Maggie Stevens (38), Sano (5), JoJo (2.5), and Benji (8 weeks)
Greenwich, CT | Brooklyn, NY
Maggie shares -
"I had a miscarriage between Sano and Joey. At nine weeks I had bleeding and no heartbeat and was told I had a blighted ovum. I hate that name, it sounds like a weird gastro intestinal condition, not the loss of a baby. I opted for a D&C because I wanted to get the whole thing over with. Little did I know that it's never really over - how naive. The D&C left me with a condition called Asherman's Syndrome, which is scarring in the uterus that can leave some infertile.
We were told to wrap our heads around not being able to conceive more children, that my uterus was essentially broken. I hit the internet hard and was met with lots of Asherman's stories with sad endings. My midwives, the OB they sent me to and one endocrinologist had only seen one or two cases each, also with sad outcomes. Lucky for me, I found a wonderful doctor in NYC who is known for his skill at treating Asherman's, which, as you can imagine, is a rather delicate surgery. He successfully removed most of the scarring and almost exactly a year after we were told we may not be able to conceive more children, Joey was born.
I'm learning not to be so hard on myself, after all, I look the way I do because I have given birth to three beautiful babies. I was pregnant in the summer months with JoJo and wore a bikini with pride. I loved my bump and felt no need to cover it up. Almost every time we went to the beach someone would comment on my belly, or how great it was that I was confident enough to show off my pregnant body. The compliments were nice but they were also eye opening. Why is an exposed pregnant body such a seemingly rare sight? Why are so many women made to feel they should cover up such an innocent body part? One that is doing something AMAZING?
As we approach "bikini season" I'm trying to find that same confidence with my current body, one that has very recently carried a child. I was so easily confident with a pregnant body, I should also be with my postpartum body. I'd love to think that people will look at me, running around with my three boys, and think, "Her body is beautiful, it's carried three babies!". But first, I have to get there. And I will, I will.
All three postpartum experiences were so different! I so badly wanted an unmedicated birth center birth with my first and dove into hypnobirthing. Long story (and labor) short, I ended up with a cesarean and spent my postpartum weeks mourning the loss of the birth I had envisioned and feeling like no one truly understood why I felt the way I did. I became OBSESSED with breastfeeding, not willing to get that "wrong" like I had gotten my birth "wrong". Lord help anyone who touched any of my frozen milk without consulting me first.
With my second I was determined to have a VBAC, which I did! Labor was significantly shorter but I pushed for so long that I have no recollection of what it felt like when the baby was coming out. I was too tired and too sore by the time JoJo arrived that all those sensations were gone. I had a retained placenta which was manually removed (barbaric, as awful as it sounds) but was home within 24 hours and happy that I had avoided a second cesarean. I needed stitches and those gave me some significant grief, which was frustrating. So to some extent, I was still feeling like my birth had left me wanting more. (Or perhaps less -- less surgery, less hands in my vagina, less stitches). I was much happier the second time around, but still got the weepies fairly regularly.
With my most recent birth, I had my baby at home in three hours, cheered on by his oldest brother. I could feel his head coming down the birth canal, I could feel all the sensations I had missed with JoJo. It was AWESOME! As we all laid happily around in those blissful minutes after his birth it became clear my placenta wasn't going to come out on its own. We did three manual removal attempts at home and then I headed to the hospital. I lost lots of blood and needed a blood transfusion, but the placenta was removed without issue and I was home in less than 24 hours. The blood loss knocked me on my ass for two weeks. I was so weak I couldn't do anything by myself. I spent the majority of my time snuggled in bed with my new baby with visits from the older boys. Although it was a scary turn of events, it forced me to have the kind of postpartum women should really have. I didn't see the inside of my fridge or my washing machine for weeks -- I snuggled, I slept, I nibbled food brought to me by wonderful family and friends.
I've been so much more sentimental this time around, mostly because Benji is going to be our last baby. I look at him and think, "This is the last time I will have a two-week old." Or, "This is the last time I will have an eight pound baby sleeping on my chest." The weepies still came, but they were usually sentimental rather than sad or angry. I look back at my birth and am so amazed and proud of how Benji came into the world. If he wasn't our last I would have to take a lot of time to consider how we'd birth another to avoid another alarming situation like we had with the placenta/blood loss and I think it would have negatively effected this postpartum experience a lot. But because he is our last I can easily focus on what an awesome birth it was and kind of keep the emergency transfer part separate. Part of me wishes I had at least one birth without an asterisk, without something I would change. But then I realize that there is no such thing. I'm sure if I asked 100 women about their births, most of them would have something they would change. Nothing is perfect, but my babies sure do come close.
Nothing lasts forever. I would get so stressed or anxious with Sano when something wasn't going well. If he was having a crying spell or if we were having a difficult time getting him to sleep through the night. When JoJo came along I realized that everything is but a moment. Sure, it's tough when you are having a hard time getting a baby to settle down, but eventually the crying will stop. It quite literally will not go on forever. Now when the going gets tough (say, getting kids ready to head out the door in the morning), I just think to myself, "In twenty minutes we will all be in the car singing a song and no one will be whining about what socks they are wearing." I've gotten significantly better at this with each kid and try to convey this message to new parents because it IS so stressful and can cause so much anxiety the first time around -- until you realize that when you look back, the bad/tough isn't what you immediately remember. What you remember first is the good stuff.
I love this movement so much -- everything about it is beautiful, the pictures, the stories, the reason behind it. It has made me be kinder to myself, to my body. I look at the people that have been photographed and think they are beautiful which has helped me to realize that I am too. If other people's photographs have touched me, hopefully my photograph will touch someone else and make them realize just how beautiful they are too. Be the change you want to see in the world -- one photograph at a time.