Embracing the Shape Love Takes

Women are told they should feel beautiful and all glowy during pregnancy, but for many, this is far from true. Being pregnant can have its fair share of ugly side effects. It’s not the same for every woman, but they can include stretch marks, bloating and swelling, weird rashes, aches and pains (and don’t get me started on the gross heartburn and embarrassing gas ha ha!). Oh and the weight gain! For some, it’s scary and shocking, watching helplessly as their butts, boobs and bellies expand. As a result many mommies-to-be dispel the myth that you are going to feel gorgeous during pregnancy. While I haven’t always felt my very prettiest, and sometimes had to apply a good shimmer to get that glowy look (Nars highlighter in Albatross from Sephora does the trick!), pregnancy has made me learn to really appreciate my curves, and truly embrace my shape as it changes with my growing baby.

If you know me well, or if you read my previous blog “A Lighter, Brighter Life”, you will know that I have struggled with my weight and body image issues since my mid 20s. Like many women, I couldn’t embrace my shape, and was always looking for a quick and easy way to shed weight. I would lose weight, but it never seemed to be enough, and then I’d gain it back eventually. Finally, I learned the only way to lose weight and keep it off was the healthy way, through a balanced diet and exercise. I eventually lost almost 40 pounds. It took me a long time to actually like my body, to not focus only on my weight as a marker of my success, and to learn that I couldn’t wait for life to start when I had lost another 10 pounds.

I was there before I got pregnant. Yes, I wanted to really get in shape and slowly continue to lose more weight by eating well, but I was a happy girl and for the first time, not focused on the numbers on the scale. So getting pregnant initially worried me:  how would I deal with the weight gain? would I go back to being unhappy as my shape changed? would I freak out as the numbers on the scale climbed higher with every passing month? I wasn’t worried about returning to previous unhealthy habits, but I was worried that I would go back to hating my body:  it’s not a good place to be in, and I didn’t want it to overshadow such a happy time in my life.

24 Weeks and lovin' my Old Navy dress-much cheaper than most maternity wear!

24 Weeks and lovin’ my Old Navy dress-much cheaper than most maternity wear!

After finding out I was pregnant at 5 weeks, and getting through 7 weeks of pregnancy sickness, I started to gain weight around week 13. After I got passed the “Is she pregnant or just gaining weight!?” phase, and my belly really grew, I started to love it. Going shopping at a maternity store for the first time, I got really excited. I loved how the maternity clothes fit, and felt that my curves were finally getting put to good use. I put on a fashion show for Jon when we went to Motherhood Maternity:  I felt so cute in the maxis, empire waist dresses, leggings and flowy tops. I spent a small fortune but felt amazing (I was very happy to learn Gordman’s in Minot carries Motherhood Maternity, and it’s cheaper…the perks of living near the border!)! Over the next months, I bought more maternity clothes and became more bold with my choices:  I got horizontal stripes and white jeans, fitted dresses, shorts and tanks; things that I usually avoided prior to pregnancy. I didn’t want to just hide behind slimming black anymore:  bring on the pastels and bright colours! And no longer did I feel I needed Spanx under a snug dress:  I was finally proud of my belly, hips and thighs. I wanted to show this new, even curvier, more confident me off!

Maternity wear has come a long way since the days when women felt they had to hide their bumps under layers of loose, unflattering clothes. Maternity clothes were modest, even into the 70s and 80s, and the trend was for expectant mothers to hide their growing curves under flowy fabric, peasant blouses and tent dresses. Then in the 90s things changed:  Demi Moore flashed her bare belly, and more, on the cover of Vanity Fair, making it known to the world that pregnant women can in fact be sexy and show it all off. While we may not all be ready for a naked pregnancy photo shoot (I for one do not want a visual reminder of all of my cellulite at this point…or ever!), we are lucky that we get to choose whether or not we show off our baby bump, and we now get to do it more fashionably than ever before. We have a variety of chain stores that cater to women looking to stay fashionable through pregnancy, not to mention all the designer brands that now have maternity lines. Although even the maternity chains might be more costly than where we regularly shop, or it might pain us to know we are splurging on a new wardrobe that will only get us through the next two trimesters, they really do help us preggers feel pretty, at a time when we may need all the help we can get.

