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Category: Post Partum

Mothering the Mother, Part II: How Postpartum Care Helps Us Love Our Bodies

Mothering the Mother, Part II: How Postpartum Care Helps Us Love Our Bodies

“A safe pregnancy is a human right for every woman regardless of race or income.” – Amnesty International

“I have horrible [postpartum] stretch marks that I feel the need to cover and of course my breasts are nowhere near where I would like them to be.” – Courtney, Beauty Revealed Project.

So here I am, sitting cross-legged with a computer in my lap, typing around the soft belly that still protrudes (that always will protrude), while my seven week-old daughter sleeps in the next room. I’ve got a clean cloth diaper stuffed into my bra and I’m thinking about the talk I will give at the upcoming BWF Conference in October.

(((Registration is open! You should come! I want to meet you!)))

My topic is ‘Mothering the Mother’, an expansion of my most popular blog post ever, decrying the lack of postpartum care provided to American women. And I am being sponsored by the Beauty Revealed Project, a fantastic community and an online collection of photos and stories celebrating women’s real postpartum bodies.

Darien McGuire Photography

To some, this may seem like a strange fit: What, one might ask, does postpartum care have to do with bodily self-acceptance? If I bring a new mother a big pot of soup, is she suddenly going to love her stretch marks?

The answer is no; the answer is yes.

Our society-wide refusal to acknowledge the changes that come with motherhood is one of our greatest acts of misogyny. The bare facts: The United States is one of four countries in the world refusing paid maternity leave to its new mothers (the others are Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea). Despite 20 year-old research stating that changes in our healthcare model would soon require in-home postpartum support, American women do not receive postpartum care beyond a six week check-up. And our maternal mortality rate is the highest in the Western world.

These policies and their resulting tragedies perpetuate a widespread distaste for the childbearing process. Somehow, it has become OK to force a woman back to work just a few days after a human being came out of her body. To cut it open (routine episiotomies, routine cesareans) and leave it untended for six weeks or more. To let women – especially poor women, and women of colour – die preventable deaths after they have created life. The birthing woman’s body, not perceived as an economic resource, removed from its dubious status as a sexual object, is just not valued.

Sweet Serenity Photography

This devaluation spreads to other non-essential aspects of women’s postpartum bodies. The postpartum pooch. The stretch marks. The sagging flesh, the milky leakiness, the scars. There is nothing ugly about these body parts. But google any one of them and the instructions you find will be on how to hide it. How to get that ‘pre-baby body back’, terminology which I find so offensive because, really, where did that body ‘go’? It’s still here. Right here. My body did not disappear into some Platonic realm from which it must be reclaimed. No. My body, my (fortunate, privileged) healthy body birthed a baby.

It is so hard to see one’s own culture(s) because these are beliefs we are born into, ideas by which we live and die. So I’d like to try a little experiment. Let’s imagine the cover of a celebrity-ogling magazine. You know, the kind that watches bumps like my toddler watches diggers.

The cover shows a glamorous new mother.

She is lying in bed, her body relaxed and comfortable.

She is not groomed because she does not need to be, it is not expected of her.

She is not lifting weights or on her way to yogafit class; she is nursing her baby.

The headline reads, “K. Kardishian, New Mother! Inside: pics of her beautiful baby and fabulous new stretch marks!”

Yeah. I can’t imagine it either.

But I maintain that the physical manifestations of having birthed a child do not need to be hidden. They could, hypothetically, be celebrated. I swear they could be seen as sexy. I have heard they can be markers of status. Or simply perceived as healthy, normal, even unremarkable.

open book studios

What would it take for any of these to happen? We would have to start with the postpartum period. With gently caring for women who are gently caring for their newborn babies. With giving their bodies space to recuperate. With touch and massage, actions which tell them that their bodies are OK. With giving them nourishment and love. Showing mothers that we care about them will allow them to internalize that care and to care about themselves. Bodily self-acceptance cannot be far behind.

I have been lucky to receive incredible postpartum care over the past two months. I had midwives and friends, community to bring me meals and a partner to look after me. I did not have to get back up on my feet and do the impossible. I could rest. My body and my heart both show the benefits of this care. And as I sit here and feel my milk let down, telling me that my infant daughter will soon wake up and call me in to nurse, I feel grateful that my body birthed a baby. I know deep inside that my body is more than a cog in a machine, or something to be looked at. That it is strong, powerful beyond measure.

The health of our bodies has everything to do with how we feel about them.

KaylaMarie Photography

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The Beauty Revealed Project is on Facebook and online at www.beautyprojectrevealed.com. The staff of this wonderful, encouraging page accept photo and story submissions from postpartum mothers. They also assist in the arrangement of free or low-cost postpartum portraiture sessions with professional photographers. The Beauty Revealed Project is a not-for-profit organization and a labour of love.   

Pregnancy After An Eating Disorder

Pregnancy After An Eating Disorder

I have tried to write this at least a dozen times. It never turns out the way I want. In the beginning I tried to approach it like an informative article, a place people could go to find facts, research and information… but I get caught up in my own experience, and it ends up a jumbled mess… No, I can’t write an informative article. Not yet. Not until I tell my story…

So here it is. I had anorexia for over 7 years. ‘Had’ anorexia is the right way to write it, but the reality is that it had me…

I was 13 when it ‘started’. It was slow; an incessant nag in the back of my mind, slowly wearing me down, like the way a constant water drip smashes into concrete, slowly working a hole through… you’re not good enough, that’s not good enough, you’re not good enough, do it better… like a drip, these thoughts came, slowly, until they wore me down. Eventually I was swimming in them. Or more accurately, drowning in them. Everything was so out of my control, I had no idea where these thoughts were coming from, but they were inside me and they would not stop. Food became the thing I could control. While everything seemed crazy, and out of my control, I could control food. And my weight. Except, of course, that I had lost all control. I was completely and utterly powerless against this disorder.

[2003 – 17 years old: after I was discharged from a hospital stay, and when I graduated from high school]

teenage anorexia

At my worst, I was 39kg (85lbs), and at 156cm (5’2”), and this was a devastating weight to be. I couldn’t see it though. Even at 39kg, I could see extra weight; bulges and bumps that I needed to lose to be better. I lived with other anorexic girls on my many hospital admissions, and felt obese compared to their emaciated figures. Eating disorders are bizarre like that; I never could see myself for what I truly was. I saw these girls and I thought I was not controlling my food enough. Even though at one point I existed on a handful of oats soaked in water (but never cooked, because I wanted my body to burn my energy digesting them) and drinking iced water (because I wanted my body to burn more energy to warm it back up to body temperature). I wondered why my parents worried so much, I was frustrated and angry at people trying to ‘help’, and every single time I walked into the ‘Eating Disorders Clinic’ I felt like a fraud.

Thankfully, after years of suffering, I was given the help I needed and eventually I was ‘weight restored’ to 54kg, and ‘recovered’. Which is a misleading word which just means that you aren’t drowning in self-hatred – but it doesn’t mean that the drip isn’t there, or even the occasional downpour or flash flood of thoughts. My experience with  recovery from anorexia is similar to an alcoholics experience with recovery – we can triumph over it, but never let our guards down and we must always be aware of triggers. I have many triggers, but my biggest trigger was yet to come… but it wasn’t pregnancy.

I met my partner in 2006, and began trying to start a family in 2007. I always wanted to have children, and was excited about being pregnant. But I was nervous. My body was going to grow, in a way that I had absolutely no control over. I would have to surrender control, but keep control. I could not allow myself to be swept away in a flood of thoughts. I could not skip meals. I could not run until my muscles were burning. I had to look after myself, and I had to look after my baby. Could I do it? I was strong, but was I that strong? I was recovered, but… was I *that* recovered? Was I ready? Would I ever be ready?

I was lucky that physically, the years of disordered eating and being malnourished did not affect my fertility or my ability to sustain a pregnancy, although that isn’t the case for everyone.

My first pregnancy came with a wonderful sense of ease; in relation to the eating disorder at least. This was surprising, as I was always acutely self-conscious and self-critical pre-pregnancy, but my growing belly was something I cherished. For once my body was meant to be growing, and I let it grow. I was relaxed. I loved the life and energy flowing from me. I loved that eating was ‘for the baby’, and I could argue with the thoughts in my head. “I must eat”, I would think, “I must eat, for the baby”. And I did. I gained a lot of weight, and I didn’t let myself worry about it. I knew that if I acknowledged the amount of weight I had gained, it would rain-pour-flood, and I would drown. And I could not let that happen. I gained a lot of weight – over 20kg (44lb). Part of this weight gain was because I couldn’t restrict what I ate – if I did, it would just begin a barrage of thoughts that I might not have been able to fight. Another part of this weight gain was like me saying a big f**k you to the thoughts – kind of like, “you’ve controlled me for long enough, look what I am doing now”.

Unfortunately, throughout my first pregnancy I suffered with antenatal depression that extended into postnatal depression and anxiety, mixed in with some PTSD. I was lucky that they eating disorder did not take hold in a negative way. I know that many women react to pregnancy differently – the changes in hormones and body shape can be a huge trigger for eating disordered thoughts and behaviours – and even after recovery they have trouble keeping the thoughts and behaviours at bay. Women need to be aware of their strengths and their limitations when it comes to their recovery, always inform care providers and try to let people know or ask for help when they are struggling.

