Megan Brubaker (25), Audrey Grace (4), and Bradley David (19 months)
Sacramento, CA | Photographed in Detroit, MI
Megan shares -
"I was very self conscious growing up as a teen and experienced a good amount of bullying about my weight. I had terrible body image issues and always viewed myself as overweight. Being pregnant made me feel beautiful for the first time. I loved watching my body grow and seeing what the body is capable of. I was proud of myself for being able to carry something so precious inside of me.
Child birth was absolutely amazing to me and I just assumed that since I was young, the weight would fall off after the baby was born. It wasn't until the postpartum phase that I fell back into my old ways of self hatred and disgust. I struggled a lot with what my 'new' body looked like. I was proud of all that it had accomplished but angered at the fact that I didn't "bounce back" like so many other mothers my age. I ended up gaining weight after the birth of both of my children and didn't end up losing the weight until about one year postpartum.
I had spent so many years hating my body and where had that gotten me? If I wanted my daughter to love herself, I needed to start loving myself too. Instead of picking apart my flaws, I started to see my body for all of the amazing things it had done for me. I earned every single scar and stretch mark on my body. I carried two healthy (and large) babies to term and delivered them safely into this world. My breasts may sag more than the average twenty five year old but they have also fed and nourished many babies through the gift of milk donation. My stomach that I once saw as sad and deflated is a place that brings so much joy and laughter to my children when they blow raspberries on it. My hair that became limp and lifeless after pregnancy always keeps my daughter entertained when she gets to play “hair salon”. My arms that I used to see as too big are now strong enough to hold two precious little ones and comfort them when they are sad or scared. My squishy thighs now act as a comfortable seat when I read bedtime stories every night. My cheeks that I always said were too chubby are the perfect place for my kids to plant endless kisses on. All of these parts of my body that I once saw as ‘flawed’ are some of my children’s favorite parts of me. When I look at them like that, how can I do anything but smile? Instead of looking at my body and feeling shame, I am starting to feel pride. I can honestly say that I love my body more now than I ever did growing up. I had never seen myself as a very strong person, physically or mentally, but motherhood has helped me to view myself as an incredibly tenacious and confident woman that is capable of far more than I had ever expected.
I enjoyed my first pregnancy very much. I was young and enjoyed watching my body grow. I had a smooth and rather uneventful pregnancy but developed gestational diabetes that was well managed by diet and exercise. I was anxious to meet my daughter so my doctor agreed to induce me at 39 weeks. I labored for about 19 hours and my daughter was born after just four pushes.
I struggled tremendously with breastfeeding my daughter, who we later found out had tongue and lip ties that were preventing her from getting a proper latch. I did not have much help from the nurses in the hospital because every time they came to check on how nursing was going, they would ask “does she have a good latch?” I had never breastfed a baby before, so how was I supposed to know? After 24 hours they sent my husband and I on our way home and I was terrified. I had no idea how to take care of a baby, she didn't come with a manual, we had taken absolutely no classes, and we were in way over our heads. She seemed like a fairly calm baby when we were in the hospital but when we got home all she did was cry. All day and all night. It wasn't just a cry, but a scream like she was in pain, especially after eating. She was finally diagnosed with GERD, reflux, and lactose intolerance.
It took a couple of months but we eventually got the right combination of medicines and supplemental formula figured out for her. I continued to struggle with breastfeeding and found myself getting angry every time I had to feed her. I had heard about postpartum depression and was told to watch for the warning signs but didn't know what those were. I had no plan of action because I just assumed that it wouldn't happen to me. My husband and other family members knew that something was wrong but they didn’t know what it was or how to help me. I was a miserable combination of anger, sadness, and anxiety and I was not enjoying motherhood. I just had this overwhelming feeling that I was a failure as a mother, mainly stemming from the fact that I could not breastfeed my daughter. I felt that if my body can’t even do the ONE thing that it was biologically made to do, how am I ever going to be able to be able to raise this child? I often felt that she would be better off with a different mother. I loved my daughter with every fiber of my being, but I did not feel connected to her because every day I thought that I was just ruining her.
