That gorgeous view is the reason that I spent my weekend sitting on the couch achy and sore, eating my humble pie with a side of regret. It turned into a needed reminder that my ego is still getting a say in decisions when it doesn’t deserve one. We had a beautiful impromptu day trip up to Maine. At one point, I decided to help my mom carry my big, loaded stroller down 2+ flights of stairs and over rocks to the beach and back up. I knew I could do it and I did. It was the most convenient solution in the moment.
But here I am now with the dreaded SPD pain rearing it’s ugly head and leaving me feeling fragile and unstable in my body, two sensations I’m actively working to avoid. If I had taken a moment to check in with myself, I would have known that there were several indicators that this wasn’t a good idea at this particular moment of my pregnancy. Other ways of accomplishing the task would have been far less convenient, maybe taken more time. But because I didn’t check my ego for one activity, I am now having it checked for me 37 times a day as I go about my daily life.
Telling my ego to shut up and take a seat was not something I learned during my first pregnancy. Unconsciously, my decisions on how to move my body and how to spend my time were based on being as close to my pre-pregnancy self as possible. That’s not to say that I had some amazingly active and productive pregnancy. Balance did not exist. Everything was either pushing through or just throwing up my hands in defeat. I was driven by what I could do on any given day. Some days, I did it all and others, existing was too much work. I lacked resources, understanding, and a deeper connection to how my body did and should feel.
This time around a lot more is pulling at me than just growing a baby. For starter’s, I have a very different body than I did three years ago. This one has been through some trauma and a lot of recovery. It hasn’t seen much sleep and has had a lot of hard use and fluctuations. Now, instead of nannying, I chase my own toddler, meaning I can’t go home at the end of the day and rest as much as I want. I help maintain a much larger household. My family is in the midst of a lot of upheaval and transition. The list of things that aren’t optional to do grows longer.
Even knowing all that I didn’t want to admit I would need to back off of anything. I was still buying into ideas of what a “good” pregnancy and a “healthy” one and a “fit” one should look like. I looked around at other women for my ideas of what my pregnant body should be able to do. Other women work full time and care for older children. They do strenuous workouts coupled with yoga and miles of walking right up until delivery. They keep up healthy habits and a clean house. They are able to travel and do lots of fun things with their families. They still do everything themselves, After all, we’re pregnant, not dead, right?!
Except that this isn’t about using pregnancy as an “excuse.” It is an opportunity to learn how your own body changes during this stage of life and how you can accommodate it best to feel good and function well. Pregnancy is one giant discussion of could vs. should. On the could side is ego saying that I am capable still and I will prove it. On the should side is a body growing a baby in need of grace, help, and modifications. The truth is that there is nothing to prove to myself or anyone else. No one has to live in this body or this life except me.
The problem comes when we internalize specific outside ideas on what a good pregnancy looks like and believe that it has to apply to us. During my first pregnancy I traveled a lot and did strenuous (to my pregnant body) hikes. Truthfully, I loved hiking and I wanted to travel to all of the places that I did, but I was doing these based on an idea of how my pregnancy should look and not on what was best for my body during this season. I spent a lot of time being uncomfortable, of pushing limits but not in good ways. Hiking without proper body support and stable strength foundation over a long distance was too much. Hours upon hours of driving and flying, sleeping in difficult places and positions made me achy and exhausted. Not to mention both of these activities often left me feeling sick, not getting the nutrition and rest I needed.
This time around my ego received a swift kick in the pants almost from day one. Think you’re going to keep more active and feel better during this first trimester? Okay, have a big ol’ dose of all-day nausea and catch every illness going around. Now have the only thing to make any of it better be laying flat on your back because that really gets stuff done. Right as you might feel human again, have your toddler give up on sleep because Daddy went back to work and started school. Fighting my body has only made me feel worse. Every time I let go of my ego and it’s idea of what constitutes a good pregnancy, I can tune into my body and what a good pregnancy actually looks like for me.
It is more than okay to give yourself permission to toss those pressures and preconceived ideas out the window and listen to what your body wants and what makes it feel good. In fact, this time around I had the opportunity to take the exact same long weekend trip to Colorado that I did during my first pregnancy. I remembered how hard it was on me with its quick turnaround travel time, uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, and full days. Even though I wanted the experience, I chose not to go because I was dealing with nausea and illness on top of those other considerations. Ego said I could go because the whole pregnant, not dead mantra. My body said, please let me stay home. No regrets about staying in my own comfy bed.
If I want a pregnancy in which my body feels better, then I have to tell my ego to take a back seat. She doesn’t get a say in this discussion. I will not be able to do everything that everyone else does. Things will be difficult for me that are easier for others (and the reverse). I will put on more (and less) weight and body fat than others. I will not be able to do everything all at the same time. Some things will have to give to make room for others, and there will be an ebb and flow to this. Some weeks my house will be messier, but I will get more activity in. Or we will have good meals planned ahead of time but the laundry gets behind again. Or things will be clean and picked up but we will stay home most of the week.
It is okay to not eat perfectly, to not run or workout in a specific way (or at all!), to have a messy house, to add weight and fat to your body, to lose muscle, to do less than others, to ask for help. Should I workout today? Depends on how much sleep and what’s going on the rest of the day and the rest of the week and how my body feels when I move. I’m actually getting to be active longer into pregnancy because I am listening to my body, seeking out resources, and trying to balance movement with rest. Questions surrounding food and nutrition are more difficult for me to navigate and feel a lot like the all or nothing mindset of my previous pregnancy. I’m working to change that, to not begin by asking my ego the question or holding it up against some outside ideal. I want the answer to depend on if I truly want it and will take the time to enjoy it and whether it will make me feel good or uncomfortable in my body. Every day is another chance to decide whether I should and not just if I can.