Bringing New Life: Honoring the Changing Body

The First Installment of “Bringing New Life”~ A Blog Series on the beauty and challenges of pregnancy and early motherhood

It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here now…with its aches and pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive. –Pema Chodron

Contributed by Alyson Lischer, LMFT Director of Admissions and Business Development

Pregnancy is a special time, all wrapped up in a whole host of feelings. There is joy, excitement, anticipation but there is also quite a bit of fear and anxiety. When I  found out I was pregnant, I was terrified at first and felt completely ill-prepared, but slowly my fear started to shift to excitement for this new adventure that would surely change my whole life. The thought of having a child that was completely reliant on me was overwhelming to say the least. I was worried about everything. How would I manage all the demands of parenthood? The endless sleepless nights, hours of crying, balancing my career and family, but also, how would I feel about my body? When I was younger I saw pregnancy as giving up your body, would I feel like that now? I honestly did not know how I would handle this body transformation. I believe all of these fears about change are to be expected but what I was not expecting was a profound healing experience in my relationship with my body.

I felt that long ago I had made peace with my body. I was accepting of my body image. I had accepted there were things about my body that I may not like but they were things I no longer felt needed to be modified, managed, or changed. The flaws I once found devastating and held me back from being able to fully engage in my life were no longer a fixation. I could love myself and my body despite these things I had labeled as problematic. Before pregnancy, I thought that in itself was me making my peace with my body. A sort of acceptance or tolerating of my body was enough but as my baby grew in me so did my understanding of true body love.

The body teaches us to nurture.  

I became amazed with my body during my pregnancy, not just for the obvious that it was creating human life, but for how much my body was guiding my way through this journey. It was continuously nourishing my growing child and helping me care and provide for myself. Overnight, my body knew what it needed. It let me know when I needed more nutrients. It made me crave what I needed. It forced me to rest when my body required rest. It also provided me stronger emotions and responses through pregnancy hormones which was nature’s way of preparing me to nurture, protect and provide for my little one. Our bodies have an innate way of showing us how to care for ourselves.

It is not that this nurturing power of the body is only present when someone is pregnant; it is there all the time, just in more subtle ways. My body has always helped guide me in what I needed whether that is food, rest or emotions that I needed to be alerted to, I just had not been honoring the power of these messages to the fullest extent. This experience made me realize that I had made peace with my body years ago but what I really needed was to connect fully with my body. My pregnancy helped me move from feeling acceptance to feeling that my body is something that needs to be honored and cherished. Now my self-acceptance is more of a deep loving appreciation that I wish I had been connected to all along.

Change is Beautiful.

Ultimately, It was beautiful to watch my body grow and change with probably the excitement that most first time mothers feel. I anxiously waited for my belly to “pop” and for me to be able to feel my baby inside me. All of that was undeniably miraculous. I respected my body more than ever because my body was offering me the most beautiful gift ever. The more he became alive, the more I became alive in my body.

After pregnancy, there is clearly a lot of anxiety about whether your body will ever be the same. On my pregnancy apps and newsletters, the inevitable articles began to pop up about How to lose the baby weight or posts from desperate mothers trying to figure out how to get back to their pre-pregnancy size. Ultimately it made me sad and grateful to work in the field that I do because it provides me the ability to look through all of that to question the deeper meaning. The reality is my body is never going to be the same again and I don’t mean that with any negative connotation. It’s not the same body. It has gone through a transformation, a rebirth, if you will. This body carried my son, it made my son. I reach down now and rub my belly and think of the feeling of him wiggling around in there. I think of the first moments when I could feel his existence in me. It has provided his passageway into this world and all of his current nourishment.

I don’t want to be in such a rush to erase those memories. I am taking this time I have now with my newborn son focusing on him and our connection to one another, not on reshaping my body back to something it will never be. My body is today just as it is supposed to be.

The Body is incredibly resilient.

Our body experiences things right along with us. The body has experienced all of our wounds and is the source of our physical healing. I believe that just as with my pregnancy, my body knows what it needs to do now postpartum as well.

Just as the woman’s body creates and grows and child miraculously, it also has an innate ability to heal from childbirth. The female body has an amazing resiliency that shortly after having a child a woman can be on her feet again and within weeks the body has healed from the trauma of the birthing process. Our bodies are incredible when it comes to healing. Think of all of the wounds that your body has been through and how incredible fast it has healed. Most of the time, a scar is hardly left behind. Most of our scars heal, slowly disappear in time and those that remain, our body needed us to remember. Maybe it is a silly, clumsy act that left a scar to remind us to laugh at ourselves or maybe it was an incredible pain that left a scar to remind us how incredibly resilient we truly are.

Our bodies change. They grow with us. They change shape just like we internally grow and change shape during different phases of life. Our bodies develop wrinkles to remind us of all the laughs we have shared, all the wisdom we have gained and all the tears we have cried. My body is different now, but I feel more beautiful than ever in it.

One of the most radical things women can do is to love their body. –Eve Ensler

 

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