Pregnancy is a time that is full of joy and excitement and anticipation.
It’s a time where even strangers want to celebrate in this exciting season as life develops inside you.
For many expecting mamas, pregnancy is full of joy and excitement.
But for me, and many others, pregnancy is complicated.
Physically, mentally, emotionally.
My first pregnancy ended at 8 weeks when our little one’s heart stopped beating.
My second pregnancy landed me on hospital bedrest at 28 weeks. I spent Christmas and New Years in the hospital that year. (Shout out to Christus Trinity Mother Frances for letting us turn an abandoned waiting room into my living room and for letting us bring steak + potatoes to the cafeteria on Christmas Day.)
My third pregnancy wasn’t all that complicated by my standards, even though I was classified as “high risk”…. until delivery day. Then I suddenly developed a host of complications and had a pretty uncomfortable and scary delivery and difficult recovery.
Thankfully my last 2 pregnancies brought me the most precious little boys a mama could imagine.
Because of what went on physically during each of my pregnancies, I have experienced a different type of mental and emotional response to pregnancy in general.
For those of you that have experienced normal pregnancies, count yourself lucky and don’t take it for granted- no matter how uncomfortable you are or whether or not you want to be pregnant.
For my fellow complicated pregnancy mamas, you understand the space of overwhelming excitement and joy…. and crushing anxiety and fear.
You understand the struggle of how to respond when the stranger asks, “how many children do you have?”.
You understand the simultaneous excitement and anxiety you feel when you see that positive pregnancy test.
Complicated pregnancies aren’t a joke and if you want more of my story, I may tell you. But not everyone on the ol’ internet needs or gets to hear all my story.
However, I will share what I’ve learned from my complicated pregnancies.
My body is amazing.
This one came as a huge revelation recently, which is funny to me because bodies are my non-mom day job.
I’m an eating disorder therapist and a recovered disordered eater/chronic dieter.
I spent the vast majority of my life on the dieting roller coaster- ever chasing that final validation of my worth through my body.
I spent countless hours, precious emotional and physical energy seeking to finally lose the weight deemed unworthy and unhealthy.
I did this through restricting food, counting calories and every bite and sip I put in my mouth, measuring portions, engaging in exercise I hated, weekly and daily weigh ins… you name it.
But, I always came up short.
Thankfully, years ago, through Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size and a lot of my own therapeutic work, I found true freedom from counting calories, moderating portions, tracking exercise, counting steps, weighing, and body hatred.
Which means I seek health through healthful behaviors that have nothing to do with weight or weight loss.
I learned truth about my body and health.
I discovered freedom from the perfectionist trap I was trying to force my body and myself into.
Most importantly, through my professional work and my own journey, I learned the true purpose of my body.
It is not to provide aesthetic pleasure for the world around me, myself, or even my husband.
It is not to be at my “healthiest” or “fittest”.
The true purpose of my body is to engage in deep and meaningful relationship.
To connect with those around me.
Through my complicated pregnancies, I was able to experience this truth on an entirely new level.
I was able to see that my body is amazing because even when I was in my most “broken” physical space, my body served it’s true purpose.
From the hospital bed and in the triage room, I was able to engage in relationship with people I love deeply and the amazing nurses and doctors that surrounded me.
Our society tends to glorify health- like it’s our ultimate pursuit and purpose in life.
I have nothing against striving for physical health. In fact, I support that pursuit and desire to experience a physically healthy life myself.
But we can’t put that at the top, because when we do, we hurt others and we miss the point.
How We Hurt Others
We hurt the ones that don’t experience physical health.
And spoiler alert- our physical health is not in our total control. We can engage in healthful behaviors, but things like genetics that are outside of our control have a bigger impact on our overall health than what we eat and how we exercise.
When we idolize health and we essentially say if you aren’t healthy by society’s standards, you are less valuable as a person. You are flawed.
That’s often not the intent, but that’s the message that is received.
And while physical health IS important and I desire it for myself, it is not what makes my life meaningful.
It is also not what I value most about the people around me.
Missing the Point
I love Brene Brown. I mean who doesn’t?!
Her popularity has to do with her focus:
All of her work boils down to valuing connection and relationship and authenticity over a safe Pinterest-perfect comfortable life.
She shows us how to get uncomfortable and messy and live authentically to see our true worth.
No matter how scary or how much we initially balk at the idea of vulnerability and connection, it’s what we’re all made for and what we all most deeply crave in life.
When we focus on health above those relationships and connection, we’re missing the point in life.
We’re missing our purpose- no matter what our individual religious or spiritual or political views are.
We are all different and we are all made to be in deep, meaningful relationship with those around us.
And on top of developing new relationship and maintaining deep connection, my body sustained life, healed itself and thrived.
I just had my second C-section and I’m amazed at how my body has healed itself- and on such little sleep nonetheless 😩!
AND because I choose to breastfeed, my body was able to nourish both of my sons while recovering from major surgery and dealing with all that is postpartum life.
It is amazing even when it doesn’t look or feel or function as perfectly or even optimally as it “should”.
With full confidence I can say that my body is amazing.
Because my body is amazing, it deserves all the compassion and care I can give it- I can give myself.
Complicated pregnancy isn’t an easy experience.
I still have a lot of feels around my experiences and have more feels come up when I think about future pregnancies (which I hope to have, complicated or not).
But I’m learning to somehow be grateful for the experience.
And being grateful doesn’t mean that I am glad for my experience- I’d LOVE to know what normal pregnancy is like!
It doesn’t mean that I’m not very disappointed I had another C-section, despite our best efforts for a VBAC.
Being grateful simply means I can appreciate the value that has come through my experience. That I’m finding the good along with the hard and the disappointing.
Without going through these experiences, I wouldn’t know and understand this new layer of the goodness of my imperfect body.
How can you see the goodness of your body through less than ideal life experiences or circumstances?