I apologize in advance if this might be slightly nutty. Also, I realize that some of this might sound weird coming from a pregnant lady since I shouldn't be concerned about body image right now. However, this is something that is true and present whether I'm pregnant or not. So here goes...
I've been swimming a lot lately. It seems like the best activity for pregnancy, and the Stanford pool is lovely, relaxing and amazing to hang out in. They even have designated "Slow Lanes", so I can swim without feeling pressured to go to fast. It's a lovely time, and I've been doing it about 2-3 times a week. The locker rooms are this giant, cavernous room, and the shower is two giant nozzles in the middle of a room. I've never really been a fan of the gang shower, and I have to say that I avoided gym class like the plague. I'm always uncomfortable when I have to change in front of people and I'm always embarrassed by some part of my body - the cellulite on my butt, the chub in my belly, back fat, whatever. You name it, I've been embarrassed that I have it.
And I came to this realization the other day. I'm not sure exactly WHY I'm embarrassed that my body looks this way. I'm not sure why I've tortured myself, wrapping myself in a towel to try to keep covered up when other women in the locker room just go about their business, putting on lotion, clothing, without really thinking about it. Whereas, I'm in the corner, desperately trying to pull on underwear AND hold up a towel (or the reverse, trying to put on a bathing suit). It's ridiculous and stupid.
And then I realized. Why do I feel this way? What could have made me think that, somehow, the body that's carried my through 35 years on this earth, the body that's taken me through half marathons and 65 mile bike rides, up some serious mountains, through chicken pox and horrific Indian illness, through a Penn PhD, an CHOP postdoc and a Stanford postdoc is embarrassing? Well, folks, you might have guessed it - there is an incredible amount of pressure on women to look and act ONE way and ONE way only. And that way is thin. No cellulite, no arm jiggle, no back fat. Nothing. No stretch marks, no scars, no pigmentation differences and no gray hair. Perfect, right? And if you're not perfect? You should be ASHAMED because you're not. You're clearly doing SOMETHING WRONG. And you should be punished with shame and humiliation.
Now I'm not stating anything new here. It's something we all know and, probably a fair number of us struggle with on a daily basis. I know I do. And then I realized something else. I am not the one seeing myself in a bathing suit or in the gang shower. It's other people. And I should be ashamed that I'm somehow affecting these OTHER PEOPLE with my ugly, misshapen body. Right? I mean, that's the idea....Oh! My eyes! That cellulite is just so GROSS! At least that's what the magazines and the TV shows tell us.
Well, you know what? Honestly, I am sick of it. I am sick of this perception of other people dictating what I can and cannot wear in public or do in a locker room. The sad thing? I think the majority of people don't even care. Do you care if you see a woman with a not perfect body at the beach in a bathing suit? Do you care if you see a woman with not perfect arms and legs in shorts and a tank top in the summer? Do you even notice? Sometimes I might, if there's something eggregious (it's usually the women with the giant, obvious fake boobs I notice). But usually, I'm in my own world, thinking my own thoughts about my own life. I notice other people sometimes, and I will occasionally get a good laugh out of a funny outfit or something, but, if I'm honest? That lady wearing a bathing suit has no lasting effect on me.
I envy women that have confidence in themselves and in their bodies. I will honestly steal glances at the women in the locker room, walking around confidently naked or in few clothes. I watch them have conversations with their friends and I think that one day I might like to be like that. I watch the older women, with soft bellies and loose skin slip into their suits. And I think to myself, "There is no way I want to give up any part of my life because some societal guidelines tell me I'm not good enough". There is no way I will stop going to the pool. And there is no way I will not chase my toddler around (or my friends toddlers) in shorts and a tank top. And there is no way that I would EVER not head to the beach on a hot day, or go for a bike ride in a ridiculous spandex kit because I might offend someone. Chances are, most other people have better things to do than to pay attention to some random woman.
I think it's important to remind myself this. There is a lot of negative information about pregnancy, and how much your body changes and how much it sucks. How many stretch marks you'll get, and how your boobs will sag. And, do you know what? I'm actually worried about some of it, as silly as it sounds. And then I remind myself, once again, that I am a mammal. This is reproduction. Things may never "be the same", but when have they ever? That training for a half marathon? Only gets harder as you get older. Those laps in the pool? Only get tougher. Nothing is easy and nothing is ever "the same". Such is life. Alex's life and my life will be permanently altered, but do you know what? It's already changed. I'm in bed by 10 at the latest. I can't drink anymore. Some food is still unappealing. Lots of the things we talk about are not about us, but about another little person who we don't even know yet. So, you know what? Screw the same.
I'm so glad to grow older and to have these realizations. I'm so glad to know that I will never again miss out on the crazy skinny dipping in the lake, or the swimming in the pool. I'm glad to know I realized these things before it's too late.