As some of you may have guessed from a previous post on Parenting and Pregnancy during Covid-19, I am currently incubating a miniature human. The decision to get pregnant wasn’t always an easy one. I vacillated between feeling ready to handle the challenges of parenthood and being hesitant because I like my life. But also becomes of my own history of recovery. I was concerned what pregnancy could mean for my mental health. And particularly aware of post-natal depression, thought to affect 1 in 10 women who give birth every year – as well as their partners. Included in the risk factors for post-natal depression is previous experiences of depression earlier in life.
When we made the decision to start trying to get pregnant my doubts didn’t go away. But each unsuccessful attempt, met with disappointment, further assured me that I did want a child. So, when pregnancy began I looked forward to the journey. There are a few things I wish I knew about beforehand but the one thing I didn’t expect was how much pregnancy weight gain would bother me.
During the first trimester I eagerly awaited feeling pregnant. And I was frustrated when the bump didn’t grow. But this is normal and I enjoyed looking like my usual self. On reflection, it was more impatience than anything else that annoyed me about not looking pregnant. Now I was pregnant I wanted to get on with it!
But, of course, I did start to gradually look pregnant a few months in. You’d think that I’d be overjoyed to start to see my body changing given my impatience with the process. And yet, the site of my stomach becoming more rounded didn’t bring me joy. If anything, it accentuated my worries and drastically impacted my mood and self-esteem. Somehow I’d switched from eagerly wanting to look pregnant to low moods as I looked in the mirror.
Despite assurances, albeit online ones, that people grew at different rates. I had concerns that I was growing too fast. Claims of normality online didn’t soothe my worries. At my first midwife appointment my midwife said my weight was fine. Everything online suggested a midwife would flag weight concerns with me. But the worries continued.
Pregnancy Weight Gain
My mood continued to deteriorate as my stomach expanded. I felt as if my body was not my own and was being taken over. I didn’t feel myself and this only compounded my lowering self-esteem. Things hit rock bottom when I came across a pregnancy weight calculator online. I’m usually very wary of these kind of things but it was on a trusted pregnancy website. I was distraught to put my pre-pregnancy and current weight in to discover that I was at the upper limit of where I should be. Next I fell down a Google rabbit hole trying to read as much health information about pregnancy weight gain from as many safe resources as possible.
My anxiety grew as I read about the serious possible health implications and birth complications that increased weight in pregnancy could cause. Most websites suggested that a midwife would track my weight and advise me if I need to be more cautious based on my own individual circumstances. But due to Covid-19 I’d not had any appointments for almost 20 weeks; half of my pregnancy. I started to weigh myself; limiting myself to once a week because I didn’t want to get into unhealthy habits and fuel my new obsession with weight gain.
This may not be the best strategy and I would suggest everyone should think carefully before doing so. This is by no means a recommendation. Being overly preoccupied with my weight has had the biggest impact on my mental health of any other aspect of pregnancy. One week it appeared that I had gained 2lbs. 1lb a week for my part of pregnancy was the recommended gain. Distraught I cried down the phone to my sister who spoke to an obstetrician she knew. She took a full medical history and assured me I couldn’t gain 2lbs in a week. This soothed my worries greatly. But I was lucky to be able to access this reassurance. Particularly when I wasn’t having any of my usual appointments.
Reflections on Weight Gain
A few weeks on I’ve taken a step back from my pregnancy weight gain. I now weigh myself once a week to help me feel more in control. As my husband constantly reminds me, I am growing another human and therefore I need to be gaining the weight. He is, of course, correct. But I don’t think that that is the source of my struggles.
I have spent the vast majority of my life being aware of my weight. My body has not always felt like my friend or a safe place to live. From side comments about my weight by family members or unfair comparisons with skinnier people in my life. I’ve expended much time and energy trying different diets and exercising to be a weight I felt happy with.
It has been a journey of years and recently I’ve finally felt good physically. Through a mix of maintaining an exercise regime (more here) and a better relationship with food. I’ve made peace with my body and am a healthy weight.
Given my history, weight gain, particularly around my stomach was going to be difficult. Additionally, as per previous posts, lots of my anxiety stems from needing to be in control. So knowing my stomach will grow, and knowing I couldn’t remedy the fact because it was unsafe to do during pregnancy, added another layer of difficulty.
And now, as I enter the third trimester I’m mentally preparing myself for further growth as we inch towards the finish line. Being able to feel my baby move, increasingly stronger each week, has helped me bond with my baby and my bump. It feels more like my body is within my own ownership once more. And I’m not resentful of the little life causing the changes.
But there are still times that my body feels foreign. Or I become overly aware of my ever-growing belly. It’s not easy feeling breathless after a long day or a short walk. I’m having to relearn my limits. But for now, I have found some perspective on this difficult aspect of pregnancy. And, I hope, if this has been bothering you as well that you perhaps feel less alone by reading it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Has this been your experience or have you found it hard to watch your body grown at times, related to pregnancy or not? How do you make your body feel your own? Let me know below!