My body failed me for more than a year while I desperately tried to become pregnant. Now that I’m 18 months into motherhood I see my body in a completely different way.
When I was trying to become pregnant, I hated my body more than I ever had.
It wasn’t because I had gained a few pounds, which I associated with going off the pill after being on birth control for ages. It wasn’t the bloat caused by my fluctuating hormones or the random cyst pimples that taunted me when I looked in the mirror. It wasn’t the sleepless nights spent worrying and bags under my eyes that had no baby to show for them.
I knew that my physical appearance was just a byproduct of the process. For the first time ever (cue many years of body confidence issues), my relationship with my body had nothing to do with how I looked or the number on a scale and what size jeans I could shimmy into.
I hated my body because no matter how much love I tried to show it, that love was painfully unrequited. My body literally failed me for 13 months while I desperately tried to become pregnant. My body wasn’t doing what I thought it was supposed to do, what I wanted it to do. And I felt powerless in my own skin.
Fast-forward to one lucky conception, a marvelous little boy, and 18 months into motherhood — and I now see my body in a completely different way.
Even before we officially started the whole let’s have a baby process, I was trying to love my body as much as possible and more than ever. I was focused on eating a balanced diet, re-evaluating my so-called toxic cosmetics and products, and attempting to de-stress (if that’s even possible with the stress of infertility!).
When we started trying, I cut down on coffee and eliminated wine and replaced them with even more Pilates and barre and other exercise classes. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been listening to old wives’ tales on what would increase my pregnancy odds, but they helped give me the illusion of control when control seemed somewhat out of reach.
Of course, my body — which turned 37 during the process and was already considered old by fertility standards — seemed not to care. The more love I showed it, the more it seemed to hate me — and the more I began to hate it. Elevated prolactin levels, diminished ovarian reserve, a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level that was too high to even begin in-virto fertilization (IVF) when we were finally ready to take the plunge… I felt as if my body was taunting me.
Then our first intrauterine insemination (IUI) — done with a round of oral medication and a trigger shot the very month that we were given the red light for IVF — changed all of that. When I finally became pregnant, and after ultrasounds and tests confirmed that everything was growing the way it should, I began to have a newfound appreciation for what my body could do.
I took 5 continuous months with my head hanging over the toilet bowl as a sign that my body was on board. Moments of sheer fatigue were signals that my body was directing its energy to my uterus. In fact, each additional inch on my waistline made me appreciate my body even more.
I was growing — both physically and emotionally. I actually enjoyed being pregnant, even with the stress and restrictions of a rather complicated pregnancy. I was thankful that, in the end, my problematic placenta placement only required a planned cesarean section at 38 weeks (and not earlier). My body was finally doing what I wanted it to do. It was allowing me to become a mom… and become one in the way I had hoped I would.
Loving my body now is about loving it for what it can do. It’s about looking at my C-section scar (which I most of the time forget is there) and feeling like a superhero — one that was immediately fueled by that sweet baby smell and blissful moments of newborn life.
I am still in awe that my body birthed this amazing little human. I am still in awe that my body literally fed him for the first 10 months of his life. I am in awe that my body can keep up with the physical demands of motherhood — the lack of sleep, the lifting and rocking and now running after a very energetic 18-month-old. It’s the most rewarding, yet physically demanding, role many of us have ever had.
Sure, it’s a bonus that my arms are stronger than ever and that I still have the stamina (despite all of that above) to jump right into a new dance workout class. But I love even more that my slightly deeper belly button serves as endless fascination to my son and that my body is the best cuddly pillow for my very snuggly little guy.
I may have given birth to a little human, but it’s also as if I gave birth to a new me, or at least a more accepting and more grateful me. I may be hard on myself as a parent (I mean, who isn’t?), but having a baby made me much more forgiving of who I am — imperfections and all. This is me. This is my body. And I am pretty damn proud of what it can do.
Barbara Kimberly Seigel is a New York City-based editor and writer who has explored everything — from wellness and health to parenting, politics, and pop culture — through her words. She is currently living the freelance life as she tackles her most rewarding role yet — mom. Visit her at BarbaraKimberlySeigel.com.