Brittany Alexander, Charlie (3), and Parker (1)
Brittany previously participated in the project with her mother and Charlie in Atlanta. You can view her previous image here:: http://www.4thtrimesterbodiesproject.com/gallery-1/2016/2/23/brittany-alexander-cindy-blake
Brittany and her husband decided to have kids on a whim. He is 10 years older than her and she had a moment of “this is the right time” and figured they would have a chance to change their minds since it usually takes a while to get pregnant. Within 4 weeks of saying this, she was pregnant with Charlie. Pregnancy was pretty straight forward, low risk, with no issues. She was followed by midwives and planned to deliver at a hospital with the assistance of a doula. At 39 weeks after a few hours of inconsistent, uncomfortable contractions, her water broke. Labor never came and after over a day of trying to get things moving, relented to starting Pitocin. "I was certain this was my kiss of death for a low intervention birth and I would always resent it. I spent a long time laboring in the tub, on a birth ball, and occasionally walking around. After nearly 11 hours of Picotin, and a fair amount of primal screaming that I had not prepared my husband for, Charlie was born without any other intervention. She was vigorous and beautiful. It was a glowing moment- just like what you imagine, what you see on TV. Instantly, I was in love and very empowered".
Breastfeeding went really well from the start, which she also wasn’t prepared for. She thought it would be a struggle since that is all you ever hear but it really was easy and she was so grateful. They spent the first 3 weeks of Charlie's life huddled in bed, eating, sleeping, bonding. It was so magical. A few months later she found herself unable to make it through the days. She was ready for bed by dinner, her hair was falling out in clumps. She had lost a large amount of weight immediately postpartum, but then started to gain it back, despite breastfeeding. She assumed all of this was normal, only to realize it was actually her thyroid. She ended up on medication and it normalized within a few months. "It was an emotional roller coaster that I again was not prepared for- basically a theme of parenthood".
When Charlie was 15 months old, Brittany realized she was pregnant again. She was still breastfeeding, so it took her a bit to realize what was going on. The pregnancy came as a surprise as they we were in the middle of building a house, moving, starting new jobs. Pregnancy with Parker was much like that with Charlie, but keeping up with a toddler while growing a baby was a completely different type of challenge. "You suddenly realize that the second baby is not going to get the same direct attention and it is much more important to steal moments of quiet". Throughout this pregnancy, midwives reassured her over and over that delivery would be different- her water wouldn’t break before labor- that is pretty infrequent and my body knows better now. So, on her due date when her water broke while sitting in my bed, she was frustrated- and suddenly felt like she wasn’t ready. "My body didn’t know how to give birth, my uterus wasn’t strong enough". She also realized that for the past 9 months she had been so busy working, moving, raising Charlie that she kind of forgot she was pregnant.
They went to the hospital and after a couple of hours she realized it was the same story- no labor. She told them to go ahead and start Pitocin before she was too tired to labor. After 6 hours on Picotin, she started to feel weird - kind of like pressure, but it didn’t feel right. They told her to try to use the bathroom since it had been a while and that maybe it was keeping her from dropping. She shuffled to the toilet in my hospital room and told them to turn off the light and close the door- that there was no way she could pee with people watching. "While sitting there a contraction came and I knew. I had this incredible clarity that I had never experienced in labor- I knew this was it. I yelled for my husband that the baby was coming right then. I decided I could push with all I had and it would be over, or I could wait for them to stop me, make me move to the bed, and the agony would continue. So I pushed. Twice. The midwife got there just in time to catch Parker before her head landed in the toilet. It was a weird birth experience. Definitely not the magical, glowing birth that was Charlie’s. But man, it really fits their personalities".
Parker had a bit more trouble breastfeeding. She struggled with oversupply and was not a huge fan of comfort nursing. At 3 weeks old she developed a fever overnight and Brittany knew she was sick. They went to the hospital and were admitted for a few days of antibiotics. Parker was diagnosed with meningitis and Brittany, a nurse practitioner, immediately went into health care mode and emotionally detached. She strictly functioned- nurturing her, feeding her, soothing her but not allowing for any real emotion. After a few weeks later she was back to normal, only to realize that she had some bizarre neurological findings that were big red flags. They took her to the pediatrician and within a week she had a whole body MRI looking for tumors. "I was sure this was it. Something was going to be wrong with my new baby and as soon as she was here she would be gone. She was such a wonderful baby, I figured it was too good to be true. Thankfully, her MRI was normal and her symptoms were likely just immature vasculature".
At her year birthday Brittany had a huge realization that she had not expected her to make it. She was a year old now and suddenly she felt hardy and resilient. "I think it was because we had watched Charlie turn into this amazing person- we knew Parker would be just as amazing. We knew now what we stood to lose. I never felt this when Charlie was a baby, and I think largely it was because we didn’t know how much you could love another person".
Motherhood has been the single most empowering experience for Brittany. "I am a nurse practitioner at a local academic medical center and care for pretty sick people day in and day out. I have faced adversity and come out the other side better for it. I have conquered some shit. Smashed some patriarchy. Shared wisdom, gained wisdom. But damn- being a mom is the one thing in my life- the one area that my imposter syndrome can’t win. I always feel not good enough, not this, not that, like someone will finally figure me out. But being a mother no one can take- yes I always doubt if I am doing a good job. But I will always be a mother. My body bears the marks of growing, birthing and feeding my children. My belly and breasts have grown tremendously, beyond what seems humanly possible. I have seen it happen and have the battle scars to prove it. My stretch mark and lose skin mean far more to me in terms of empowerment, love, and self-acceptance than any diploma or title ever will.
"I have struggled with imposter syndrome my entire adult life. I know it isn’t logical, but that’s the crux of it. Starting as a teenager who thinks they aren’t thin enough, pretty enough, funny enough- into adulthood and academia, where you aren’t smart enough, wealthy enough, and sadly if you are a woman, thin enough- it is so hard to feel empowered. I have realized that no one is going to do this for me. It has to come from within. I want to model this behavior and self-assurance for my girls. Not everyone is always going to agree with you, your life decisions, the way you look, the way you vote, you talk, walk, eat, raise your kids. Everyone has opinions. This is ever present in parenting and can be very divisive. You have to find within yourself the confidence to live a genuine existence and embrace that your path is going to look different than everyone else’s. This doesn’t make you better or worse, more or less worthy of love and respect. I just want my girls to grow up and know that they are perfect just as they are, just by existing, they are enough. And this starts by me believing this about myself.
"Last week if you'd asked me this question I might have answered differently. I thought we'd be celebrating. I thought we'd have our first woman president. I thought so much would be different. But it's not. Now our president-elect is a misogynist, a xenophobe, a racist, a divider. Now more than ever we need to shout and not be silenced. As women, it's now, we can't wait any longer"