I wanted to spend some time talking about body confidence in the perinatal period.
Festive season is in full swing, and there are so many parties and Christmas events going on. Weekends are full of plans with family and friends, good food, good music, good alcohol. Cheese. And dresses which show every part of your body, super skin tight jeans that are difficult to pull up. For a few years I had a great opinion of my body. I really got into exercise and HIITs and although I wasn’t the slimmest person around, I was happy and more confident than I had ever been in my body.
Then I got pregnant. I was exercising less and eating more. I started losing confidence in my body because there were so many changes and all at once. This is actually a very normal experience for ladies during pregnancy. So much changes occur, some that you are not even aware of until you find yourself in full throes of the symptoms. This is why it is even more important to self care during pregnancy- to allow yourself and your baby a close to optimum experience for growth, healthiness and happiness.
These are some of the experiences I had during pregnancy:
- The most obvious is nausea. I was lucky to not have it as bad as others, but when it was bad, it was UGLY. I would retch over the bathroom sink for an hour before work and have nothing come up. Or have indigestion which would disappear as quickly as it came. This had a huge impact on my appetite, so I was either eating lots or tiny bits at a time.
- Fatigue is a thing. I have never been as tired in my life as I was when I was pregnant. I am tired now, but I can still function. I just walk around like a zombie when Samraj has a bad night. However when I was pregnant, I would have huge crashing waves of fatigue that I could not fight off. I would crash out on the sofa after work and wake up a few hours later, with a real sense of not knowing where I was or what day it was.
- Feeling out of breath. This was a real shocker for me. I had spent a lot of time and energy into improving my fitness and one day, I got breathless walking up the stairs, I was very upset. I thought like I had put all that effort in for nothing. A lot of reading later, I realised it was because my body was not producing a lot more blood for two bodies, two hearts and needed oxygen for two respiratory systems.
- Peeing and pooing a lot. More space being taken up in your body by little bubba means less space for that burrito (and three sides) you ate earlier. I found myself running for the loo a lot more often than I liked.
- Larger breasts… I already had big boobs so I was keen on them not becoming larger. This is impossible, especially if you decide to breastfeed your baby after.
- Back pain. With more weight comes more back pain and general joint pains. To get ready for birth, your joints start loosening up and stretching out. I found myself noticing more twinges in my back and legs which I actively tried to reduce as much as possible. There was a point where my husband had to put my shoes on for me because I couldn’t lift my right leg. Looking back, that sounds pretty serious. I must have been in a great frame of mind, because I just got in with it and told people the baby was resting on a nerve funny… whilst dragging my leg when walking. The pregnancy hormones must have agreed with me that week.
The biggest change for me was feeling “fat”. As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I immediately ceased all strenuous exercise such as HIITs, which were my go to stress busting technique. I refused to weigh myself throughout my pregnancy so I have no idea who much I have gained and lost in the past two years. I remember people telling me I still looked so tiny, even at 7 months. I was grateful to have a belly only pregnancy but at the time, I just thought I looked fat. It is a very long time before some people begin to “show” and in that in between time, your body just feels a little podgy. It didn’t help that I could only stomach carbs like tomato pasta with extra cheese, or half a loaf of bread, which added to the bloated feeling. It was only when I could feel the hard bump coming through that I felt pregnant, because I looked it.
It’s not all doom and gloom though ladies and gents. I had the most luscious hair and nails. Pregnancy gives you extra special hormones, that makes you retain your hair during your second trimester.. And by the time the baby comes, you look like one of those lovely ladies on the Herbal Essences adverts.
How to stay Mentally Healthy during pregnancy
Now I’ve given you a list of complaints, I’ll also leave you with some self care tips that helped me through pregnancy and some tips I wish I had used more efficiently which would have helped in the post natal period.
- Regular meals and snacks. Even if you feel like eating nothing (very common during the first trimester) it is important to have at least small bites often to keep your energy levels up.
- SLEEP WHENEVER YOU CAN. YOU WILL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. I wish this was a joke. I want to say lol, but it doesn’t apply. If you are fatigued, don’t fight it and try to soldier on. You and your baby need sleep so indulge yourself. You will next sleep when the kids are in their teens, so stock up on sleep now whilst you can.
- I continued going to the gym until I was around 8 months pregnant. There is a large body of research showing that exercise is beneficial to pregnant women, and can aid active births. It makes sense. If you slob around your entire pregnancy, you are less likely to have a large stamina and a good core is very helpful during childbirth, particularly the pushing. I did nothing fancy, brisk walk/ jog on the treadmill, rowing, squats, some light weights and towards the end of my pregnancy, bouncing on the yoga ball.
- Wearing nice clothes that builds your pregnancy confidence. I bought a few pieces that helped me adjust to pregnancy well. As I appear to have been in denial about my pregnancy for a while, I bought bump bands from Dorothy Perkins which are elasticated material in the shape of a band that slips over the top of your non pregnancy trousers. This meant I could wear my trousers with the button loose for a very long time before they officially did not fit.
- I also bought some good non wired bras from Marks and Spencers to allow my milk ducts to build, as I intended to breastfeed. It must have worked because I was waking up to colostrum stains on my PJ top at around 30 weeks.
- Nice floaty dresses and leggings are the way forward though. Comfortable and if you have a winter baby, you can layer up, and with a summer baby, layer down!
- I used a V pillow from Mothercare to help with back pain during the first trimester. The best buy I ever made. I would sleep with it curled around me, and it was used as a feeding pillow after Samraj was born. I am feeling a bit nostalgic now and wish I could have it, but I lent it to my cousin who has told me that her son has peed all over it. Lovely.
- Wearing good shoes. This may have been the most important lesson. Carrying the weight of two people is no small business. You need to feel comfortable and the best way I was able to do this was by wearing my Adidas trainers full time, In fact I still wear them now. My feet felt supported, my back felt supported and so my weight felt distributed evenly.
- Eat what you want. When you want. The baby and you will love yourselves for it. Even if it is the same Thai takeaway 6 days in a row.
- Moisturise like you can scrub out the stretchmarks you’re going to get anyway. Very few people come out the other end of pregnancy looking just like they did before they got pregnant. Don’t focus on the end (unrealistic) goal of no stretchmarks, but use it as a nice end of day or end of shower self care experience. Or a way to bond with your baby. Husband got involved and it was lovely to spend the end the day doing this together with the baby who would kick back.
The biggest lesson I take away from all of this, is one I say over and over in my posts. It’s all a phase. The sensations come and go, although they feel like forever when they are happening. If you keep that in your mind, even your shittest day has that light of hope at the end of that very shitty tunnel.
Hope this has been helpful guys. What did you find difficult? Did I miss a really obvious one in my list of complaints? Let me know your thoughts.
Lots of love