This I Know From Experience

"Congratulations!" the man next to me in church this morning boomed, shaking my hand vigorously. Mortified, I pulled my sweater closer over my body, not believing he actually took the risk of saying that out loud.

Pregnant woman with balloons | PregnancyAndBaby.com

photo credit: MariaDubova/iStock/360/Getty Images

In my head, I wasn't even showing yet. But apparently, in my non-maternity clothes, I was, in fact, showing... and showing enough for a complete stranger to take the time to comment on my baby bump.

Comparing my pregnant bodies

Pregnant with my fourth child, I have been struggling since day one to come to terms with the fact that this pregnancy feels completely different from my previous ones. I am more tired, less excited (perhaps because I know of the sleepless nights that lie ahead) and all around feeling like 40 weeks can't come fast enough.

"This time around, however, I was breaking out my belly band at 10 weeks."

And part of the problem is that I am, in fact, not only guilty of the common women's sin of comparing myself to other women, but even comparing my own pregnancies.

With my first pregnancy, I actually got married at 20 weeks pregnant. I was just starting to show and not even in maternity clothes yet. This time around, however, I was breaking out my belly band at 10 weeks and definitely into maternity jeans by 16 weeks.

When I slipped into those maternity jeans, I felt two things: a huge relief, because oh my gosh, comfort, finally and defeat for being bigger than I ever had been previously.

You can't compare

Now nearing 20 weeks and still with the image of my first pregnancy in my mind, it has definitely taken me some time to come to terms with the fact that guess what? A fourth pregnancy is different than a first. There are loose muscles, stretched skin and a uterus that clearly remembers what its job is. Comparing myself to other pregnant women, or even myself, is not helpful and actually could be harmful.

"Every pregnancy is unique," says Erika Boom, a certified personal trainer and certified prenatal and postnatal instructor. Erika goes on to say that women can show differently for a few factors, such as:

  • A mother who is pregnant for the second or third time will show much faster than a mother who is pregnant for the first time.
  • A mother who exercises will show different than a mother who doesn’t exercise.
  • Two mothers with similar figures, but different torso space, will show differently.
  • A mother who gains the recommended weight slowly will look different than a mother who gains unnecessary weight faster.

Be comfortable in your own (pregnant) skin

If you're struggling with your own body image during pregnancy, fear not. You are not alone. I'm right there with you, but I've also done this enough times and seen enough women in my work as an OB nurse to realize that every woman really does carry a baby differently. I've seen 90-pound women with bellies bigger than mine and women bigger than me with smaller bumps; in this case, size doesn't necessarily matter.

For me, what has really helped is sticking to a good exercise plan. I committed to twice-a-week exercise classes and I've been saving up to buy a new elliptical for those nights when I just can't get out of the house. I'm staying focused on being positive, visualizing a happy and healthy pregnancy and staying as fit as I can.

Oh and one more thing? Stop Googling those images of "this week pregnant belly" to see if you're normal or not.

Because you are, I promise.

More on your pregnant body

Learn to love your pregnant body
Is it safe to have back-to-back babies?
Exercising while pregnant

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