The amazing Aja Whelan-Schrapel and daughter Autumn Claire (5 months). Aja is a former preemie, visually impaired and spent a lot of their school life playing catch-up and trying to respect themself and their body regardless of their confusion and "short-comings". Aja identifies as agender and has spent the past two years coming to terms with the label they've been searching for, for so long and coming out to family and friends. Aja, and Aja's husband approached pregnancy as something that could happen, and they'd figure things out and decide what to do if and when it happened. The pregnancy went medically well, but Aja had moments of loving it and feeling poorly about their body taking on such a feminine form. Labor started slowly with some tiredness and back ache, and it wasn't until things got moving along that Aja felt it was time to head to the birth center. Upon arrival, things were moving along quickly, and Aja felt both waves of support and lack of control. The midwives and staff did a good job of utilizing the pronouns that Aja feels comfortable with, which was nice, but also felt moments of needing to have permission to do what their body needed to do. Aja was told that they'd be allowed one more push before an episiotomy and it was then that Autumn was born. Aja tore three ways and needed to be stitched up, a process that stirred up some past childhood trauma. After birth it was important for Aja to get outdoors with Autumn on her first day of life, they were able to spend a few minutes in the birth center courtyard to regroup. Breastfeeding has gone well for Aja other than some initial pain. At 5 months in, Autumn is starting to become interested in food and play rather than just Aja's breast, which is allowing them to come into a different space as a parent. Being a Zaza (Aja's preferred parental moniker) has been terrifying and raw and humbling and inspiring and confirming.
Aja's reasons for participating are best said themself, "I imagine, years away, showing my children a copy of your book and teaching them that there is no defining normal, teaching my daughter that however she looks, she is beautiful, powerful and free. And there, on the next impatient page turn from her, we see us. I see myself as everything I hoped for because it's true."