Erica Hieggelke (36) and Otis (22 months)
Chicago | Photographed in Seattle, Washington
Erica shares -
"For a variety of life reasons, it took quite some time after we decided we wanted to have a baby for us to actually start trying. Since we planned to conceive using IUI, we expected that it would take a few tries to get pregnant, but I got pregnant on the first try. Cautiously elated, I moved forward with my plan to be one of those fit moms who exercised throughout pregnancy. We would announce the pregnancy at Christmas. I kept running with my training group and completed a half marathon on a Sunday in late November. Monday morning I went in for a routine ultrasound and found out the baby had stopped growing about five days prior. The disappointment gave way to a certain pragmatism - we would try again as soon as the clinic would let us. My grandfather died in February of the following year and I got pregnant again in March. Since then I've always felt a twinge of regret that he never got to meet my son or even know that I had been pregnant.
After my miscarriage, I stopped exercising almost completely. Even though I knew the half marathon hadn't caused the miscarriage I felt somehow responsible and I stopped running. The grief from my grandfather's death and the miscarriage combined with normal winter blahs meant that I was in the worst physical shape of my life when I got pregnant again. Yet I had the best attitude toward my body during my pregnancy. Despite my expectations I set pretty simple fitness goals: walk everywhere, and do yoga at least once a week. My body felt like it had awakened to a new meaning - I was building something, being useful!
After my son was born I felt so tired all the time and I wasn't able to find the energy to start working out as quickly as I thought I would. My son had a dairy allergy and so I quit eating dairy in order to breastfeed him. I started to view my body as a workhorse. I was keeping two humans alive! I went back to work after a year of leave and decided I would join my old running program again. It was horrible - I could barely keep up and ended up running alone at the back of the pack for most of the practices. I did something that I hadn't done before - I quit. I started to give myself permission to do things differently. It's taken almost another year, but I've started to do strength training with a friend and I love it. It makes me feel so powerful - which is what I really want from exercise at this point. I'm not pushing myself as much as I used to and that's something that I need to practice as well. At this point I'm interested in sustainability. At times I feel disassociated with the body image I see in the mirror and the strength I have to exert to get through the many hours of my day working full time with a busy toddler at home. I'm trying not to focus on how much weight I've gained but it's hard to keep those negative thoughts from creeping in. I want to set a good example of self love and body positivity for my son so I try to remind myself that he does not see me the way that I see me. I remind myself that there are different ways for me to be strong and that my body will continue to change as my life changes. I don't have to prove that I can check off certain boxes to be worth something. It is okay to just be.
I tried so hard to not have expectations when my son was born, so I was surprised at all the expectations that I DID have. I had a much harder labor than I thought I would but ultimately felt at peace with it. I knew that I would change and that my body would change but I didn't realize how it would happen or that it would impact so much of my life. AND, despite all that change, that I am still myself. I didn't think I would still feel like a new parent almost two years in, but it all still feels fresh and constantly changing. I am learning how to take things in stride, to give myself a little more grace, and to remember that no matter what I will always love my son fiercely and I will always have his back.
I would say to myself: trust your intuition. You know yourself and your family more than you think you do. Give yourself room to change, to fuck up, to not like the same things anymore. Ultimately, don't take everything so seriously. It's going to be okay. You've got this.
I first encountered your (the 4th Trimester Bodies Project) book here in my birth center and I thought it was such a cool project. I love the idea that though we may all look so different, we have all experienced parenting in one way or another. This can be such a raw, humbling experience but there's so much beauty in that and I'm excited to contribute to it in some way and I think that contributing to it will help me too."