Heather Martin (34) Abby 6, Liam 4, and Harrison 8 months. Heather has also lost four children Christopher James (10), Parker James (2), Hope and Joy (1)
Heather shares -
"I've miscarried 3 babies and one of my children was still born. Christopher James passed at 11 weeks into pregnancy on June 1, 2007. Parker James passed at 21 weeks into pregnancy on May 2, 2015. Hope passed very early at 4 weeks into pregnancy in October 2015. Joy passed at 6 weeks into pregnancy on January 1, 2016.
After my first pregnancy and miscarriage early in my marriage, I felt angry at myself and my body for not taking care of the little life that was growing inside of me. Even though I knew logically it wasn't my fault that he was no longer with us, I still struggled with accepting my body and believing it could grow a healthy baby. After my first two children were born (3 and 5 years later) my body "bounced back" fairly quickly both times and I never thought about my body too much, except for how amazing it was for growing and nourishing my two children.
After my son, Parker, was born into a cold room, lifeless and so tiny, the love for my body shifted a bit. I felt betrayed by my body, but I mostly questioned what I did wrong that possibly hurt my baby. I lost two more babies after Parker. Hope, very shortly after finding out I was pregnant with her and just 5 months after loosing Parker. And Joy, on the first day of the new year of 2016 after telling my children and family on Christmas that we were expecting.
I began to severely doubt my body and its capability to grow another human, but mostly I blamed myself. We got pregnant again in early February of 2016, just a month after losing Joy. I struggled through my pregnancy, always feeling so worried that I was going to lose this little baby and guilty for not being able to enjoy the pregnancy the way I wished I could. Harrison Monroe was born 2 weeks late and absolutely perfect. He was the birth I had hoped for since experiencing my first two amazing births. He was the healing after so much hurt and loss.
Our journey to 7 kids has had so many amazing highs and many unbearable lows, but I know God has the perfect plan for our family and the day I get to heaven, four amazing kids are going to run into my arms and they will call me mama. All this to say, my body image has been through a roller coaster of emotions. I love my body for carrying and nourishing my 3 earthly children, but I also get angry with my body for not being able to carry all my children and with myself for not taking care of my body and feeding it good things. It's a constant struggle, but more and more each day, I'm able to look in the mirror and I'm proud of the woman that I see looking back at me.
Every time after the birth of my three children, I've always been blown away with what my body is capable of. To grow three tiny humans and to nourish them and comfort them at the breast up until my first was 5 and my second was 3 has been nothing short of incredible. After pregnancy I've always been proud of my body and accepting of the lumps, bumps, and stretch marks covering me. It wasn't until I experienced the loss of my baby and held him in my arms, that I came to look at my body differently. Now I'm learning to love my body again thanks to the beautiful babies God has given me to raise here on Earth. Everyday I have to remind myself that I only have one body and that I need to love it and care for it so that I can be here for my babies and so that I can be my best self. I'm guessing life will continue to give me ups and downs over the years and I'll constantly be developing a new relationship and connecting to this one body I've been given.
The advice I would give to a new parent of my former self, is to throw all your expectations out and just love yourself and those around you as best you can.
I heard about this project when it was just beginning and I was so inspired by it. At that time I had only experienced one early miscarriage (which I mostly suppressed and ignored at the time) and two perfect and amazing births. I was tandem breastfeeding my toddler and my newborn and I felt like super woman. I ran my first marathon and I felt like my body could do anything and was stronger now post parting than it ever was before. I wanted so badly to capture that emotion and strength in front of the camera and waned to be a part of the movement.
Unfortunately, I was no where near Chicago or any of the cities you were traveling to, so the project went on the back burner of my mind. Fast forward to 2017, I saw you were coming to Tampa, but I looked at my body and couldn't imagine standing in front of the camera with how "ugly" and beat up it looked now after so much hurt and loss. Then one day I was standing in front of my mirror with a black bra and a black pair of underwear holding my baby fresh out of the bath when my two older kids ran by naked just out of the bath and the image reminded me of the project and I thought, wow, I'm a strong mom and I want to capture this image forever. I immediately grabbed my phone and searched for the event, hoping it wasn't sold out. I found it on Facebook and signed up before I could give it a second thought and I'm so glad I did. My body isn't perfect or even pretty by the world's standard, but I love what my body has given me and I wouldn't trade my story for any thing."