It wasn’t until I was 28 years old and eight months pregnant that I finally learned how to love my body.
Granted, you might think I’m trying to be overly positive about the situation.
The third trimester of my pregnancy has been full of its share of aches and pains. I am 30 pounds heavier than I have ever been in my life. My hips ache when I sleep. I’ve pulled a muscle in my groin. I’ve been on antibiotics for a bladder infection. My breasts have started leaking colostrum. And I’ve been told that this is just the beginning of a host of other bodily complaints that can arise before and after birth.
So what is it about pregnancy that has shifted my relationship to my body?
Women grow up with a sort of indoctrination of what our bodies mean to others. Before we can even begin developing a relationship to ourselves, we are subjected to a host of narratives around what other people think about our bodies. Are our bodies falling into line? How do they compare to the normative standards of the times? Are we attractive or not?
Very quickly, our bodies become not our own. As a dancer, I have had a host of additional trainings about my body. How it should move, form, bend, and appear aesthetically pleasing to others.
The thing about pregnancy is that our bodies are also not our own; they are overtaken by another force—but that force is one of divine creation.
I’ve come to believe that the female body is built to house something more than itself. It has been given a superpower that men cannot have—to carry divine light, to birth this life into the world, and, in doing so, to make the world anew.
We don’t need to get pregnant to realize this creative potential. As women, there are many ways we can channel our creative energy. Many ways we can bring that light into the world and shine our power. But in order to do this, we need to honour that power within. We need to respect that power that has been given to us.
As women, we need to be aware of what we are filling our bodies with. Society is going to try to fill our bodies with something—with sex, alcohol, pills, food, or cock. It will try to shape and mold our bodies for us if we are not carefully defining our own terms.
Curiously enough, pregnancy has helped me reclaim my body as my own. Even as I am growing another little human.
I have walked into a room pregnant and seen how men are confused by my pregnant form. There is a sort of distancing there as my body cannot be as easily sexualized. The pregnant body is the logical fulfillment of sexual energy that so often gets misplaced and misunderstood in our culture. I can often see a specific moment of realization in men, “Oh, right,” this is what sexualizing the female body actually looks like. There is a cognitive dissonance in men between the sometimes violent desire for sex and the realization of the profundity of its end product.
Why is it harder to objectify a pregnant woman? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Pregnancy is definitely someone’s fetish. But in a culture that still idolizes a thinner body type, it’s not as common. I think it’s because there is a realization on some level that a baby is in there. And that to sexualize that woman is to sexualize her and her baby. Not just that but, the power of a woman’s body to create life. Men are essentially afraid of the full power of a pregnant body.
In pregnancy, we are asked to take a wider perspective when it comes to our bodies. There is a beautiful acceptance that can happen when, as women, we begin to honour the divine within. We choose to pay less attention to appearances and more to health. To marvel not so much at how our bodies look but what they can do.
The secret then, to loving our bodies, is a coming inside. It is a loving of the one within, the sheer power of our creative abilities that lie inside our skin as a woman.
This doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t admire their reflection in the mirror, or deny their physical beauty. It is learning instead how to cultivate a different way of seeing as a woman. Instead of seeing the outside form, we can actually use our penetrating gaze to see within. We see form, then see inside form, to see form again in a new light.
This is another gift of being a woman. We don’t just see what’s on the surface. We use our intuition to penetrate within.
I encourage you to try this next time you look in the mirror. See your naked self, then see the soul inside that self, and then see your outside self again.
What changes? Anything?
What women’s bodies mean to others is actually much greater than society respects or understands. Women’s bodies mean nourishment. Women’s bodies mean survival. Women’s bodies are the difference between life and death. The portal between worlds. Women’s bodies are not just things to be used, liked, disliked, discarded, or raped. Women’s bodies are awesome, logic-defying furnaces of life itself. They contain the energy of the world, just like men hold the power to witness that awe-inspiring energy with pure consciousness.
I don’t recommend getting pregnant to cure one’s body insecurities. But the sacred teachings of a pregnant body can serve as a new path forward. When we learn to develop a more intimate appreciation of what our bodies, as women, are really capable of, there will be no holding back of the full force of feminine power.