Every time I see the hashtag “#fitpregnancy,” I scream a little bit inside.
As a yoga teacher, I follow mostly yogis on Instagram, and I see this hashtag time and again on videos of 30-week pregnant women handstanding, declaring their love for kale, and saying things like, “I don’t know why I thought pregnancy would be hard!” On one occasion, I read a yoga teacher’s declaration that the reason she felt so good during pregnancy was because she was always fit and healthy beforehand.
Women of the world, don’t buy into that passive-aggressive shaming.
I grew up on the soccer pitch or in the gym, continuing my playing career through college. Since then, I have made a habit of training for half-marathons along with regular weight training sessions and my yoga discipline. Doctors tell me I have the heart health of a teenager. One month before I conceived, I placed second in my age group in a citywide 5K run.
Five weeks after I conceived, I commenced throwing up 10 times a day for 10 weeks. I lost seven pounds in one weekend. Instead of kale, I was getting my nutrition via I.V. fluids thanks to hyperemesis gravidarum. And after the puking slowed down, I discovered I’d given myself a nice hernia from all of the forceful heaving.
I discovered that heartburn actually feels like a potato chip stuck in your throat, and that you can in fact get heartburn from any raw vegetable. I learned that “pregnancy cravings” are not for everyone, and some women simply experience strong aversion to food. Nearly all food.
Today, at six months pregnant, I still regularly feel sick. I don’t do handstands. I don’t run; I’m lucky if I can get a long walk in on a given day. This past weekend, I was on vacation when I discovered I was too large for all of my bathing suits, so I wore my mother’s instead.
I don’t have a birth plan. After hours of educating myself on pros and cons, and watching all of those fascinatingly graphic videos, I’ve decided I want the epidural. If she’s breach, I won’t hesitate to schedule a Cesarean. I’m not eating my placenta.
But, I take my prescribed medication every day along with my prenatal vitamins and supplements. I eat as well as I can when I don’t feel nauseous, and if I’m up for it, I do make it to the gym to lift some admittedly light weights. Mostly, I do whatever I can to stay sane and happy. Sometimes—okay, a lot of the time—that means popcorn for dinner.
This is my #fitpregnancy.
And, guess what? I’m totally okay with that. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for five years. Those years have come with a lot of heartache and loss, plenty of unsolicited advice, and far too many yoga classes where a teacher has asked for “pregnant goddesses” to raise their hands. I would often go home and cry. More often, I would simply skip going to yoga unless I knew the teacher would hold a neutral, safe space for me.
In all of those years of radiation, blood draws, hair loss, injections, and medical bills, my priorities shifted. I stopped worrying about whether I’d give birth at home, surrounded by soft candlelight with sacred chants playing in the background. I started to see the thing that mattered most to me was the chance to meet my child. I stopped wanting to find some creative way to announce my pregnancy on social media. I started to yearn for the day I could simply tell my aging grandparents that their prayers were answered. I stopped envisioning my dance-party baby shower. I started to focus on introducing my nieces and nephews to the cousin they helped me hold onto hope for.
I know many “goddesses” in my life. Some have chosen not to have children and instead give themselves to the care of their communities. Some would like to have children and hold onto hope of meeting a partner, or bravely choose alternate paths. Many have had to say goodbye to children far too soon, only knowing their little ones for a brief amount of time. Still more only know their children in their dreams and await the day they can meet.
And, many of the “goddesses” I know who are currently pregnant experience nothing like the #fitpregnancy we see on Instagram. We make it through and do what we can, telling ourselves it will be worth it. When I feel her kick, I know it’s worth it.
Admittedly, social media is not the place to go looking for honesty—particularly, we have come to expect highly curated feeds from people who Instagram for a living. But, who is this really serving? Does it truly inspire us? Not me. I’m making the choice to “unfollow” feeds that don’t jive with my experience of real life. I’m going to go looking for people who I can connect with rather than compare myself to.
I don’t want to see self-proclaimed goddesses, I want to see messy, unfiltered women. That’s sacred enough for me.
Author: Bethany Eanes
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis