If there’s one fact that never changes about bodies, it’s that they will always change – especially women’s bodies. Even if we never carry a baby in our wombs, our bodies change drastically throughout our lifetime simply because we are physiologically capable of doing so.
From the time of our first breast buds and moon blood of maidenhood, through the fleshy, expansive time of motherhood (or the potential for motherhood), to the wise, powerful time of the crone, our bodies go through as many seasons as mama earth herself.
Like any woman growing up in a culture that obsessively exalts one body type over all others (thin, thin, thin), of course I’ve had my share of body woes. At 5’2,” I need to get every pair of pants I ever buy hemmed. (Why men’s pants are sold in varying lengths and women’s are sold in just one will continue to baffle me.) My boobs are gigantic. Even after a breast reduction surgery 10 years ago, they grew back and are just, well, huge. My hair is fine, I have dark circles under my eyes even with plenty of sleep, and my weight fluctuates between 130-190lbs. on any given year of adulthood.
See how easy it is for me to rattle off the list of all that’s “wrong” with my body? I bet you could do the same. But really, it’s not what’s wrong, it’s just what’s different than the one, single image we have been presented with over and over and over since childhood.
Which brings me to the first of many ways that pregnancy has been fantastic for my body image:
When I change what I compare myself to, I change how I feel about what I see in the mirror.
Since becoming pregnant, the type of media I consume has changed. When I shop for clothes, I’m looking at maternity websites, with models who are bigger and wider than non-maternity websites. When I read blogs, I’m reading about pregnancy and motherhood and seeing images to match. And when I participate in chat boards and online communities, it’s with other, real, pregnant women posting selfies of their real, growing bodies. Without even realizing it, my brain started seeing fewer images of skinnyskinnyskinny and more of round, fleshy, expansive. I subconsciously began loving my curves as a result, maybe for the first time in my life.
What this means for after pregnancy: I commit to being a more savvy consumer of media. What would it be like to consciously fill my awareness with images of real women’s bodies?
I have become comfortable with a body in a constant state of change.
One day I was covered in hormonal, pregnancy acne. Another it morphed into a beautiful, pregnancy glow. Some days I can’t poop at all, some days I can’t stop pooping. Today I have so much energy, I want to walk and swim and play. Yesterday I could barely take a shower without feeling breathless and exhausted. And don’t even get me started on the unbelievably fluctuating sex drive. (To hubby: “No way - back away from the vagina,” to “OMG when are you going to be home I’m having a sexmergency.”)
At 35 weeks pregnant, I’m finally at the point where I wake up and say, “Welp, guess this is the body I have today!” I’ve tried to coach myself and my clients into this level of acceptance before, but when the body you have today feels the same as the one you had yesterday, it can be difficult to see it as new. On the contrary, this body really does change every day. So I am confronted with the never-ending challenge of self-acceptance. Again. And again. And again. I could fight it, or I could lay back and enjoy the ride.
What this means for after pregnancy: I commit to loving the body I see in the mirror each day, or at least accepting it as is. What would it be like to approach my body’s changes with fascination and awe?
I see my body as useful, not just sexual.
A few weeks ago, my mom posted some photos on Facebook from our recent family vacation in Virginia Beach. This was one of them:
In the past, I would have immediately thought, “Yikes! Look at my wide arms! I have to take this photo down and make sure my mom doesn’t post any more without asking me!”
This time I thought, “Aw, look – the first time I met my new cousin!” Then I noticed my wide arms, but immediately chose to see them as strong instead of “fat.” Those arms will be great for carrying a baby!
Pregnancy has reminded me that, contrary to what our over-sexualized culture would have us believe, my body is not just for looking at. It’s for running, building, creating, holding, cooking, nurturing, climbing, loving. It’s for growing and sustaining life. And newsflash – that takes FAT. And muscle. And strength.
What this means for after pregnancy: I commit to focusing on the many amazing uses of my body, not just its sex appeal. What would it be like to celebrate my strength and finally be free of feeling ashamed of photos of myself?
Paradoxically, this kind of radical self-acceptance will probably make me the sexiest I’ve ever been.
Will you join me in this quest to accept the body you have today - every day, to consume media more consciously, and to celebrate your body’s usefulness, not just its sex appeal?
Here are some fantastic links that my therapist shared with me at the beginning of my pregnancy. Looking at them has been like rubbing healing salve on an old, body wound. I hope you enjoy them as well, you gorgeous goddess you. (Note: They contain lots of skin. Not safe for work.)
The Shape of a Mother - a blog and photo gallery with stories of real pregnant and postpartum women and their real bodies
My Body Gallery - a super-fun site where you can look up images of real women with your exact dimensions (not pregnancy related)
Nothing but Light - beautiful photography project by photographer Anastasia Kuba, again, of real men and women’s bodies (also not pregnancy related)
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Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!