Pregnancy and body image with baby number 2

I keep joking with my husband that this baby wants to make sure I experience ALL of the classic pregnancy symptoms I didn’t have with my first. Seriously: nausea, constipation, fatigue, and some other weird features I won’t mention here.

For the most part, my pregnancy with Judah was smooth sailing: hardly any nausea, regular visits to the chiropractor (ahem, my husband) and an overall even energy level. Of course, Judah was born 10 days late— a sanctifying experience that deserves a whole separate post in itself.

And then there was the mental panic I felt about gaining weight, about my body changing, and the behaviors I developed to cope with that fear. During my first pregnancy I began doing things like calorie counting religiously, exercising as a rule and weighing myself daily. Those habits felt safe and helpful at the time, but towards the end of my pregnancy and certainly at the beginning of motherhood, they stole so much life and energy from me that it forced me to pursue a better relationship with food and my body.

pregnancy and body image

So I guess I have that first pregnancy and definitely my sweet firstborn to thank for where I’m at today with intuitive eating and body acceptance.

Needless to say, this pregnancy has been different, not better or worse, but just different. On the one hand there’ve been some tough pregnancy symptoms, some of them probably attributable to already having a toddler. On the other hand, I’m at a much better place with my body and my eating, and it’s made a world of difference for my mental, relational and physical health.

That’s not to say I haven’t experienced some stretching moments and bad body image days, but this time around I have a much bigger (and healthier) toolbox to cope with them.

Here are a few decisions I made going into this pregnancy that have served me well

I’m choosing not to weigh myself or see my weight at the doctor’s office.

I can see both sides of this argument. If you are fully recovered and have no qualms seeing a number on a scale, you may be totally cool with seeing your weight at each visit. And while I feel at peace with my body size as it changes and know that my weight means nothing (as long as my baby is growing adequately), I don’t want to give myself any room for comparison to my previous pregnancy.

Since I knew my weight gain throughout my whole first pregnancy (and honestly felt “proud” of it), I don’t want to allow that sort of temptation back in. Knowing that number wouldn’t do anything positive for me. My midwife will tell me if there are concerns with baby’s growth. Otherwise, the number means nothing to me.

I trust my body to do what it needs to do to support this little life inside me. That may very well mean gaining more weight this pregnancy than I did with Judah, after all each pregnancy is unique and each baby has different needs.

If I saw my weight and it was higher than the “normal” weight gain range, it might make me feel bad, then again it might not, but it certainly wouldn’t help anything. On the other hand, if I saw the number and it was within the “normal” range, I might be tempted to feel proud or relieved, and I don’t want to make that number a stress reliever. I don’t want to put any trust, hope, or power in it. So, I’ve been choosing not to weigh myself. This is what I’ve decided is best for me, doesn’t mean your pregnancy will be the same.

Second, I’m eating intuitively. I’m not tracking intake, and I’m not even planning intake too closely

This one probably doesn’t surprise anyone. Intuitive eating has been so helpful for me in learning to trust my body again, and pregnancy is no different. Sure, my likes and aversions have changed a bit during pregnancy (spicy foods and chocolate do not agree sadly), but overall, after I got through the nausea or the first trimester things have been similar to pre-pregnancy…. eating-wise.

I mention that I’m not tracking intake or planning food too closely because that is what I did my first pregnancy. I haven’t done this for a long, long time, and I don’t plan to return to it. Calorie counting is not helpful for me ( or for most people). It usually drives us to under-eat (most calorie estimates are way off), to constantly think about food and numbers, and to feel out of control when we finally allow ourselves to meet our energy needs.

Also, it takes the emphasis off learning to trust our bodies and puts it on external food rules and cues. If I’m hungry but my calorie intake says I’ve hit my limit for the day and thus I choose to ignore that hunger, what might that be doing for my baby or my body? Our needs are SO dynamic from day to day, and calorie tracking just leads to more distrust of self and a greater level of rigidity.

Third, I’m putting less pressure on exercise and tuning into what makes me feel good movement-wise

The first trimester this meant not doing much of anything outside of stretching and some light yoga every once in a while. Those first 12 weeks were hard this pregnancy. The increased demand of caring for a toddler while pregnant, running a business and planning to move into a new home, combined with the new and exciting symptom of nausea really took a toll on me physically and emotionally. Instead of pushing back and forcing myself to exercise, I decided to rest, to sleep and to stretch when it felt good.

