Shannon Fuscaldo (37). Mother to Jaden (17) and Tilly (21 months - pictured)
Fort Wayne, Indiana | Portland, Oregon
Shannon shares -
"I had my first child at age 19, when I was just coming into my body as a woman. After he was born, I felt like everything quickly returned to its prior shape except my breasts and skin on my lower belly. I thought maybe after some time and more exercise they would bounce back and tighten up, but no amount of exercise did the trick. I grew very self-conscious of these areas and even consulted with a plastic surgeon about breast implants. Even though I didn't love these parts of myself, I so badly wanted to embrace all of the markings that parenthood gave me and decided against surgery.
Now, 17 years later, I still struggle with accepting the parts of myself that do not live up to this unattainable expectation I have, but I am working to change the thought patterns in my head. I am so fortunate to have a belly that expanded enough to grow two babies to term and breasts that have nourished them for the beginning of their lives. Also, I feel a tremendous responsibility to be a body positive role model to my daughter. My consciousness around the way I talk about my body or anyone's body or physical appearance in general in front of my daughter causes me to be more conscious about these thoughts even when she isn't around.
My son was born in a hospital where I had an epidural after I realized that labor is no joke, an episiotomy, and after pushing for several hours, my son was helped out with a vacuum. Days later when my milk came in, my rock-hard breasts were about five times their original size and my nipples could barely withstand the pain from still figuring out our latch. We did eventually figured it out and I healed up just fine. I did have a lot of family support, but I may have experienced a little postpartum depression, and definitely some loneliness and isolation because of being in such a different place from my peer group.
My daughter was born in a birthing center sixteen years later. In the throes of labor, I remembered why I opted to have an epidural the first time around! However, I did feel like a badass superwoman and I still feel a sense of strength when I remember what my body is capable of. I ended up with a small tear and chose not to get stitches (I couldn't bear the thought of being sewn up down there) so was put on bed rest for the first week postpartum. I got to spend an entire week holding her and nursing. I didn't think I'd have any trouble nursing since I'd done it before, but I still needed the guidance of a lactation consultant to get it down.
After an entire week in our house my body was feeling really good so we walked around the neighborhood and I started bleeding more heavily. My body was telling me to take it easy. We continued this dialogue where I would be a little too active and my body would respond by bleeding for six weeks postpartum. Eventually I did learn to listen to my body and slowly worked up to the level of activity that feels right for me.
I wanted to participate in this project because of the way it showcases the beauty of all mothers, regardless of their shape.
I would tell my former self or a new parent to not be afraid to accept help from others. If someone offers to hold your baby for 15 minutes so you can take a shower, let them! If a friend wants to bring dinner so you can bond with your family instead of working in the kitchen, graciously accept. If people offer to help, it's because they want to. You can pay it forward later.