For most of my adult life, I was neither fat nor thin. My soft arms lacked muscle definition, and my belly hung slightly over my jeans. I was always tired. My job was sedentary; I exercised sporadically at best. I was a longtime vegetarian but not a particularly healthy one; my diet was built around cheese and fake meats. I was neither happy with my body nor motivated to do anything about it.
Driven by a variety of factors, I decided to change my lifestyle. I desired to look and feel good at my wedding. I wanted to increase my energy after years battling anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. My biggest motivation, though, was the idea of a baby. I longed to someday be pregnant, and I wanted the healthiest possible body when the time came.
I overhauled my diet, started an exercise program, cut down on alcohol, increased my water intake, and started paying attention to all the little choices I made each day with regard to my body. I no longer chose foods based on what I craved. I planned healthy meals ahead of time to give myself the widest range of nutrients. I traded junk food for colorful veggies, and I gave up fast food in lieu of whole grains and lean protein. I made it a goal to seek out exercise and discovered that I love running. From clocking twenty miles a month last January to nearly 150 miles a month by year’s end, for the first time in my entire life, I saw myself as strong, fit, fierce, and capable. When I flexed my arms, my biceps popped out. Taut skin replaced my love handles. I didn’t just feel comfortable—I felt amazing. Unstoppable.
The physical changes were only the beginning. I stopped needing daily naps, and my energy level tripled. I purposely sought out the farthest parking spots when running errands and happily agreed to meet up with friends or my husband to do physical activities I avoided before.
A few months ago, I married the man of my dreams. I wore a sleeveless dress, and just as I promised myself, I didn’t spend a moment worrying about my body.
The time had come. I was ready to get pregnant. “I already love you because you’re a runner,” were the first words out of my OB-GYN’s mouth at our appointment to talk about planning a pregnancy. I did everything I was supposed to do to prepare my body for pregnancy. Here I was, receiving the OK to begin trying to conceive.
And then, the trepidation set in. Wait, was I really thinking about becoming pregnant?
For so many years, my body felt floppy. It had betrayed me in key moments. I got winded if I had to run more than a block. I overate and overdrank, consistently indulging in junk to the point that I nearly always felt slightly sick. I was so accustomed to feeling out of control that I never imagined life any other way. Now that I was fit, my body was able to do things—carry multiple bags of groceries more than twenty blocks, join a friend for a fun run without breaking a sweat, bust out two hundred sit-ups and counting. All previously impossible things. I had also uncovered a confidence I had never known. I could wear clothes and feel good about it. My body, for the first time ever, became a huge source of pride.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t just about strength and stamina. It was about looks, too. Before I embarked on this journey, I tried to disguise myself as much as possible. I covered up with whatever clothes I could find that didn’t cling too tightly. “Going swimming” meant spending the day by the pool or on the beach in clothes I wore over my swimsuit. And now I was finally able to look in the mirror and love what I saw; finally able to spend my days active and happy instead of stationary and exhausted.
As I thought about a baby, I wondered: How could I go from seeing all my body is capable of to limiting it again? What will happen to my new strength, my new endurance level, when there’s another being in my body? What will happen when the strong muscles I worked so hard for give way to a round belly and soft curves?
I want to be a mom more than anything. I think the opportunity to be pregnant is a mind-blowingly special one, and there are few things in life as badass as giving birth. And I’ll probably have no idea what my body is truly capable of until I’ve gone through a pregnancy. Both childbearing and motherhood are beautiful, miraculous, and require a new sort of strength all its own—a strength that I don’t know yet.
But I also know this: It’s scary. The idea of drastically changing my body again (and what it’s capable of doing) terrifies me. I’m scared I’ll never run as fast and that I won’t be motivated to exercise. I’m scared I’ll be so consumed with the baby that I won’t carve out time for my own goals. I’m scared I’ll lose myself—again.
I spent years captive in my own skin, allowing myself to be uncomfortable, living below my potential. This past year, I discovered I am capable. Now my biggest challenge is figuring out how to parlay that confidence into motherhood.
This is the year I hope to become pregnant. As we start the process, I’m carrying conflicting truths: I want to have a baby, and I want control over my body, too. The time will come when I’ll have to prioritize one desire to make the other possible. As we try to conceive, I’m focusing on what I do have control over: making positive choices, eating well, exercising, and taking things one day at a time.
As fearful as I am to drastically transform my body again, getting fit has taught me that I’m able to adapt well. This body that has carried me over half marathon finish lines can carry a baby, too. I got fit because I want to be a healthy mom. All those rainy miles I logged, the countless steamed vegetables I subbed for French fries, the numerous occasions when I turned down glasses of wine: I wouldn’t have stuck with any of it if I were just doing this for me. The idea of healthful motherhood is what continues to drive me, changing body and all.
If I’m lucky enough to experience motherhood, I want that child to see a woman like this: one who is capable and strong, who makes healthy choices and challenges herself physically and mentally, who sees limits and pushes past them, who doesn’t allow her fears to control her. No matter what physical changes my body goes through and what activities I loosen up on for motherhood, I hope that my child sees me as I am now: powerful, resilient, proud.
I hope, too, that I never stop seeing myself this way. I hope this unstoppable feeling remains with me—when I’m carrying extra pounds, when I’m more tired than usual, when my body is no longer just my own. I hope that the healthy habits I have cultivated over this past year serve me as I navigate pregnancy. I hope I can conceive and give birth to a healthy child. And I hope I continue to prioritize my health throughout the rest of my life. Preparing for a fit pregnancy has shown me that I’m wonderfully capable of great love for myself and for another. Whatever changes await me as I look to build a family, may I never forget this.
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