Pregnancy can be absolutely wonderful, or the absolute worst. Unfortunately, both of my full-term pregnancies fell into the latter. I was sick nonstop, swollen, and miserable. The only redeeming part of either were the moments when I'd feel the little flutters of movement, because it was an intimate exchange between me and my child. Aside from that, not to be a major downer, my pregnancies were awful. All the insecurity, self-doubt, and totally normal things all pregnant women feel about their bodies became my way of living. It was my new "normal" for nine months (twice) of hell. Sounds fun, right?
OK, so the entire length of the pregnancies weren't all bad. It's a pretty miraculous thing to grow a human inside your body, so I can't downplay all the amazing moments I experienced. There were so many nights I'd sit in the bathtub, rubbing my belly, pleading for each baby to stay put. I knew once they emerged into the world they'd no longer only be "just mine," and I really enjoyed the personal bond I shared with my children when they were in the womb. It's still the one thing no one can take from me.
However, along with those precious moments came a flood of self-esteem issues. Of course my body changed because there was a human being literally growing within the bounds of my person. I had some moments of enjoying the process (the best I could, considering), reveling in my baby giant bump, but most of the time was spent questioning whether or not some of the things changing were "normal" or if, somehow, I'd become a "freak of nature" and the only woman to ever go through some of the weird (and gross) stuff. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find many pictures of pregnant me, because I'd become so incredibly insecure about how drastically my body changed (read: betrayed me).
To be clear, I was not abnormal and most, if not all, women go through some of the exact same changes and insecurities. If you're in the midst of feeling the same, don't worry: you're normal, too. We're in this thing together. Promise.
"My Feet Are Two Swollen Balloons"
One of the worst things that happens to a pregnant body is all the swelling. My feet ballooned so horribly near the end, I couldn't stand on them. If I did stand, they'd numb and feel like they were about to explode. Some things about carrying a human life are beautiful. This isn't one of them.
"When Did My Nipples Get So Weird?"
You may have the world's greatest breasts (congrats!) but once you're pregnant, they change. If you're not expecting this (like me), it's a huge shock to get out of the shower and see the weird colorations that have overcome your once glorious canvas. It's totally normal to be flabbergasted and even more so to curse the mirror you're standing in front of.
"My Skin Is Going Through Puberty. Again."
I've always had bad skin. Way back in elementary, kids would pick on me and ask blunt questions like, "What's wrong with your face?" that I couldn't answer. Once puberty struck, it only got worse. I've been on all the medications and creams and still, I have ruddy, pockmarked, olive-toned skin that's always a 5 on a 10-point scale, at best. Thank God for makeup or I've never leave the house.
When I was pregnant with my son, I had gorgeous, glowing skin I'd heard about with pregnancy. It was amazing. Apparently, his testosterone was exactly what I needed my whole life. My first pregnancy with my daughter, however, only gave me more estrogen and I've never broken out so bad in my entire life. I hated my skin and felt so self-conscious, I refused to leave the house on many occasions. Of course it tamed once she came out but for nine months, I cursed my face beneath my breath at every glance of myself.
"Restless Legs Will Never Rest"
Pregnancy made my legs think they needed to move at all times of the day; the caveat being, once I stood I'd swell and become too uncomfortable to continue moving, as mentioned above. My partner began rubbing my calves every night to soothe some of that but at the time, when the sensations kept me up all night, I wished to transport into another body entirely.
"I Wish I Could See My Feet"
I gained so much weight and retained so much water during both pregnancies, it was pretty early on I stopped seeing anything below the waist until well-after deliveries. I'd cry and feel like a stranger in my own body because there was little control over how I could "groom," the way things might have looked, how many stretch marks, and all the things that made pregnancy feel like the worst.
"I'll Pee Myself Forever Now"
One of the worst feelings when pregnant was loss of control. I lost control with my weight, the way my body worked in general, and if/when I'd accidentally pee myself. That's right.
Among all the awful parts of pregnancy (there were many), my bladder lost its ability to hold anything in. I couldn't laugh, sneeze, or cough without a leak. However normal it was, I was completely embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn't force my body to be "normal." The best part? After childbirth, it's still a sometimes issue. Yay!
"Lactating Is Gross"
The thing about lactation is, it sort of starts whenever it wants to. You don't even have to have the baby out of your body for things to start seeping through your shirts. I started to loathe my breasts towards the end of pregnancy. They'd become large, swollen and painful. They were discolored in weird spots, and now, they leaked. Shoving pads into my bra became a normal thing I wish I'd never have to experience but there I was in order to save my favorite shirts from pre-milk ruin.
"I Can't Stop Sweating"
I've always been a sweater. Sexy, right? I know. My hormones have been challenging me from birth it seems but pregnancy took this to a whole other level. I had to switch to prescription strength deodorants and even still, felt (and still feel) very insecure about sweat pouring through my clothes. I'd see other pregnant women who looked so fresh and calm, I'd get envious. How did they do it? No, really. How?
"The Stretch Marks Are Everywhere"
There will be some who think stretch marks are a right of passage and consider them on par with the beautiful stripes of a tiger. I'm not one of those women. I struggled with my weight throughout childhood so I've always had stretch marks somewhere. Pregnancy seemed to highlight them, making them bigger and more obvious. I had to change the way I dress in order to hide them.
Even now, many years after the birth of my son, I have them on my inner biceps. They make me feel so conscious, I'm aware of not raising my hand or wearing shirts that don't cover. So yes, pregnancy steals a lot of confidence but what's worse is, it doesn't give it back after delivery if those same places are still a mess. Thanks, pregnancy!
"I'll Never Look Like Myself Again"
By far, the thing I felt the most throughout pregnancies and my body, was that I'd never feel like, or look like, myself again. The whole process changed so many things about me, I feared I'd never regain any semblance of familiarity. It was no longer only my body, but that of my children and it was worn, stretched, faded, and floppy. I knew I could exercise and eta healthy and try to get back into some kind of "shape" to find that confidence I'd lost but honestly, I couldn't be anywhere near the same ever again. What I've learned since then and come to accept is, that's a good thing. I'm no longer just a woman, I'm a mother and I'm honored to take on the task regardless of how I've changed throughout it all.
Your body is going to change, however great or small, during pregnancy. It's part of becoming a mother. You're very first task is sacrificing comfort and normalcy in order for your little one to grow. There's a lot I hated about each pregnancy but in the end, I wouldn't trade any of it. I'm not perfect now. My body still sags in places, I still pee a little if I laugh too hard, and parts of me may never fall "back into place." But I've brought two beautiful lives into this world. That makes everything else worth it.