It’s no secret that I base my entire being on finding the best ways to balance happiness and health in ways that work for you, by exploring every corner of your needs spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s something I am really passionate about and I can honestly say that the feeling I get when someone messages me to say this method is helping them too is pretty immeasurable. I trust this way of life implicitly…..
….so you can imagine my surprise when I fell pregnant and all of a sudden, my usual routine was failing me! This blog is about pregnancy, and although I’ve tried to keep my blog about health and happiness in general, I feel compelled to share this experience. Since Love Yourself Lean began, I have chosen to share stories involving my own life, remaining honest, to the point I’ve perhaps even ‘over shared’ at times! Right now, pregnancy is part of my life, and in some ways, all encompassing. Never a fan of the ‘bullshit brigade’ who only share the shiny side, I do like to feel like I am telling the truth about how I live, because as I’ve said before, being happy and healthy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (‘scuse the Rocky pun). It’s about the bigger picture and knowing yourself inside out so you can adapt and change your approach when need be to reach a feeling of contentment.
For those who have followed me for a while, feel free to skip the next paragraph because you’ve most likely heard it a thousand times; like when Phoebe in Friends reminds us she never went to school or had a normal upbringing. (HD Alert!).
For anyone new, in a nutshell, I spent from the age of 18-31 thinking I had Huntington’s Disease. A condition my mother has which is a degenerative neurological disease that slowly takes over you from a young age robbing you of pretty much everything you can do independently until it eventually, takes your life, either by a terrible accident or through something else taking over you and not being strong enough to fight it (depressing much?! I do apologise, I’ll keep this part short and sweet and take this opportunity to tell you research is discovering something new every day and I am adamant a cure is round the corner!) It is hereditary and I was 50% at risk. Everyone else in my family at risk had tested and been given a good result. I was so pleased for them, I mean really, beyond relieved, but it goes without saying, I was adamant I had it. This was largely fuelled by a hot temper and tendency to walk into door frames, both early symptoms of the disease. In November 2016 I found out I had fallen pregnant on the pill, and had decided to take the test to ensure my unborn baby wasn’t at risk. I tested negative after years of failing to go through with the test and got the best news I could ever ask for. (I still pinch myself now.) I didn’t have a condition I had feared would darken my door for 13 years and Brucey bonus…I was pregnant! (In other news, turns out I’m just a bit of psycho who doesn’t look where she’s walking which my partner Kevin was thrilled to discover….and my age old excuse that it might be HD was no longer viable!) I could live with that though!
It therefore goes without saying, I was beyond grateful to be carrying a baby. For most my adult life I had longed to be pregnant. It’s not that you can’t be happy for people. Being happy for others comes easily, you never once wish they didn’t have what they have. What’s hard is that just like when you are on a diet and you seem to see chocolate treats everywhere you go (even in your sleep), your world seems engulfed by pregnant women literally everywhere you look. Gorgeous babies seem to enter your world daily and for me, dropping Evie, my step daughter, off at school used to leave me in floods of tears and I couldn’t do much to control it. I felt immense failure and it was all fuelled by my own ideals. Failure that I felt a hole was there without a child and I couldn’t just be content. Failure for feeling any pangs of jealousy (an emotion we all work hard to keep at bay). Failure as a woman for not performing what I felt I should be able to. I had longed for a family all my life, and for me personally, I felt a part of me had been ripped out without my permission. It’s worth mentioning here, I do not believe a woman’s role is to ‘have children’. This was something I had always wanted since being a child. I’ve worked with kids all my life and always dreamt of the day I would have my own. That is just my personal experience.
This initial struggle prior to pregnancy and ultimately my HD test was a huge part of what led me to Love Yourself Lean and it’s beginning, and a main driver in developing a method that would help me find peace and gratitude with what I had in life. It took patience and time, but it did work. The journal and it’s methods were exactly how I achieved a place of peace despite my situation, and although I had bad days, like anything in life, for the most part I had come to terms with it all and was truly happy. Filling in my journal each day allowed me to reflect on how I was treating myself on the whole and I know it was this that gave me the strength to see my test through after so many failed attempts before, I just know it was. I was ready to know my fate, whatever that result would be. I’d learned not to run away from it and trust that things would be ok whatever the outcome.
