pregnancy + body image

I was always the skinny girl. Always. In high school while my friends were counting calories and obsessing over jeans sizes, I was eating two Snickers bars on the way to soccer practice. I have never owned a scale. I don't even know how many calories a day a person is supposed to eat - I've always just eaten what I want, when I want, and have never had the experience of it affecting my weight. I've always been athletic, fit and had a very high metabolism. The toned abs. The thigh gap. Smalls and extra smalls, please. The size two jeans. I've always been skinny. And then I got pregnant.

And for the first time in my 25 years on this earth, I hated my body. I hated looking in the mirror. I hated all of my clothes. I honestly didn't want to leave the house some days, because I couldn't stand the extra weight I was carrying on my 5'3" frame. I felt guilty about eating the ice cream because I didn't want to gain even more weight than I needed to, but in the end always chose it anyway because what was the point, the body I loved so much was long gone. Why even bother eating healthy? I'd still continue to get bigger. I'd cringe when stepping on the scale at the OB appointments. My perception of my body was so skewed, and my self-confidence, something I'd never struggled with, tanked because of it.

Working out became less of an enjoyable activity, and something I had to do instead. I walked out of every barre class, not feeling strong or capable, but fat and slow. I wanted to tell all the toned, beautiful girls in class that I used to look like them. It mattered so much to me that people knew what I used to look like. That they knew that I used to be skinny.

I'd scroll through Instagram and catch sight of someone's 3-month postpartum update photo, and burst into tears. I've unfollowed a lot of wonderful, motivational people - not because of anything they're doing (power to you, mamas!) but because of the refinement needed in my own heart. When I'm obsessing over the beauty I see in someone else, it's impossible to see beauty in myself.

Matt told, and still tells, me every single day how beautiful I am. That he loves how I look pregnant. And I can tell they aren't empty words, I can see the sincerity in his eyes. But for those first few months, it went in one ear and out the other. How could I be beautiful? I wasn't skinny anymore.

And that's the crux of it. Skinny. If you'd asked me a year ago how much my size mattered to me, I would have laughed and said it didn't matter at all. If you had asked me if I thought being skinny was important, I would have said absolutely not. But it's clear to me now, having watched my body grow and soften and blossom and change over the last 8 months, how much of my life has been spent glorifying skinny, without me even realizing it. Because I was "blessed" to be skinny my whole life. Because people have always told me how lucky I am. Because I can always find things in my size. Those subliminal messages, they sink in. They sink in and they grow roots and that's how you find yourself harboring life itself, and unable to see the beauty in it.

But God. But God makes all things new. God swooped in and picked me up out of that mess, and has gently and slowly set me on a new path. A new path of healing and health. A journey of seeing myself the way he sees me. You know what? God doesn't own a scale either. Or a tape measure or a means of measuring your BMI. God simply says I made you. I love you. You are mine.

It's not been an easy road, for sure. It's taken a lot of work in my heart and in my head. Repeating affirmations to myself every single day. Literally, every day. You are beautiful. You are providing everything your baby needs. You are already such a good mom. You are sheltering life itself. You are a vessel for this divine soul, this soul that was made in the image of Jesus. You are strong. You are loved. Sometimes out loud, and sometimes in my head, but I have to tell myself these things every single day. And when I start to veer down the dangerous road of comparison, I sit down and make a list. A list of all the physical things I love about my body RIGHT NOW. Not the things I loved pre-pregnancy. Not the things I hope to love again. Right now, this very moment. I bet you could make a list of 25 things you absolutely love your body, too. We're just so trained to see the negative instead of the positive. There's been a lot of re-training needed in my life. And I know what you're probably thinking, because I've been hearing it this whole pregnancy. That I'm still small. That I still look good. That I have nothing to complain about. But those sentiments don't mean a thing until you believe them yourself. And anyone, anyone, can struggle with unhealthy body image and a disordered perception of themselves, regardless of what people on the outside think. And I did. Despite all the Instagram comments and people telling me how tiny I was. I simply couldn't see what they supposedly saw. I still can't, somedays. But I'm getting there.

I still catch myself thinking about life after the baby is born, and in my mental pictures I'm immediately a size two again, with rock-hard abs and a normal bra size (I'm probably in the minority, but I'm hugely not a fan of the increased décolletage). And I have to rewind, start over. Imagine a new photo, a simpler one. A healthy baby, a healthy me, a picture where size doesn't matter.

When I first found out we were expecting, I sort of wondered why it needed to take 9 months. I mean obviously I know all the science of how babies grow, but I wondered why God made it that way. Why did we really have to spend 3/4 of a year on this? Couldn't we get a fast-track version by now? It's becoming more clear every day - it's not just about the baby's growth. It's about the growth needed in every other part of my life. It's a time for learning to surrender your expectations and ideas, laying down your selfishness and pride and learning to love as the Father does, which I think is what parenthood is all about.

I never would have chosen to gain 30+ pounds and lose almost everything I loved about my body. But it's only through this process that I've been able to surrender parts of myself and my life that I could never surrender before. I've spent a lot of time putting stock in how I look, and finding my worth there. But I'm starting to get a glimpse of what it could look like to place my value on who I am in Jesus, and finding my worth solely in being a Daughter of the King instead. And I'll tell you what, the grass looks a whole lot greener on this side.