Holly Cruise (33), Charlotte (3.5), and Penelope (1.5)
Boston, MA. Photographed in West Springfield, Mass.
Holly shares -
"Parenthood has really impacted my body image in a positive way. I feel as if going through pregnancy and childbirth allowed me to soften my self criticism. It was actually quite freeing. My body was and is capable of truly remarkable things - growing and nourishing my babies, healing from a major surgery and subsequently healing from a vaginal birth, to then feeding and sustaining my girls from my body with milk. I look at all women so differently now, with so much more respect and understanding - my lens is completely different now. It's so humbling.
Postpartum was messy with my first child. I suffered from major birth trauma after our planned home birth turned into a fast cesarean section and NICU stay. In the hospital, my partner and I fought through a lot of red tape for the decisions we knew to be best for our health and family. My picturesque dream of a birth were shattered and all I heard was the "well you have a healthy baby, that's all that matters". This is true - AND, so much more ALSO matters. I missed out on skin to skin; holding my new girl would not happen for 14 hours after surgery. Her "complications" were minor. We fought for time together, we fought to pump and latch and exclusively breastfeed. We had to push back against some real nasty staff because I was labeled "failed home birth".
Once we got home, it was the real deal. The trauma of the hospital stayed with me for a long time. Oh, I smiled for the camera, but I was in a dark place for a while. My sweet, strong, fierce girl was a the fighter she needed to be. But everything was all so new and very hard to handle. I imagined motherhood as fairies and nursing and naps and snuggles. Some of it was. But again, adjusting to my new role was so much harder than I imagined, and my brain swirled constantly around our birth experience. Breastfeeding was very painful for a long time, however we were determined. Over time, we all settled in. Charley's birth will still bring me to tears. But it was my first lesson in "I am not in charge". I can plan, prepare, meditate and manifest, but for some greater reason - she arrived the way she did. I have made my peace with that.
When we got pregnant for a second time, there was a lot of fear I had to work through. I knew birthing at home was my safe space. The pregnancy was quite similar to my first one, relatively easy. I went into labor at 43 weeks 1 day. 19 hours later and not a single word spoken during labor, we had a baby girl. It was amazing. We went to bed a few hours later with this incredible little bundle. Postpartum was a bit easier round two. While my home birth did not "heal" the wound on my heart with my first daughter, it was simply another example of how incredible our bodies truly are.
My truth is that this journey is transformational, no matter what this experience may bring. The one piece of advice to my former self would be, "when it's new, it's scary. But pretty soon it's not so new anymore and you grow from there"
This movement is inspiring and it's a honor to participate. I see so much beauty and love in each photo I have seen (of these families). It's what the world needs to see - real, raw beauty."