I had this idea of who I was going to be during my second pregnancy, and I became the exact opposite.
I had goals and visions of myself going to prenatal yoga and mommy and me classes with my son weekly, making green smoothies every morning with chia seeds on top, and looking and feeling happy and energized as I took on the tremendous task of growing my second child in my belly. I wanted to be better than I was the first time around. I didn’t want to be that person who complained about every ache and pain. I didn’t want to put myself through the torment I felt in my first pregnancy when it came to my changing body and self image.
At 38 weeks pregnant (scheduled to be induced at 39 because of high amniotic fluid), I have have eaten terribly my entire pregnancy and have not worked out at all. My phone actually started telling me each morning what the traffic update was to my nearest McDonald’s. How messed up is that!?!? If I wasn’t thinking about french fries at 9 am in the morning, I certainly was after that. I struggled with debilitating morning sickness in my first trimester where I vomited daily for almost a month straight. And after I emerged from that dark space, I found it hard to recover. I couldn’t find a way to fit those trendy prenatal classes or any kind of physical activity into my schedule. In fact, the only way I would have made it work is if I got out of bed before 5:30 a.m. to get to a class. For anyone who knows me, well, that was not going to happen. I’ve stumbled clumsily through the last 9 months, working an incredibly stressful job, desperately trying to find some sort of balance in the fight to be a “successful” working mom and wife, and somehow it all feels like one big failure.
Negative self body image
By far, one of the most challenging aspects of pregnancy for me has been a negative self body image. The perfectly-toned-with-just-a-bump women who grazed the covers of every pregnancy magazine I saw left me questioning why I didn’t look like that. Even if I did eat better and exercise, the images I saw were just not me. I would never fit the mold of what the American pregnant woman should look like.
The stinging comments will probably never go away. Comments like:
“Are you sure there is just one in there!?”
“There is no way they have your due date right.”
“Wow, you look soooo…uncomfortable.”
At times, I honestly didn’t know how to even respond to some of these comments I received from well-intentioned people. They made me want to hide away, ashamed of my body.
The pregnant woman in other parts of the world
For centuries in many native tribal communities around the world, the pregnant woman has always been honored, respected, taken care of, and admired by her tribe. In tribes where clothing is minimal, the gestational period and body is marveled at and never ridiculed. The community accepts and celebrates her fully, as she is blessed with the gift of life.
These tribes got me thinking about my “modern day tribe” or lack thereof one. Today, we are all so hyper-focused on our individual lives, problems, social media accounts, and the digital connections that have left us more disconnected than ever before that we cannot even begin to play a role in any type of new age community or tribe. Despite having an incredibly supportive and loving family (that not all women have) paired with a few very close friends, I never felt any larger sense of community during both of my pregnancies.
In the workplace, I would say that void is most apparent. The pregnant woman is expected to simply carry on—business as usual—for as long as she possibly can without saying too much or asking for too much. In this second pregnancy, I experienced complications in the beginning that left me unable to work for a few weeks, and now, in this last month, I have been in a similar situation because of yet another complication. It’s hard to grasp the idea of carrying on as normal when you are running to the bathroom to vomit as discreetly as possible, are so tired you could fall asleep standing up, or are so swollen because of high amniotic fluid that it hurts to move. But yet the working mom feels ashamed to ask for time off or a reduced workload because it makes her look and feel inferior.
This is where I think we go gravely wrong as a society.
The more and more I hear working moms say that they are stopping at one child because they can’t imagine working full-time under the kind of pressure they feel with more than one kid, it breaks my heart. We have to find a way back to one another to rebuild our tribes. We have to be reminded as a society that being pregnant is not an ailment, setback, or weakness at home or in the workplace. We deserve to be taken care of by our community. Having the strength and grace to grow a human being is the most fierce and honorable job a woman will ever do. The more we can find our way back to one another and reinstate the powerful local “tribes” that once held us closer together, we can then begin to regain balance.
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