Katie Trask (30), Mason (3) and Keira (6 months)
Photographed in Seattle, Washington
Katie shares -
"I have always had a distorted perception of my body since I was teenager. When I saw photos of myself, I was hyper-focused on my poochy stomach, thick arms, and round chin. However, when I got pregnant with my first child, I embraced and truly loved my body for the first time and all those insecurities became non-existent. I especially loved my growing belly and how I could feel every kick, punch, and hiccup. After giving birth to Mason, my belly was still soft for a long time, I worried my c-section scar would never fade, and I wondered how many stretch marks would stick around. Luckily, I was too busy balancing work, breastfeeding, and fumbling my way through motherhood to tear down my self-esteem and was able to give myself the much needed grace it deserved.
My husband and I discovered in July 2016 that we were expecting our second child. I was elated; I was excited to not only be pregnant again but I was determined to have an un-medicated, natural VBAC. What I didn't expect was the onset of severe anxiety and depression that plagued me in my second and third trimester. My work and personal life were undergoing some changes and I blamed my pregnancy hormones for not coping well. I found myself losing my patience in situations I would have otherwise kept level-headed through or crying in my car because I didn't want anyone to know just how unhappy I had become. I brought it up to my OB but was completely dismissed. He contributed my low moods to being tired and chasing a toddler around. So, I trudged on in good faith that I was just hormonal and things would turn around when my daughter arrived.
My beautiful Keira was born on March 22 of this year. Long story short, I was able to labor naturally and unmedicated up to 9cm. There were last minute concerns over my placenta detaching and as a result, I wheeled in for another cesarean. While I had not gotten the VBAC experience I had hoped for, I was still proud of myself for what I had accomplished. My baby was safe in my arms and took to breastfeeding with ease. Life at home was perfect; 2 kids suited us well and I felt bliss.
It wasn't long before my mental health spiraled and my depression and anxiety plagued me once again. I felt alone, desperate, and constantly anxious. When I wasn’t having anxiety attacks, I was losing my temper or utterly exhausted and devoid of any emotion. I wasn’t eating regularly and lost an unhealthy amount of weight, which I then worried would impact my milk supply. I was falling apart and because I wasn’t comfortable letting my loved ones into this world, I repressed my feelings and maintained a happy, albeit false, disposition. With the exception of a few loved ones, most of my friends and family were completely naïve to the fact that I was self-destructing. I was scared that I would never feel normal again and resented the person I had become. This went on for months but the day I hit my breaking point is one I will never forget. I had found myself on the floor, head in my hands crying and thinking self-destructive thoughts. It was the first time I had truly broken down in the presence of my son… He approached me with the saddest look in his eyes and asked, “Mommy sad?” “Yes sweetie. Mommy is sad.” He kissed my face and put his arms around me. He nestled his little body into my lap and simply sat with me in silence until I stopped crying. I had become so self-absorbed in my failures that I was oblivious to how I was affecting my tenderhearted son. How could I possibly encourage and teach my kids to live a happy and fulfilled life if I was emotionally vacant? I vowed to myself that day that I would not succumb to the grasp of my PPD and anxiety.
While both 4th trimester experiences were as different as night and day, the one lesson I can take away from both is to be more forgiving of myself. I've learned how to become more self-aware so I can actively change my negative mindset and better cope with my bad days. Knowing what I know now, I would have distanced myself from my anxiety triggers sooner and leaned more heavily on those willing to love me through my darkest hours. While I may not always love myself, I do love my children with every single ounce of my being and know they deserve a happy, balanced mother to look up to.
I have followed 4th Trimester Bodies since Mason was only a few months old. The philosophy that we should not only embrace our 4th trimester bodies, but also be pillars of support for each other really resonated with me. The sense of community helped me through my own insecurities; I will never forget how empowered I felt after discovering this project and hoped for a chance to be a part of it. While my story is more about the emotional changes some of us endure in our 4th trimester, I hope it can resonate with other mothers that are struggling in their own journey and hope they know they are never alone."