Pregnancy is an incredibly exciting time, especially if you’ve been eagerly anticipating your chacne to become a mother. And while there’s something so empowering about embracing your bump, feeling your baby kicks and attempting to settle in to new skin, you may also notice some shifts to your body image during pregnancy.

For some women it can be difficult to watch their body change, to feel like they don’t have control, and to worry they’ll gain too much weight or won’t be able to “get their body back”. If they have a complicated history of food or body image, these issues can be triggered during this time.

I remember struggling with my body image during pregnancy, even though I had done so much work prior to becoming pregnant to have self-love and confidence. However, I couldn’t find a lot of people talking about struggles with body image during pregnancy. Everyone was just telling me to love my new body! And that made me feel like I was doing something wrong, or just needed to “get over it”. So I didn’t really talk about it either, and I silently struggled with the back and forth of loving my body one day and attempting to love myself the next.

I want all women to know that shifts to body image during pregnancy does happen. It’s something we should talk about! It’s also something we can improve with a some tactics and a bit of perspective. So here are four things I would go back and tell my pregnant body the first time around:

1.The goal isn’t to NOT look pregnant.

You’re pregnant. The whole goal was to be pregnant. And you were lucky enough to make it happen. I was starting my 2nd trimester when I took that first picture, and people would often tell me “oh! You don’t even look pregnant”. They meant it as a compliment. But honestly? Those “compliments” just minimize the process, and plants the tiny seed that the goal is to grow an entire human being while still fitting into your previous pretty, tiny box. Break through. Show off. Be proud. Own your body and be empowered in your pregnancy.  

2.You will struggle watching your body change. 

I remember taking this 2nd picture in the middle of my 2nd trimester, feeling so disconnected with my body. Excited and embracing it, but also feeling insecure of what this meant long-term. How much weight would I gain? What would this mean for me after pregnancy? It’s easy to tell myself I was silly now, but my feelings were valid. It can be a difficult thing to watch your body change in new ways and feel like you have no control, or no crystal ball of what this will look like moving forward. This doesn’t mean you hate your body, it means you don’t recognize it, and that’s uncomfortable. But it’s helpful to remember that body image issues are more about the stories we tell ourselves then the way our body actually looks. And sometimes there’s relief that comes in celebrating more than critiquing. 

3.There is freedom to be found here. 

I started to slowly believe this when this 3rd picture was taken, during my 3rd trimester, but it wasn’t really until my second pregnancy that I got it. Pregnancy is an amazing time to focus on what your body can do, more than what it looks like (although, let me tell you mama, it looks amazing). It’s a time to finally shift how you define your worthiness from your weight to who you are. It’s time to find freedom from food and diets. It’s time to focus on growing more than shrinking. It’s time to show how you’re capable of more than you imagined (and no that doesn’t have to mean working out until labor and could just mean CREATING A HUMAN HEART). There’s freedom to be found here if you just embrace it and freedom brings empowerment and confidence and peace. 

4.You don’t need to “get your body back”. 

Please stop trying to get your body back. In fact, it never left you. It’s shown up for you every day for 9 months, in ways you never expected. Let’s stop trying to go backwards- back before you grew a human, back before you birthed your baby, back when you probably weren’t even all that happy with your body to begin with. Instead, let us move forward with acceptance for where we are today and appreciation for what our body has done and eventually a neutrality when we look at our body. Because it is just a body. And one that does amazing things.