“Self-esteem is an aspect of personality that can be cultivated across the lifespan. Dedicated introspection and mindfully growing self-understanding allows for increased ease and fruitful connections. Pregnancy may awaken previously untouched, powerful feelings about self-worth, body image, and familial relationships,” writes Dr. Jessica Zucker in her article Maternal Self-Esteem on PBS.org‘s This Emotional Life blog. She continues, “Some say that pregnancy is miraculous. Yet, undigested internal struggles will not miraculously disappear during pregnancy. Instead, a resurgence of unknown or pushed away fears may bubble to the surface during this nascent experience. Bolstering your sense of self-worth during pregnancy by thoughtfully examining unresolved issues may harness a greater sense of postpartum confidence and peace of mind as parenthood emerges.”

I really thought I would feel a loss of self when I became pregnant. Because my life is now no longer just about me but is almost wholly dedicated to another human being. That bubbling fear that I will never get my life – the life I am accustomed to – back after baby comes. The strange thing is that pregnancy has empowered my sense of self. For the first time in my life, I feel like I really know who I am. If everything else falls apart, if I never hit those elusive careers goals I set for myself, if my life stays exactly the same outside of baby, at the very least, I am a mother. And that is a lot.

It all sounds magical, right? But as Dr. Zucker points out, buried issues may rear their ugly heads during pregnancy. As I alluded to in one of my previous posts, I thought this would be the one time in my life I would not worry about what I look like, what size I wear, how much I weigh. It is actually worse now than it has ever been. I have to say I feel like I’ve been lucky having pregnancy with no major challenges as of yet. My biggest struggle has been my struggle with body image. I thought this would be a time where I’d automatically be released from those shackles. I could say to myself, “You are creating another human being. Who cares about stretch marks?” and all my deeply seeded body qualms would disappear. Nope, no such luck. And I am not alone.

In Dr. Zucker’s article she says, “All too often I hear rumblings of regret, from day one of the positive pregnancy test up to at least one-year postpartum, about the maternal body’s metamorphosis. ‘Instead of relishing my ever-increasing curves, I find myself comparing my body to my pregnant co-worker, as if being smaller will render me the winner of an unspoken competition.'” I want out of the competition. But I guess that is up to me.

photoOne evening during an over-whelming need to be alone (another feeling I am not used to), I left my boyfriend and his daughter at our beach house to take a walk along the shore. Taking in deliberate deep breaths of the salty, moist air, I titled by head toward the sky. I felt like the crescent moon hanging up there, brilliant and bright on its own but if you look close enough, you realize it’s not whole. You can see the faint outline of its completion in the blue-black backdrop. The growing baby inside my belly is like that vague outline of the full moon, once appearing will make me whole.

I’ve been so busy for so long, very rarely reflecting on who I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going. Just running toward some unforeseen fixed point or maybe running from something I can no longer see. I forgot that if you let it get dark enough, stars will appear. Baby has stopped me in my tracks, forcing me to take time to look up at that deep blue blackness.

Dr. Zucker ends Maternal Self-Esteem like this, “Building self-esteem within our children begins before they are born. It begins within our selves.” All of it is a part of me, the dark and the light, the stars, the moon and the blue-back backdrop. Allowing it all to co-exist with a little bit of acceptance and self-forgiveness is my first step in enriching that newly discovered sense of self while dealing with some long concealed issues. Maybe there is a reason this process takes nine months. Hopefully in the next few, my sense of self will truly awaken so I can share that with my baby girl and we can enjoy those small but profound moments of looking up to the sky together.


Sense of Self
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