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Look out, it's a pregnant lady who doesn't hate her body!!! Part 1

About a month ago, I lay in bed, my bulged out eyes darting around my dark bedroom. Last time I checked the clock it was 3:30 a.m., and now birds were starting to chirp their morning songs. My husband’s alarm went off and he pressed snooze. I groaned, flipped over for the gazillionth time and punched the pillow under me. It was 5 a.m. and I hadn’t slept yet. For the second night in a row.

I’m 23 weeks pregnant and I’ve had the most normal, healthy pregnancy. My baby girl is measuring big for her age but my ankles are still small. Her heartbeat is strong and so is mine. I haven’t had those awful leg cramps or sciatic nerve pain I had the last time around. Those early months of constant barfing are safely behind me. Everything is just as I’d hoped for…Except for this insomniac thing. Somehow, slowly and sneakily, insomnia crept up on me this pregnancy and sleep became the biggest battle of my life.

I’ve always been anxious-prone and I can remember having an occasional sleepless night as far back as Kindergarten. If it was my turn to be “student of the day” or whatever, I’d get so excited and worked up about it the night before, I’d lie awake for hours. I carried this over to adulthood, only excitement took on the more ugly nature of worry. I’ve written a bit about my history of anxiety on here before.

Over the past six months, the occasional sleepless night morphed into something new. This wasn’t restless sleep, or interrupted sleep. This was no sleep at all for days in a row, to the point that I began to associate bedtime with panic. I guess it’s called “pregnancy insomnia” and it’s not uncommon.

Insomnia is an evil beast. You’re not supposed to stress about not sleeping. You’re not supposed to talk about not sleeping. Because that “feeds” it. Like it’s just waiting to devour you if you let it. But when I feel like a zombie day after day, am I supposed to pretend this is not happening? I’m supposed to stay zen when it’s 4 a.m. and instead of sleeping for the past six hours, I’ve finished a book, counted 5,000 sheep, practiced my yoga breathing, and figured out all the things I should have told various people in various conversations over the last twenty years or so?

(For the record, I do all the “right” sleep stuff all the sleep doctors advise. Please don’t try to sell me on any MLM products, unless it’s a magic bean that promises eternal power. I might buy that.)

But the GOOD news in all this is that my desperation for shut-eye has led me back to exercise for the first time in a year. I joined our local community recreation center and have been going as often as I can. The nights I exercise, I sleep. The one day I didn’t exercise last week, I was up until 3. The nights I did I fell asleep within an hour. This may be what saves me.

The EVEN BETTER news about going back to the gym, is that for the first time, I’m not exercising to be skinny or so others will think I have a good body. I am exercising purely for ME. I think I’ve said that before in the past, but this time I know how it feels when it’s true. I’m 23 weeks pregnant. I’m not going to have a conventionally “good body” (the quotes are to highlight the ridiculousness of that phrase) anytime now or in the near future, so that can’t be my motivation right now. And because of this attitude shift, I find myself loving my workouts and looking forward to them. I love feeling my muscles move, knowing that when labor comes, I will have the stamina needed to survive. I love feeling my heart pound, knowing it is pounding because I am exerting myself physically, not because I’m anxious. I love dropping my daughter off at the rec center’s childcare and having the freedom to be without her for 90 minutes–instead of trying to get out of there as soon as I can, you better believe I put on an interesting podcast and soak up every minute possible. I love getting into the zone and blocking out the people around me (who probably have better bodies and are lifting heavier weights than me, but I wouldn’t know because I don’t look at them) and centering my mind. I love stretching in front of the mirror after and looking at my growing body, not out of vanity or insecurity but out of gratefulness for the way it is changing everyday and for the way it serves me in all areas of my rich, multifaceted life.

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The BEST news is this sleep challenge has somehow led me to a new acceptance and love for my body. I never hated my body before, or dealt with some of the crippling body image issues some of my dear friends face–but to love my body (and not apologize for it) is still a radical notion to me. I know positive body image might sound like a bizarre byproduct of insomnia to you, but sometimes when an obstacle crops up in life, we automatically assume that we are supposed to be stretched in that area, but really, we are being led to grace and wholeness in a completely different area in our lives. Sometimes all we can do is hold out our hands and say Thanks.

***This is part one of a two part series.

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