28 Weeks and just brave enough to show off my maternity swimsuit;)

28 Weeks and just brave enough to show off my maternity swimsuit;)

As I head into the home stretch, and the numbers on the scale begin to climb steadily higher, I try to have no fear, but I am still just a girl. Gaining weight is never fun, so I have to keep reminding myself it just means my baby girl is growing, and that is a very good thing! I have been at the weight I am now before, but it’s for a great reason this time! I have been heavier than this, so I tell myself it is not the end of the world and that I can work to get back down to pre-pregnancy weight after baby arrives…or after life settles down and I have the time and energy to get back to eating well and exercising. I can even work towards my goal of really getting fit and lose more weight over time…but that’s what I have:  time to reach these goals! For now, I can just be happy with where I am, busy growing a baby ❤

30 Weeks and so happy to be at my beautiful baby shower wearing my favourite pattern-polka dots! (Dress is from Motherhood Maternity...on sale!)

30 Weeks and so happy to be at my beautiful baby shower wearing my favourite pattern-polka dots! (Dress is from Motherhood Maternity…on sale!)

The hardest part for me has been the little changes my body encounters, things that only I can see:  namely my boobs. I used to see a woman in a movie and wonder, “What is up with her boobs!?” Well now I know, she’s a mother. One friend said she wished she’d taken a picture of hers before she got pregnant, cause they will never look like that again. It’s not that they are ugly all of a sudden, it’s just, they are very different…and for some, they are huge! I had big ones to begin with, so you can only imagine how much more they’ve grown!! And I am only 33 weeks!!! The first trimester they were so tender, heavy, and just getting in and out of a bra was excruciating. Now in the third trimester, I started getting sharp, shooting, pains. I am told this is likely due to baby’s first milk, colostrum, coming in. Another dear friend said while this pregnancy side effect might be painful, it is also beautiful, as it means my boobs are getting ready to fully produce.

After the boob pain subsided, I let my friend’s advice sink in, and knew it to be true:  amidst the sucky side effects of pregnancy, there are great things happening too. They may be unexpected and strange, but still, they are wonderful. Growing a life inside you is hard work, and it takes a toll on the body, but it is still a miracle…it just so happens to be one that occurs daily. I got to experience the good side effects, including shiny, healthy hair and good skin. So even though I may now be gaining more weight than I would like, and my body has changed in ways I never imagined (oh and I have yet to experience what labour and delivery does to my body…that will be a whole other post I’m sure!), I am happy knowing that each change brings me one step closer to becoming a mother, and to meeting the new love of my life.

My Mother, My Self

My mother and I :) :)

Mom and her lil Breezy 🙂

When my mother was planning her vacation dates, she asked me if I could take off some time too, and spend a few days or a week at home with her. I felt happy that my mom wanted me all to herself:  she wanted us to spend time together over the Summer, before my baby arrives in the Fall. Everyone, myself included, has been so excited for our little girl’s arrival in September, busy with preparations and buying gifts for baby. But my mother continues to just shower me, buying me maternity clothes and great pieces to decorate our new house with. It’s not that she isn’t excited to be a grandma, and I know she will fall in love with this little girl and soon I will come second, but for now, I am still her baby.

My mother and I have always been close. While I had a great group of friends in elementary and in high school, and was always going out on weekends, I stayed home most weeknights to hang with my mom. Nights spent cooking dinner together and watching “90210” or “Melrose Place” was what I loved most. While I have the best group of girls, my mom was, and still is, my best friend. While she never grounded my brother or I as teens, and we were given much more freedom than most our age, the prospect of her being mad at me following a night spent out too late was a big deterrent:  it’s not fun to have your bestie mad at you when you want to hang out. One friend later said she and my other girlfriends wondered how I would ever cope without Bonbon (as most affectionately call my mother Bonnie)!? When I went away to university, only two hours away, we continued to talk daily and I was able to get home once a month.  But this got harder when I graduated from university and chose to take a year of Journalism school on the East Coast. We had to get used to talking only every other day and seeing each other at holidays. I then surprised even myself by signing up to teach English in Japan for not one, but almost two years. This meant we could only speak once a week sometimes (Skype would have made things so much easier!). I went a year without seeing my mom, other family or friends at home, and while it was so hard, I definitely grew as a person and gained independence.

Mom in her early 30's <3

Mom in her early 30’s!

