An Open Letter to the Pregnant Mama Struggling With Self Image
Exactly five years ago today I allowed a friend to take a photo of my enormously huge pregnant belly. 40 days later, my son, my miracle baby, was born.
When I look at the photo (which I insisted be in black and white to hide the dark circles under my eyes and splotchy skin), I don't see now what I saw then. Sickness plagued my entire pregnancy and stole the coveted "glow." My glow was more of a greenish color and came from radioactive nausea that seized my body at any given time of the day or night.
My body changed in ways that left me utterly perplexed. My once perfectly adorable nose suddenly started to spread across my face, never to shrink back. My hips absorbed into my thighs, and my once rounded rear flattened into my spine. The weight of my body, which used to be evenly distributed suddenly lurched to the front of me making me look like I could topple over at any given minute. Even the shape of my face changed. How any of this was even possible, I didn't understand. Wouldn't my body react like a rubber band and magically snap back to the way it had been after the birth of my son?
No. My body would never morph back to what it was and I would have to learn to live with my new normal.
I've had five years to think of all of the things I could have done differently during my pregnancy, but there is only one regret that I live with. The regret that I only have four or five photos that show my growing belly.
Whenever there was a camera around, panic would set in and I would hide. I felt hideous and figured that I would have lots of chances to take belly photos with future pregnancies because I surely wouldn't be as sick with subsequent babies. What I didn't know then is that there most likely will never be another baby, that my son will probably be the only life that my body is able to sustain and grow to maturity. The weight of that realization crushes my being whenever I allow myself to think of it.
Mama, if you're pregnant and feel like a washed-up waddling whale and cry every time you look in the mirror, I understand. If whenever you see a photo of yourself you don't recognize the person looking back at you, I understand. If your once lustrous hair has gone limp and you've developed pregnancy acne, I understand. If the thought has crossed your mind that there has never been a more unattractive pregnant woman than you, I understand. From the bottom of my heart, I promise that I understand.
But mama, you aren't what you see in the mirror. Your hormones are playing tricks with your mind, making you think you look worse than you do. Not only that, but you are a warrior! You are a woman who is growing and nurturing a life inside your body. Literally, your entire body is shifting to create a snug home for your baby. The zig-zag of deep purple lines stretching across your skin aren't vulgar, they're tiger stripes which can only be earned by the most courageous. Tigers are fierce and have stripes. Mama, you too are fierce.
Please, take the photos. You don't have to post them for the world to see. You can print them and shove them into a shoebox that you toss in the back of a closet. But, take the photos. As many as you can.
Sweet mama, one day you will have healed and embraced the changes that your body has gone through and you will want to look back on those months when you were growing the human who now nuzzles into your neck. And I promise you, mama, the first thing you see won't be the nose that's spread or your fluid-filled sausage fingers. Your focus will be zoomed in on your belly and the life within and a warmness will spread through your body and your heart will explode with love.
Don't live with the regret of not having taken photos. Take them. All of them.