Selah Lodge (31) and Alice Heather (16 months)
Selah shares -
“I've had no loss of my own, but my sister's baby was born at 28 weeks and only lived two and a half days. Baby Willa died when I was 12 weeks pregnant with Alice. The loss was felt intensely by the family, and it definitely affected my experience with the rest of my pregnancy. I was more fearful and nervous throughout my pregnancy, not only about the health of my baby, but also how my baby would fit into the family after the loss of my niece. One of the strongest emotions I felt after Alice was born was sheer relief that she was here and healthy. I didn't know what to expect from my family, but Alice has brought only joy and love and healing. My pregnancy was without any complications, save the emotional ones. But ultimately I was so glad that Alice came to us when she did.
I've spent most of my adolescence and adulthood trying to love my body, with varying degrees of success. Each season of my life has had its challenges and triumphs. While I was pregnant, other than the general aches and pains and uncomfortable aspects of pregnancy, I've never felt better about my body. I loved my baby bump, and I was so proud of my body for growing my baby, for being her first home.
After birth, I couldn't believe how marvelous it was that my body then fed her. Yes, I did have the pain and the frustrations of breastfeeding, but I loved breastfeeding my baby. I loved the time with her and the bond it gave us. My body definitely doesn't look like it did before her, but I like that. I like my stretch marks that remind me of her. I don't mind how soft my body has stayed.
My own mom really tried to teach me and my sisters to love our bodies, but she has her own body image issues, and some of that trickled down to us. I work very hard to surround myself with people and media who only give love to my body and everyone's bodies. I know I can't protect Alice from the world at large and the body image issues it would like to give her, but in our home, in our family, we are going to love our bodies and all they do for us.
On days I get frustrated with my weight or my saggy breasts, I remember what my body has done for me, and I love it. Sure, I wish I could have found this level of peace with my body before having a baby, but for me, that peace came after my baby. I love my baby, and my body gave me that baby. Even though there could be reasons for to have a poor body image now, I've never been more comfortable or happy with my body, and I hope that my daughter can feel that love.
It may sound cliche, but I couldn't believe how tired I was. The first two weeks, we wouldn't have made it without the help of my family to cook food for us and watch the baby while we slept. My body was relieved not to be pregnant anymore, but I felt sore and bruised for months after birth.
I didn't expect the birth to be so long (44 hours), and I didn't expect to be so comfortable with my body that didn't look or feel like it had. I thought the moment I saw my baby it would feel like rapturous love - but it actually took a couple of weeks before I realized how much I loved her, and that she was mine, and that I was the one keeping her alive. I just wanted to stare at her forever.
I had been nervous about breastfeeding - not just the logistics of it, but that it seemed so animal and foreign to me. But once Alice was here, she took to it right away, and I ended up loving the breastfeeding journey. I loved the time with her, the closeness, the feeling of my body continuing to give her life, the invisible tether still connecting us. It was a tiring endeavor, but I mourned when we reached the end of breastfeeding. (She weaned herself at about 14 months.) I am loving watching her learn and grow and eat, but I do miss our special time together. Each day brings something new - that she's learning and doing - and I can't believe how much I'm enjoying watching her and being a part of her life.
It's helpful to hear that I'm not alone in this transition into motherhood. I wanted to be here today to document this time with my baby. I want her to know I am proud of her and of myself for making this far together. I want to encourage other parents to celebrate their stories and their bodies and their families.
You can read a lot of books to prepare for this pregnancy and birth and postpartum journey, and you should prepare, but ultimately, you just have to do what works for you and your baby. You will figure you what she and you need. It won't matter if you don't make gourmet dinners or always have the laundry folded. She's only going to be a baby for a second, so enjoy it. It feels like you'll never sleep again, but you will. And then you'll miss how tiny she was, even as you marvel at watching her learn. Soak it up and don't get bogged down in the details of how you thought it "should" be.”