Friday, August 5, 2022

Pregnancy and Body Image

via Unsplash

Before I got pregnant, I was worried I'd constantly be extremely anxious about all kinds of details, including but not limited to the health of the baby; my health; everything I needed to do to get ready for baby's arrival; starting to plan out future childcare for after my parental leave; money and the many expenses associated with raising a child; how to parent and take care of an infant, etc. etc. In reality, "pregnancy brain" has, for me, seemed to come with a pervasive sense of calm. 

My mind feels newly hard-wired to not worry excessively about much of anything, really, particularly things that aren't immediate concerns or that aren't meaningfully in my control. Among other things, I've faced our recent busy period at the office with minimal extra stress or anxiety, I've become really good at taking it all a day at a time and being almost absurdly zen. That's quite out of character for me! 

I'm admittedly noticeably below average when it comes to Type-A personality tendencies relative to my typical law school classmate, and to most other attorneys who started their careers in biglaw. But historically, I still tend to get highly anxious about almost all of the many super-stressful things that come up in litigation practice and my work.

Please note that, as the title suggests, today's blog post is all about body image and will also mention some things to do with weight-related numbers and pregnancy symptoms. Along with that comes the usual important disclaimer: I'm not a medical professional, so please keep that in mind whenever I discuss health-related details. But I am guided by the advice of the team at my OB/GYN's office.

One of the smaller topics which I feared I'd be highly anxious about throughout pregnancy - relative to the legion of other things that could also be on my mind - was body image, and the changes my body would inevitably go through. Longtime readers may recall I have some insecurities and hang-ups about certain things to do with my body shape and physical appearance, in particular my chest measurement. Body weight can also be a sore spot at times, and my acne situation has almost never been particularly good throughout my entire adult life, despite longtime treatment with plenty of fairly strong prescription topicals. Pregnancy was not expected to help with... any of that, really. 

My bust measurement definitely started expanding quite early on, I'd say by almost a full cup size as early as week 7 and a bit more since then. With all the bloating, I also needed maternity pants very early, by week 9 or so (and I also needed to stick to my more relaxed-fit jeans for comfort reasons since week 6, shortly after I found out I was pregnant). 

Before pregnancy, I also thought I'd still be comfortable in some of my more relaxed-fit business casual clothes - such as those J.Crew Presentation dresses, or my Heinui Noe dress - throughout most of the first trimester at least, since those items had some space in the bust and a lot of room in the waist. But I was sized out of the lion's share of my old wardrobe much more quickly than I expected. 

Given my long history of bust-related body insecurities, I would have thought I'd become really preoccupied by how quickly that measurement has expanded, especially if I don't know if some of the changes might stick around after pregnancy. But I find that I just... haven't been worrying about it at all, my brain just won't go in that direction. Not sure if that will change later on, but we'll take it a day at a time.

My first trimester weight gain also felt extremely fast - 10 pounds by week 12  - probably exceeding most predictions for how quickly it should generally go that early on in pregnancy, given my starting weight. Though I don't think it's particularly standard for many OB/GYNs these days to raise weight gain as a potential problem or issue to keep an eye on unless the trend persists for longer, and so my provider also didn't bring it up with me at the time. (And thank goodness for that, as I've since found that pregnancy weight gain definitely doesn't feel directly correlated to anything in my control, whether food or exercise. So being given a doctor's instructions about weight could be incredibly stressful!) 

The weight gain trend leveled off very suddenly in the second trimester even though I was still eating normally, so I'm now more on track with standard projections in that area for the pregnancy as a whole. I think some general guidelines say there's often not much weight gain in the first trimester, and then one can expect up to a pound a week in the second and third trimesters for someone in my starting weight range, but that's not quite my experience, or even the experience of many pregnant people? It's just not been linear at all for me.

Anyway, I've actually been surprised to find I also haven't really worried much about my pregnancy weight. I've been very lucky to have relatively little nausea and food aversions, enough that I've never thrown up and that I've pretty much been able to eat like I used to, except for newly following some of the US government guidelines on food safety for pregnant persons. Under those circumstances, I'm not sure there's anything to worry about on the weight front unless and until I receive instructions from my OB/GYN about it. I know there could be diet management-requiring conditions that come up later, which  wouldn't really be in my control (I'm quite nervous about the gestational diabetes test at 24 weeks!), but we'll also worry about that when the time comes, if it's needed.

One somewhat unexpected thing is that I've found shopping for maternity clothes to be more annoying than expected. There's really not a lot out there in the US market for people who sometimes need to dress in more formal clothing at work during their pregnancy. Seraphine's one of the only brands I've come across with a decent selection of maternity workwear that might kind of suit my needs, though the value for money also isn't quite what I'm used to from my pre-pregnancy shopping. It's also looking like my bust size may end up causing significantly more issues with the fit of maternity wear items than I expected. Many items I've tried on already strain to fit in that area and I'm only partway through the second trimester! 

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