Like a lot of young girls, I started having issues with the way my body looks from my early teens itself. It has been an ongoing saga for the last two decades – wherein there have been periods of triumph and times of complete loss. Once I crossed the first trimester (with all its associated morning sickness) and was able to think of the pregnancy as a whole, it struck me that I was in for a period of low body esteem and started to mentally prepare myself for the same. However I have been pleasantly surprised by what has actually happened over the last few months.
Despite all the exercising I did and the strict care I took of my diet in the weeks leading up to the IVF, sadly I was on the heavier side when I got pregnant. However I was at one of my fittest points. A juxtaposition right? But it’s possible not to be at our ideal weight and still be fit enough to run up and down 3 flights of stairs without getting breathless. On getting confirmation of the pregnancy, I immediately let go of all my strict diet and exercise regimes and made the newly forming embryo my whole focus. There was now no question of trying to lose weight.
I come from a lineage where the women in my family gain a lot of weight during their pregnancies – we are definitely not the slim built pea pod variety. Having seen photos of my mother when she was carrying me and having seen my aunt through her pregnancies, I was ready to become an extremely round version of myself. These were just mental preparations I was making. From previous experiences when I had put on weight, I knew that it wasn’t going to be as easy to feel alright about becoming rounder and getting heavier. Of course there is an expectation (and it is a necessity) that a woman will put on weight during a pregnancy and therefore we shouldn’t feel anything negative about it. But the actual feelings we have can’t be swept under the carpet, can they?
Due to the severity of the morning sickness in the first trimester, I ended up losing 3 kgs in those few months (like a lot of women do). And surprisingly a small belly appeared. My embryo was definitely not big enough to be seen in this form as yet, so my family started to call it my fat belly, instead of a baby belly!!! I actually did not mind that name as it was another small physical sign that a new being was starting its journey inside me.
Being someone who loves to exercise and stay fit, I found exercises that I could comfortably and safely do during the pregnancy. After all, I wanted to remain as flexible and agile as possible through the course of the next few months, to aid in the labour & delivery and post delivery recovery too. Through the second trimester and early third trimester I religiously walked every morning and exercised in the afternoons. I loved how nice exercising made me feel.
I am so excited about feeling pregnant, that I bought myself a larger sized bra in the beginning of the second trimester itself. Turned out that I did not need to use it until two months later when my breasts started to grow larger.
It took me by complete surprise that I did not put on much weight during the second trimester – a total of only 3 kgs. It did feel nice that I had not put on weight across all the various parts of my body, but I started to feel a little low that I was still not ‘looking’ pregnant. According to me my belly was expanding and I thought it was quite prominent as a lot of my clothes started getting tighter. However to my friends and extended family, it was not as clear. I even started comparing myself to my friends and cousins to see how they were at similar points in their pregnancies. I was really disappointed that in comparison, my belly was nothing at all. My belly button hasn’t popped out either, when some of my friends’ had popped out at similar gestations. I kept questioning my mother (who is also a gynaecologist) about my physical progress and refused to believe her assurances that everything was on track. My mind had been made up.
Astounding, how my whole world was suddenly revolving around my belly and how I perceived it. Though I could feel the changes within me – from feeling the first movements of Ducky to feeling it expand, they all paled in comparison when I started thinking of my belly size.
Rather than enjoy the fact that Ducky was growing well and I had not put on too much of weight, my thoughts and feelings swung to the other side and I started to wonder and worry about this different scenario. I was unable to enjoy the beauty the pregnancy had brought to me – from my glowing complexion to the happiness that radiated from me. And this was inspite of all my near and dear ones telling me this. What a waste!!! It struck me that my issues with my body are so deep rooted that I constantly find something that does not seem to work in my favour. During one of my midnight snack rounds, I gave myself a very stern talking to. I had a choice at this point. I could continue to spiral downwards with comparisons and find myself lacking, or I could push all these thoughts aside and enjoy the miracle of the pregnancy.
Considering how precious this pregnancy is to me, I am very happy that I chose the latter. I consciously put aside the negative thoughts I had about my body and started to enjoy all the small changes that were happening on a daily basis. As I documented the changes in my body, I realised that there is a lot happening and I started to appreciate each and every one of them.
I am currently mid-way through the third trimester and loving every moment. I decided earlier on in the pregnancy that I did not want to join any of the mom / mom-to-be communities that are available through social media. I was happy going through this with my family and friends guiding me. Though the covid19 pandemic is raging and it has meant that I have not been able to be a part of various face to face pregnancy related classes, I find that I am not feeling isolated or alone in my journey. The anecdotes that my friends and family have regaled me about their pregnancies have kept me thoroughly entertained. It also feels like both Ducky and I are learning about a part of our heritage through these stories.
In a way, it is a good thing I was not a part of any of these community groups while I was going through my low body esteem phase. Just imagine how much more havoc I would have created with the additional information I would have been seeing / reading online.
Over the last few weeks, both Ducky and I have been packing on the grams and kgs respectively. With so much of focus on my belly and breasts, my bum has decided that it does not want to be left out either. And so it has started to grow to balance out my expanding belly. It’s a hilarious situation. I keep checking on myself, and am thrilled that I am nowhere near falling into the well of feeling fat and frumpy. In fact, I am loving all the grams of fat that is showing up in various places in my body.
So while I prepared myself for feeling low about my body as the pregnancy advanced, the reason for feeling it completely took me by surprised. Just goes to show that absolutely anything (and sometimes the most unexpected) can trigger negative perceptions and feelings. I realise that the way our body looks can be very superficial when we look at the multitude of happenings around us. However, if it becomes a big enough issue in our mind, then we need to acknowledge that and work through it. As long as these perceptions are foremost in our mind, there is absolutely no way that any other thought can take precedence and we should not trivialize this.
Well as the war on my perception of my body continues, I am very happy to note that I have won the battle this time. Thinking back on all the various battles, it is heartening and motivating to note that the frequency of incidences are reducing and more importantly, I am able to get over that period fairly quickly and with as little long term damage as possible. So keeping that in mind, I continue on with my life and hope that I am able to help Ducky, if (I really hope not) he or she has these kinds of issues.
If any of you have low body esteem, I hope that you are able to motivate yourself to stop thinking in that way and see yourself in a positive and true way. All the best to you on the journey. And know that I am a fellow traveller who is most willing to share all my learnings and experiences.