Critique and Spirituality During Pregnancy

During the first 5 months of my pregnancy I was a bit… smug? No, not exactly smug, but confident. My body was going through a lot of changes- I was going through a lot of changes, and more or less I was taking them in stride. I had a healthy dose of excitement about the pregnancy and I thought that all of the focus on our changing bodies as a negative, scary thing was a bit frustrating. Sure, I missed wearing the clothes that I had once been comfortable in, but I thought the expansion of my body was… relieving, in a way. I wasn’t afraid of growing- gaining weight, changing shape. Over the years I have learned to love my body, and I wasn’t about to let the pregnancy websites change that.

But maybe I was just in the easy part of it all. Maybe this lack of confidence is something that everyone goes through at some part of their pregnancy. I still don’t think it is necessary, and I still blame the external social pressure for fear-mongering, but I am there, too, wondering if I am a bad person because I am gaining too much weight. Wondering if I am putting my baby in danger. Wondering if I will ever get my pre-pregnancy shape back.

It started at the end of last month, when I went in for my monthly checkup. The first thing they did was weigh me, and the midwife was quite disappointed in me because I had gained four kilograms (that’s almost 9 pounds for those of you back in the states) in one month. That is a LOT of weight, and she told me it was too much, I should not be gaining more than 2 or 3 in a month. From that moment it was like a black cloud settled over me. I hadn’t realized how proud I had been each month when she told me that my weight gain was exactly on or just under what it should be.

Before that appointment I had been taking a very intuitive approach to my pregnancy. I trusted my knowledge of nutrition and the thirty year relationship I have with my body. I know which vitamins and minerals I tend to be low in, and I was eating accordingly. I ate when I was hungry, and although it is hard not to overeat occasionally (with my mother-in-law’s cooking skills) I was doing pretty good, I thought. After that appointment I tried to justify my weight gain. I told myself that women gain different amounts of weight in their pregnancies. I tried to console myself with the knowledge that according to the doctor both my baby and I were healthy and doing well. I even justified the weight gain with the idea that I had “popped” that month (I finally got my belly!) and surely the next month my weight would go back to normal. I thought I dealt with it and moved on, but I didn’t. It seeped into my brain and body.

I weigh myself almost every day now, and sometimes twice a day, secretly hoping that my weight stops growing. I find myself stopping halfway through a meal, even though I am still hungry, because I don’t want to be shamed when I return to the doctor’s office. I spend too much time looking up ideal weight gain patterns for women my age and height. Any day I don’t go for a walk, or bike-ride, I feel bad- not just because I am missing out on fun outdoor activities. No, I don’t just feel bad. I feel guilty. All because the “specialist,” told me that I am doing it wrong. I thought I was stronger than that, but apparently one offhand comment in a doctor’s office is capable of sending me spiraling into obsessive self-critique.

Perhaps the thing that is most frustrating about this is that it has seeped into my yoga practice. I am not 24/7 spiritual, but I would consider myself an avid seeker of the spiritual, if not a full believer. Yoga definitely has a spiritual side for me, and I was really enjoying exploring the changes in myself through my practice. One of the best pieces of advice I have read was towards the beginning of my pregnancy, when I was still in hyper-active, “IS THIS SAFE TO DO!?!” mode. One website said that, yes, yoga is great for pregnant women, but you should know that as your body and energy changes you will have to adapt your practice. Pregnancy is a good time to concentrate on patience and acceptance of your self, and you should not try to grow or improv during pregnancy. I took that advice to heart and I was having an amazing time just exploring exactly where I was at- what hurt, what felt good, sometimes just lying in meditation for half of my practice. It was good. 🙂

Then came this crash of confidence. Last week at yoga I found myself thoroughly frustrated with myself. It was a new sensation for me, that I usually only get when I have a bad run and have NEVER gotten while in yoga. I was frustrated by my tight hamstrings and calves. I was frustrated by my large belly getting in the way of potential poses. I was frustrated that I could no longer elegantly shift from one pose to another. I was frustrated that my balance and strength are suffering. Yes, plenty of this is my, “fault,” for not practicing during my first three months of pregnancy, but ultimately it is where I am at now and I need to be able to accept it, understand it, and move through it. I don’t need to hate myself and beat myself up over it. I definitely do not need to look in the mirror and feel disgust towards how my body compensates for the changes. But I do. I feel all of those things and more. It makes me wonder how I am going to get through the last three months of pregnancy, when the weight will keep coming, the doctor’s will put on more pressure, everyone will feel they have the right to comment, and my body will continue to become unfamiliar to the standards I demanded of it before. I guess this is what they mean when they say that pregnancy is a perfect time to practice patience and acceptance. Accepting myself when it was easy was nothing more than an easy ego boost. Now, when accepting myself is no longer something to be taken for granted I can sink deeper into my practice of patience and see if I cannot learn anything, and to grow spiritually as well as I am growing physically.  

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