Paula Wilson (37), Lucie (5), Joe (3), and Whit (6 months)
Baltimore, Maryland | Photographed in Austin, TX
Paula shares -
"It is not easy to have a baby. My husband and I tried for several months without success and I ended up seeing a fertility specialist for several months to finally become pregnant with my first baby. It was a jarring realization that my body wasn't doing what I needed it to do. I started out in my journey to becoming a mother feeling like I couldn't trust my body to do something that seemed so basic, which was become pregnant. The entire process of pregnancy and postpartum seems to fill a new parent with doubt. All the invasive fertility testing to see exactly where in the process your body is failing, constant checks throughout pregnancy to make sure your body can support your growing baby, are you too big, are you too small, constant doubt about how much milk the baby is getting when nursing and wondering if it is enough, and on top of that, the pressure from media and well-meaning friends asking when you will lose the baby weight.
During pregnancy, I saw the scale reach numbers I had never seen before. My body changed in ways I didn't expect. I didn't think I would ever fit into my old clothes again. I didn't trust my body to do what I needed it to. I was scared exclusively nursing my baby because I wasn't sure if I could trust my body to make enough milk. I ended up nursing and pumping myself into oversupply because I was obsessive about making enough milk. Now, Ive learned to be proud of what my body can do. I can create life, carry it for 9 months, then birth my babies, and feed them, keep them happy and healthy. Even now that my babies aren't all babies anymore, my body can still wrap them up, carry them, and keep them warm. I've learned to trust my body to carry my babies and feed my babies, and I've learned to trust it to continue to be healthy, as long as I treat it well. The changes I see in the mirror are only that, changes in the mirror. But those changes reflect my body's ability to do something amazing.
My first baby was wonderful, the kind of baby that makes you think youre a great parent. My husband and I knew we wanted more kids after having her, because she was just delightful. My second baby was the opposite. He was a really difficult baby and I had a hard time connecting with him. I was sad to see everyone else have difficulty connecting to him too. He just cried for hours every day and I didn't know how to help him. I didn't understand why we could be such good parents to our first child, but didn't know how to help our second. It put such a strain on our marriage as well.
I ended up quitting my job and staying home full time so I could take care of the children and try to connect with my baby. I felt a lot of guilt about missing out on those baby months, and he was just so unhappy that I didn't want to leave him with anyone else. I read everything I could find on infant colic and tried almost everything I could, and nothing made a difference. The only thing that helped was time. Eventually, he grew older, and around the time of his first birthday, things got better. Unfortunately, we had already decided that we weren't going to have more children. The pregnancy and newborn months were just so difficult, we couldn't go through it again.
So, we started looking into adopting. We both felt like our family was not complete. In our first conversation about having a family, both my husband and I agreed we always wanted to adopt. So I spent close to 2 years studying about adopting, learning about the different options and trying to decide what was the best way to grow our family. Finally, we had our decision and I submitted our application to an agency. I had to have fertility treatments to have my first 2 children, so I did not plan on becoming pregnant again without intervention, but it happened. The first few weeks after I found out I was pregnant were terrible.
I went from planning to adopt, to thinking I was pregnant, to going in for my first ultrasound and being told I was miscarrying. There was no heartbeat, and a lot of blood. I had to wait a week for my next ultrasound to decide on the next steps. When I went in, I thought I was ready to accept what was happening and move on. But the blood had improved and there was a heartbeat. The next several weeks were full of fear, constantly waiting for something bad to happen.
Fortunately, the rest of the pregnancy was uneventful and I have a happy, healthy baby. I still think every day about the adoption that never happened. I go back and forth trying to decide if our family is complete and what an adoption would mean for our family. I'm back at work and in school. I don't know where our family will be in a few years and what we will look like, but I am spending my time focusing on enjoying the children I have with me now.
There are two things I repeat to myself every day when things are tough or get dark. "The days are long, but the years are short" and "this too shall pass." When the baby won't sleep, or can't stop crying, the kids are arguing, and when I just get overwhelmed, I remind myself of these two things. I also tell myself that I don't have to remember every little moment and treasure it. I can let go of the tough times, the long dark nights, and its ok to not hold those memories. I want to look back on my my kids' childhoods and think of all the great and funny things they did, not the dark times. The dark times are there so I appreciate the light.
I want to be a part of this movement to share my story and remind women, and society, to value what our bodies can do. Our bodies might not be the same as before we bore children. Thats ok. Expecting our bodies to look and perform exactly as they did before having children would be doing a disservice to what they were able to do by bearing a child, delivering it, and then feeding it. Those are incredible changes for a body to go through. While some of the changes may only be visible in a mirror, many changes can be physical as well, even painful.
I want there to be more awareness and value placed on those changes experienced during and after pregnancy, instead of the expectation that women should cover up their postpartum stomachs, cesarean scars, or act like they were not affected by bearing children. Being able to have children is truly such an amazing thing."