Saturday, January 19, 2013

On Pregnancy and Body Image

Hooray for hips and belly

I have never considered myself a particularly vain person. However, constant media messaging (your body is not good enough, therefore you are not good enough) has a way of working itself into everyone’s psyche to some degree. My whole adult life I’ve pretty much maintained the same weight, no matter what I did. I have not really been able to gain or lose much regardless of what I did. Although my weight is exactly normal for my height, its distribution had caused me some anxiety. I was scrawny on top, with visible ribs and a flat stomach, and big on the bottom. I went through phases of calorie counting and exercising but only managed to get bonier on top, while my bottom half happily went about its business as usual. People asked me if I was sick. So much for weight loss attempts.

Still, I couldn’t shake the other desire I had always had: to be stronger. I hated the fact that I was small and weak, that no matter how hard I worked out in the gym, I would never be stronger than the average couch surfing dude. I would never be able to easily lift, carry, push and pull things. I would never be athletic. (I rode my bike all around Toronto for years, living mid-town, going to school downtown and working uptown – 1-2 hours a day of biking, and never got faster. Other bikers passed me, breathing easily while I struggled. So frustrating! A doctor I went to about chronic fatigue told me I had so little muscle that my mitochondria couldn’t effectively use oxygen. Um thanks, but what do I do about it. True story.)

The best thing about getting older was losing whatever interest I had in "perfecting" my visible body, and learning to accept its limitations (more or less – I still hope I might magically grow 25 pounds of muscle). I also grew to appreciate its positive aspects: I was generally healthy, I was fully mobile, I could touch my tongue to my nose, thrift shopping is a breeze for me because I’m so small.

Being pregnant is a bit of a trip because for the first time, I have to gain weight. I have only gained 6 pounds so far (16 weeks, so I’m right on target) but I'm the heaviest I’ve ever been, and I'm only getting bigger. (No more flat belly!) Except for the fact that my clothes don’t fit, it’s oddly enjoyable. I feel a little bit rebellious, flaunting society’s dictates (all women must have the body of a 12 year old boy). I can be proud of getting fatter. I am enjoying food like nobody’s business – gawd everything tastes so good (except the things that taste so bad--get them away from me). I have ginormous boobs (well, for me), and my wide hips finally are coming into their own. These amazing hips are going to make labour and delivery easier (I hope) than 12-year-old-boy hips would. I am proud of what my body will accomplish (hello, creating new life). I am enjoying the experience of my changing body.

Ask me how I feel when I get to the waddling stage.