The day I found out I was pregnant, my husband and I went to the library, where I pulled out a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and promptly began to cry, right there in the nonfiction section.
Stretching? Tearing? Transition? It was all way too much for this brand-new mommy-to-be to handle, and I was deeply, truly afraid that when it came right down to it, I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
It’s not that I didn’t want to be pregnant. Our pregnancy was planned, desired, carefully considered, but the reality of what I had just undertaken had not sunken in. I had never trusted my own body, and it seemed I sure as heck wasn’t going to start then.
I was overweight as a child, as a teen, as a young adult. I learned to dislike my body at the same time I was supposed to be learning high school algebra and French. I didn’t know how to be any other way, and I blamed my body—my metabolism, my hormones—for making me fat. I had asthma that made strenuous exercising at best unpleasant and at worst painful and frightening. I was unfit and didn’t trust my body to respond well to any kind of physical challenge.
In college, I discovered dieting and took off 40 pounds, slimming down into a new body I didn’t recognize. But I did it forcefully, starving myself, and so the weight came back. I became mistrustful of my body anew, knowing now that it could be slim, yet refused to stay there.
Oh, I blamed my brain and my heart, too. I blamed my lack of willpower. I blamed not having the right “program.” But deep down at the center of it all, I secretly didn’t believe that my body could really do any different.
And so, at 29 years old, I had given up trusting my body. I only trusted external things; I trusted calorie counters, and programs, and diet foods, and exercise videos. But suddenly, there was nothing external to trust in; I had asked something miraculous of my body. I had asked it to create and nurture a life.
My body was up to the challenge, but it asked for one thing in return: trust.
In pregnancy, the body takes over. It’s a strange exercise in giving up control, being pregnant. I remember marveling at the fact that my body was growing an entire new organ—not to mention feeding and nurturing a tiny new life—and my conscious self had absolutely nothing to do with it. Oh, I took my vitamins and practiced my kegels and did my yoga, but I had quite a few very sobering moments when I realized that my body would go right on doing what it was doing whether I did those things or not.
At 10 weeks, I saw blood. More than a little. And I panicked. I called my doctors and they said there was nothing to do but wait and see. And I was angry. I am not a wait and see kind of person. I wanted to DO something, to take some action, to will my body hold on to that little life. But I couldn’t. My body would continue doing exactly what it was going to do, no matter what my mind had to say about it.
And continue it did. Thankfully, my baby continued to grow—and so did I. Suddenly, the biggest challenge I faced in becoming a mother had nothing to do with midnight feedings or colic, and everything to do with the number on the scale. I didn’t want to wear the maternity clothes that emphasized my belly, when I had spent my entire life trying to do the exact opposite.
Once again, I felt like my body had betrayed me. I was doing everything right, eating well, walking, doing yoga, and yet I was gaining weight at an alarming rate. At 38 weeks I stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office and nearly cried. Two hundred and ten pounds and still climbing. It felt like a life sentence.
Three days later, my contractions started. They were so mild I barely even recognized them for what they were. I went to lunch with a friend, got a pedicure, chatted with my mom. Six o’clock rolled around and those contractions started coming a bit more regularly. We called our doula and started timing, but I still didn’t really believe I was in labor; I had heard too many stories of false labor, first time moms laboring for hours, even days. I couldn’t hear what my body was telling me.
By three a.m., the contractions were coming fast and strong. I was about to go stand in the shower to find some relief when my husband said, “Where are your shoes?” He had decided it was time to go. By the time we got to the hospital, I was eight centimeters dilated.
“Looks like we’re going to do this natural,” the nurse chirped cheerfully. To which I replied, “NO!”
I was terrified, tired, in pain. Our doula wasn’t there yet. There was no time to call for an epidural.
But in those terrifying minutes, my body took over. It knew what it had to do. If I thought I had given up control before, I was mistaken. This was a whole new territory, and my conscious self was only along for the ride.
Less than an hour after I arrived at the hospital, my baby girl was born. No drugs, no doula—the doula ran in just as they were handing me the baby. In my brain, I was totally unprepared. But my body knew exactly what to do.
It was a profound moment for me. My body had accomplished what seemed impossible—and with astounding grace. It had created a life and brought her into this world absolutely perfectly. My conscious brain said, “Huh,” and decided to relax a little. I started to trust. Just a little.
And just like that, everything seemed to fall into place. I had no trouble breastfeeding my daughter. I healed quickly and totally. And that weight that had so plagued me—had plagued me all my life? Suddenly, it started melting off. I did what I knew was right, eating well, moving more, and it worked. I found my way down to a healthy weight, lower than when I got pregnant, almost without even trying.
It’s still hard to remember to trust. I spent so many years thinking my head knew best, so much time disrespecting and dismissing the wisdom of my own body, the truth that lived in my own bones. But now, I need only look at my daughter to see proof; when I surrender into trust, miracles happen.
We are so conditioned into mistrust in this modern world. Can you hear what your body is telling you? Or have you drowned out that voice of wisdom with fear, with “science,” with mistrust? Try simply asking your body what it needs the next time you feel hungry, sad, achy, or alone. Try to hear the answer, and when you do, trust that your body knows what’s right.