appealing and pleasing to look at!!! So what if people take notice of it and stare.They may be like me and love what they see!!!

  49. How You Should Feel About Your Body When You’re Pregnant | Adios Barbie responded on 29 Nov 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    [...] published at Eat The Damn Cake, cross-posted with [...]

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