I have always admired my mother for how independent and strong she is, and I wanted to be more like her. The only person I can even compare her to is the title character in the show “Roseanne”:  I grew up watching the sitcom, and saw so many parallels between the lovably tough, funny TV mom and my own mother. Roseanne was the realest mom I had ever seen on television. She loved her kids unconditionally, showed them lots of affection, but she didn’t sugar coat things, and nothing was off limits. I love this approach:  talking openly to your kids about things, and not pretending the world is all unicorns and rainbows, no matter how much I really wish it were!

While my mother and I are both warm and affectionate, like to laugh and are not afraid to speak our minds, there are big differences in our personalities which made for some major conflicts growing up. I am bubbly and overly talkative (kindly called “motormouth” by my family), and was a major people pleaser (I see that changing as I have gotten older; caring less about others’ opinions of me, which is freeing and something I definitely learned from my mom!). Bonnie is honest to a fault, sarcastic and has a great dry sense of humour (perfectly suited to loving British comedy, something she did long before I fell for a Brit!).  She didn’t go to university, but Bonnie has a quick wit and street smarts. I excelled at school, but I definitely have my blond moments. She has a thick skin, while I am overly sensitive. We may both be softies and cry easily when watching sad movies (even a heartwarming commercial can send us to tears!), but she is able to control her emotions much better than me. She is a happy person, but doesn’t get overly excited or down in the dumps, while I am one moody chick who “feels things strongly”, as she explained to Jon when we were first dating (thanks Mom!!). Being an independent woman, and not needing to be in a relationship to be happy was important for me, but it is Bonnie who exemplifies this. She has always told me I didn’t need to get married or even had kids if I didn’t want to, but I am a hopeless romantic and fell for all that romantic comedies were selling. She doesn’t like that movie genre and even hates when a love interest pops up to wreck an otherwise good action flick.

So when I when I chose to quit my dream job, and move away from family and friends, to be with Jon, I was initially worried about how my mom would react. I was worried about leaving her, but I was also worried that she wouldn’t get why I was doing it. I had been vocal about finding a fulfilling career, and after years of not truly loving what I did, I had finally found my dream job. I was also in the process of realizing another dream by starting my Master’s degree. But I made the decision to move, to do it for the love of an amazing man, but also for the prospect of a future family, because while career and grad school were important, more than anything I dreamed of someday becoming a mother. I thought my own mother wouldn’t understand this, choosing love, in its various forms, over career and the security of living life in your hometown amongst family and friends. But without much explanation on my part, she completely got it. She may not be a sappy romantic like me, but she knows what it means to be a mother.

Me and my Bonbon <3 <3

Me and my Bonbon ❤ ❤

When I went home, I got to talk with two close friends whose own mothers are ill. Hearing what their mothers are going through, and what they themselves are struggling with, made me even more appreciative of my own mother and our relationship. One friend said she would take back all the things she got annoyed at in her mother (we all have those, the things our parents do that just bug us!), if it meant she would have her back just the way she was. No matter how much I may cringe at it, I cannot imagine never hearing my mom say “Oh Bree” again, when I have done something silly. I cannot fathom not hearing her sarcastic tone as she picks at some star on TV. And I would even miss her many impressions (her doing Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” takes the cake!). Most of all I cannot imagine not being able to hug her, and tell her I love her. After I spoke with this friend, I immediately went home and hugged my mom, crying into her arms, telling her I never wanted to lose her. Ever the realist, Bonnie said that someday I would have to live without her, but that we had time together now, and that she would always be with me, just as her mother is always with her.

I have been given an amazing mother to model myself after:  I can become the things I admire most in her, while still being Bree. We are different people, and yet at the core, we are the same. And I have the chance to pass on to my own daughter all the things my mother taught me:  that it is important to be kind, and to treat others well; that it isn’t about winning, but having fun; that a good hug makes everything better and laughter is the best medicine; and, that life can be shitty, but you need to learn to soldier through and if nothing else, not take yourself too seriously. She has taught me that a woman can be both strong and sweet; that being smart is more important than being pretty; that beauty is more than skin deep, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Most of all, she has instilled in me the belief that you don’t need to define your happiness by society’s or anyone’s standards, because you get to decide how to live your life and be happy on your own terms. Bonnie has said many times that all she ever wanted was for her children to be happy. Well Bonbon, mission accomplished:  you have a very happy daughter who couldn’t be more excited to become a mom herself, all because you showed her how to love like only a mother can.