Now, fast forward 7 and a half months, and here I am 33+3 weeks pregnant, just a blink of an eye away from giving birth really. As I lie here 2 and a half stone heavier than I was, with acid reflux and feet hotter than the sun, I have found myself often frustrated at my former ‘balanced’ self for not being with me now. Where on earth has she gone? And why is my old routine not working?
Being pregnant has been such an emotional desire of mine for so long, I never once considered that maintaining good happiness and health might be challenging in any way. I mean how on earth can I be anything but ecstatic when I’ve been blessed with the very thing I thought I never would?
You know, for the most part I am absolutely loving pregnancy. When I am naked. I look at my body in awe of it’s talents, and feel the most feminine I’ve felt in all my life (what did I say about over sharing?!) But if I am 100% honest, pregnancy has swept me off my feet in more ways than one and I am feeling a little ‘out of sync’ to say the least and I’ve been making it worse my feeling ashamed of myself for feeling this way.
First of all, those things called hormones! Turns out they are a real thing! I’ll be honest, I have never really accepted ‘hormones’ as something that could change how you feel so intensely, convincing myself my mind can over ride it all. I honestly believed I was bigger than pregnancy hormones……… As a hot headed Italian, who tends to fall on the extreme end of the scale in all that she does (see reference to bad temper above), why on earth did it come as a surprise when I started crying watching Friends because Rachel took Chip to the prom and left Ross on the stairs? But it did. What the bloody hell is wrong with me? Crying has happened a lot throughout this pregnancy… for usually no reason whatsoever (definitely no valid reason) and often without warning. Try balancing your emotional health when that happens! I have felt like I am losing it and then in my true extreme nature, chosen to mix that with a dose of ‘How dare you cry you ungrateful cow! You are pregnant’, which in turn makes me cry more for being such a miserable shitbag in the first place.
Pre-pregnant Kelly would partake in watching a funny film or seeing friends to top up emotionally. These days, anything can set me off, so I’ve found myself feeling unbalanced for not knowing what to do to stop the tears sometimes. Turns out….you just gotta roll with it!
Then there’s the mental challenges it brings. Have I mentioned that for years I felt like a Mum who was just missing the baby? (Yes Kelly! Give it a rest) I thought I would be totally ready for it; a natural. Wrong! I specifically remember freaking out at 4/5 months and driving to the shop in a blind panic, buying a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and a non alcoholic cider in a bid to avoid the fact my head had just registered….. a baby was actually coming! What the fuck was I going to do? I don’t know anything about babies! Do they wear the same baby grows in the day as at bedtime, or are they meant to wear special pyjama ones? Can you take them outside on a hot day? How do you know if they are too hot/too cold/too hungry? What if he hates me and I just can’t stop him crying? I felt an uncontrollable fear surge through me that this was happening and I couldn’t press pause for just a second to wait until I was ready. It was coming. Mentally, pre-pregnancy Kelly was a ‘risk taker’ a ‘full steam ahead’ type of gal. This Kelly needed the opposite! No risks please, and no pressure to push through. I needed to calm my shit down; adapt my methods to prepare me for motherhood and it was all so new and my previous life which was surrounded my bad news filled me with fear it was all too good to be true! Cue surrounding myself with Insta Mummies who don’t preach the perfect life (yes Daily Mail, they were my saviour too) and Hypnobirthing, which I will save for a whole new blog.
@yogagirl having her baby a few months before I was due was just awesome. She wears her ups and downs on her sleeve like a badge of honour, owning every ebb and flow of life which in turn makes someone like me who thrives on being ‘grateful’ feel normal for having a wobble.
