I like to refer to my pregnancy body as my adult-toddler body. Other than pregnant ladies, this is the only image I conjure up when I look at my round mid-section, my arched back and waddling ways.
As the weeks go by and my belly steadily grows, the love for my body grows, too. I thought I’d be so horrified by its changes but I’m more in awe of its beauty. All the tiny cells working in unison working to form my baby boy inside of me with only the roundness of my midsection as evidence. I’ve washed away all my old body insecurities and replaced them with a new admiration for what my body is doing and how it looks while doing it.
As a kid, being “fat” was never far from my mind growing up. “Don’t eat this, don’t eat that”, I was told, “it will make you fat”. Even now, I can’t escape the scrutiny. “Be sure not to gain too much weight” my dad recently said. My husband reminds me that he means well. My brother’s nickname for me was “fat” while growing up. You might think “My gosh, why didn’t her mother say anything”? Probably because my dad’s nickname for my mom is “Gorda”, or “fat” in Spanish. Nicknames in English and Spanish have different meanings and feelings depending on who has it and who gives it. My dad’s is a term of endearment for my mom, my brother’s meant as an insult at the time and that we eventually outgrew. I was a cute chubby baby with rolls, that turned into an awkward chubby brown girl in a sea of tall white girls.
Those lanky girls from middle school turned into to trim and fit athletes while I continued to pudge out: a little roll here, a little roll there, HUGE boobs. When I hit puberty (at the tender age of 10) I was blessed with a large rack. I grew my double Ds (or were they? they are likely leaning toward the middle of the alphabet at this point,) but I didn’t understand why men honked at me, whistled or stopped in mid stride to leer at me. I’m sure I had an idea of what sex was at that time since George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” had already made its debut, but at that age, it simply made me uncomfortable and scared.
In all reality, I wasn’t overweight nor was I obese and there was no fear for my health. There was certainly no problem with my friends’ beautiful bodies, nor mine, I didn’t have the body they had. Theirs was a body that matched what we all saw on tv and that made me self-conscious because I didn’t look like any of the actresses on my favorite shows and that left me feeling lonely and left out. Even if I turned to the Spanish channel, it was the same message: tall, lean, light skinned, light hair, BIG BOOBS. I would spend countless hours analyzing my body in the mirror of my childhood bedroom, doing the weekly exercises from my YM magazine, all in the hopes that I could make my boobs perkier, my waist tinier, my legs more lean and slim. These were imperfections that I was trying to tame, which eventually gave way to a cyclical self-fulfilling prophecy that told me I was not pretty enough, and not lovable enough and was reinforced by never being asked to a dance or on a date for many many years to come.
I can say that I’ve always been dieting in one way or another, but one day just a few years ago, I decided to experiment with the way I thought about eating. I started to recognize the foods that upset my stomach, and I coupled that with the love for running, bouldering and boxing. I didn’t think it was possible to retrain my brain but looking back, it did take about 5 years to get to the point where I chose the healthy decision over a bad one simply out of habit. This isn’t a success story of losing 30 pounds and being a size 2. This is a story of accepting and loving the body that I’m in because I feel good, my digestion feels better and this body has allowed me to run 3 half marathons and be a strong boxer. And now, as I face my 6th month of pregnancy, it has allowed me to still run a half hour every few days and keep at bay many of the discomforts and negative side-effects that accompany being pregnant (like constipation and Charlie horses.)
Last year I got married and I wanted to look my best. I chose a dress that flattered my favorite parts of my body: my bosom and my husband’s favorite feature: my butt. What I wished to do for the months leading up to my wedding was feel good in this dress and in my body and for me that meant having no digestive issues. When I look at the pictures of that day, I can see the happiness radiating from my smile, another of my other favorite features, but I couldn’t help but think critically: “Look at my arms! But I worked so hard….” And that’s when it hit me. It didn’t matter if I worked out 4 to 6 times a week, or it didn’t matter if I didn’t, what mattered was how I felt inside my body and my mind. So, I figuratively slapped myself in the face and said, “Snap out of it!”. I was beautiful no matter what I did because my body was strong and I was happy.
However, getting to this point didn’t happen in a vacuum. Events like a break-up, seeing yourself in a photograph, or a well-meaning ill-placed comment by someone close makes you decide: “I’m so unhappy, I need to change”. But change doesn’t come from simply losing weight, it comes from a mind shift which comes from surrounding yourself with the right people and seeking the right help. For me, it was after a break up. Breaking up wasn’t about him, it was about me and how unhappy I was to be in my own skin. I started going to therapy once a week after that. And since I lived alone, I was lonely and alone which turned into a great opportunity to reinvent myself on my own terms.
Remember when I talked about surrounding yourself with the right people? Yeah, that helped immensely. I made friends over the years with a group of funny, interesting and supportive women of all shapes and sizes. It’s a group of women as adoring as Portland is with polite drivers, “You’re the best! No you are.” I loved being around them to a point that any male suitors had to compete with them for my attention. Then I met the person who would eventually become my husband. We started dating at good and high point in my life where I finally didn’t feel the need for compliments or accolades. However, his loving and admiring words only reinforced what I had finally started to believe: I am beautiful, I am worthy. All the things I was so insecure about still, didn’t exist in his eyes and eventually disappeared in mine too.
And now, I’m pregnant. If I thought getting married would challenge my new mindset, pregnancy blows it out of the water. My old fears were starting to kick in early on: “What if I gain too much weight? What if I get FAT!” Then they swung the other way: “What if I don’t eat enough? What if I hurt the baby because I refuse to each cheese?” It was frustrating that my old self felt like it was stalking me. But as the nausea subsided and I got into my second trimester, things started to get back to a bit more of a “normal” feeling and my old self grew into a whisper and a shadow. It’s never really gone, but I have the tools I need to karate chop it back into submission. Things are a bit more difficult now with the extra baby, blood and weight I’m carrying around. My runs are slower, my walk is more deliberate as my hips sway from side to side and my breath a bit more shallow; I now look in the mirror at my pregnancy body and can still not believe it. This is my body and I’m growing my baby. As my belly grows bigger with each passing week, it reminds me of the beauty of my regular ol’ everyday body and what it was and is capable of doing and I am grateful. We make a good team, and I can’t wait to see my little Frijolito on the other side of this.