Impossible Possibility - 03

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Part 3- A Pregnant Journey: body image, diet, & beauty

Is it possible that we all arrived here the exact same way? Was there some kind, heroic woman who gave up her body and her time, her comfort and stability in order to birth each and every one of us out onto this little planet?

Now entering my sixth month and third trimester of pregnancy, the compassion I have for every mother that walks this earth shakes me to the core. Pregnancy seems to be the ultimate initiation, a sort of rite of passage if you will. I never thought I would see myself committing to the ultimate responsibility: Motherhood.

Now I find myself living by some keen instinct that has awakened. I am able to take comfort in that “primal place” and although there are hiccups and hesitancies along the way, with my deep faith and trust I am finding sweet relief.

No doubt there seems to be a myriad of wonders that crop up on any given day--actually in any given hour. I have become like a tree in the wind being blown by unseen forces, learning to bend and not break while learning to be flexible beyond what once was perceived as a snapping point. I have found that embracing the unpredictable is my key to sanity. Pregnancy has proven to be hands down the most out of control experience I have ever encountered. And I have in fact encountered a few.

I can’t tell a lie. Being 37 and having once had an eating disorder, my first three months were a challenge. The loss of the waist, then the expansion of the…well, I could go on and on but laughter comes up as I look back and realize that 3 months expansion is really nothing in the 9 month picture! I think it was last month when I finally stopped looking at my ass in dismay, wondering when it might stop its very own expansion. I realize now that it might not.

I am learning to enjoy ‘my shadow’ as my husband lovingly calls it. Yes, I seem to have some extra luggage, I wiggle in ways I never knew existed, I have folds and lumps and a belly and bumps, size DD breasts (I never ever was a full B!) and sometimes I feel like I look like a porn star. And what choice do I have but to surrender? And embrace. And be embraced. And there’s a lot of me to embrace! In a way it is extremely liberating. And with all the work I have put in towards my health and sanity I know what is important here…maintaining the balance I have achieved the past 7 years.

What has been baffling and hard in its own way are the numerous unsolicited comments made by random folks. Some I know, some I don’t, some of high intellect and others just obviously ignorant. Admittedly I am more sensitive than many, having been physically dissected throughout my career as a model. I have found other people’s fascination with my body, weight and size shocking at times.

Maybe it was years of work through therapy, learning to unravel the language that is often used between people, but I have made great attempts to communicate who I am; how I feel; my intentions; and. curiosity towards others in a language that moves beyond physical reference. It has been daunting to me to be on the receiving end of such commentary, and I still fail to see how a pregnant woman’s body seems to grant some permission for others to take the liberty in dialoguing about what otherwise would be insensitive or inappropriate banter.

It is not a time to eat everything under the sun. I do not want to give birth and have to lose 70 pounds (although I will if that is the case!). Balance for me has meant internal and external responsible choices to honor how I am feeling and that nourish my day-to-day needs. My daily diet is basically the same but I have also incorporated healthy carbohydrates into my regular meals. I have relaxed with the strict “certain foods only” policy and just made sure that my choices are fresh, organic and healthy whole foods. I still, for the most part, avoid sugar and over processed foods, preferring snacks that actually resemble what they are!

My one big adjustment has been the elimination of fish from my diet. The FDA approved one to one and a half servings a week of fish for pregnant women. The recommended choices were non-predatory fish, attempting to reduce exposure to high mercury levels. Most Obstetricians do not order a mercury test but I asked my doctor for one as fish had been my main source of protein for years. When my test came back three times higher than the suggested safe levels I grew concerned. I also received a call from a genetics counselor to review the extreme concerns that arise for pregnant women and their babies when there is such exposure (the long list included Autism to all sorts of developmental diseases). And, there are no tests that can determine the effects on the fetus.

An extremely disturbing fact was that although I have consumed fish on a regular basis it was only the so called ‘healthy fish’ that were my staples. I had not eaten Tuna in months and my choices were usually the recommended smaller fish as well as wild Salmon from reputable stores like Whole Foods. My mercury levels returned to normal as soon as I cut this fish out of my diet. After a 90-day period I tried once again to incorporate Salmon back into my diet only to find my levels rise again to “unsafe.” All fish had to be eliminated.

I turned towards my years of personal exploration with nutritionists and began supplementing my diet with prenatal vitamins, and safely screened omega oils (NORDIC NATURAL guarantees mercury free), matching my intake to suggested trimester developmental needs of my baby. I have upped my cal mag as this can be a time women become severely deficient with Osteoporosis becoming an issue. I have tried not to be too rigid or extreme in any area and really take notice of what feels right, honoring that that decision can vary day to day.

Exercise has always been an enormous part of my life. I was teaching Yoga before the winter came when I got married and then pregnant. I have had a serious Yoga practice for years and have always maintained a level of cardiovascular activity like hiking, bicycling or running. Pilates has also been part of my weekly routine. All of these activities I still do albeit not with such rigorous focus.

My daily Ashtanga practice has morphed into a 3 times a week prenatal Yoga class and for the first time in my life I actually fall into a deep sleep during our 15 minute Shavasana. My seven mile runs have shifted into long hikes or walks, often listening to music or Buddhist teachings downloaded onto my iPod. I have given up heavy weight training instead opting for my Pilates reformer. You get the picture. The kinder gentler road. I have maintained my morning meditation practices but the alarm now rings at 5:00 a.m. instead of 4:00. Everything has slowed a bit and it feels just right to honor this new pace.

My beauty regimen has shifted as well having abandoned most hard core chemical treatments and ingredients for natural products I have found at the farmers markets or local health food stores. Whole Foods sells a shampoo and conditioner I actually love that is chemical free and organic called Giovanni. Dr. Haushka has an amazing body oil that is great for dry skin and stretch marks. An old favorite of mine is body oil called Mothers Special Blend. This added to any lotion makes for a deeply nourishing body treatment. EO has body polishes that are great to use prior to getting wet in the shower.

The changes in my body are many and as a true Yoga practitioner this means being flexible off the matt. Looking towards myself with patience and compassion, embracing the wonders of this new shift in my life, accepting the discomforts and uncertainty, surrendering to it all is the practice.

It may be preparation for the baby to come but in a broader way it is preparation for life. Every journey is full of uncertainty. There are no guarantees. Learning to surrender now, live fully and walk mindfully on this path is my goal. I may trip, I may stumble, and hopefully with humor and a bit of patience I might proceed along in somewhat of a graceful manner.
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