@motherpukka reminds me that it’s totally cool to talk about gross things and share the ‘unsharable’ because in reality all women feel the same and talking about it makes it funnier than you think! She makes you feel normal if some weird and wonderful human function that is embarrassing beyond belief happens and encourages you to howl instead of hide. She also rides a scooter like a boss 4 weeks more pregnant than I am #majorskills
@cheltenhammaman is always on hand to share a wide range of stories from women of all backgrounds and experiences. She also shoves a good Instastory up whether she’s just got out of bed or whether she’s dressed for the day, and she reminds me that everyone has crazy hair in the morning, not just me! Not only that, but she bloody rocks it, and motherhood for that matter too.
@cheltenham_fit_mama is one of the few female fitness Instagrammers who makes me feel good. She reminds me that once pregnancy is done, I will be able to find time to workout, and get back to the training that fulfilled me pre pregnancy, and she bosses motherhood whilst doing it. She’s friggin’ awesome.
@feathering_the_empty_nest is one of the most beautiful human beings inside and out I have ever known. Her strength to be able to use light hearted sarcasm of everyday occurrences focusing all her energy on something positive is literally awe inspiring. Elle is able to take a tragedy and see it to its most positive end, and she always manages to see love through it all. For me with my Mum’s struggle, and a life that’s had a big pregnancy question mark over it for so long, Elle is thee person I feel brings a sense of normality to my life. It reminds me that being positive and light hearted can go a really long way when things aren’t how you planned, and this is how I coped with HD. She helps me to not feel guilty that sarcasm can be your saviour in terms of being ok sometimes and I feel Elle is just one of the ‘good humans’ on this planet and truly one of the most amazing Mums I know. Her outlook ensures any moaning I feel arising is brief and short lived. She is riding out one of the hardest times in her life and unknowingly helping others to feel they can get through anything.
I could honestly go on, but what I am trying to say is, Instagram can be the best place, or the worst place to go if you are feeling unsure about yourself. I have consciously unfollowed those who’s images and comments just makes me feel like I am failing at life, and that the way that they look, is how I should look. I only follow those people who make me feel good. The ones who’s posts make me happy to read and ‘keep it real’. This is paramount I believe, as you need to feel like the changes you are experiencing are normal.
On the physical side of changes, jeez where do you begin? I can’t be arsed to moan in detail so I’ll just list a few things I did not expect.
So as well as my tummy expanding, so has my arse, my legs, my ankles, my hands, my feet and my face. If I turn on the rear facing camera unprepared these days it’s really shows me in a new light! I’m not driven by being skinny, but before I fell pregnant I liked the control I had over what my body could do. I would satisfy myself physically by pushing my body to it’s full potential, and found love for it from all it could achieve and how I could develop the muscles I owned. When this control was stripped away, it took me a long time to realise that it’s ‘full potential’ was just being exercised in a totally new way. I mean it’s growing a human without any instructions? Why did I criticise it for not doing what to could do before? Total bozo!
I’ve now got burning hot feet, headaches, a stiff jaw and knuckles, pelvis pain, itchy skin, restless legs, what a bloody wreck.
I will tell you one thing, Google is no best friend to me. So far I’ve diagnosed myself with Pre-Eclampsia, SPD, PGS, carpel tunnel syndrome and my latest….. Bells Palsy (if I was a Mr Man I’d be Mr. Catastrophy!) The worst of it all is, I desperately wanted to be ok. I wanted to be the same as I was before. Dancing hours and hours a week for a living, working out on my days at home, prepping meals like a boss, meditating the night away and being ‘fine’ in every sense #imbreezy.
I tried so hard to hang on to the girl I was 7 months ago, that I failed to realise I was my problem. I was not her anymore. I’ve demoed constantly in dance in lessons adamant my body will do as I want it to because it feels so damn good when I’m there, and then spent 24 hours crying in agony because my body can’t keep up. I’ve made myself keep the house in order, and stayed on top of everything that needs doing at work, and then crashed with a burning headache at midnight. I’ve cried for no reason and then sat and told myself I am an utter arsehole for crying because I am so lucky. I’ve put myself under pressure to make sure the house is decorated and we have everything we could possibly need before this baby comes. Is it any wonder my health is suffering when I am being such a moron about ‘letting go’.
