I will be the first to tell you that pregnancy is hard. In fact, if you look at my Instagram (@AtTheHeartOfFit) over the past few months, you’ll see that I post about my pregnancy struggles quite a lot. You see, everywhere I looked, pregnancy was so glamorized, the difficulties glossed over by everyone from the media to sappily in love new moms, and it made me feel alone. But I knew I wasn’t, and I guessed many mamas to be were out there feeling just like me, so I decided to start intentionally sharing the struggles. So, mamas, this one goes out to you. And all you non-mamas, this goes out to you, too. Because we all need to give ourselves a little extra grace.
I’m 34 weeks pregnant as I write this, and I’ve officially reached the stage where putting on my socks feels like a gorilla attempting a contortionist act. But I’m getting about 30 weeks ahead of myself, so let me rewind a bit.
When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, we were shocked, to say the least. We had just signed a contract to purchase a fixer upper home, were in the midst of final renovations to sell our condo, and were eagerly looking forward to our second missions trip to Haiti (which, incidentally, I would’ve been packing for right now if we were still going). Being pregnant right now was SO not in the plan, but apparently it was in God’s plan, because there we were, pink plus sign and all. And that’s where the journey of grace began.
Before pregnancy, I was what some would call a health nut or a fitness freak. I decided to commit to a healthy lifestyle full force early in 2014, and had been eating (fairly) clean and exercising 4-6 times a week ever since. I loved working out at home, so I actually became an online fitness coach through a company called Beachbody, and began helping other women use Beachbody’s fitness programs to get healthier, all while coaching them on how to keep Christ at the center of their journey. I preached positive body image all day long, I told women to ditch the scale, and I quoted verse after verse about how we are defined by a God who loves us, not by our bodies.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
You are God’s workmanship, a masterpiece, made in His own image.
Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, so glorify God in your body.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you.
So here was my test, my proving grounds. As my body changed, grew, stretched, and even morphed into something I couldn’t even imagine- would I practice what I preached?
Early on, my resolve was strong. I had seen other women via social media continue to eat healthy and workout daily through their pregnancies, and I was determined to do the same. It was simple, really. I was already doing what was best for me and my baby, so I would just stop eating sushi and add in a prenatal vitamin, and all would be peachy.
But then the nausea hit.
And the exhaustion. Oh, that first trimester exhaustion.
And remember that fixer upper and those condo renovations? Needless to say, the to do list hit me pretty hard, too. Suddenly, my go go go came up and went, and it was all I could do most days to get up and go to work each day, continue to keep our home running as usual, and manage all the projects involved in a home sale and purchase. Carbs became my saving grace, staving off the nausea just enough for me to function semi-normally, and workouts became fewer and farther between.
I was embarrassed, and more than that, I was disappointed with myself. All the thousands of pregnancy fitspo pictures out there proved everyone else was doing it, so why couldn’t I? Where was my resolve, my commitment?
Enter G R A C E.
I don’t know how, and I can’t remember how long it took, but at some point I just woke up and realized- you don’t need to be those women, because you are YOU. And you are doing what you can, each day, and that is enough. It’s enough for God, so for goodness’ sake, let it be enough for you.
Whether you’re pregnant or not, whatever you are struggling through, read and reread and reread that truth until it sinks into the deep places in your bones and the dark places in your heart. There is Grace. Perfect is neither attainable, nor desirable, and You Are Enough.
In my second trimester, I began feeling a lot better physically. The nausea only hit when I didn’t eat often enough (read: about two hours after a meal, I’d become more irritable than an emo pre-teen, and if I didn’t eat something in the next five minutes I’d be a mixture of semi-comatose and extremely motion sick). My energy also came back, and I began working out again! At this point, it was still summer/fall, so my husband and I went on walks as often as we could. I also did prenatal Pilates videos I found online, kept doing strength workouts from my Beachbody programs, and I began to experience the fun parts of pregnancy. We found out our baby was going to be a boy, and I began to feel his little flutters and kicks.
My What to Expect app told me each week what size fruit he was, what organs were now functioning, and when his little fingers and toes and eyes and ears were all developing. I was feeling more like a mom each week, and my excitement was growing. We’d announced our pregnancy around 13 weeks, so I was finally able to stop sucking in and instead embrace my growing belly. I developed a noticeable baby bump around 20 weeks, and boy did the compliments start flowing in. I’d never felt more noticed, and I was told how cute/beautiful/adorable/pretty I was more times in those few months than I had been in the last five years (except by my husband, of course). I don’t say that to brag, by any means; it’s a phenomenon most expecting moms experience, or at least the many I’ve talked to. My point is this- I felt great physically, I felt great emotionally, I was experiencing that beautiful pregnant bliss.
And then I had my monthly visit to my OB.
I hopped on the scale, and it’s one of those old fashioned kinds, with the metal blocks that clunk into place to announce your weight to all within earshot. So the nurse clunks the block over to the 100, moves the bottom slider over and over, all the way to the end, zero movement on the needle. So, CLUNK, she moves the top block over to the 150. Okay, cool, whatever, I’m 5’8’, I weighed close to 150 before getting pregnant, no big deal, right?
So she slides the bottom block over, over, over, over, oops too far (THANKYOU JESUS), back a bit, over juuuust a hair more, and then she utters the final result. A number which logically I knew would come at some point, but emotionally I flipped my lid.
Nonononononononono NO. Excuse me, WHAT? Had I really gained that much? What was I doing wrong? It was way too much, clearly I was getting fat. Why was this happening? I numbly walked back to the exam room, let the nurse take my blood pressure and exit, and promptly crumpled into tears in my husband’s arms. I was devastated, and I was ticked at myself for being so affected by a tiny little number. (Or rather, a not so tiny little number). I’d always told women the scale wasn’t a good measure of health or progress, and that it certainly was not a measure of their worth. I wasn’t practicing what I preached, instead, I was experiencing the same weakness and vulnerability all women do when the truth about how they measure their worth seeps out.
Enter G R A C E. Again.
This time, it was grace in knowing that even though I had let the enemy’s lies get to me, my God was still bigger, and we could learn from this together. So I made a commitment to ditch the scale until my due date, and to not even look at the scale at my checkups. I self-evaluated and recommitted to having a healthy & happy pregnancy, making the best choices I could, moving my body as often as I could, and most of all, not stressing about the changes that are a natural part of pregnancy.
Have I been perfect? Heck no- ain’t nobody got time for that! But I’m doing the best I can, pushing myself to continue making healthy and active choices, realizing and accepting that this journey and season does not look like the last one, nor will it look like the one ahead. There is grace for my journey, and there is grace for yours, too.
I come from a long-winded line of talkers, and my husband certainly knows how to a simple story last a whole meal, so let me blame my lengthiness on them and attempt to wrap this baby up.
I guess I’m nearing the end of this pregnancy journey, although it makes me a bit queasy to admit that. My energy has dissipated, the discomfort level has peaked, and walking the grocery store counts as a workout. I recently committed to myself that the last ten weeks of my pregnancy would be the most consistently active, doing something good for my body every day if possible. Some days, honestly, that something good is two minutes of stretching in the office hallway, guzzling half a bottle of water before bed to meet my daily goal, or simply eating a salad and a bowl of ice cream instead of just a bowl of ice cream. And that’s okay, because this is my journey, and it’s a journey of grace.
Photos courtesy of Julia Gemuend