Saturday, January 14, 2012

Body Image and Pregnancy

Body image is an interesting topic for me. I spent 11 years learning ballet, 11 years staring in the harsh mirrors at the end of the room. (believe me, mirrors have spots that make you look better or worse). Ballet, at the higher level, requires such specific body types, especially since Balanchine introduced his 'perfect ballerinas'. Short, but with long limbs. Long neck. Perfect feet. And the thin body, from hips to bum to stomach (and small breasts).

Since I've been out in the 'real world' and even been able to meet with and know current and former ballerinas, I know that very few of them meet all these requirements perfectly. But when I was dancing, the peak examining board was obsessed with it, to the point that they would fail students in exams if you didn't meet the requirements. And I didn't. I was short, but my long limbs were gangly rather than graceful (which was more of a teaching issue). I had the long neck and my feet have been the envy of professional dancers - but my body was never right. My hips and bum have always been curvier, even when my stomach was flat.

Even though I believe I failed exams because of my hips and bottom, I never went to extreme measures. Firstly because my dance studio just wasn't like that - we had all types there and thought nothing of eating pizza or junk food. And secondly, I spent so many years being too thin as a legacy of an extreme childhood illness - and once you've spent enough years dangling at the top of the seesaw, you know that too thin is not fun.

Was I happy with my body before I got pregnant? Well sometimes. I've had people complement me on my bottom as a good thing, which always amazes me. I hate the whole BMI thing because my dancer's thighs always put me overweight, even at my thinnest. I usually have a great relationship with chocolate, which does me no good. Not to mention the dodgy thyroid, which can make it difficult to maintain a steady weight. And for a long time I thought it might have been my weight which was making it hard to conceive, even though no doctor even mentioned that as an issue.

So it was interesting to read this article at Offbeat Mama. Because my body has definitely changed and I love it.

My breasts are bigger and more rounded. While it meant bra shopping which I hate, it also means I have cleavage for the first time in my life. This week, I've noticed that my stomach is more rounded and I love rubbing it. My hips and bottom seem to make sense with the rest of it now. So far, I think pregnancy looks pretty good on me.

I can understand why some people don't like their pregnancy bodies. One of my friends was extraordinarily sick during her early pregnancy and this continued well into the second trimester. She lost 15 kilograms and looked ill, and wasn't happier until later when she was able to eat properly again. But with an uneventful pregnancy, there's always that reminder that our bodies are changing to accommodate the growing baby and all the hormones that come with it. And I'm okay with that.

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