It only took a few weeks into my first pregnancy to realize that there were a handful of things I wasn’t prepared for. That this whole growing-a-human-thing really stretches you, physically, yes, but also, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
But as I enter into the third and final trimester today, I can’t help but be thankful, oddly enough, that pregnancy lasts a full 9 months. Because, Lord knows, there’s a lot I’ve needed to learn during this time…
1. Mom Guilt
I’ve heard the phrase “mom guilt” thrown around by woman the majority of my life. But I think I’ve always associated it with moms of school-age children. You know, those moms who felt bad that they didn’t have time to pack their 1st grader a beautiful, all-organic lunch. Moms who had to attend a mandatory work meeting over their 7th grader’s last home soccer game. Moms who laid in bed at night wrestling with the words that accidentally slipped out to their almost-senior over dinner. Those kind of moms.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was that mom guilt starts way before you put them on a school bus. In fact, I experienced my first dose of mom guilt the very DAY I found out I was pregnant. With that positive pregnancy test in hand, I was overcome with tears of joy and thanksgiving — but it quickly turned into tears of guilt as I became aware that I wasn’t one of the thousands of women who have had trouble conceiving. Something I always wondered about being a part of my story.
The guilt continued to creep up throughout my first trimester. Guilt that I wasn’t experiencing morning sickness — as I heard friends share of their daily misery. Guilt about what I was eating and ultimately, nourishing my baby with — as a result of my confused and averse appetite. Guilt that my hardworking husband was about to walk in and have to make dinner for his unemployed wife… again — because I couldn’t seem to cut off my growing relationship with the couch and the back of my eye-lids.
Honestly, I had no idea I would wrestle with so much guilt before our baby was even the size of a dill pickle. I had no idea that growing another human would stretch my heart more than it stretched my belly in those first 12 weeks. And I had no idea how deep my need for a God who is in the business of taking away guilt was.
2. Outside Opinions
Similar to my idea of mom guilt — I’ve always known that other’s opinions would run rampant once our baby was here and holdable. Opinions on our newborn’s sleep schedule. Opinions on what and when our 9-month-old should be eating. Opinions on how we should better discipline our 3-year-old in the check out line of the grocery store. Opinions on how much or little I should be involved in our 10-year-old’s class project. Opinions on if our middle or high schooler was mature enough for a cell phone or social media account.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was that the opinions don’t start the day the baby takes his or her first breath. They start the day people know the baby is simply going to take his or her first breath.
There’s been opinions on whether we should find out the sex or not. Opinions of what I should be eating, how much I should be sleeping, and how little I should be traveling. Opinions on where I should deliver the baby. Opinions on where it should sleep during the first few months. An exhausting amount of opinions — and that’s not even including the one’s that I’m sure are being talked about behind my back.
Don’t get me wrong, I have walked away from many conversations feeling so encouraged and informed during this season. And I’m very thankful for the solid wisdom and insight from moms who have gone before me. But I’ve also left many conversations feeling overwhelmed by the amount of decisions we have to make and even lost sleep over some of the words and opinions spoken over me.
Pregnancy has really shown me how much of a people pleaser I can be. How much other’s words and opinions affect me. And how much I really care about the choices I’m making for my unborn baby.
But with this, I’ve also had to learn that I can’t please everyone. That we’re going to make decisions that other’s simply don’t agree with. And that we’re also going to make decisions that we will regret.
Every week at prenatal yoga I am reminded to “let go of anything that was said to you this week that doesn’t serve you“. I can’t tell you how freeing this is. To be reminded that I have the ability to protect myself from unwanted opinions, that it’s not my responsibility to please everyone, and that ultimately, God is in control of everything.
3. Pregnancy Comparison
Before I was pregnant I always envisioned being so excited for and encouraged by other pregnant women in my life. And again, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely am. Not only do I attend a church where it seems like every other woman that walks through the door has a basketball under her shirt — the Lord has graciously provided me with two very close friends who are also expecting, to share in this season with.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was how the enemy would also use these other pregnant women to try to push insecurity and comparison into my heart.
Through casual conversations of what we are or aren’t experiencing — I’ve had to be careful to not allow it turn into comparison. Comparison of what we are craving. Comparison of the size of our growing bellies — and breasts. Comparison of how in-tune someone is with their unborn baby. Comparison of birth plans, nursery decor findings, and stroller brands.
Pregnancy comparison has been no joke. And something I have really had to lean on the Lord for. Daily asking Him to protect my heart from the thief of joy: comparison. To be content with what we have. To be thankful for the women he has surrounded me with. To be confident in the mother that He is molding me to be. And to be secure in His plans for our baby boy.
4. Negative Body Image
Everyone knows that you’re naturally going to gain weight when you’re pregnant. I mean, obviously, you’re growing another human! But even though I was somewhat aware of the changes my body had in store, I really wasn’t prepared for the negative thoughts that would tag along with them.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this pregnancy has been the first time in my life that I’ve really struggled with negative body image. The combination of seeing new numbers on the scale every week, my wardrobe choices dwindling before my eyes, and my appetite just feeling really off, has been hard on me.
I’ve cried in more dressing rooms than I should admit — as my patient husband waited outside the 9th store of the day. I’ve allowed myself to be consumed by what I’m eating and at times, even felt enslaved to the grocery store aisles and my food choices.
Of course, I’ve had a lot days where I’m overwhelmingly thankful for my changing body. For all the hands that want to touch my growing belly. And for a healthy baby that is developing as he should. But there have also been many days where I’ve been very surprised by the way I look. I’ve been frustrated that my favorite jeans no longer fit and that it took me months to find something I liked enough to wear to my baby shower. And honestly, I’ve had to thank the Lord we don’t own a scale — because I can only assume that nothing good could come from the daily opportunity to weigh myself.
Around Week 15, I began praying that the Lord would change my perspective and release me from some of this new-found bondage. And boy was He was faithful. He helped me really focus on the true purpose of the added weight and daily changes. To see it as beautiful and beneficial to the life He is knitting inside of me. To see myself as strong and radiant — no matter what the scale says. To see the miraculous, goodness of His design — and to be thankful He’s not surprised by any of it.
5. Spiritual Growth
I’ve been a Christian for many years, so I’m no stranger to the sovereignty or love of God. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how much more I would crave to comprehend Him during this season.
I’ve been told numerous times that having a baby will change your life. And that it will even change the way you see your ‘parent-child’ relationship with our God above. But I didn’t realize that shift would happen even before our firstborn entered the world.
I didn’t know the depth of God’s design for creation, the unexplained mystery of conceiving and growing a life within a life, until I started experiencing it for myself.
Pregnancy leaves you with no doubt that God is REAL and He is IN the details. That there’s nothing He hasn’t thought about when it comes to the human body and creation of life. And with that realization, you can’t help but feel grateful for your small role in it.
And absolutely humbled that He would choose and trust you enough to help bring one of His beloved children into the world.
So here I am, honored to be stepping into the 3rd and final trimester — already feeling like a very different women than the one that was holding that positive pregnancy test 6 months ago.
A mama-to-be who is daily learning to be content with the timing, location, and budget that the Lord has provided. Learning to weed through the words spoken over me, freely letting go of the ones I don’t see fit. Learning to be proud of the changes my body is making and even, that increasing number on the scale. And learning that there is no one that loves me and my baby boy more than our majestic, creative and loving Father in Heaven.