When I decided to stop breastfeeding and pumping at five months postpartum, I began to enjoy motherhood more. I know that there are great doctors who listen to their patients, but mine was not one of them. I called many times, begging for help with breastfeeding and telling them that I was depressed but got nowhere. It took over a year to feel like myself again and it wasn’t until then that I really saw how bad I was. I blocked out a large portion of her newborn stage because I was in such a dark place and I just don’t want to relive that mental state that I was in.
When I became pregnant with my son, I immediately worried that I would fall into the same depression that I had with my daughter. I had a different doctor this time and brought this up as my first concern. He advised that I stay on the antidepressants that I was taking throughout the pregnancy and we had a plan to watch me closely after his birth. I also planned to have my placenta encapsulated as I had heard this can help with PPD and milk supply. I enjoyed the beginning of the second pregnancy but began to have horrible pain that was diagnosed as symphysis pubis dysfunction. I was put on limited bed rest and had to stop working because of the pain. My child was not in any danger, it was just very painful to stand or walk for extended periods of time. I had gestational diabetes for a second time and was induced at 38 weeks due to elevated blood pressures.
After over 24 hours of labor, my son never moved down into the birth canal and was stuck so the doctor needed to do a cesarean. Everything happened so fast and before I knew it, I was in recovery and my son was being rushed to the NICU but I didn’t know why. I had planned everything perfectly so that breastfeeding would go well - immediate skin to skin, latching on right away, no binkies, etc. I wasn’t even able to hold my son for over 24 hours and he wasn’t able to be fed for 48 hours. Recovery from the cesarean was brutal but not having my son next to me made me fight like hell to get out of that bed any chance I got. When I wasn’t next to him, I was pumping or hand expressing so that the nurses would feed him my colostrum instead of formula. We both were discharged after five days and recovery at home went much better the second time.
My milk actually came in but he still wasn't strong enough to nurse so I decided that I would just pump until I got tired of it, then we would switch to formula. I took my placenta pills and was happy and enjoying motherhood. After twelve days, he suddenly latched on and never looked back! We fought through nine months of excruciatingly painful thrush on and off, I had to get my appendix removed unexpectedly and spent three night away from him, and there were many times where I thought about throwing in the towel. We continued to nurse until he was about 14 months old and decided he didn’t want to anymore. One day he just quit-cold turkey. It was like a bad break up. I wasn’t ready but he was. I continued to pump for a bit to relieve discomfort and donated my freezer stash to six other babies. Being able to nurse my son and donate my excess was such a rewarding experience for me. After struggling for so long with my daughter, I felt like I was finally able to heal.
I do feel like I had a touch of PPD with my son as well but since I knew what to expect and knew that I could get through it, I was able to handle it much better. My postpartum journey with both of my babies has made me passionate about reaching out to other mothers and educating them about PPD and letting them know that they are not alone. There is so much silence about PPD that when mothers do feel it, it is almost a shameful thing that we feel we need to keep quiet about. That is the last thing we should do! As mothers, we need to come together and support one another in this terrifying yet beautiful journey that is parenthood.
I chose to participate in this movement because there is so much judgement and negativity in the world. There is so much pressure on people to be a certain way or to look a certain way that people forget that there are SO many different forms of beauty. I want to open up people’s eyes to see that beauty is in the stories we have to tell. I want to show people that you don’t have to look a certain way to be considered beautiful. I wanted to share my story because I want to encourage people to be open and honest about parenthood, not to just share the sugar coated version of it. I was so blind to how difficult parenthood can be that I felt like I was an inadequate mother. I felt like everyone else had something figured out that I hadn’t but in reality, everyone else was struggling too, they just weren't talking about it. We need to talk about the hard stuff because it happens to all of us!
The one thing I would tell myself as a new mom is that you are enough for your children. You may not be perfect in every way, but you are perfect for them. You were hand chosen to raise these babies and you are exactly what they need. Yes, it is scary and trying and exhausting, but this is what you are meant to do. You are strong enough. You are smart enough. You are patient enough. You are absolutely enough. Keep going because this is exactly where you are supposed to be."