Carly Mayer (26) and Eleanor (7 months)
Oak Park, IL
Carly shares -
“Parenthood had caused me to lose my body identity. My body is no longer just my own, but has become hers. My breasts are for her; to feed on her demand. To be stretched through arm holes and over car seats on road trips. My arms are never resting at my side. They are fluid with her, sometimes seeming to turn from two into three. My former vibrant red hair is now faded and pulled up to avoid her curious hands. My previously strong legs have gone soft from hours of sitting at her level. My body is no longer my own, but on most days that is glorious.
I am in awe of what I have seen my body accomplish. I had the strength and endurance to deliver a human being into this world. Not easily of course, but successfully. I feel as if my body is amazing, but it is no longer what it used to be.
I took awhile to accept and respect my new mom bod. The first few months of exhaustion, feeling glued to the rocking chair, and the newly flat tire I used to call my midsection was discouraging. The words he said to me replaying in my ear, “You’re in your prime now. Guys aren’t going to want to date you after you have a kid.” Being a single mother with the pressure to find someone that will eventually love my mom bod as much as I try to. Those feelings took some time to move through. Surrounding myself with supportive women helped.
In March 2017, my mother was in the ICU barely able to breath. She was fighting stage four metastatic breast cancer and pneumonia. When my sister asked her if she was afraid of dying, my faith filled mother said she did not fear death, but instead feared she would never meet her grandchildren. The next day I found out I was pregnant.
It seemed as if it was meant to be; except for the fact that my pregnancy was unplanned, the father of my child had ended our relationship, and my father was not even aware I was dating someone because of his race. My situation was not ideal by any means, but I chose to continue my pregnancy.
My daughter’s birth was incredible. My mother was well enough to experience the delivery with me. My best friend and doula were also by my side. We had so much girl power in the room- I’m convinced that is why my daughter turned out so tough.
She has had her fair share of medical issues, something I was not prepared for. My greatest challenge has been her weight gain. I struggled with breastfeeding and she struggled with reflux. The combination caused her to constantly under weigh and the finger of blame was always pointed at me. What was I doing that was inadequate? I felt so much self doubt and pressure.
I was mislead that breastfeeding would be easier. The first couple months postpartum I spent cross legged on my parent’s couch with Eleanor attached to my breast, rarely coming up for air. I was exhausted, and living with my parents and siblings did not help. I was fortunate to have the support of my family, but without her father sharing in on the all nighters I felt alone.
Those feelings escalated along with my anxiety and became overwhelming. I could not get through a trip to the grocery store with Eleanor without having an anxiety attack. I became housebound because she would not take a bottle. I felt isolated, overwhelmed, and hopeless. I questioned my ability as a mother. I was struggling with postpartum depression but was unaware.
I started taking Zoloft to gain control of my postpartum depression and am beyond grateful I did. Taking my daughter places is exciting for me instead of crippling. The only place I now dread is her podiatrist. Every week we have to have Eleanor’s bilateral casts sawed off and new ones put on. I know they’re going to straighten her curved feet, but her pain is torture for me.
No parenting book could have prepared me for how protective I would feel seeing my child in pain. My protectiveness crosses over with how I feel about reaching out to her father. His lack of involvement is something I struggled a lot with during my pregnancy and when she was first born. I still have my moments of weakness- being a single mom is tough. People have their opinions on what a family should look like. They think the father should be responsible for the child. There should be both a mom and a dad parenting. Its 2018 people. Having one kick-ass parent is enough. Eleanor and I are our own family. She is blessed to grow up in my packed household.
America has a skewed perception of how motherhood should be. Mothers are expected to breastfeed easily but not in public. They are supposed to bond with and have their child on a routine by the time their 8-12 week partially paid maternity leave is up. Women should be ready to lose the extra 30 pounds in half the time it took to gain the weight. America puts pressure on the new mom, their role, and their expectation as women. I am honored to participate in a movement that rawly embraces the truth of parenthood- the struggles and the beauty. A movement that provokes Americans to see breastfeeding as natural and intimate. I hope my image with my daughter will capture my new found self-love and encourage others to respect motherhood and women’s bodies more.”