Jessi Cruickshank: How I learned to stop body-shaming my baby bump

Turns out even the most body-positive among us can turn into trolls when we gain 36 pounds and can no longer fit into our jeans.

Pregnant woman takes a mirror selfie in an elevator
Photo: Courtesy of Jessi Cruickshank

At the start of my second trimester, my husband came home from work one day to find me crying in my underpants, lying spread-eagle on the bedroom floor. He dropped to his knees in a blind panic. “Honey!?” he exclaimed, “Are you OK? Are the babies OK???” I just lay there, tears streaming down my cheeks. “WHAT IS GOING ON,” he implored, reaching for his phone to call the emergency room.

“I… I… I…,” I replied though convulsive sobs,“I can’t fit into my jeans.”

I’m not sure who or what was raging more, my husband or my hormones. This was NOT a medical emergency. This was me, placing all of my prenatal anxiety onto the one thing I couldn’t control: my body.

I have never felt 100 percent confident with my body, but I have always felt 100 percent in control of it. I have learned how to take care of it and how to appreciate it and how to block out any external judgment of it. Gradually, I’ve learned how to love every pasty, freckly inch of it. And yet, the moment I got pregnant, I turned on it. Like a vicious internet troll, I started to body shame… myself.

I hated how I suddenly couldn’t zip dresses over my rib cage, how I could barely squeeze into my yoga pants, how my belly was busting through the buttons of my shirts. After a lifetime of praying for bigger boobs, I even hated it when they started to grow—from all directions, spilling out the sides of my bra into what can only be described as a lower-armpit muffin-top. I hated it, because I couldn’t do anything about it.

I tried to seek solace online, looking for some reassurance that the frustration I was feeling towards my pregnant body was normal or OK… and the first thing I found was this:

“There’s a serene radiance of fertility and ripeness as your body changes during pregnancy. Bask in the wonderment of creation growing inside you, as your beautiful belly grows to assist the dancing of life inside your womb.”

Excuse me?! I’m not sure who wrote this, or how they found a WiFi connection while prancing pregnant and barefoot in a field of blooming daisies, but I do know that this was not my experience.

I was not “serene” or even remotely comfortable with my body’s changes during the first half of my pregnancy, and yet suddenly, my body became the only thing people wanted to talk about.

Pregnant woman takes a mirror selfie of her baby bump
Photo: Courtesy of Jessi Cruickshank via flare.com

“You’re tiny!”

“You’re HUGE!”

“You’re carrying low.”

“You’re carrying high!”

“Your boobs are gigantic.”

“You’re eating for THREE!”

Everyone from friends and family to strangers on the subway to baristas at Starbucks felt entitled to comment on my physical appearance, to touch my stomach and to tell me about their friend who “blew up like a house.”

very pregnant woman takes selfie in bathroom mirror
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It’s almost as if the most taboo subject—a woman’s weight, size and body—suddenly becomes fair game when she’s pregnant, because somehow people feel like it isn’t her body anymore. And as my bump continues to grow, I can’t help but feel the same way.

This isn’t my body anymore. Every day it grows and changes in ways that I have absolutely zero control over. And yet last week, for the first time, I finally started to accept it.

It happened the on the scale at the doctor’s office. I stared down at the glowing numbers poking out beneath my bump. I had gained a cool 36 pounds. Standing there, pregnant and vulnerable, my heart sank. Every casual comment about my size, every joke about my appetite, every magazine headline about how to “Lose your baby weight!” and every book about my “Fit and Fabulous Pregnancy!” flooded my thoughts, telling me that gaining 36 pounds was wrongShamefulDisgusting.

Then, my doctor told me to give her a high five. “Nice work!” she said. “These babies are growing!”

Pregnant woman stands by a tree in a white dress
Photo: Courtesy of Jessi Cruickshank via flare.com

Riiiggghhttt. This body is not mine to judge, or shame or control anymore. For a few short months, it belongs to the tiny humans who are developing inside of it. And so, just as I’ve learned to ignore external judgment and accept my body as a woman, I’m learning to do it all over again, as a pregnant woman.

I’ve started to block out the chorus of unsolicited voices and nod, smile and let the hostess at Milestones rub my belly if she really wants to. I’ve stopped trying to fit into my jeans and started to appreciate the way my belly fits neatly into the control-top elastic of a fine maternity pant. I’ve stopped shaming myself for getting bigger and started celebrating the fact that when I grow, so do my precious little twins.

As I get closer to my due date and farther from my skinny jeans, I’ve come to realize that relinquishing control over my body is exactly what has allowed it to do the most incredible thing. Yes, it’s bloated and swollen and stretched-out and soft, but it has two babies growing—excuse me, dancing—inside of it. And how can I not bask in the wonderment of that?

Read more:
Pregnancy perks: The health benefits for mom
Jessi Cruickshank: I’m having twins and feel completely out of control

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