This perfectionist nature within myself is what led me to LYL in the first place, and letting go of those bad habits is what allowed me to find real happiness and balance with my health and accept my present situation for what it was. What’s started to happen, is that my old habits are creeping in as I adjust to this new version of me, and it’s taken me months to realise and accept….you are different now. Being grateful is the easy part, but gratitude alone won’t get you to a balanced and healthy version of yourself. You need to work on all areas of your health, and that’s what the journal reminds me of daily. To be completely honest, it’s been really hard for me to acknowledge and be truthful about how I feel deep down, being so driven by finding the good things in life, especially as I know SO well how lucky I am and have people in my own life who would give anything to be in my shoes right now, just as I used to feel a year ago. On a grand scale, gratitude is present at all times, but truthfully, I have fallen off the wagon in terms of my whole health more times that I’ve managed to stay on. I’ve felt ashamed, and wanted to slap myself really hard for not maintaining feeling the way I had planned it all out. I never anticipated losing control.
What I have come to know, is that I am not unhappy in anyway shape or form. I am in fact just reborn. I am discovering that I am now a new body, a new mind and a new version of me, one that is evolving in one of the most privileged ways the human body knows. All I had to do was ‘let go’. I talk so much about hard times in life, and how the key is to walk into the eye of the storm to get through. Never had I considered that the same concept would be true of the good times. Letting go is linked to change, the fact it may be wanted or unwanted change is irrelevant.
After much tripping and stumbling emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, I am starting to finally grasp that trying to apply my old routine, simply doesn’t fit with the body and mind I have today. I am re-learning to love a whole new version of me, and to nourish her needs in the best way possible. The journal has encouraged me to re-evaluate what it is my body and mind needs right now, in order to flourish in the best way I can.
Instead of a body that is hard and strong, able to perform dance skills that involve high impact performance and resilience, I am learning to exercise in a way that is soft and gentle for my changing body. Yoga has been an absolute blessing throughout this time. I’m learning to dress differently to accommodate my changing shape and size so I can feel confident about how I look and not worry about the every growing list of changes (or expansions) that are happening without any control.
Instead of a mentality that thrived on pushing myself to the limit, I am learning to adopt a mentality that slowing down is also good. I follow women who embrace the perfect imperfections in life and focus my efforts on reading material that will prepare me for what is to come…. in a realistic fashion.
Rather than emotionally thrive on controlling my feelings, by watching a funny film, seeing good friends or spending time with the family, I am learning to accept the lack of control that comes with pregnancy hormones; crying if its needed, and laughing afterwards at the fact there is actually nothing wrong me.
Spiritually, I continue my practise, in my own way. My days of sitting for an hour in stillness are not longer happening (mainly due to the constant need to wee and the issue of sitting in one position for that long). But now, I focus on hypnobirthing, listening to relaxations before bed, reciting positive language to myself throughout the day and by spending time relaxing with the simple pleasures a cup of tea brings and telling myself ‘this is ok’.
So many of you come to me with fears that you have lost your way part way into your journal. I wanted to share with you how even I have done the same. Life isn’t about getting it right all the time and neither should your journal be. Nobody is perfect and as women I think we can put ourselves under so much pressure without realising it’s not doing us any good in the long term.
Maybe it’s not through pregnancy, but perhaps in some way, something has happened that has made you a new reborn version of yourself, and you are trying to upkeep the methods and routines you had before. Try the art of letting go, and aim to feel what it is you need from life right now. It isn’t straight forward, and having moments of weakness is completely normal. Too many ‘positive pants’ promoters out there only portray the good days and forget to factor in that life is ever changing for us all, and our circumstances will no doubt change what we need in order to be happy and healthy.
Remember, happiness isn’t a constant state. To me, happiness is what you feel when someone asks ‘are you content with life’ and you feel truly compelled to say ‘yes i am’. Without a sea of other emotions flitting around us daily, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy happiness in a present moment, so don’t feel shitty if you aren’t happy all day everyday. Guess what…you are human!
Here’s to all the women keeping it real out there!