I birthed my daughter via cesarean in August 2008. It was an emergency cesarean; very unplanned, and very unwanted. Because I had gained so much weight, I did not just ‘bounce back’ to my pre-pregnancy weight. Well, I don’t think many women do just ‘bounce back’, but regardless, I was devastated. My belly is covered in stretch marks, my stomach shrunk down after the cesarean my skin crumpled in a sea of raw pink lines and I had a ‘hang’ on one side of the scar. I was carrying extra weight across my whole body, and I felt like a disgusting puffy crumpled-up mess. Breastfeeding did NOT help me lose weight, despite the belief that it does, and I was wearing maternity clothes for some months while I struggled with whether I would ever get to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes again.

[2009]

mother and daughter after eating disorder

I develop severe postnatal depression and anxiety. Even though I had dealt with depression and anxiety for years, I couldn’t recognise how much I needed help. I struggled, and I had a baby who existed on 2 hour blocks of sleep (if I was lucky!) and constant feeding. I was a mess, and some days were so dark I could barely see a way out. I dealt with it for years, and I fought so hard for the first two years to not relapse or go back into disordered eating. The thoughts were there, and they were strong , and I believed each and every thought that entered my head: they would be better off without you, they don’t need you, you’re nothing, you’re nothing, you’re a bad mother and your daughter knows it… For two years I fought those thoughts, but eventually I was worn.

[August 2010]

mother and baby recovery from anorexia

It was around the end of 2010 when it started again. I don’t really remember it well, but it was a tough time for us all. A multitude of things tumbled together and crashed into me and knocked me off my feet…  I lost all the weight I was carrying, and was back down to me pre-pregnancy weight. I pushed myself to my limits, all the while believing that it was never enough, I was never enough, I could do enough, be good enough, smart enough, strong enough… People told me I was losing weight but I couldn’t see it of course. Each morning I would get up, and cry as I made my coffee, then sob as I said goodbye to my daughter. I’d cry as I drove to work. On the drive to work, I’d pass cars and powerpoles, I’d drive over bridges, I’d take careless risks through roundabouts and traffic lights, wondering if I could just accelerate, lose control, drive into or drive off at the right moment, and it would all be over. I didn’t, of course, and it was probably because I knew I didn’t want to die, but I told myself I wasn’t strong enough, I was too weak, and for being too weak I deserved to keep living in hell. I usually held it together at work, and I’d come home and be angry, and cry myself to sleep.

My partner would be there, sometimes frustrated and angry, sometimes caring, but always there. Despite that, I felt alone. And so powerless and weak. And ashamed that I had let it take me again. And hopeless. She watched as I fell into a pit of despair. I pushed her away, but she stayed anyway. There was one night when she sat down next to me, with a look I’ll never forget, it was fear, she looked at me with fear. She asked me if I was going to be ok, and it broke my heart. She sobbed, and we cried together. She said I needed help. She wanted to help. She didn’t want to lose me. I told her I was strong. I could do this.

I fought and gained some control back. It was hard, but we did it together, my partner and I. She reached in and helped me out again.

[January 2012]

mother and daughter

I was pregnant with our second daughter early 2012.

This pregnancy was difficult. The first 14-15 weeks were full of vomiting and constant nausea. It was difficult to force myself to eat when I knew I would be bringing it back up in half an hour. I couldn’t work for almost 6 weeks. Things quietened down in second trimester, except for a few scares that left me in the birth suite with a fluid leak and infection.

At 28 weeks I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and that was hard. I almost lost it. It was hard for me to keep hold of the eating disorder when I had to engage in the very behaviours that I were so disastrous to me for years. I had to keep track of my food, grams of carbohydrates, balance my meals, and religiously test and keep track of my blood sugar levels and weight. I had to keep it all in check. The obsessive part of me broke out, and I counted carbs to a key. I got to a point where I was 34 weeks pregnant, 62kg (136lb) and I wasn’t gaining weight and it was difficult. In my first pregnancy I found it easy to let my body gain the weight, I let myself eat, and I didn’t let myself think about it. This time, I was surrounded by triggers, and I couldn’t just ignore it, I couldn’t just eat, like in my first pregnancy. I had an acute awareness of my food, the nutritional value of my food, my weight… 

The hardest part was admitting it. I don’t like admitting when there’s something out of my control, I like being able to just take care of myself, and I won’t ask for help. Even when asked, I won’t admit I’m struggling. So telling my partner was tough. She already knew, of course. She knows my triggers, she knew what was happening in my head. We worked through it together, with a lot of support from her. I had a VBAC in November 2012, and with it, I gained a new sense of worth, achievement, and power. 

For me, the hardest part of this whole journey through pregnancy after eating disorders is relinquishing control. Through the years I lived with anorexia, I tried to control, I wanted control. Even through recovery, I hold on to the fact that I am controlling the eating disorder, I am in control of myself. But there’s an element to pregnancy and birth and postpartum that is uncontrollable. It is about trust and faith, it is about letting go and embracing the chaos. It is a fine balance between letting go and riding the wave, but knowing when to hold on again so I don’t start drowning. Even now, I struggle with knowing when I need to be in control and when I need to let go. Having a good support team around me to remind me to hold on or let go is essential.

It was also hard to get used to my new body. Things changed. A lot. Even being back to pre-pregnancy weight I am not the same as I once was. I’m softer and squishier, and I never expected that. And oh the stretch marks, so many stretch marks everywhere. No one told me my thighs would get stretchmarks, and yet as my hips widened, they did! My breasts are marked as well. And as my body shrunk back down my skin did not follow, and there is loose skin and dimples and crinkles… And I am one of the ones who don’t lose weight while breastfeeding, so that was a little disappointing as well!


post partum belly

I am 4 months postpartum now, and things seem clearer second time around. I am more confident, and I like my body. Some days I love my body. I know it deserves to be loved all the time, and I do my best. I am happier. Brighter. I still struggle with control – hold on, let go, hold on, let go…? The thoughts are there, although I wish I could say they weren’t, and they get to me sometimes. I can’t see this as something I will ever ‘get over’. Every now and then the thoughts get quieter and I live more freely, and sometimes they are deafening, and every minute is a struggle. I have to be aware of my triggers. We don’t own scales, and I don’t think there will ever be a time where I can have a set of scales in the house full-time – I can barely walk past scales on the shelf at a department store without wanting to stand on it. I can say with confidence that I will never be able to ‘diet’ or engage in any kind of radical detox program without having to fights the thoughts to take “one step further”, which is the path the leads to disordered eating. Exercise is difficult – I love running but have a tendency to push myself too far. I joined a gym once, a few months into an attempt at recovery, in an attempt to exercise in moderate and be ‘healthy’, but that didn’t end well.

But right now I am strong, and I am ok.

Written by Alisia, wife and mum to two kids in Australia.

post partum belly and baby

Mental Illness and Pregnancy

Mental Illness and Pregnancy

“I’ve debated telling this story. I’m afraid of being judged and perhaps even… yelled at.  But my story is just as important as yours. My story is the one that no one talks about. My story is about being pregnant with a mental illness.” -B 

My story starts a good 10 years ago, when I was officially diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. In a nut shell, Borderline Personality disorder is all encompassing. Its not usually diagnosed, and some psychiatrists don’t even believe its exists. It includes things like fear of abandonment, mistrust, harmful thoughts, and fast moving emotional thought process that I have no control over. I have very little control over what I think, do, and how I react to things emotionally. Medication makes things easier, but these things will always be a struggle for me. Anyways… 

At that time I had no future. The world was dark. No one cared and everyone else was a hypocrite. I had no future. And honestly it was only a matter of time, before the drugs, alcohol, and cutting caught up to me. Sooner or later… and I didn’t care that much. 

Then I met my husband. He held my hand and offered me a choice. Did I want to continue being miserable, angry and alone, or did I want the future he was offering me? With a career, and a home and maybe even a baby? I had always wanted a baby. If I wanted that, I had to start medication. That was my choice. I was tired of all of it, and I had nothing to loose, so I chose him.   

I was stable for 3 years. Properly medicated with regular therapy and we both felt it was time to have a baby. We wanted a baby and we knew it would be hard. We knew it would be hard because of my illness, but we decided as a team to take the risk. We wanted a baby boy. Maybe it was selfish to want something so badly, especially since I knew I would not be able to go off my medication. My psychiatrist assured me it was safe though, so we quadrupled my folic acid intake to counter act the medication I was already on. And within a few weeks I was pregnant! 

We were thrilled. Nervous, scared. We were parents. There was life growing inside me!!! 

This lasted all of 2 weeks. Then I got sick. 

Typical pregnancy symptoms I was told. They will pass, “you have life growing inside you”. Not so simple for someone like me. For the first 3 months, I was so nauseous I couldn’t eat. I lost 15lbs. Luckily I had enough to spare. Something as simple as not being able to eat was hard for my mind to accept. I cried often. 

The second trimester was worse. “Its ok, it’ll pass, its just part of being pregnant, you have life growing inside you!!” I had a migraine for 3 months straight. Nothing I did alleviated the pain. It only went away when I was sleeping and I wasn’t sleeping all that well either. I cried because I was in pain and tired. 

Please don’t misunderstand. Of course I had moments of elation. Every time he moved. Every time we listened to music together and he danced. We still dance! He amazed me. He was growing inside me and it truly is an amazing thing!  These moments gave me the strength to carry him longer then I wanted to. These moments were very special for me. 

The third trimester, although relieved by the fact that finally after 12 weeks my migraine had went away and I was able to eat again, now the depression kicked in. I hadn’t slept in God knows how long, I was miserable every single day, I ached everywhere I could hardly move. I cried every day because I felt so sick of life. My mental illness had taken over my thought processes, and more then once I threatened to cut my baby out of me! People thought it was funny for me to say that. “You have life growing inside of you. It’ll all be worth it in the end.” They all said. But I had never had a baby before, I didn’t know what they meant, and as far as I was concerned at that point, nothing was worth the pain I was feeling physically and emotionally. I was so unhappy and so depressed and my thought processes were so disturbed. I felt bad for how I was feeling because I knew my son could tell. Every time I cried he got quiet and I knew he knew how I felt about him. So I also felt ashamed. I should love my baby. I grew him and he’s special, but I didn’t. I didn’t even like him anymore! He had put me through a lot already and I was very angry at him.  

