My sister and I had a conversation the other day about maternity photos. She wanted to send my family invitations to a baby shower that they couldn’t attend (because they live 1,500 miles away), and I told her that maybe sending a really great maternity photo to them instead would be a really great way to show the family that she was thinking about them during this time. A really great way to kind of invite them into her pregnancy because let’s face it, they aren’t on great terms right now.
And the conversation went like this.
Erica: well instead of inviting them, why don’t you do like a cute pregnancy photoshoot or something and send them a post card with you looking cute and super pregnant. you should do a maternity shoot now that you’re looking ripeish
Gabby: Photo shoot! Are you crazy!
Gabby: Ripe?? That’s how you’re describing me
Erica: I’m perfectly sane. ripeish.
Erica: You’re not quite there yet.
Gabby: I hope I won’t ever get there. I look somewhat cute still, I’d like to keep that
Erica: I think the family would appreciate that much more than an invite to a party they can’t attend. It would be like you were just asking for gifts from people you don’t talk to.
Gabby: Lol!!! I didn’t want to do a maternity shoot.
Erica: Why not? You love taking pictures of yourself.
Gabby: Because why would I want to remember being fat!
I am not pregnant.
I have never been pregnant.
I feel like these things need to be established up front before a bunch of people yell at me.
But here’s the thing, this conversation with my sister, I just don’t understand it.
I was once a Gabby. I once thought of pregnancy as something to be endured. Something that was the curse of my womanhood, along with monthly cramps, bloating, mood swings, and well all of that stuff. Before I moved to Ukraine, really, I never thought of my womanness as something to be celebrated, as my body as some sort of (I can’t believe I’m going to say this, seriously 2 years ago I laughed at these people) sacred vessel.
I know that I’ve never been in Gabby shoes. Heck I haven’t even been close to them, I’ve missed her entire pregnancy. But I know a few things about pregnancy.
1. Everyone’s pregnancies are different. For that matter, different pregnancies with different children and the same mom can be very very different experiences.
2. People feel differently about their bodies at different parts of pregnancy and suchness. You go from just not being able to fit into your jeans to feeling like a Macy’s day parade float. Some days you feel awesome, some days you just want to barf, some days your baby keeps kicking you in your crotch (I’ve read on one blog a woman describes this as lightening crotch).
3. Your body feels like a scene from an alien movie. There’s literally something living inside of you. And you are terrified. You’re scared to meet it. It always wants food and it’s exhausting to carry it around. Not to mention, this alien already has demands, and is terribly picky about the food you feed it.
These things I know. Not just from Gabby’s experience, but from the wealth of knowledge I’ve obtained in books, blogs, and from my boss, Erika. These things may not be true for everyone, but seriously, if you read the above statements, they are pretty vague as well.
I mean as a childless woman, vague is about all you get. I mean you can read and read and read. You can watch documentaries, talk with your girlfriends, take all kinds of classes. For goodness sake, I know how to deliver babies, and really there’s nothing to it, it’s mostly catching. But I know that I will never know what it’s really like till I know, till I’m experiencing the 9 months of pregnancy.
But here’s something else I do know. I do know that I hate that my sister feels that way. I hate that my sister looks at her body, a body that is doing exactly what it was built to do, and all she sees is fat. Now, maybe I just caught her on a bad day, this could be, but I’m pretty sure this is not a one day occurrence. I know this mostly because I know my sister.
Being in Ukraine has fundamentally changed the way that I look at pregnancy and breastfeeding. Was this a desired or an anticipated transformation for my missionary service, I’d say not, but I think it was a necessary one.
I, myself, have had those same thoughts. Those same thoughts of what a baby would do to my body if I were to ever have one. How it might make me even more giggly. How crazy creepy weird it would feel to have a little parasite living in me, draining me of minerals and desire to get out of bed. I have read articles and asked people, and the thing is they all say things about how weird it is, but they also talk about the miracle of it all.
And then you find right next to it, ads for losing the baby weight. Ads to keep you from getting stretch marks. News stories about protests to breastfeed in public.
I was that person. I was that person that looked at that breastfeeding mom at the store and thought, ‘Oh ick.’ I’m not proud. But for all of you who feel this way, I’m telling you, I understand.
