Things have started getting tough.  

Up until month six of my pregnancy, I would often brag about how easy it'd been for me. I had no morning sickness, no insane headaches, and hardly any mood swings. I've had it easy compared to most women. Overall, being pregnant has been a beautiful and mostly smooth experience.

That all changed around my sixth month. While I still consider myself mild-tempered and very fortunate, things started to change drastically. My sciatic nerve flared up and started causing extreme discomfort, my back was aching in places I never knew existed (thanks, scoliosis), and I began dealing with more fatigue than normal. I retired my jeans, gave up on getting my shoes on in less than 5 minutes, and accepted the fact that stairs would leave me breathelss no matter what.

Still, I held my head high and remained positive. I embraced it all as part of the process - I still do. How lucky am I to get to experience such an incredible process?

As most of you know, I am a fairly healthy person. Up until this week, I had still been attending my workout classes regularly. (I decided to take it easy my last 8 weeks, so I hung up my running shoes on Monday) I eat a pretty balanced diet and try to stay on top of my overall health. Sure, I've given into several cravings throughout this pregnancy, but my health and fitness has still remained a top priority.

Well, last night, things took an unexpected turn.

I was soaking in the bath, enjoying some down time. My boyfriend came in the bathroom and began teasing me about my hairy armpits. We laughed about it and I agreed to shave (it'd only been 3 days, but pregnant women are hairy). I was in a good mood. Relaxed. Comfortable. Windows open enjoying the weather. Then I stood up to get out of my bath and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

It was from an angle I don't normally look, I suppose, because it caught me totally off-guard. Wow. Was that really me? Was this how my body looked now? I walked closer to the mirror and that's when I saw them scattered across the bottom of my belly. Stretch marks. Dozens of them creeping up from my panty line. I hadn't noticed them before. Maybe they showed up overnight, I don't know. All I know is that it's all I could see now when looking at my growing belly.

I burst into tears. I was in shock. But I've worked so hard? Why is my body doing this? I've done everything I could to prevent my body from getting totally out of whack. I put my belly cream on religiously and worked out the first 7.5 months of my pregnancy...and this is still happening? I'm smart enough to know that stretch marks aren't necessarily correlated with exercise, but that's where my head went first.

Are they ever going to go away? Will I ever get my body back? The truth is...no. I won't. My body will never be the same, and last night is when it really hit me. Is it worth it? Of course. I wouldn't change it for the world. But is it hard to see your body morph into something you hardly recognize? Absolutely.

My boyfriend ran into the bathroom in a panic. I didn't realize that my sobbing had startled him. He was worried about me and the baby and thought something had happened. I could hardly get the words out.

"Look," I said, pointing to my stomach, "they're everywhere."

I'm not sure why I hadn't noticed them before. My belly is hanging pretty low nowadays, so I guess they're far enough down that they hadn't caught my attention. Either way, I noticed them and now they're an insecurity. I had enough of those as it was.

Like most girls, I've always struggled with insecurities. I don't have high self-esteem to begin with, so this was an especially hard thing for me to cope with. I worried my boyfriend wouldn't see me as attractive anymore (he's assured me that will never happen) and that I'd never like who I see in the mirror again. Maybe those things will happen, maybe they won't. It's hard to predict from a fragile mindset.

Again, I understand this is part of a process that I am extremely fortunate to be able to experience. That doesn't make it any easier to deal with. However, I remind myself that there are women out there who would kill to have their bellies riddled with stretch marks just to be able to carry a child. I keep my head held high for both them and myself.

The thing is, feeling uncomfortable in your own skin is...hard. Especially when there's little you can do about it. Especially when you worked so hard for the body you had.

Still, I'm trying to remain positive and embrace every part of this journey. If weight gain and stretch marks allow me to have my healthy baby boy, then it's absolutely worth it. However, it's still tough to cope with during the process. I know I'm not alone.

I think it's important to highlight this side of pregnancy. Treat all women with respect, because you never know how they feel when they look in the mirror every day. Everyone can assure you that you're beautiful just the way you are, but YOU are your own worst enemy. You are your biggest critic. You have to love what you see in the mirror before you believe it when someone else says it. And for some of us, that's the toughest part.