At 40 weeks 2 days I called my doctor and begged him to induce me. Once again stating that I was totally serious about cutting him out myself. He finally obliged  and I was scheduled for an induction the next day. I was so incredibly grateful! The induction worked and within a few hours I was in full labour! 

It hurt like a bitch but I was so happy to finally be in the final stretch of things. Morphine, epidural yes please!  

Time is a daze but I think I was in labour for about 14 hours before I started pushing. The nurse has mentioned that I could up the epidural so I did and by 9:00am I was ready to start pushing but I couldn’t feel anything so I did the best I could. 

My doctor showed up and tried to vacuum. It didn’t work, it fell off 3 times and baby wasn’t bugging. Finally he concluded that baby was stuck and we had to have an emergency c-section. Up until this point I was doing fine. My mood had elevated for obvious reasons and I was in the home stretch! This baby that had been tormenting me for 40 weeks would soon be out and maybe then we could start our relationship over.  

They said C-section and everything changed. Now I got scared. I turned to my husband and said, “can you call my parents?” Now I was crying, for the first time throughout the entire labour. I had prepared myself for everything except that. Everyone told me that I had the hips to birth a baby, but my baby was now stuck between them and was not coming out on his own.  

So they did the c-section and everything went smoothly. I was embarrassed because I was laying on the table completely naked and exposed. Nothing covered except my head, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I pushed it down like I had pushed all my feelings and emotions down for so long and just let them do what they had to do. 

They tugged and pulled and the anesthesiologist commented over and over again, “just a little bit more tugging.” I guess baby was really stuck. I felt my body move with each tug, but they eventually got him out and he cried and we were happy. I was so happy he was finally out! 

My husband held him for the first half hour while they stitched and stapled me up. My parents came right away because the C-section was a shock to them too. Apparently my mother was hysterical, “my baby is being cut open!!!”. So they held him too. I don’t remember if they held him before me. I wasn’t opposed to it. I guess I was happy. I was more relieved. 

The one thing I remember is how invasive the nurses were. They wanted to put me on Demerol so I would stop shaking because of course by this time my body had gone into shock. My OB said no right away (the one good thing about the entire experience) and just put me under a heated blanket. Within half hour my shaking had stopped. 

As the nurses cleaned me up, my body completely numb and still fat from pregnancy, one of them commented on my scars. I have about a dozen that are noticeable because of my mental illness and the first thing I thought was, didn’t you read my file?  Must I explain this to you? But I quickly did. Calmly. It was not what I needed to hear, nor was it something I wanted to explain at that precise moment. I mean I had just had a baby literally ripped from my body. Clean me up and keep your comments to yourself! 

newborn after cesarean

Well from here on in, nothing went right. I didn’t sleep for 4 day, because they insisted on having a bright night light on all night long. I was exhausted! Baby wasn’t eating and was unable to nurse because my milk refused to come in.  I looked and felt like shit and this baby would not stop crying! We supplemented. We had to. 

Because of all the drugs, my face broke out in cold sores. I’m prone to them to begin with, I get them quite seriously actually but this time, I had over a hundred! I had them in my eyes, on my cheeks, on my nose, my chin. The glands in my neck had swelled up so much I could hardly move my head, and since the herpes virus can actually kill newborns, I was restricted in how often I could hold my baby. Needless to say, we did not bond..

Now the depression hit a high. We were finally home, still not breastfeeding, or sleeping. I couldn’t move because of the surgery, he was crying because he was so hungry. I was crying because in my mind, I was a failure. I couldn’t birth my baby, I couldn’t feed my baby, I couldn’t even hold my baby. I said to my husband, “if your’e holding him, who’s holding me? ” And I meant it! I felt so incredibly alone and shameful. I thought often of just stuffing the baby in the freezer. Often. If it wasn’t the freezer it was the washing machine… Often. And that scared me.  In my screwed up mind, this baby was the cause of everything bad that had happened for the last 42 weeks of my life and if he just wasn’t here anymore… I felt horrible. What made me feel worse was the fact that I knew he knew exactly how I felt and it was obvious that he didn’t trust me.  

I still cried every day. It was a very difficult time for my husband. I put on a brave face for all the family that came to visit us, but as soon as we were alone everything fell apart…. 

So here’s where the story gets better.

We were sitting on the couch one night, just hanging out watching tv. He was 2 weeks old, and I just looked at him. This was the first time I had actually just looked at him. He looked back and I said, “there is something so familiar in your eyes.” As I looked harder, I realized he had my eyes. I was looking into a mirror! My heart melted. I said, “I guess you aren’t so bad…maybe this isn’t your fault.” And his glare did not faultier. “Can we start over?” And turned his head and started rooting, “You want to try just one more time?” So for the first time I nursed him.

He latched and he drank big gulps and he looked at me and I could tell that for the first time he forgave me. He understood and I promised him then that no matter what I thought, no matter what the voices told me to do I wouldn’t do them. He trusted me now and I couldn’t betray that. The thoughts haunt me on a daily basis even now but he trusts me and he loves me and he cuddles me and he forgave me and now he doesn’t even remember and as time goes by, the thoughts dwindle and they aren’t as strong. That night I fell in love with my son for the first time. He looks just me, so how couldn’t I love him.  

Some days for me are harder then others. My son is my reason now. My reason to stay strong, to take my medication and to go to therapy. He needs me  to do these things not only for myself but for him. Every time I look into his milk chocolate eyes, my eyes,  I’m reminded of where I was, where I could be and where I am now I’m more confident as a mom and more secure as a woman, and its all because of him. I’m so lucky. My husband has been incredibly supportive throughout this entire journey and I have him to thank as well. 

I still don’t know how I’m going to explain things to him as he gets older. Why I need to take medication, what the scars mean, why I get so angry sometimes or cry uncontrollably, and why I can’t control certain aspects of my emotions. I don’t know. But I figure I’ll just take every day as it comes. As a blessing. I grew him inside me. He’s mine and regardless of how I felt about him in the beginning, its not how I feel about him now. He’s the absolute love of my life and I tell him every single day. 

mother and son

pregnancy and mental illness

Infertility, Loss, Cesarean Birth, and PPD {A Mother’s Story of Two Births}

Infertility, Loss, Cesarean Birth, and PPD {A Mother’s Story of Two Births}

{Editor’s Note: This story comes to us from Rachel. This is the story of infertility, loss, and two Cesarean births – one which was not empowering, and a second that was positive and healing. This is also the story of two experiences with Postpartum Depression and the effects on bonding and motherhood.}

My story starts almost five years ago, it was our wedding day and after a few months of me trying to convince my husband, Pat, we were ready to start trying to have children, he finally agreed. We lived in the small northern town of Wawa, Ontario. It is a beautiful place, a wonderful place to raise a child.

My husband was starting out his career as a police officer and I was working at a daycare. Things couldn’t be better. We tried for approximately 6 months and nothing happened. We did not have a family doctor there, so discussing any fertility issues just didn’t happen.

Pat was given the opportunity to join the Police Force in another town in Jan 2008, so we embarked on our new journey. Although Pat is originally from this town, we were restarting our life in this new town. I was more than happy to move where he grew up, where his family is.

We continued to try, but nothing. After being referred to a specialist, Pat and I both did various blood work and tests. Tests revealed that I suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which could sometimes lead to infertility. I was crushed. I wanted to be a mother. How could I explain this to my husband? I would not be able to give him any children; all he ever wanted was to have children, to be a dad.

After talking with the Ob/GYN he had given me a prescription for Clomid, a fertility drug known to help women with PCOS. After taking it the first month and going for more blood work, the doctor was optimistic that this would work!

Fast forward three more months, I found myself pregnant. It was a few days before Valentine’s Day in 2009. So I figured I would wait to tell my husband; I bought a bib that said “I love daddy”, some little booties, a rattle and left a positive pregnancy test in a box. My husband has never liked early gifts, but I just couldn’t wait! I told him that he needed it the day before and that it was so important.

When he opened the box he had the most confused look on his face, he did not know what a pregnancy test looked like and didn’t realize what I was giving him until I said I was pregnant. We both shared tears and we so thrilled to finally have this happen for us after trying for 2 years.

I had some morning sickness, just nausea really. I was excited because if you felt nauseous that was a good sign. I had an early ultrasound to date the pregnancy; it was so amazing to see the little life inside me, the heartbeat of this new being that my husband and I created! I was helping this little baby grow. We told everyone, we were so ecstatic to finally have the chance to be parents! Everyone was very so happy.

I was about 11 weeks and had very, very lite spotting and no other symptoms. I called my midwife Amy and told her and she said she would be right over to see if we could hear a heartbeat although it was still early. I told her it was okay and that I would see if it continues, I really didn’t think that anything was happening.

I had no other symptoms of miscarriage, and this couldn’t happen to me! That night I started to have back pain and some mild cramping, I finally told my husband, who tends to be a worry wart. He immediately told me to go to emergency room. I did reluctantly; something like this was not going to happen to us.

They did some blood work and a pregnancy test and told me they would call me as soon as a spot opened up for an ultrasound. I went to work that morning, told my boss that I would need a couple hours off but I would be back after my ultrasound. She insisted I take the day off, I was kind of mad because I didn’t want to miss work. I was fine… I really was sure nothing was happening.

