Where did the time go this summer? I am amazed that I sit here and write my 22 week post already because part of me feels as though I just discovered this little baby growing inside of me. Over the past two weeks I feel as though I have hit cruise control. I am no longer nauseous, I have a bit more energy than I did in my first trimester (but my kids really like to challenge that), and my belly continues to grow.
Despite feeling relatively good over the past couple of weeks, I have hit a point in my pregnancy where I vaguely remember what my body was like before I got pregnant. I remember a time when my waist was smaller than my hips and bust and I could look down and actually see my toes. Rolling over at night is no longer a simple task (what I wouldn’t give to sleep on my belly), and everything seems to feel heavy. I look in the mirror and see a swollen version of myself and wonder if I’m as puffy as I think I am. Sometimes, I see a reflection of myself and forget that it is me.
Maybe because this is my third pregnancy in five years but I feel as though my body has not truly been ‘my own’ in a very, very long time. I see women with perky boobs and tight little tummies and I can’t help feel a bit jealous. Sometimes, I question if my body will ever truly be ‘my own’ again. Even though I’ve been through this before, part of me still holds out hope that I’ll bounce back to my pre-pregnancy body once this little tyke is born. … Nice idea, isn’t it?
When I got pregnant with my first, I was just coming off a fabulous year of racing. I had completed sprint distance triathlons as well as trained a team to hike in the Grand Canyon. I was in the best shape and I felt strong. Once I got pregnant, however, odd cravings of milk (I’m lactose intolerant), beef (I was a vegetarian), and chocolate cake (I knew where every good chocolate cake was sold within a 5 mile radius of us) were too strong to ignore and I went on to gain over 50 lbs. throughout my pregnancy. Sure, I did water aerobics and yoga throughout my pregnancy but this did not hold off the weight or the by-products of that weight. By the end of my pregnancy I was so big I swear I had a gravitational pull. I had no ankles, only legs. Thick, round, legs. Due to pre-eclampsia I was induced a day before my due date and after an unexpected c-section, my postpartum recovery took a very long time. I was scared to exercise despite desperately needing to feel active again, and it took me until Julian was almost 6 months old to set foot in a gym. By the time he was 8 months old, my husband and I committed to train for a 10k together through Team in Training and by the time Julian turned one year old I was about 20 days into P90, the baby training program before P90X. I was still not at my pre-pregnancy weight and after nursing a baby my breasts were definitely not as perky as they used to be, but hey, I was out there being active!
Within a few weeks of Julian’s first birthday we got some news: we were expecting another little bundle! This news came a year before we expected to add on to our family. I was excited but nervous. I did not want to have a repeat pregnancy and birth that I just had. I knew that this time around I had to do things differently to prevent any difficulties and I changed everything. I changed my provider, I changed my diet and did not eat anything white during my pregnancy. I did not eat sugar, wheat, rice, potatoes, and corn. I minimized my milk intake and took my blood sugar after every meal to keep my blood sugar low and ensure my ‘small baby.’ I went on to have a most wonderful pregnancy, gaining only 18 pounds, and having a perfect home birth after cesarean. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience this time around. After Dash’s birth I tried to get back to the gym faster, doing Zumba and added bikram yoga into my schedule, too. While I never got back to my pre-Julian body and weight, I felt good going into this pregnancy because I know what I have to do now to have a successful pregnancy and healthy birth.
Maybe it’s because I am five years older than I was with Julian or maybe because I’ve had back to back pregnancies, but the aches and pains of this pregnancy have been the worst of all three pregnancies. My back and hips hurt and I wish I could visit my chiropractor daily. Despite exercising leading up to this pregnancy, I was/am not feeling very strong or prepared for labor so to give me some time to prepare, as well as give me some ‘me time,’ I began working with a personal trainer last week. Stefanie is wonderful; she is 45 and has 4 children, ages 5 to 19. She knows what it’s like to be pregnant, recover from pregnancy, and beyond. I am so grateful for this experience because she’s a constant reminder to me that my life does not end with pregnancy or birth, or postpartum healing for that matter. I don’t know what she was like before she had kids, but honestly, it doesn’t matter because she’s a strong, healthy woman and I can only hope to be in as good as shape as her when I’m 45!
Ultimately, I think pregnancy can be a big exercise of self-love. Can we love and accept ourselves despite all these changes we go through? I admit, this is very difficult for me. Some days it’s hard not to feel a bit of self-loathing for how much my body has changed, and some days it’s hard to look beyond all of these changes and know that it’s all for a purpose. I’m growing a baby that will some day come out and grow into his own person. I have to remember that I have the rest of my life to make myself what I want to be but now, this is his and our time together. I recommend the website Shape of a Mother. If you have time, check it out. It’s a realistic and honest reminder that as mothers the changes we go through in order to become mothers is something to be cherished and honored. I have to remember to see the beauty in what we’re doing.
If I sit still long enough to pay attention, I am periodically reminded that my space is shared. Little kicks and hiccups are felt and even though I can’t easily stand up and down anymore, I know this time is limited. Forget the air-brushed postpartum photos of Hollywood moms and embrace your round, stretch-marked belly. It’s a beautiful and magical thing.