Alyssa Fabian (24) and Kaia (18 months)
Photographed in Seattle, Washington
Alyssa shares -
"One year prior to getting pregnant I was in intensive treatment for an eating disorder. Considering myself "recovered", I moved on with my life and got pregnant in 2015. I struggled throughout my entire pregnancy with the feelings of being "fat". None of my clothes fit anymore, my face was very full, and I eventually hit the weight number that I never wanted to reach, and then eventually surpassed it. Every day I had to keep reminding myself "I am growing another human being" and I couldn't just relapse and not give my body the nutrients it needed to give this little babe life.
When I finally got around to my 7th-8th month and had the full basketball of a belly, I had more days where I enjoyed being pregnant than I felt poorly about my body image. However, I once had someone mention how large my face looked and honestly, that stung a lot. I knew I was big and having people mention how much weight you're gaining is not ideal when you're only a year into recovering.
After giving birth, it took my body longer than I thought to go back to where I was before getting pregnant. I was about a year postpartum before I was back to my before birth weight. A whole year where the clothes in my closet were staring at me, and honestly, it took a whole year for me to finally tell myself, "hey, you've had a kid. Of course you don't look the same," and I will never look the same. 18 months postpartum and I still sometimes struggle with my body image. But I look at my spider veins, my saggy boobs, and my giant scar across my belly and I don't see a fat, insecure girl anymore. I see a woman who spent 9 months carrying a baby, growing a human inside of her, and a mother who has kept that babe alive, healthy, and thriving for 18 months. I don't consider myself to be fully recovered from an eating disorder. But every day I choose to recover and think positively every day, even if I want to hide in my bed all day. I choose to love my new body for my kid, giving her an example of what it looks like to love the person you are. I choose to love my new body for myself, to keep positivity in my life and to keep moving forward.
I didn't have the birth experience I wanted. I went into birth thinking I could do it without medication and be done before the 24 hour mark. I had seen many women on the internet and saw how empowered they felt by having their children naturally and they felt like more of a woman because of it. I wanted to feel that empowerment. I took a "natural" birthing class, did all the exercises, ate well, drank TONS of water, and even at the end of all that, I went through 24 hours of natural labor and still ended up with an emergency cesarean. I was devastated.
I felt as if I had given up, as if my body had betrayed me. I felt like less of a woman because I wasn't able to do what my body was "naturally" supposed to do. I felt like I hadn't truly given birth because my daughter had been pulled out of my body rather than me giving birth to her. Even after encapsulating my placenta, I still got postpartum depression and starting seeing a therapist. There were a lot of days where I was in tears for hours. Many days where I looked at my daughter and felt that she was separate from me.
Kaia was tongue-tied right out of the gate and they didn't notice in the hospital and I had never heard of it before, and because of that, our breastfeeding journey got off to an EXTREMELY rocky start. She was suckling so hard to get the milk out because she didn't have the full use of her tongue that she ended up tearing both of my nipples and I was forced to use nipple shields and lather my breasts in creams, ointments and oils. I never got that oxytocin feeling that women talk about with their babies. I got it around 10-12 months postpartum. There were days I couldn't even get out of bed, but I had to because my husband worked full-time with two jobs and I only worked part-time with one.
I love my daughter with every ounce of my being, with my entire body and soul, but for a long time, I had images in my head of horrible things happening to her. Fear was clouding my judgement constantly, even when people around me were telling me otherwise. I couldn't go to bed at night because of the fear I had that she would stop breathing, even 6, 7, 8 months postpartum. I lived in constant fear and it often left me in tears or in crippling panic attacks.
However, watching my daughter grow has been the most rewarding and beautiful experience I have ever had. I grew this little person, this actual, living, breathing person. She started as this floppy, pooping, gurgling, leech who couldn't do anything for herself; couldn't even lift her head up to my breast. Slowly but surely, she hit every milestone and suddenly, the dark cloud that hung over my head on a daily basis began to dissipate. With every development she reached, the sadness I felt for not giving birth the way I wanted fell away. I had given life to this little person. She was learning and growing because of me and my husband. She needed me, and I needed her. We completed each other and now as I see her walk and get new words in her brain every day, I am in humbled and honestly I feel a bit foolish for ever thinking I hadn't actually given birth. She is the smartest little person and her little personality shines like nothing I have ever seen. Everyone tells you it's going to be hard to raise a kid, but I never thought it wouldn't be so rewarding at the same time. It's no wonder people have so many babies; it's very addicting.
Every day is a choice. You can choose to get up out of bed and do something for yourself. Do an art project, go buy something for yourself or take a walk in the sunshine, or even in the rain. You cannot take care of another human being if you can't take care of yourself first. One thing my father-in-law told me when we first got pregnant was when your plane is malfunctioning/going down, the air masks come down from the ceiling. You have to put one on yourself first before you put one on your kid because if you run out of oxygen, who is going to help your kid? Putting yourself first is a choice, it's a hard one and a choice that is not always made, but taking steps to put yourself first is knowledge that I would give to anyone, parent or not. If you are healthy and take care of yourself on a consistent basis, your kid will see that and at the very least take you as an example and one day aspire to be like you or something similar. As an individual, children or not, keeping yourself healthy and giving time each day for self-care, how can that be bad? Only you can change you.
When our mothers and grandmothers were having children, nothing was talked about. My grandmother never even considered breastfeeding and just dried up her milk because it was so unheard of to breastfeed. She was knocked out when she gave birth to her children and woke up with a baby plopped in her arms. Women 20+ years ago were not given the same opportunities we are given today to share their stories and to gather with other women and feel a sense of community. Giving birth, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and parenting should and NEED to be talked about openly and honestly. It's messy, loud, sometimes unorganized, chaotic, amazing, rewarding, beautiful, disastrous, gross, hilarious, sweet, and completely unlike anything you will ever do in your life. I respect anyone who wants children and those who do not. But this life, my daughter and being a mother is nothing like I thought it would be and everything I am now. Becoming a parent has opened my eyes and forced me to take care of myself and become a healthier, stronger person. I chose to share my story because like millions of other women, my story needs to be told. I feel like my story is similar to many other stories and by sharing mine, maybe other women can share theirs too. Plus, my kid is pretty cute. So that helps."