How Pregnancy Loss Taught Me to Be More Forgiving of My Body
I suffered a miscarriage in my first trimester and that loss has shaped and changed who I am at my core. So much of who I was before this loss is unrecognizable to me, and I’m realizing that I can’t go back to the “before” version of myself no matter how hard I try. There are parts of my identity that I have lost, and pieces that I’ve gained through all of the good and bad of this experience.
Before I got pregnant, my relationship with my body was a bit touch and go. I’ve battled an eating disorder since my early teen years, and although I was in a pretty good place at the time I saw that first positive result, I was still critical of the way I looked at times. The places where I carry most of my weight have been heavily scrutinized by my ED voice for as long as I can remember, and even in good stages of recovery, I’d find myself making a mental list of all of the things I thought I should change. As a person who’s spent the majority of her life keeping her body under close watch, it’s safe to say I was a bit thrown by the whole pregnancy thing.
My pregnancy was unexpected, and the lack of control I felt was overwhelming, as I’m known for being quite the planner. I was frightened by many things, but thinking about the ways in which my body would expand and change scared me because I felt so unprepared. Then it just happened, and my body changed nearly overnight. My breasts swelled and reached a size I’d never known, and I was so bloated that I looked much farther along than I was. Even beyond the physical changes, it was evident that my body was working hard to try to support this developing baby inside of me. The nausea and exhaustion urged me to rest and take it easy, which is something that’s difficult for me to do in the face of change. I found myself both amazed and terrified by these wild things my body was going through. The experience helped me realize that my body knew how it needed to change and adapt, and that I should stop trying so desperately to run the show all the time.
I’m working to forgive my body for this loss, and through this process, I’m also trying to make amends for the many years I spent hating its curves and softness.
Despite my body’s best efforts, all of these preparations couldn’t sustain my pregnancy, and I miscarried without ever hearing my baby’s heartbeat. I still struggle with feelings of failure and guilt, and the endless stream of what ifs, but when it comes down to it, I know that my body was doing everything it possibly could to make itself a safe home for my child. I’m working to forgive my body for this loss, and through this process, I’m also trying to make amends for the many years I spent hating its curves and softness prior to my pregnancy.
It took time for my hormones to level out and for my body to return to some semblance of normal, but even then, my body showed me that it knew what had happened and what it had to do to begin to heal. For a while, I felt so detached from my physical self and had no desire to pay attention to it at all. I self-soothed with comfort foods and long days spent in bed, and tried to forget about my body entirely. It took some time to pull out of this stage of grief that felt so deep that I couldn’t touch the bottom without my head going under, too. But as I began to heal and accept the loss, that feeling of indifference toward my body began to slowly shift toward understanding.
Integrating movement back into my life is one thing that has helped me both process my grief and feel at home in my body again. It’s a delicate balance, because I don’t want to revert to overexercising as a coping mechanism, but in small doses exercise has always given me an appreciation for my body and all that it can do. I’ve started practicing yoga again, and I try to carve out as much time as possible to spend outdoors hiking, walking, or swimming in the ocean.
I’ve also started learning more about my fertility by reading books on how to best plan for starting a family in the future. Something about understanding the science of conception and the very complex list of things that have to go perfectly for a person to become (and stay) pregnant has eased my guilt and helped my overthinking brain immensely. I’ve picked up some nuggets of wisdom through my reading that I’ve implemented as a form of self-care, like taking a prenatal every day, along with a select few supplements that will prepare my body to carry children in the future.
I’ve spent so much of my life agonizing over the figure I saw in the mirror – trying to manipulate, shrink, and disguise it – and after this loss, I found myself starting to let go. I’ve realized it’s not worth it to fight this war against myself anymore. It’s more than clear to me now that this body of mine knows so much more than I do about what it needs and wants, and how it has to change. I’m realizing it’s my job to shut up and listen, and that all I can do is try my best to keep my body healthy through all seasons of life.
This experience has been the toughest thing I’ve had to endure so far in my life, but a learning experience nonetheless. The lessons that this loss has taught me were hard to learn, but above all, it’s taught me that caring for my body is, and always should have been, at the top of my priority list.