Now, in the second trimester, I have more energy and movement feels refreshing. I’ve been loving barre3 workouts and free youtube pregnancy workouts, and doing them about 2-3 times a week along with some form of walking outside if I can. Seriously, the cabin fever of being stuck in doors all winter is starting to get to me over here.

This level of movement helps me feel energized without draining everything I have for the rest of the day. Better yet, I feel strong and more prepared for giving birth (seriously so many squat variations in the pregnancy style workouts). Last time around I had rules and when I broke them I felt guilty and ashamed. This time around movement is so much more fun. Plus there is grace here. I no longer feel ashamed if I wasn’t able to get my allotted exercise in for the day and that alone has done wonders for my mental health.

Body image so far

All of these decisions have allowed me to care for my body without micromanaging it. They’ve helped me learn to trust my body during pregnancy. Body trust is imperative in giving birth, breastfeeding, and even mothering our children. I know that the more I trust that my body was designed to be able to do these things, the easier labor, delivery and this life transition will be for me. That’s why it’s so important that I maintain a deep level of connection and trust with my body right now.

That doesn’t mean that my changing body hasn’t taken some getting used to. In reality, each pregnancy changes our body to some degree. It’s not like you have one baby, pop back to your natural mom body, then have another baby the exact same way and pop right back to the same mom body. It’s taken me some processing to realize that if we want more children (probably), that means my body will change each time, and I need to be okay with it.

Looking at my values and goals for life, I’ve realized I don’t want fear of my body changing to stop me from having a big family—I just know that would be something I regretted later in life.

So, with that in mind, I’ve been hunkering down on the negative body thoughts as they arise, sitting with them and comparing them to what I know to be true, which is this: my worth is not determined by my body size. I was made to be loved recklessly by a good God and in turn, to offer that love to others. No body size can change that call or take away my joy when it’s rooted in Christ.

Bodies change and that’s normal and natural. In the words of Kylie Mitchell from Immaeatthat, “I’m not choosing a body size for myself, but I am choosing how I want to take care for myself.”

Beyond this I’m trusting that my body was designed to incline towards health, and that it will do what it needs and end up where it needs to be, weight-wise, to support me, this little one, and any others that come down the road.

Practically speaking, that means caring for myself and my body image in a few ways:

I bought new maternity clothes + Jewelry

I was starting to feel stuck and just frustrated by my clothing options. I didn’t feel pretty or like myself. I realized it was because none of my old maternity clothes fit just right. They were either too stretched in the stomach from being worn to almost 10 months pregnant or they just were old and dingy and out of style. Besides that, my mom body is different this time around. I have wider hips, more squishy parts on my back, and boobs that are….different…to spare you the details.

After complaining to my husband, I realized last pregnancy I bought myself new clothes that fit well and it had helped so much with my confidence. So, I took some money out of the house reno budget (which almost killed me) and put it towards a Target shopping trip. I bought a pair of jeans, a simple t-shirt, a tank and two cardigans along with a set of everyday earrings.

You guys, I feel 20X better just having clothes that fit!!! Next on the list is to order some comfortably fitting maternity underwear and a bra from amazon. Seriously, don’t know why I haven’t done this sooner.

After putting on the new (appropriately sized) clothes and feeling so much better, it hit me just how important it is to have clothes that fit! Another reason why we need to continue to advocate for people in larger bodies in the fashion world. Everyone deserves to feel good in their skin and clothing is a big piece of this!!

Reading other Intuitive Eating pregnancy blogs

Another thing that’s helped me is reading other women in this space’s blogs on pregnancy, intuitive eating, body image and the like. Realizing that you are not the only one going through this journey and trying to do it without an emphasis on weight is so powerful.

I find that the enemy wants to isolate us and make us feel like we’re completely alone in our struggle or we’re the only ones trying to do things differently— 10/10 this is always a lie.

Here are a few posts I’ve read in this vein and loved:

Intuitive Eating and Pregnancy by Robyn Nohling, RD

A Goodbye to my pre-pregnancy body by Kylie Mitchell, RD

How to Have a Healthy Body Image during pregnancy by Crystal Karges, RD

Of course, chatting with friends who do understand and have been through what I’ve been through, along with my mom, and my husband has been just as helpful, if not more than reading these posts.

If I could encourage you with one thing, it’s this: You are not the only one to go through this and you will not be the last, build up a toolbox and reach out to others, you never know who else needs to hear what you have to share.

Until next time, stay nourished, body, soul and spirit