Pregnancy and self-esteem

Kristin is grateful for the opportunity to have a baby at this point in her life, but she could use a boost in the self-esteem department

Credit: Rahego

“Admit it,” I demand, folding a pair of vaguely too-small workout pants and stuffing them into a drawer crevice where I can no longer see them.“ You found me more attractive when I was super fit.”
 
He looks at me, eyebrows knit.
 
I stare down at my balloon stomach, feel my underwear crouching belligerently, up into places where it isn’t welcome. I refuse to buy beige brown maternity bloomers. Bloomers. I am now a woman who thinks of undergarments in granny terms. My eyes travel up my stomach, past my angry gnome belly button, to the new veins in my breasts, which are smashed rudely into a bra that’s now three-cup sizes too small.
 
He doesn’t fall for it.
 
“No,” he says simply, “I didn’t.”
 
This does not suffice. I dig in.
 
“You didn’t find me a little bit more attractive when you could see my abs? When I didn’t have cellulite on my knee caps and giant veins protruding out of my boobs?”
 
“No.” He is resolute. 
 
I glower.
 
“But,” he says, looking helpless, “if you keep talking about how giant and heavy and awkward you are, I might start to believe you.”
 
I sigh. He is right. And why am I so paranoid about gaining girth? Why does pregnancy make me feel so ungainly, asexual? I know, logically, that I need fat for my body to build an ideal home for this baby boy, the one we would do anything for. I know that my husband knows that he was the one who placed the baby in there, and does not fault me for looking a little different than I did before I had a baby growing limbs and brains and organs inside me. 
 
But I remember this feeling vaguely from my last pregnancy, over 6 years ago. I remember the crushing blow to my self-esteem that came with the puffy legs and the varicose veins, and I try to remember the best ways around my predisposition to feel crotchety and lumbering.
 
I am so grateful for the opportunity to have a baby at this point in my life. I really am ecstatic about the wide-open opportunity of new life and crushing love and the new heights of joy I know our family will experience. But I’m still worried about the magnitude of my bum and the spanking new wideness of my face. And it makes me feel like I’ve failed at the Glowing Grateful Pregnant Lady test.
 
***
 
Several weeks into my pregnancy, when the smell of eggs cooking made me want to light my nose hairs on fire rather than exist in the same vicinity as my breakfast-cooking husband; I posed a question on to my Facebook wall:
 
Those women who say that they loved being pregnant, that it’s purely a time of joy and radiance and beauty…they’re full of it, right?”
 
About 50 of my female friends responded ? almost all of them in complete agreement that yes: the notion that pregnancy is a time of blissful gorgeousness for all women is not a totally accurate one. 
 
There is also gas and bloating and varicose veins and hemorrhoids and random expansion in unexpected places. Inevitably, there is insecurity that follows in the footsteps of the complete sacrifice of your body to another human being. There’s the weirdness of not being able to fit into clothes in “normal people” stores. No matter how you slice it: it’s disconcerting to gain cellulite and girth while eating cleanly and working out every day.  
 
Despite the gratitude and the eagerness I have to meet the babe who needs all these changes in my body, I struggle to maintain my self-esteem as a confident, capable woman.   
 
A frail women in her eighties picked up my dropped vegetables for me at the grocery store last week, insisting that she would do it because “I have a baby growing inside me.” I blushed furiously and felt feeble.
 
And while  I appreciate the generous comments my friends drop on me about glowing, looking great, etc. ? everyone is strangely kind to pregnant women ? I can’t say I always believe their words.  

Here are a few of the things that do help me feel more attractive and confident in the third trimester:

***

 
Invest in a sexy lipstick
 
A bright pink or a dark red will set off your glowy skin and make you look more rested than you are. I love this Stila lipstick in Intriguing. This will also likely come in handy once you have the baby and don’t have time to do anything to your face except swipe it with a glob of colour.
 
 Work out
 
I admit, motivation is hard to hang on to in the third trimester. The belly is in the way, it hurts to run, you’re getting larger no matter what you do. But after you sweat it out and breathe hard for even twenty minutes, life just feels more manageable. I have never done a pregnancy workout that I regret.
 
Don’t eat crap
 
Though frozen cheesecake bites and cheese nips feel great going down ? they’re not worth the heartburn, guilt, or added girth. I keep lots of fruit on hand (frozen blueberries + almond milk are an amazing, sweet and satisfying snack) and avoid bread when possible. When I eat totally cleanly (no bread, no salt, no processed foods) I feel so much better, mentally as well as physically.
 
Create your own luxuries
 
My suggestion: a silky, fizzy bath bomb and a glass of grapefruit Perrier on ice.  Add in a new, trashy magazine or a really mindless, engrossing book. Avoid any publication that displays pregnant celebrities whose own pregnancies defy any of the normal rules of pregnancy bloat/puffiness.
 
And then think of the end result, and don’t demand that your husband find you less attractive now. I will try to take my own advice.

Photo by Rahego via Flickr