Going to the ultrasound I felt fine, the spotting and back pain were very little. Then the ultrasound tech told me I was not allowed to see anything. That’s when I got nervous. I then had to go and wait again to get my results.

I called my husband to let him know that I was waiting; he asked if I wanted him there, I said no that I was fine. Everything was fine, he had just finished a night shift and he hadn’t had any sleep and was supposed to work that night. He showed up five minutes later! I am so thankful he did!

We waited in the little room; the doctor came in with the report and had to leave but left the report. I looked at it and couldn’t understand a thing. As I am looking at it the doctor walked back in and asked if I understood anything. Of course I didn’t, the page was all these numbers and abbreviations, we sat down and he just came out and said there was no heartbeat.

We were crushed. We saw the heartbeat before; how could it no longer be there? Why would this happen to us? We both grieved at the loss of our unborn baby; we went from being on top of the world to the bottom of a muddy pit.

Of course I saw the specialist again and he just said sometimes these things happen. (These things weren’t supposed to happen to me.) I started Clomid again as soon as I could, I needed to be pregnant again. The month came and went and no pregnancy… I couldn’t do this. You are always let down every time you start your period and you are reminded that you lost that baby.

I took the Clomid another month and told my husband that if I did not get pregnant this month I didn’t want to try again. It was too hard. When the time came for my period; it wasn’t there… I reluctantly took a pregnancy test. I was pregnant!

I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband… I wasn’t sure if it was worth telling my husband. I couldn’t carry a child, so why bother him with the grief if we lost another? I would do it alone. He came home that night and I felt extremely guilty but did not tell him. I couldn’t keep it in after 3 days I just sat beside him and showed him a pregnancy test.

I didn’t say a thing, we hugged, and I think we both felt the same way, happy but very scared. We kept this pregnancy a secret from everyone until I was 4 months. Everyone was overjoyed. We were terrified that something was going to happen, that this baby would be taken away from us.

The pregnancy was great, no complications, everything was wonderful. At the end of my pregnancy, all I wanted was to hold my baby. I felt like a whale, like I couldn’t possibly grow any larger. At 40weeks 4days I went to see a naturopath to have acupuncture to try to induce labor, I was fed up!

The day went on and at some point my water broke. At first I was in denial, but was getting contractions every 5-8 minutes. We went to the hospital because I was Group B Step positive and needed antibiotics during labor.

Contractions continued every 3-4 minutes for 12 hours. My midwife Amy checked my cervix, I was only 1cm. I was devastated, I couldn’t possibly go any longer. The pain was intense and my hopes of having a natural labor were gone. I requested an epidural.

At this point my labor had stalled and I was having some relief. Once the anesthesiologist came and left I finally felt great. I tried to rest a bit knowing I had a long time to go but then the pains started again. My epidural was not working or strong enough but I continued to pull through, breathing through each contraction focusing on what was to come, my little baby!

Contractions continued for another 14 hours, Amy and Pat right by my side the whole time. After being there with me for 26 hours Amy had to transfer my care to the on-call OB. As soon as she told me this, I asked for a C-section. I couldn’t possibly go on without her and I was physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted, and disappointed.

At this point everything becomes fuzzy. I had given up and laid there in the hospital bed waiting to be rolled into the OR. When they pulled my little boy out of me I was so drowsy, I just remember them saying it’s a boy, and then he was gone and I went to recovery.

I was in recovery for a while and when I was allowed to go into my own room to see Maksim he was tired and didn’t want to nurse. I was feeling sick, tired and sore, so he went to the nursery. My husband kissed me goodnight and that was it.

In Recovery

Maksim was brought to me in the morning and I looked at him like he was a stranger. Who was this child and what was I supposed to do with him? As time went on I developed postpartum depression.

I truly believe that it was because I didn’t have a natural birth and was ripped of the opportunity to bond with him right after having him. All I wanted was to be able to nurse him, knowing that this was the best I could give him.

With the PPD, I had given up on breastfeeding and pumped instead. I thought that this would help but it didn’t, I felt like I wasn’t able to bond with my baby. I pumped for 5-6 months and quit. I still feel bad to this day for doing this but am grateful for the breast milk he did receive.

There were many days I just did not want to be a mother. I never felt the urge to hurt my child but I didn’t want to be around him. I wanted my old life back; I wanted someone else to take care of him. I saw a counselor and this helped a bit, I went back to work and things seemed to look up.

Maksim was almost a year old and my husband mentioned wanting to try for another. At that time I only wanted another baby to experience a vaginal birth, to nurse my child and to be a mom. Again I needed to go on fertility drugs as my cycle was not regular and I was not ovulating. After two months of the Clomid I was pregnant.

I called my husband right away, he was training and couldn’t come home so I told him over the phone. You could hear the happiness in his voice. This time we waited about a week and started to tell close family and friends, then really made it known to everyone at 12 weeks.

I still wasn’t sure about wanting another but the pregnancy was here I just went with it. This pregnancy was so different, I had a lot of morning sickness that lasted all day, at 14 weeks I had unexplained bleeding. We had emergency ultrasounds but all seemed okay.

At 20 weeks the baby was showing two cysts on his brain. This really worried us; we didn’t want to have something wrong with the baby. At 30 weeks the ultrasound tech said he was a really big boy and that the cysts were gone! We were thrilled.

At 40weeks my water broke, I did not have any contractions. My sister and I went shopping as I continued to leak fluid all day! I walked and walked and walked and still did not get any contractions. The OB did not want to induce because of my prior C-section, I should have fought for it but for some reason I didn’t.

After 24 hours of ruptured membranes I was given another Cesarean. This was different! My midwife Amy was in the room with me, she let my husband hold the baby close to me right after he was taken out, I saw him for some time before they took him away.

I wasn’t in recovery long this time and my little Felix – 7lbs 6oz – was brought to me as soon as I entered my room. I was able to have skin to skin time with him and he (with help from Amy) latched on no problem. My doula, Kayleigh was there to capture those moments and to assist with breastfeeding when Amy left.

Baby Felix

What a different experience! What a positive experience. I healed so much faster and was so happy to be a mom. Now fast forward three months – I still long for that vaginal birth, but feel very blessed to have two healthy and happy children.

Having a positive birth experience the second time around has made me love being a mother and appreciate the little things so much more. That first smile, those 3am feedings and when your toddler says “Je t’aime maman” – you couldn’t ask for more!

{An update from Mom: “My little one is now 15 months, I got PPD again but I am on top of it this time and am happy to report that my little one just weaned himself…. Nursing really helped the PPD and this time was easier because I could recognize the signs and asked for help right away.”}

The Family

The Magical Menstrual Cycle

The Magical Menstrual Cycle

{guest post by Samantha Bice}

When did you first hear an explanation of your menstrual cycle? Apart from asking my mom or step mom what pads or tampons were upon seeing them in the cabinet, I don’t have a memory of an explanation until third grade. We all had to get a permission slip signed so that we could learn about our “bodily changes”. Boys and girls were sent to separate rooms in the school…I remember the girls were sent to the computer lab.

We were given small booklets that talked about breasts growing, “periods”, and feminine products and hygiene. We were told that a confusing time in our lives was fast approaching and that we would start to bleed, once every 28 days, and that it was okay. We could use pads or tampons, and as long as we were careful to be ready and if we washed ourselves, no one would ever know that we were “on our period.” Most of the talk was focused on the products we would use to take care of this issue. [And they didn’t even teach about the good ones!]

Fast forward to middle school. I had started my “period” and managed to avoid getting blood on my pants or “smelling.” I still really had no idea what a period was for other than to tell me I was not pregnant. At that point in my life that seemed like a useless thing to do since I was not having sex.  Same story in high school, only add in a small amount of knowledge of an egg dropping and that my period was to get rid of the unused egg each month.

It was not until I was a married woman and thinking about babies that I stumbled upon the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler in the book store. I picked it up, thinking that since I was a take charge kinda girl with everything else that I should add my fertility to the list too. This was also after many unsuccessful attempts at finding the right birth control for me (come to find out, my body hates all chemical birth control), so that was in the front of my mind as well.

That book changed my life.

Imagine my surprise when I read that my “irregular periods” were actually pretty normal, and that I was not broken. Every cycle (not month – we work in cycles, not on a calendar) my body was performing a magical and specific dance of hormones. Eggs matured, temperatures changed, ovulation occurred, hormones shifted, my body prepared. I was amazed. I suddenly had respect for my body and did not find my cycles annoying anymore.

WHY had no one explained all this to me? Why was the focus on managing the bleeding and not on the reasons why it even happened? Beyond knowing “period=not pregnant; no period=pregnant” we were told nothing. We were told that we should perform this task like clockwork, every 28 days. No room for error or we were “irregular”, like a badly cut puzzle piece. The focus was on all the things we needed to buy and do in order to cover up the fact that our body performed as expected.

Now, I want to share some knowledge with all of you. I can not cover everything – hence why the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility (TCOYF) is large. But I can give you the basics on how things work and the basics of keeping track of all this.

The Menstrual Cycle: A Carefully Choreographed Dance

I think most of us have the basic knowledge of what the cycle does (generally speaking) – it is the preparation and “dropping” of an egg that then awaits fertilization. If that fertilization does not happen (or if implantation does not happen), you have menstrual bleeding – your period – and a new cycle starts. But lets talk about specifics.

The first hormone that causes things to happen each cycle is the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone does just what the same suggests – it stimulated follicles. These follicles are on your ovaries, and each one contains an egg. Generally about 15-20 follicles start to mature each cycle.

