Andrea Brown (33) and Rowan (6 months)
Andrea shares -
“Regular physical activity and a strong yoga practice have been critical in helping me overcome an eating disorder and maintain a positive body image and self-love. Loving my sexual parts has also been a journey due to misinformation I received as a girl on what normal sexually mature female anatomy looks like (hint- its not the same as a prepubescent girl.)
When my pregnancy (vulvar varicosities and pubic symphysis dysfunction) and birth (forceps and episiotomy) went very differently than I'd hoped, I was unable to be physically active for many months. I've suffered trauma to my pelvic floor and perineum that I'm still working hard to recover from 7 months later. The path of parenthood has revealed to me the conditional nature with which I've held regard for myself and has blown open the work I still need to do to love and accept myself without condition, with softness and respect for this human body that will continue to age and change.
My postpartum journey continues to unfold every day. I’ve adjusted to my increased need for self-care by taking more time from work than I thought I was capable of asking for, saying no to things without hesitation or a second-thought, and going to bed earlier than ever. I also spend a lot of time and money finding and working with healers both in my community and online including somatic experience trauma therapy, holistic pelvic care, Mayan abdominal massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, herbal medicine, and energy work. This 4th Trimester Bodies Project is another example of my investing in my postpartum healing and reclamation. I never expected to be going through such a deep transformation and reckoning with myself.
When I transferred to the hospital after 5 hours of pushing at home, I told my home birth midwife who came with us that I was sure I did not want an episiotomy. When given the choice between a cesarean, forceps, or a vacuum, I did not receive information on the varying complications or healing scenarios associated with each and wasn't in the mental space at that time to ask what might be in store for me after the birth, as a woman with a passion for sex and movement. I felt like avoiding a cesarean was the best thing I could do for my baby, and opted for forceps because I was told these were going to be easier on the baby.
I didn't find out until I was holding him (before he was taken to the NICU) that I had been given an episiotomy along with the forcep intervention. And I didn't find out until I was home a week later that the episiotomy was performed in a 'medial lateral' fashion (at a 90 degree angle), that would take a second surgery and 7 months-and-counting to heal. I deserved better advocacy from my midwife, better information from the obstetrician, and better pregnancy and postpartum care from everyone.
Given the full story, I would have made a choice that would have worked for me and our baby. Instead, I have had a long road of recovery - both physically and emotionally, as I work to forgive the body and care professionals whom I feel let me down. My body is forever changed by my childbirth experience and I strive to work through my feelings of violation so that I may heal my scars with love and care. The best medicine during moments of deep sadness has been prolonged eye contact with my baby, Rowan and partner, Brady. This reminds me of my wholeness, my beauty, and my blessings.
I chose the path of an unmedicated home birth because I wanted to meet myself as a laboring woman, as a birthing woman, and as a new mother, without interruption or interference. It didn't work out the way I imagined, and I am meeting myself now as a woman in recovery. It is not easy, but I am finding my strength and voice from this tender and holy place.
We grow our strength and self-healing power from the extent to which we can open to our vulnerability and face that which is. As much as my ego would like for me to be perceived as someone who is inviolate, the truth is that pregnancy and childbirth has been a process of deep healing for me. I am here to take my place alongside my sisters who have also struggled, to be seen and accepted as I am. And to say with love and compassion and deep respect, I see and love you, too.”