Rachel Sandle-Sacco (33) and Rowan (15 months)
Rachel shares -
“I have struggled with my body image prior to finding out unexpectedly that I was pregnant. Due to anxiety medications & diagnosed thyroid issues I had reached the point where I was already considered obese. During my pregnancy I gained an additional 50 pounds which I had a very hard time with. My husband was and continues to be extremely supportive of me when the weight I have gained impacts my daily life and how I feel about seeing myself in pictures and the mirror. One of my hobbies is photography, and I love capturing photos of our little family but am always critical of how I look in those photos, I no longer recognize myself.
I have some sort of body dysmorphia because the way I picture myself to look, isn't how I end up looking when I see myself - it’s a very strange and upsetting realization every time. My husband would always remind me while I was carrying our son that I was growing a healthy baby boy - to do that my body was gaining weight in order to support that growing process but it did not make it any easier to get on the scale at the doctor's office. And now that I gave birth more than a year ago, I feel like i no longer have any "excuses" to have this much weight on me.
The other thing I struggled with was social media. A majority of my fellow moms gave birth and their weight melted off them, they posted proud full length selfies 3 days post birth bragging about how they no longer had a baby bump. This affected me in the absolute worst way, and though I'm sure they didn't realize how much that hurt me, it played into how negatively I was speaking to myself and how I felt about myself and it definitely played a role in my PPD. I have worked very hard to be more gentle with myself, eat healthy, and see the doctor for my thyroid issues but there are days I see myself in a photo and can't help but to cry. I know participating in this project will help me tremendously in my path to healing.
I experienced a very traumatic emergency cesarean with no anesthesia after developing life threatening preeclampsia. I could feel everything the medical staff was doing to me and was ignored by the anesthesiologist. My baby was born at 3 lbs 15 oz and swept away to the NICU, I missed his birth because I passed out, didn't get to see him for 24 hours, and didn't hold him until 48 hours post birth. I didn't feel a bond with him, the first time I saw him was pictures my husband had taken on his phone. I wasn't allowed to see him because I was on magnesium still. Then when I saw him, I still couldn't touch him, or hold him. I had a lot of anxiety and sadness that was unaddressed by the hospital and when my husband had to go back to work, I was very lonely in the hospital room, all by myself, without my baby.
My milk wasn't coming in, I had trouble breastfeeding, he was so early he wasn't ready to latch, pumping was hard. Leaving my baby boy at the hospital and driving home without him was the worst thing I have ever had to do and i wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone. The day we brought him home from the NICU, a month and a half later, my husband's less than empathetic employer fired him for being "distracted" and taking too many days off (7). I had already returned to work 2 1/2 weeks after giving birth as to not use all my maternity leave while he sat in the NICU, and planned to take a month off when he finally came home. Now we had no choice financially other than for me to continue working and not have any maternity leave home with my baby.
I felt robbed of my ability/chance to bond with my baby. It affected me terribly. We had a lot of help from family and friends but when the newness of everything wore off, we felt very alone. That's when my PPD hit me full force. We had been in survival mode to get through our circumstances: work all day, drive 40 min to the hospital, spend all night at the hospital, get home at 11pm, do it all over again. Eat fast food, sleep if we could.
So when he came home, and survival mode wore off, reality hit very hard, and I started to process everything that had happened to me. My expectations of going full-term, not develop life threatening illness, leaving the hospital with my baby, having a full maternity break, being financially stable, having my baby shower before the baby came, having the nursery ready, having a supportive doctor, being connected with resources for NICU moms/PPD when I left the hospital - none of this became reality and for this being the first time I ever became a mom, I knew nothing. I struggled hard. I'm proud of how strong I am, about what I endured and I want to help other moms who might've struggled like I did.
I advocated a lot for myself a lot along the way but even then, I was deceived by the medical community I trusted. My biggest advice to new parents, pregnant moms - trust your gut when you feel a certain way about the way you are treated by a provider, advocate for yourself, speak up, ask questions. My biggest regret was not hiring a midwife or doula because we couldn't afford one but having someone experienced with all things pregnancy would've been so priceless with all the scary complications we had since my doctor was less than helpful. It would've saved some of my anxiety and trauma of birth.
I am a very strong feminist and advocate in my community, this project is so special to me personally. I instantly knew when I saw it that I must be a part of it. This project is nothing short of amazing, celebrating women's bodies, lifting each other up, bonding with our babies - I need this in my life right now. I also have been trying to heal by sharing my story and I believe this is another way i can be heard. Throughout the trauma I experienced in my emergency cesarean, no one was listening to me, they were doing things to my body but no one was telling me what was happening, it was the most scared i have been in my entire life to date. The medical staff didn't hear me then but the world will hear me now. That is one of the only ways I can move on from this. I just need a chance to tell my story, be truly heard & validated.”