During this time period (anywhere from about 8 days into your cycle to more than a month) your estrogen is rising. Shortly after you reach your estrogen threshold (one or two days after), one of the eggs bursts through the ovary and starts the journey down the fallopian tube. Sometimes more than one egg makes it out (fraternal twins or higher multiples – if all are fertilized). The eggs that didn’t “make the cut” dissolve.

This high level of estrogen (which drops off after this peak at ovulation) triggers a surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH). This surge of LH is what ovulation tests detect and occurs just before the release of the egg during ovulation. [Please note – an LH surge does not mean you *did* ovulate, but rather that your body is preparing to.]

After the egg is released, that follicle that it came from turns into the Corpus Luteum. This will release progesterone for about 12 to 16 days. Normally a woman’s luteal phase (the time from ovulation to the start of a new cycle) does not vary much within that woman by more than a day or two during each cycle. The luteal phase is the one part of our cycles that is locked in for most people and they will have their own “normal” they can depend on.

The progesterone released by the Corpus Luteum is very important. It causes the lining of the uterus to thicken (for implantation) and prevents further egg release that cycle. It also causes a change in your fertility signs (more on that later).

After this 12-16 day period of the luteal phase, if the egg has not been fertilized and implanted, the Corpus Luteum dissolves and a new cycle starts (your “period” comes). The first day of bleeding is the first day of your new cycle.

A Quick Word on Averages

Please note that during this entire post I am going to be speaking in terms of the average cycle. There is a large amount of normal variation within these numbers – and outside them. The 28 day cycle is not a golden rule or number. Each woman has a cycle unique to her – just like the particular color of her eyes or her love of a certain food. Please do not take these average numbers to be the only “normal” and count yourself as abnormal. They are simply for simplification purposes.

Conception

Conception is the process of fertilization – sperm meeting egg. When and where does this take place? Once the egg is released by the ovary, it is sucked up into the fallopian tubes quickly – normally within 20 seconds. The ovary is not actually attached to the tubes by the way – they sort of barely meet at the end of the tubes where the “fingers” of the tube stick out to catch the egg. These fingers are called fimbria.

Fertilization has about 24 hours in which to occur. The egg does not sit around waiting for sperm for the entire luteal phase. Around 24 hours is all the chance we get. The egg is fertilized in the lower third of the fallopian tubes, not in the uterus as is commonly thought. The egg will continue its way down the tubes and burrow into the lining about a week after ovulation, on average. If the egg is not fertilized, it dissolves and is absorbed, or it comes out with the menstrual flow.

In order to stop the process of the shedding of the uterine lining, as soon as the egg implants your body starts to make a hormone – I know, another hormone! This hormone is called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) and is the hormone that pregnancy tests detect. This hormone not only stops the lining from shedding as normal, but it signals the Corpus Luteum to stick around and keep making progesterone to sustain the lining (which feeds the fetus). This progesterone is important as it sustains the pregnancy until the placenta takes over after several months. [This is why low progesterone causes miscarriage.]

As you can see – this dance of hormones and processes is complex. Complicated steps, but seems effortless and fluid when observed. Our bodies do all this without prompting in most cases, and is just as miraculous as the actual process of growing a baby. Our bodies do a lot of work just to get the egg ready to create the baby, and to maintain the system for many years “just in case”.

Charting: Your View of the Dance

Charting with the Fertility Awareness Method (which is taught in TCOYF) is based on three basic fertility signs. These signs, when charted together, give you a view of what your body is doing and where you are in your cycle.

Waking Temperature (Basal Body Temperature)

This is the fertility sign that gives you a view of what hormones are acting at the moment, and when you have ovulated. It is the “graphic” portion of the fertility chart. To get this information you need to take your temp first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. You need to use a Basal Thermometer for the best results, as they are more accurate than a fever thermometer. They are usually available in the fertility section of your local drug store or WalMart/Target. That would be the aisle with the pregnancy tests and contraceptive devices.

Before ovulation your temperature is lower (between 97.0 and 97.7 on average) due to the temperature suppressing effects of the rising estrogen at the start of the cycle. After ovulation, within a day or so, your temperature will rise due to the heat producing hormone progesterone. If you conceived, the progesterone stays around and your temp stays higher. If you did not conceive, the progesterone stops and your temperature drops as well – a sign that says your menstrual flow will start soon.

A few notes about your waking temperature. 1) You need to take it at the same time each day, trying not to vary it by more than 30 minutes or so. When you first start to chart, try to be as precise as possible in order to get your “normal” readings for a few cycles before messing with anything. 2) You need to take it after at least 3 hours of sleep (this gives your body time to regulate and get to the basal state) and before you get out of bed. Keep it on your bedside table. 3) Your readings may be off if you have a fever, have drank more than a drink or two of alcohol (or if you rarely have alcohol), or are using more warming devices to sleep than you normally do. Illness can also effect the temp in other ways – think about if you normally sleep with your mouth closed, but then sleep with it open because you are congested. This would cause your mouth temperature to be lower in the morning.

There are two ways to get your temperature. Orally – the way you do for a fever, or vaginally. Vaginal temps tend to be more precise for many women and you do not have to worry about the effects of occasional mouth breathing either.

Cervical Fluid

Cervical Fluid, or cervical discharge, is an important fertility sign. In my opinion this is the sign that we should absolutely be taught about from day one of becoming a woman. The normal fluid our body makes – which changes throughout the cycle – is not dirty. It is not defective. It is a sign of where our fertility is at that point. I suggest you begin to think of it as awesome and not dirty (in other words – not “discharge”) because this stuff is cool.

You have several types of fluid. I will work from least fertile to most fertile. First is the lack of fluid – this is called a dry day. This generally means you are not currently fertile. This normally occurs right after menstruation ends, and after your fertile period (ovulation). Then there is sticky fluid. This is the dry feeling fluid that clumps and looks almost like rubber cement (a type of glue). This is also considered not fertile. It usually occurs after menstruation but before ovulation – and sometimes for a few days after ovulation. The next type is creamy – this is usually thick and white or yellowish, and feels and looks like lotion. This is not a fertile fluid, and normally occurs before ovulation, and occasionally after ovulation. All of these types leave no mark in your underwear, or they leave a streak or line.

The first type of fertile fluid is called watery. This is just the way it sounds – like water. Usually clear or only slightly colored, it leaves a round wet mark on your underwear due to the high water content. This is a fertile fluid. Fertile fluid is one in which sperm can survive. You must have a fertile fluid present for sperm to live and move in. This fluid usually shows up around ovulation. If you see this, assume you are fertile. The other fertile fluid is egg white. This is the most fertile fluid and is what you want to look for if you are hoping to conceive. It looks just uncooked egg whites, sometime streaked with pink or yellow but is mostly clear. Sperm love to live in this and can swim well in it. This will also leave a round wet mark in your underwear due to moisture content. It is also stretchy between the fingers – stretching up to a couple inches or more.

A typical pattern of fluid would go like this: Menstrual blood, dry, sticky, creamy, wet/egg white, dry or sticky, menstrual blood. Again – this is just an example and each woman will have her own pattern. After a cycle or two of charting, you will see your personal patterns. Occasionally a woman gets a last surge of fertile fluid just before menstruation. This is not another ovulation but rather a reaction to the drop in progesterone.

Cervical Position

This is the one sign of the three that is considered optional when charting. However, I would encourage you to try it. It really does help with charting (especially when your other signs do not seem to match up) and teaches you a lot about your body. It does take practice. My “favorite” way to check my cervix (in other words, the easiest) is to squat down all the way – bum on my ankles – and feel for the cervix. Your cervix is a small “bump” at the end of your vaginal canal or rather at the bottom of your uterus – it feels much like the end of your nose for most of your cycle, only with a dimple in the middle (the cervical os).

When you are not fertile, your cervix is low and firm and closed (keep in mind, those who have birthed children have a slightly open cervix for ever after in most cases). When you are fertile, the cervix moves up higher and becomes soft (like your lips) and opens a bit. It is also very wet when fertile as it puts out a lot of good fertile cervical fluid. To notice these changes, you need to check yourself each day in the same position. You will start to notice after a cycle or two what your normal fertile and infertile patterns are for your cervix.

An amazing site to look at is The Beautiful Cervix Project. This site has collections of photos of real cervices in all stages and ages. Being familiar – and comfortable – with what all portions of our body look like is an important part of embracing the whole woman, our whole self. This project is dedicated to helping with that.

Other Signs

Not every woman has these signs but they are worth charting if you have them. Midcycle spotting, pain or aches around the ovary area (note the side), increased libido, full or swollen vulva, bloating, increased energy, breast tenderness – all are rather common signs during the cycle. If you chart them, you may see a pattern. For instance, women who get midcycle spotting tend to find through charting that it occurs around ovulation. The pain in the ovary area has a name – mittelschmerz – and typically indicates the release of an egg.

Charting

I think the easiest way to explain charting as a whole is to show you a chart. I will add one of mine to illustrate.

Chart

This is one of my older charts. You can see the lower temperatures before ovulation. The “cross” is the day of ovulation. You see that my temp rose after ovulation and stayed above the “cover line” (the horizontal line) until shortly before the new cycle started. This cycle was 32 days with ovulation on day 2o and a 12 day luteal phase. The blue days are infertile days, the green days represent likely fertile days, and the orange/tan days are the luteal phase.

As you can see on my chart I have a few things that are not typical. First, I tend to have a few random days of fertile fluid before ovulation. I also have what is called a “slow rise” in my basal/waking temperatures. These are both a variation of normal and are normal for me. I am able to line up my typical cues of ovulation to know when I have ovulated – for instance I always get ovulation pain and chart it. This is (for me) a very reliable sign.

