Chloe Kelly (29) and Isabelle Grace (16 months)
Houston, TX | Photographed in Seattle, WA
Chloe shares -
"It's a lot the same, but so very different. I want to feel sexy and show off my body, but I am conflicted and don't want to show too much. Do I need to wear a one piece bathing suit now to go in a pool with my child because I am a mother? Or can I choose the cute, slightly sexy, two piece? I'm a nursing mother, and sometimes I don't feel like my body is mine anymore. Not to mention visual reminders of my pregnancy in my stretch marks.
My postpartum journey was so very different from what I had imagined. I had babysat infants/young children before and thought I knew what to expect. First of all, when you babysit, you give the child back after a few hours. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I was determined to make it work. I had heard of people having trouble and quitting, but that wasn't going to be me. Baby is hungry, you put them up to your breast and they eat, right? Wrong. I was having significant nipple pain, using a nipple shield, pumping after each nursing session, working with a lactation consultant, all between trying to keep myself fed, get everyone sleep (what is that?), and questioning every decision I was making for my child (am I picking her up too much, how do I get her to sleep by herself, is all of this really working, am I even parent material?). It was a HUGE challenge. Bigger than I ever expected. I stuck with breastfeeding and, with a lot of help, it got much better. Sleep came more naturally, but not at all how I expected. And I never want to leave her side; she amazes me more and more every day. I still question some of the decisions I make, but I'm a little more relaxed and understand that I wouldn't take back being a parent for anything.
I'd tell myself or a new parent, babies don't come with a user guide or manual, and they shouldn't. You are going to make the best decisions for your child. Surround yourself with a great support system and be ready for anything. Put aside your assumptions and take each day as it comes.
I heard about the 4th Trimester Bodies Project and loved the mission. I want to be apart of something bigger than me. I want to show my child and the next pregnant woman, mother, or parent (of any sex or identity) that people come in all shapes and sizes and everyone is beautiful. There are so many things that are "normal" to society that aren't normal at all. We need to keep fighting for the REAL normal."