How Pregnancy and Childbirth Taught Me to Love My Body

IMG_0715A few months back, I wrote a blog post regarding some of the lesser-known perks of being pregnant.  I spent time reflecting on some of the attitude changes that accompanied pregnancy, particularly concerning my body and my relationship with food.  When I first learned that I was pregnant, I worried about how I would respond when I began to gain weight.  During my nine years as a cheerleader, I had been taught to fear weight gain and the food that would cause such a change to my body.  Even though I left that world at the age of fourteen, some of its effects were long-lasting.  With the rise of the recent obsession with healthy eating and exercise habits (and now don’t get me wrong- I think healthy eating and exercise habits are great, but when it becomes obsessive, I call it unhealthy), the culture only served to feed my fear.  And so when I found out that I was going to inevitably gain 25-35 (possibly more) pounds, I worried about how I was going to handle it.

In the end, pregnancy was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  From the beginning, the knowledge that there was a little person living inside me changed the way that I viewed food.  Food was going to keep us both alive; it was going to ensure that we both remained healthy as my little baby grew and I grew to accommodate my child.  My desire to eat healthy foods was no longer fueled by a need to be considered thin, but by a need to support my child’s growth.  My desire was no longer fueled by fear, but by love.  Food could no longer be considered evil- not when it provided so much good.

IMG_0728As the months passed and my due date inched closer and closer, I found that I was more and more comfortable with my body and the weight gain.  Even when I was nine months pregnant, I still felt surprisingly beautiful.  Between the way that my husband looked at me and the knowledge that I was carrying our son inside me, I couldn’t be more amazed by what my body was capable of.  I couldn’t be more in awe of the gift that Andrew and I had been given.  And yet with each passing day, I was more and more nervous about what would happen when John arrived, when there was no longer a little baby to justify my altered body shape, when I was once again unhappy with my body.  I was afraid that once I gave birth, everything would go back to normal, to the way things were before I got pregnant, and I didn’t want that.

And finally the big day arrived, and at 4:04AM, John Thomas Whitmore entered the world.  For the first time in nine months, I was no longer pregnant.  In the hours after birth, my stomach was “massaged” periodically, I was stitched up and given ibuprofen to reduce swelling, and nurses entered my hospital room every couple of hours to make sure that my pain and discomfort were both manageable.  Over the next two and a half days, the nurses marveled at my speedy recovery.  I never needed anything stronger than Motrin.  By Saturday afternoon, I was already walking around my room, and I was able to walk out of the hospital Sunday afternoon with no support despite having been trapped in my hospital bed for my first 24 hours postpartum because of some minor complications during delivery.  And every time a nurse came in to check on me, they would inevitably comment about my postpartum body, how I didn’t “look at all pregnant.”  It was a comment that I found slightly ironic (since I in fact wasn’t pregnant), as well as quite untrue.  The nurses just didn’t know what I had looked like before I got pregnant.

IMG_0680But as I considered my postpartum body, anticipating the fear that would certainly arise because of my dissatisfaction with it, I was surprised to find only a sense of contentment, pride even.  When I thought about my body, I inevitably thought of my baby boy, my son who up until recently had lived within me.  Any sign of my recent pregnancy simply reminded me of what my body was capable of.  My body had kept my baby boy alive for more than nine months.  My body had provided my baby with all the nutrients required for his proper growth and development.  My body had offered a shelter for my little guy until he was ready to move from one home to another.  My body had done amazing things, and in the days and weeks following John’s birth, I can only marvel at its abilities.  While it might be easy to be dissatisfied with our bodies, especially as we lament the loss of our pre-pregnancy figures, we have nothing to be ashamed of.  When we consider our bodies, we should take pride in what we see, be in awe of what we have been given, be amazed at what God has allowed us to do.  He has given us the ability to do something amazing, something that no one else could have done.  And this gift, the bond that we will always share with our children, is one of the most beautiful blessings that God could ever give us.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

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