Stretch marks. Somehow with all the crazy changes going on in my body through pregnancy; the nausea, the soreness, the growing body, the changing breasts, the aches and the soreness - it was stretch marks that my brain decided was going to affect me the most. A part of me knew it might be coming my way, but a bigger part of me was hoping that I would squarely miss it.
My first belly stretch marks made its appearance in week 25. The smallest lines etched just under my belly button. For the life of him, my husband couldn't see it. But there it was in plain sight. And then came the shot at my confidence followed by a desperate attempt to find belly oil and cream for it.
The fact that this was affecting me so much is proof that self love is never complete and never the same from one person to the next. It’s a continuous path of learning about yourself and discovering what makes you feel better or worse. For me, through the course of this pregnancy, it has very much been about the loss of control and the changes to my body which has in turn taken a toll on my confidence. Through this, what I have also realised more than ever is the need to practise self-love and through that engage in self-care. Having said that, I have also noticed that how I show myself this love and care is very different to how I would have gone about it before I was pregnant.
Here are some self love practises that I have engaged in while being pregnant that have helped me:
To yourself. Being pregnant is very much a roller coaster ride. Between your mindset shifting to caring for a tiny human that is growing to all the excitement that comes from others, it can be hard to tune in to yourself. Make it a point to check in with yourself each day to better understand where your mood lies, how tired you’re feeling or what’s been nagging at you from the back of your mind. This time is much about change as it is about learning. As your body and mind evolve, you are trying to re-learn about yourself too. Give yourself some extra care with that.
Don't be afraid to speak to others about how you are going. I made it a point to be honest with others when they asked how I was going. I had heard so much about the happiness and excitement during pregnancy but not so much about anxiety and the lows. The first trimester was a turning point for me, because I didn't realise how low I was feeling until I came out of it. Since then I have spoken about it with those close to me and it has helped me immensely. Joining groups and online forums are also a great way to speak to, and help others.
Give yourself some attention. The switch over to “baby mode” happens quickly. Everything I thought about was for the baby. While this is so important, don't forget to pay attention to yourself as well. What do you need that will help you right now? Is it better fitting clothes? Is it some down time? It might not have to be anything significant. Sometimes the SMALL LUXURIES make us feel recharged. For me, it was a quiet night in, being comfortable in my favourite robe, take out on the way, netflix show lined up and hot chocolate for after.
Patience, love and understanding for yourself. You don't need me telling you about the amazing transformation your body is going through. But I will say, don't you forget it! In those times where it starts getting to you and it all seems a bit too much, take a step back and just celebrate the work you are doing. I’ve had days where I’ve not had the energy or just can't do anything anymore for the life of me. It’s also in these times where I’ve felt low, that my confidence has taken the biggest hit. On those days, I acknowledged how I’m feeling and gave myself some reassurance. A bit of self pep and hugs always works.
THIS IS YOU TOO
Embrace it all! The pre-pregnancy you might seem far from reach and will post-pregnancy you ever appear? The answer is she never left. She’s right there in you, cheering you on. She’s learning too and changing to help you in each stage of life. That’s what makes you so amazing. Your ability to change and mould based on what comes your way. You may not know it but you are doing an absolutely stellar job! So enjoy and warmly embrace this version of you.
For all the women riding the waves of pregnancy, I am sending big love your way and hope my words have helped you in some way. This time in our lives could be so different for each of us but we all yearn for the day we hold our hearts in our hands.