Sometimes you might not ovulate. This is called an annovulatory cycle. Most women have these from time to time for various reasons. Stress and illness are two big reasons. I once had a cycle that lasted 147 days – during which my husband and I were apart for my job. After we were under the same roof again, a new cycle started the same week and things went back to normal. Here is an example of an annovulatory cycle for me:

Annov. chart

As you can see, the signs are all over the place, and my temperatures never really get a pattern. I may have ovulated around day 34 or so, but no other signs confirmed that other than a slight rise in temperature.

Getting Started

For more information I highly suggest the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It really is an amazing resource and goes into full detail of how to chart and how your body works. I have simply given you the starting building blocks. There are several methods of charting fertility, but FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) as taught by TCOYF is my favorite. You can find classes in most major cities about fertility charting as well.

Fertility charting can be used both to help conceive, and to avoid conception. I have used it for both purposes.

When using to avoid pregnancy, and you understand it thoroughly and use it correctly every day, you have only a 2% chance of conceiving within a year. That is if you use condoms during the fertile phase (correctly) or abstain while fertile. [Condoms have a failure rate of around 2%.] If you use other barrier methods during your fertile time then your chances would be close to that of whatever barrier method you choose. Keep in mind that the failure rate and user failure rate are different, and you should research any barrier method you decide to use with FAM. Also, the user failure rate of NFP (Natural Family Planning – which includes multiple types of charting or fertility tracking) is anywhere from 2% to 20% depending on the study you look at. This is not the fault of the method, but rather the user. “Cheating” (not following the rules) is much less forgiving with NFP than it is with other types of birth control.

When using this method to achieve pregnancy it can be very helpful. First and foremost – you learn about your normal. The 28 day cycle and day 14 ovulation is probably the biggest myth of womanhood. That is a “clockwork” example and is simply not true for all women. In fact, you can have a 28 day cycle and still not ovulate on day 14. And as we learned – the egg is only viable for about 24 hours. If you miss the egg, you miss it – and thinking you ovulate on day 14 when you ovulate earlier or later can mean that you miss the egg again and again.

You also start to see your patterns. You notice when your cervical fluid changes and what the fertile period looks like for you. Past cycles do not dictate future cycles – BUT they can help you to get a good guess going of when to time intercourse to catch the egg. Another thing it does is alert you to issues. You would be able to see if you do not ovulate, or if you do not have fertile fluid when you need it. You can catch a short luteal phase (which means the fertilized egg may not have time to implant) and possible issues with progesterone. In other words – you can arm yourself with information and avoid some expensive and time consuming testing.

Please keep in mind that I have only given you the basics here – the building blocks. Now it is up to you to research and read or take a class. Please do not run with this small amount of information and use it to avoid pregnancy, and on the same hand – please don’t chart for fertility just based on what I have written here. My hope is to clear some myths, help you learn, and help you appreciate your body a bit more. Please feel free to post questions below and I will try to answer them as best I can. I am not an expert or teacher, but I have read and researched the subject extensively and used the method in both ways for several years.

A Mother Fights Through PPD After Induction and Cesarean Birth

A Mother Fights Through PPD After Induction and Cesarean Birth

{Editors Note: This story comes to us from a strong young mother. When our births take a turn we did not expect, it can effect how we feel as mothers and women. Postpartum Depression is real. Mothers – you are not alone. Seek support and help in the best way possible to help you heal.}

At nineteen, I found out I was pregnant. My boyfriend and I started talking about what to do. Adoption? Abortion? No, this lady was mine and I was in love with her (we found out at 20 weeks because I was still having periods, so I didn’t have to wait to find out gender!). The next few months felt like they took forever, with multiple complications in the mix.

At 39 weeks, I was induced because of hypertension. They started the pitocin, placed that ball [a Foley Bulb] in to get me started on dilating, and we were on a roll. At 3 am, they checked me, said I was at 5cm, and said that at the rate I was dilating, I should be pushing by dawn. For the next 14 hours, they kept checking with no progress.

They had maxed the pitocin to the highest it was allowed without direct doctors orders. I was contracting, hard. My daughter was stuck, there was no way she was coming out vaginally. At 20 years old, I felt like a failure. I felt like I couldn’t do what a mother should be able to do. As they wheeled me back to the operating room, I cried.

Not because I’d see my daughter soon, but because I didn’t get to experience what everyone else I had talked to got to experience. I hadn’t talked to anyone that had a c-section yet.

At 5:20 pm on May 3, 2012, my daughter Ameriellys was born. She was beautiful. It was wonderful. The hospital stay was fine, though I barely slept because they’d take my daughter to the nursery if I fell asleep at night with her (since I couldn’t move all that much to get her out of the bassinet or change her or anything).

First Moments

It wasn’t until I got home that I suddenly felt horrible. I was upset all the time. I was snapping at her father constantly. I cried every time I tried to breastfeed because I still hadn’t fully brought in milk, and I felt like it wasn’t going to work. I wanted to do nothing but sleep. I couldn’t do what a normal mother should be able to do because I had major surgery and could barely move.

I felt, again, like a complete failure because I needed help. I realized I had PPD. I tried to fake being happy, but everyone saw I was a wreck. I never went to counseling, I never went and got medication. Instead, I surrounded myself with my wonderful family and support system of friends and the massive family Ameri was born into, and day by day they slowly helped me realize that my daughter needed me.

I may not be perfect, but she loved me. She calmed down when I talked to her, she felt safe when I was near. I may have needed help, but no one became the perfect mother overnight, and every mom asks for help and needs support.

Mother and Daughter

She is currently almost 11 months old, and while I still am not perfect, I’m the perfect mother to her. I filled my time up by going back to school and starting work back up, which helps the 3 sets of grandparents see her because they get to watch her while I do that. Rather than allowing myself to fall back into that darkness, I pushed myself to go do things that I, and my daughter, would be proud of me for doing.

From The Darkness Into The Light {A Story Of Postnatal Depression}

From The Darkness Into The Light {A Story Of Postnatal Depression}

Here is my PND story. Well, the early days. If someone had sat me down and told me that the days and weeks following the birth of my baby were going to be harder than giving birth to a 4210g baby at home, drug-free, I’d have told them they were crazy and sent them on their way! We made it though without taking anti-depressants, but it’s been a tough road that nearly split us up. Treya is 18 months old now, and it seems making time for me and setting up my own business has been my saviour! Things are good here now. – Kim

I weighed 49kg before I fell pregnant, and put on a whopping 17 kgs, which was all baby. You couldn’t tell I was pregnant from behind. I had a great pregnancy beside the usual morning sickness and some lower back pain. Concerned one day that I was going to give birth to a giant, Sonja assured me “it won’t weigh over 5 kilos”! We were all astounded by the amount of movement my ever-growing baby made, but given her size, I’d say she was a little cramped in there to say the least!

After her birth, I was exhausted by the labour, and spent the next day in bed, watching my beautiful baby girl. That evening, however, things went pear-shaped. My ribs on my right side were bruised, assumingly from Treya kicking her way out. It was impossible to get comfortable, and I was desperate for sleep having been awake, for the most part, for coming up to 48 hours. It’s like my body went into shock after such physical exertion. My stomach hurt… I could barely walk… my ribs ached… and I just lost it! I couldn’t even pick up my own baby, and when I tried to, I made her cry! I didn’t know if I had hurt her, if we’d put the nappy on wrong, or if I’d accidentally pulled on her umbilical cord tie. I literally started to unravel emotionally, and we had to call on my partner’s mum to come stay the night. Two, in fact.

Even getting to the toilet was an ordeal. I had to be assisted, and still was unable to hold Treya. Attempting to feed her was a nightmare, trying to stack pieces of foam and pillows in a manner that held her off my stomach, whilst my nipples just weren’t coming to the party, sitting flatter and flatter the more engorged my breasts became.

By day 3, I was in so much pain, having to hold my stomach when I walked, and crying with exhaustion, raw emotion and a growing sense of helplessness and uselessness. When I tried to sleep, I would have nightmares, plagued by thoughts of accidentally dropping my baby, and tormented by the fact that if anything happened to her, I might never recover.

Thankfully my herbalist ordered me into a hot bath with 30 drops of lavender in it, which bought me some relief. Then my partner Karl’s sister came to the rescue with a “Mother Roasting” pack consisting of a selection of herbs in which to soak in the bath, followed by some soothing essential oils in warmed jojoba oil for my tummy, which we then wrapped firmly with a hemp scarf. Apparently there was a look of utter relief on my face after my tummy was wrapped up… but that was not before having to surrender to my father-in-law and brother-in-law having to get me out of the bath, dry me and put on a maternity pad for me!!!! Eeek! I could do little for myself and holding my baby was still near impossible.

My story is long, and some of it is vague in my mind, which probably isn’t a bad thing. But I do remember crying a lot, being so devastated by the fact that I still couldn’t look after my own baby. There was nothing medically wrong – I assume the physical pain was just from the physical exertion demanded by birthing a large baby – the emotional pain a combination of adrenal stress and what we now know to be post natal depression.

I am pleased to say that there were eventually small joys appearing ever so slowly in my world. Mastering breastfeeding, with the help of a lactation consultant and nipple shields, after starving Treya for 5 days, was certainly one to be celebrated! My diary entry, made 20 days after the birth, rejoices in the fact that I was able to carry her to the change table and hold her for a while. I was devastated by the fact that I was physically unable to care for my baby, and immensely grateful for the presence of my amazing partner and family who literally had to come and help us daily. Karl turned into Super Dad overnight, having to look after both his girls. My mind talk was negative, we needed visitors to help out, which conflicted with our decision to attempt an unofficial baby-moon, and I felt useless for just about the first time in my life. I was, pre-pregnancy, able to successfully co-ordinate education programs for Red Cross, with ease, and yet I couldn’t even look after my own baby. I found myself unable to do anything with the immense love I felt for this newly arrived being. I could feed her, breathe in the smell that was her and delight in the love that she evoked in me, yet I couldn’t pick her up, carry her, bath her or anything.

