Continuing on with this series where we explore pregnancy body changes, we bring you Emille's story. Emilie is in her late thirties and is an accomplished marketer and strategist. She is also the co-founder of TheIncluded Co, a platform working to change stereotypes and biases through creative storytelling.
Two of Emilie’s most important titles are mother to her two precious boys, Henry and Liam and wife to husband Edwin. Emilie lives with her boys in southern California. She is motivated by her beliefs that women are magical beings and that humanity is genuinely good.
1. How would you describe the state of being pregnant?
While the state of “being” pregnant is simply amazing to witness, it’s not something that I found joyful and serene as other women may describe. I found it painful, uncomfortable, annoying, restrictive and downright inconvenient. During my first pregnancy, I struggled with not having control over my own body. It felt like this body of mine was no longer that. I had several complications during my second pregnancy, including hypertension and bleeding, which set the stage for less ease and more concerns.
2. Before you became pregnant, did you feel as though you were mentally and emotionally prepared for the transformation that was about to unfold?
Well, honestly prior to being pregnant I “felt” as though I was ready, but as soon as pregnancy became a reality that feeling dissipated quickly. Both of my pregnancies were welcomed, but unplanned. Mentally, being pregnant didn’t change much about my day to day. I still worked, led my team and had daily accomplishments as normal.
Emotionally, the process of both pregnancies was something I was unprepared for. It’s an out of body experience that you don’t live within yourself any longer. Your body is no longer yours and the world now sees only a baby. That was tough. I would say it’s more the emotional identity crisis that was unexpected and challenging.
3. What were your greatest fears related to pregnancy and your body changing? Did they change as you had more than one child?
My greatest fears were post pregnancy. Pregnancy, while not easy, is still the warm up for the main event. My fears while being pregnant revolved around the type of mother I would be, how to breastfeed, would it hurt, would I lose myself in my child and would my career ever be the same. My body is something that I have felt comfortable in whether there was excess weight, breakouts or bad hairs days. My fears related to my abilities and my mind to juggle it all.
4. How did your view of your body and the skin you were in change as you entered the first trimester to second and third trimester?
My skin throughout my first pregnancy was amazing! I am not sure what made the difference, but my second pregnancy was quite the opposite. I was glowing, even during the bouts of morning sickness with my first and throughout my second I developed cystic acne. That’s the kind that is so deep under the skin it becomes painful and is very unfulfilling if you are a “popper” as you can’t pop these kinds of breakouts. I still struggle with cystic acne to this day. I have learned to control it more with what I put into my body, but for someone who never had teenage acne it’s unfamiliar territory.
5. How did touch play a role during your pregnancy and afterwards?
I didn’t mind people wanting to touch my belly during pregnancy, but I was taken back by the way it made me feel as though I didn’t matter, only the baby mattered. That was the toughest part for me was the feeling that I wasn’t a whole person. I always would touch my belly during pregnancy. It just became a habit. I couldn’t hold my baby during that time so this was my “holding” throughout the pregnancy. The most amazing feeling of the entire experience was the minute both my boys entered the world and I got to have skin to skin time with them. There was almost a sense of electric currents between us that forever connected us.
Intimacy during pregnancy was different, but also fun. Hormones rage so it makes for some fun experiences that are unexpected at times. During the last trimester, sex was tough though just due to swelling and pain. Post pregnancy, well that’s an entirely separate novel on its own. It’s really tough to find your groove again and get back old feelings of both yourself and your partner, but it can happen slowly with time, patience and empathy.
6. Were you aware of self care practices before, during or after the pregnancy?
Yes, absolutely. Long baths, scrubs, lotions, facials, pregnancy massages, foot rubs, manicures. All this and more! It was so important to me pre-pregnancy and even more important now post pregnancy caring for my warrior body that performed this miracle twice now and for my warrior emotional health everyday as a mom!
I do think empathy towards myself has improved because it HAS to with being a mom. I am so hard on myself, so creating good habits of self care to balance my perspective on things every day is essential.
7. Looking back, are there words of advice that you would give your first pregnant self (or other pregnant women) to help navigate the transformation of the body?
While staying physically fit and feeling beautiful on the outside is absolutely important, there is no shortage of brands and companies discussing how to lose weight, how to rid stretch marks, how to have brighter, younger skin and even if it’s correct to show or not show your breasts during breastfeeding.
My advice would be don’t get lost in the noise only discussing the physical attributes of your body during this time. Listen to others talking about processing emotions and how they affect your body, mind and soul. What physically happens to a woman during pregnancy is remarkable, but the emotional growth and psychological changes she encounters on this journey of making, carrying, birthing and then ultimately raising a human being should be discussed in the positive light it deserves.