Well, make that understood.
Being here, I’ve gained a whole new outlook. Sure, here girls are worried about their figure. I mean these are ladies that wear 5 inch heels on the ice in the middle of winter. But most ladies, they feel like having a baby is not only their duty as wives but a function of their bodies. That it is a good, sacred, and holy thing. That of course you should breastfeed where ever your baby is hungry. And that when you’re pregnant you are lovely and beautiful. That the things that happen during your pregnancy, the things that happen after, are all apart of the wonderful design of your body that God has so graciously given to you.
So To Gabby (and all others who have let society tell you how to feel about our bodies),
You are my sister. I love you with all my heart. I would do anything for you. Including telling you this hard truth.
You are not fat.
Boy, that was hard. I’m glad we’re past it. You are not fat. You are pregnant. You are making me a beautiful, healthy, active, defiant, nephew in that belly. One that will grow up in a happy home filled with love and laughter. With a brother, and aunts and family that will spoil him rotten. And I certainly promise I will spoil him rotten. I will take him to see scary films when you won’t let him because you think he’s not old enough. I will buy him that ice cream at the mall. But I will also help him with his math homework, and to beef up his resume for his first real job.
But before we get to all that, I need you to know, that he’s already beloved. He’s already a precious gift. He’s already yours.
And because of all of that, you need to know that yes, your body is different, and it certainly looks as though there is something underneath your shirt now. I know that you waddle, and it’s hard for you to get from place to place. But Gabby, you’re so healthy. You have had basically no complications. No bed rest. Just an easy going pregnancy. I mean, my goodness, you are just now starting to look really pregnant and you are 5 weeks away from meeting your new baby.
You are lovely pregnant. You’re body was made to create new life, and you’re doing it. I know that you feel awful at times, but I want you to know that when people look at you they don’t see a fat girl, they see a wonder. A work of art. A sacred being, breathed into by God so that you may help breathe life into another human being. Don’t you see, you are a part of creation now. You are creating life.
And it sucks right? This kid kicks you all the time, I mean he’s probably already just as stubborn as can be I’m sure. In the beginning I know you were super moody, and Brandon hated it, but now you settling in for the hardest part. You’re so close you can taste it, and yeah, you can’t breathe right now, cause that little man is squishing your organs, but you are almost there.
Savor it. Embrace it. You are not fat. If you have stretch marks, or have to get a c section, or get the brown line, or are giggly there forever, it’s not a disgrace, its a mark of motherhood. It’s you allowing your body to do what it was made to do. You are a strong, beautiful woman, and you can’t let this society tell you anything other than that.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. I know what happens in that delivery room. It’s not pretty. In fact, it is the grossest thing you will do in public, and I know you hate the idea of that. But there is no shame in that. There is no shame in the birth thing either. It is what must be done. The gross yields the beautiful baby in the end. And as a bonus, your top is your top and your bottom is your bottom because maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t see your body achieve such a feat.
You are beautiful. You are a life giver now. You are about so much more than the size on your pants, or how hard it is to climb those stairs. You are, now more than ever, at a sacred point in your life where you are not going to want to forget a single moment of carrying your baby boy. Because this isn’t something that you can get back. And if when you look at yourself in the mirror all you see is fat Gabby, then I invite you too look again and see yourself as Gabe’s mom. As what he’ll want to think you thought about when you were pregnant with him. We cannot continue this cycle with your son. He needs to know that you were happy and proud to carry him. That any part of your body that isn’t just as it was pre-Gabe doesn’t matter because now you have Gabe. He needs to know when he looks at any pregnant woman or new mom that is doing what she needs to do, is doing the right thing. Is doing the good, proper, and awesome thing.
I don’t want Gabe to be like I used to be. I don’t want him to look at his future wife and see fat when she’s pregnant. I don’t want him to beg her to cover up when she’s feeding his first child in public. I want him to think that all of the amazing things that a woman’s body can do, are just that, amazing. And that starts with you. That starts now.
You are not fat. You are beautiful. And I hope that you can see that because I certainly do.
This post was also largely influenced by this great huffpost article! I think that the words there are so much better, so check it out!