Weeks passed, and we continued to adapt and make small steps forward. I used the pram, for example, to wheel her to the change table where I could then lift her up. I also lost my fear of dropping her. However, challenges kept appearing. I had mastitis off and on for 2 –3 weeks; an old work injury in my neck produced a 6 day headache that drove me to tears; I began crying almost daily; my scoliosis (curvature of the spine) caused me pain; and I began grieving for my beautiful Mamma who had died 3 years and 2 days prior to Treya’s arrival, whom I missed so so terribly… and the unravelling continued.

When the local early childhood nurse said to me “if you are still crying in a few days I think you should go on anti-depressants”, I think I almost laughed! Me, needing anti-depressants? Don’t be ridiculous! But I did continue to cry daily, and anxiety attacks were added to the mix as soon as my partner went back to work at the 7 week mark. The darkness that was creeping in around the edges began to cast larger and larger shadows for longer and longer periods. A sense of disconnect developed and  I could no longer force a smile even for my beautiful man. I found myself confessing that “this mothering business is mind numbingly boring” and wondering how I could get back to work! This was NOT what I had imagined feeling. In fact, I thought I’d take to mothering like a duck to water, and even went as far as assuming that I would adopt a rather relaxed “do-it-with-my-eyes-closed” earth-mother vibe about me!

The universe had other plans for us however. One morning I woke up, and ever I was worried about myself. I felt numb, like I was just going through the motions, thinking about all those woman I know who just LOVED breastfeeding and motherhood, realising that I was not one of them. I knew that I loved my baby, but I experienced total emotional disconnection and a deepening numbness, and everything just became too hard. I tormented myself with the question “am I just a bad Mum who can’t be bothered or do I have post natal depression (PND)?”. I’d be holding her, watching her, spellbound by how beautiful she was…but at the same time, feeling absolutely nothing. Empty. Numb. Dark. Hopeless. Useless. And so so SAD.

Fortunately, asking for help is something I do well, and I have an amazing support network.  I ran my feelings by my friend who had undiagnosed PND 12 years ago. The similarities were undeniable. I made another call to a friend who is currently on anti-depressants for PND. She too normalised the abnormal for me…..well, what I had, up until this point, thought was “abnormal”.  It was such a relief to hear that I was not the only one who would happily give my baby to someone else to hold and who felt numb despite having given birth to a gorgeous little human being. I was not the only one who literally cried upon my baby and was going through the motions instead of feeling the “joys of motherhood” that we are lead to believe are the norm.

Once I knew what we were dealing with, I knew what to do. We could act, and do something to move me from the darkness into the light. But before any real action was taken, I hit rock bottom, enduring several horrendous mornings where I was tormented by anxiety attacks that begun the moment my partner left for work at 5am. Every time I awoke from that point, which was multiple times an hour having imagined hearing my baby crying over and over again, I’d be overwhelmed by a wave of anxiety that would eventually drive me to tears and out of bed. I then could not bear to be alone and, in utter despair, would have to call Karl’s mum to come be with me until the light of day. One of the mornings she just lay with me in bed, holding me whilst I sobbed and missed my own beautiful mamma. Eventually we bundled me and Treya in the car and drove to our herbalist, hoping for an emergency appointment – and it was an emergency! By this stage I was considering what mental health hospitals I could check myself into and fantasising about anti-depressants.

Thankfully my diagnosis was good – “hormonal” apparently. A concoction of herbs were administered, along with instructions to drink a cup of miso soup each day, and 1-2 glasses of  Bonsoy (milk), of all things! In addition to this, I was instructed to expose myself to the sun for an hour a day, rub fennel essential oil into my chest where my pituitary gland is, as well as my breasts and ovaries. To this, after consulting my GP, we added exercise, “time out” and “not practicing anxiety”. The latter being getting out of bed when the anxiety hit, and doing anything (washing cloth nappies!!!) to distract my attention from it, even if it was 5am.

I have to say that whilst we waited for my unconventional medicine to start working, I had moments of desperation. If someone had offered me anti-depressants there and then, I think I’d have taken them. But my herbalist reassured me and begged me to just hold on until day 3 or 4, when the herbs were said to take effect. To her credit, she was correct, and a few rays of sunshine shone in my world on day 3. I continued to improve, and I still remember my first day of really enjoying my baby, when the loving, meaningless banter between mother and baby during otherwise mundane tasks, such as nappy changing, came easily, and for the first time, it was a joy to be Treya’s mamma.

Fourteen weeks on, without as much as a wiff of an anti-depressant, I can honestly say that I am enjoying being a mum. The PND is still there, lingering in the background, but as long as I am vigilant and supported, we manage to keep it at bay. And I say “we” on purpose as my recovery has really been a community effort, brought about by the amazing support of family and close friends, without whom we would not have ventured so swiftly back into the light.

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When I reflect on the challenges we have had since Treya’s arrival, it’s no wonder I ended up with PND, but part of me wonders whether the journey would have been easier had PND and physical, post-birth challenges been talked about more. It seems women are generally so quick to share birthing stories, and yet so reluctant to talk openly about the challenges of the fourth stage. So if someone sits you down before the birth of your child, and suggests that the weeks following the birth could be harder than the birth itself, don’t tell them they are crazy! Make them a cup of tea, pull up a chair and hear them out, not because my challenges will happen to you, but simply because they could. 

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Kim owns the Australian business ‘Pickled Tink: ‘art with heart‘, for belly casting, photography, Blessingway art and henna, and much much more!

Photos by Brett Stanley Photography

“I figured this was just how things were supposed to be.” {A Story Of Postpartum Depression}

“I figured this was just how things were supposed to be.” {A Story Of Postpartum Depression}

I know that postpartum depression isn’t something that people LOVE to talk about. It’s uncomfortable for so many reasons. Some people like to carry on as if it doesn’t exist and harass and insult women struggling with it. For some reason, there is an extra stigma attached to it. Having depression is ‘acceptable’ but having postpartum depression isn’t, apparently. People dismiss the concerns of new mothers, and miss all of the warning signs. Sometimes, new mothers that are in over their heads are unable to ask for help. This is where husbands, friends and family have GOT to step up to the plate and get a mother suffering from PPD the help she so badly needs! I went through this twice…

In April of 2003, I was 22, marginally employed, uneducated, and my husband and I were forced to move in with my parents. Not what you would call the most ideal of circumstances. So, of course, I fell pregnant straight away. I had no clue about pregnancy, childbirth or parenting, so I called up a local ob-gyn recommended by several older women I knew, who all thought he was fab because he did such a great job on their hysterectomies. I never felt comfortable, but, since I was convinced that I didn’t know anything and he WAS a doctor after all, then I should just go with the flow. My pregnancy progressed normally. I was relatively healthy, and the baby was doing well. I had no friends with babies. I had no family members who had given birth vaginally. That’s right… NONE! I was born via c-section and so, the only advice I got was to schedule an elective c-section, do what the doctor says and that I probably wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. On December 8, 2003, I had my last doctor appointment of the pregnancy. With the holidays approaching, my doctor informed me that he was inducing ALL patients 37 weeks and over. I had no idea just what that entailed and figured that, since he was the doctor, it was for the best. After all, I WAS one whole centimenter dilated (now that I know just what that means, I’m beyond insulted and disgusted)! After a NIGHTMARISH induction that I barely survived, I was just relieved to have my beautiful, healthy baby girl.

hospital birth

However, soon, the bottom fell out. Just existing knocked the wind out of me. Due to postpartum hemorrhage, booby traps galore, horrid small town hospital lactation consultants and severe pain (which I would find out 9 years later, was caused by a lip and tongue tie), I was unable to nurse my beautiful little girl. To this day, I’m convinced that for the first 6 months of her life, there were more tears than formula in her bottles – I was that distraught over it. I went back to work when she was 5 weeks old. I got formula from WIC. That should be the end of the story. It’s not.

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I tried to get help for my little girl because she was miserable. Everyone just told me that she was a colicky baby and it would get better. It didn’t. It wasn’t colic. She had severe reflux. That, combined with the lip tie, meant that she was quite an unhappy baby. This was made worse by being surrounded with people who ‘did x, y, and, z and turned out just fine’ so encouraged me to give her rice in her bottle, and leave her to cry it out so she would learn who was in charge. I doubted myself and I couldn’t bond with my baby. Life was one constant panic attack after another. I was completely miserable. I honestly wanted to throw my baby out of the window. I wanted to pack all of her things, put them in the bottom of the stroller, and give her to the first nice looking mom that came along, and just jump off a bridge. It’s not that I was suicidal. I didn’t want to die, but I knew that I couldn’t keep going as I was. I decided to reach out for help.

I called my ob and explained what I was going through. He asked me what I expected. He told me that I was a first time mom, and I just needed to rest, get some help, and deal with the fact that things weren’t all about me anymore… basically, I was bratty and having a hard time adjusting to ‘adult’ life. He offered some antidepressants, but those only made me MORE anxious. I went on like this until my daughter was around 18 months old… merely surviving, coping and clawing my way through the days. Every day was a fight. I was literally fighting for my life. My (then) family physician thought I needed to try anti-anxiety meds. I said ok. They didn’t work… they made me feel MORE anxious. She doubled the dose. Things got worse. She referred me to a psychiatrist. He added an antidepressant on top of the anti-anxiety meds. That night I was curled up in the corner, in a townhouse, alone, with my 18 month old daughter, trying to cope with the voices I was hearing. I stayed awake for 4 days straight, chain smoking and convincing myself that, even thought I might be crazy, the voices weren’t ‘real’ and weren’t going to hurt me. I called my husband offshore and told him what had happened.

He was home two days later and I was sitting in a GOOD doctors office. I didn’t want to go. I figured this was just how things were supposed to be. I’d been through the ringer and was done. My husband made me go. Made me get up, get dressed, and go out into the world, where I learned just exactly how screwed up the past 2 or so years of my life had been. I had to process through an unplanned pregnancy, a horrible and devastating birth experience, the hurt of not being able to breastfeed, and the horrible depression I was living with. That I could love my baby and yet not be able to bond because of her association to all of these things. That I wasn’t a bad mother because I wanted to lay down and wish it all away… because I deserved better than what I got. Because ALL moms deserve better! With LOTS of therapy and lots of hard work, I finally DID start to get better. It was a lot of work. It was hard to get through all the birth trauma and the feelings of violation and loss, but I did it. I started to feel again, which was incredible. However, I was resolute in the fact that I didn’t want to have any more children. I was not willing to suffer again and to have a child old enough to actually ‘get’ how screwed up her mom was. I wasn’t careful enough.

In March 2008, I was 27 and, once again, dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. I decided this time would be different. Boy, oh boy, did I have NO idea just how different it would be. I tried to see a midwife… but she turned out to be horrible. She knew the doctor that delivered my first and defended his actions by saying ‘well, he’s old, what do you expect’. Um, I expect GOOD care and a compassionate bedside manner! I got my records and left. I found an ob-gyn through co-workers and was pleased with her and her practice. However, it was a very difficult pregnancy. I had my first bout of bedrest at 8 weeks. This continued off and on until I was put on modified bedrest at 6 months. I had horrible anxiety throughout the pregnancy but couldn’t sort out why. Until the day I took my daughter on the hospital tour. I lost it! I realized that, at some point very soon, I would have to deliver this baby and I was terrified. What if it was another torturous experience? What if he had reflux? What if? I couldn’t cope and I excused myself until they got to the cutesy part of the tour where they showed all the little kids how to put diapers on dolls and reminded them to clear up their legos.

On October 27, 2008, I went to my last doctor’s appointment of the pregnancy. I was just at 37 weeks (I found out later by looking at the charts and ultrasounds, that it was actually 35 weeks, which explains the health problems my son had immediately following birth). I was 6 centimeters dilated and strep positive. I was told to go straight to the hospital and would be induced in the morning. I was terrified of induction… I wanted to do this on my own terms. Thankfully, I went into labor on my own that afternoon. The birth experience was much better the second time.

hospital birth postpartum depression

However, within days of being home, I started to feel scared and on edge. I was terrified and called my ob. I needed to sort this out, NOW. Something was wrong, and my baby wouldn’t nurse. I had problems nursing him in the hospital, but everyone said it was fine… his latch was ‘great’ and so I just needed to toughen up. When he was 3 1/2, I found out that he had a lip tie and a posterior tongue tie. I was struggling with pain and my supply and wasn’t sleeping because he was having such a rough go. I was pumping and eventually stopped getting any milk at all. When I managed to pump anything out, it was blood. The nurse called me… the doctor was prescribing meds, but I would have to stop nursing. I took the meds for two days. I changed my mind. I was GOING to nurse this baby. However, it was too late. I later figured out why – I had PCOS and autoimmune thyroid disease, both untreated so had completely devastated my milk supply. Then things got ugly.

My son was admitted to the hospital at 6 weeks with a UTI. Watching him go through a battery of tests, all while coping with my feelings of fear and inadequacy was brutal. This time, the postpartum depression took a VERY ugly turn. This time it brought along a friend, in the form of OCD. It got to the point where I couldn’t prepare bottles for my son, because, due to my overly aggressive and obsessive handwashing, my hands were always bleeding. I scrubbed the master bedroom from top to bottom and locked my son and I inside. It was the only room that was ‘uncontaminated’. The only ‘safe’ space. I didn’t take him out of the room, and no one else was allowed in. I was angry and devastated and scared. I also found out after the fact, that it was noted on my chart to KEEP breastfeeding… that the meds my doctor prescribed for me were, in fact, compatible with nursing. I stopped sleeping, I stopped eating and I didn’t want anyone or anything around me. Everyone told me to suck it up. I was ok, the kids were ok. I just needed to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get on with life. That I was just ungrateful and needed to learn to deal with having two children. If only it were that easy. I was terrified of everything. I COULDN’T leave my house… I could barely leave my room. I arranged to have someone take my daughter to school in the mornings and pick her up in the afternoons.

Again, I called my husband and, again, found myself sitting in a doctor’s office. This had to stop. And, with a LOT more therapy and MORE hard work, the fog started to lift. I started to actually feel like myself and come into my own. I could finally enjoy my children, and get on with my life. It was hard though… people SAW what was going on and dismissed it, ignored it, or outright questioned my ability to be a good mother. People who, after the fact, would come up to me and comment that they were so glad that I got help because I had obviously been in a very bad place.

Why did these people never mention that or never ONCE offer to come help or check on me?! Because of the stigma attached. They feel like if they help, then they are ‘enabling’ the behavior. A mother with PPD is NOT a brat with a problem that can be enabled. She is suffering and she needs HELP. Compassion. A hot meal. You shouldn’t withhold those things because you’re worried that it will prevent her from seeking help! Go over there every day! Check on her, as often as possible! It’s devastating to go through postpartum depression and to stumble about through the misery, all while feeling like a crap mother because you have no bond with your baby. Then to find out that people SAW you suffering and chose not to help is even worse. This isn’t something that ANY mother should have to cope with.

It’s important for a mother to be prepared, but PPD feels like the ultimate curve ball. So, it really is up to friends and family to take notice and find help. Call a doula. Call the mothers midwife or ob. Call local lactation consultants to see if there is a new mom support group AND a postpartum depression support group. Drive her to it. Go to her house, put on the coffee, take her a hot meal, and tell her it will get better. Because, it will get better. It does get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel and you don’t always have to feel this way. And to all the women who feel ashamed and unwilling to take medication for it. DON’T BE. IT’S OK! If medication works for you and helps you, then TAKE IT!! I wish I hadn’t been so stubborn about taking medication. It’s not the end of the world to take a medication if it can help to give you your life back. You wouldn’t think twice about taking insulin if you were diabetic, would you?! If anti-depressants, anti-anxiety or mood stabilizers are NEEDED, then please, take them.

I should note, that the story ultimately served a wonderful purpose. I educated myself. I learned a LOT about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. In July 2011, I found myself pregnant again. I refused to settle on ANYTHING this time. I finally found a wonderful midwife at around 20 weeks and had a beautiful, healing, empowering unmedicated hospital waterbirth at 40 weeks and 5 days. I had done the ‘impossible’. I was told I would never carry a baby to term and that I couldn’t have a baby with no drugs. I let my beautiful little girl pick her birthday and, on April 4, 2012 was able to accept and heal from all of the other birth experiences, because she had redeemed them and proven that I was capable… of anything! I came home, worried because breastfeeding was, again, not working out. This time, though, I refused to stop searching for an answer. I found a GOOD lactation counsellor and found out that she had a lip tie and posterior tongue tie. I pumped and worked with her until, at 3 months of age, we ditched the bottles and the supplements and she was exclusively breast fed! Today, she is a happy, healthy, breastfed 11 month old. I had no PPD after her. Only a bit of pulling my hair out while coping with going from 2 children to 3! 🙂 Education and preparation can go a LONG way. So, please mamas, get educated, get prepared and, above all, give yourself a break!

{Thank you Jaime for sharing your story of Post-partum Depression and Anxiety}

My Postpartum Body {A Poem}

My Postpartum Body {A Poem}

Once upon a time,
My skin was smooth.post partum belly
Unscarred.
It stretched trimly
Over firm muscles
And created soft dips down between bones.
My hips were tight and narrow.
My breasts were small and neat.

But with the energy of new life,
Every cell in my body was changed
And forgot the old ways of being.

Things became displaced…
My skin stretched over growing life.
It tore under the power and energy of my baby.
My hips moved apart to enable birth,
Creating a passage to travel.
My breasts grew, and the skin tore there too.

I birthed twice.

My body was scarred from two knivespost partum belly and babyThat created new passages for my baby to travel.
Once across my abdomen.
Once across my perineum.

I birthed twice.
And now I am a mother.
And I am softer. And I have more give,
In my mind and in my body.

My skin is loose,
As it reaches over my body.
Marks from stretching create
Deep crevices and silvery trails.
Like a road map showing the journey
My baby and I trekked to get to where we are today.

My breasts continue the work of my body.
Protecting.
Full of life. Full of love.
Flowing with energy.
Creating a bond impossible to replicate.

I have two scars.
Two marks from when I birthed; my birthmarks.
They were touched by new life.
Within them is a memory:
Those scars tell of the final times my babies were within me.
They tell the story of birth,
and the moments my babies existed in two worlds.

My hips are wider.
They have held the weight of my children.
They have held my whole world.

I created life.
If I was a scientist, I’d get a nobel prize.
But I am a woman, which is infinitely better.
My prize knowing that I made my girls
From two single cells.
I grew them.
My body grew them.
And for that, my body deserves grace.
Respect. Admiration.
Love.
It created life.
It created pure perfection.
And because of that
My body is perfect.
And my body deserves to be loved.

My body deserves to be loved.

My body deserves my love.

candj

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