Jen Segadelli (34) and Charlotte ("Charlie") Quinn (1)
Photographed in Seattle, WA
Jen shares -
"As a midwife, I intellectually knew and understood that the childbearing body would never be the same as the body that had not borne children, but I was unprepared for the impact of this on my psyche. In so many ways, I look at my body today, and think "you're a badass -- you grew, birthed, and nourished another human being, all from this body" and in other ways, I just see the areas that have gone soft, the once athletic frame and muscle turn into gentle folds of skin and fat, my breasts full and falling, and feel frustrated and yearning for a younger self. Pregnancy and postpartum have been a journey into my own self-confidence in my body, with hard lessons, and humbling moments wherein I realize how deeply engrained the societal messages about beauty really are. And yet, despite all the things I perceive as imperfections, I would never trade what my body is or has done for this little delight of a life I am honored to keep and shepherd for a body and a time before she existed. She loves my body. She lays against me at night, eyelids fluttering, gently running her hand along my belly, my arm, my breast as she nurses herself to sleep. How could I ever dislike something that brings my child so much comfort and joy? In seeing myself through my daughter's eyes, I see all the beauty that truly exists in my body -- after all, it is no longer just mine. It is her home, too.
Again, as a midwife, I thought I knew what to expect, but the postpartum journey had many more highs and lows than I anticipated. Breastfeeding was an exhausting (but rewarding) challenge in the early days, which now feel like a blur when I'm nursing my active toddler. The emotional roller coaster, the self-doubt, the impact of postpartum and parenthood on a partnership and on the other relationships of my life cannot be understated. My own postpartum journey has made me a better prepared and more empathetic care provider. I spent so much time preparing for pregnancy and home birth and very little time preparing for the first year of our lives once our child arrived. I wish I had spend more time and effort investing in the postpartum -- in myself and in my partner -- so as to better handle the excruciating pains and indescribable joys that seemed to accompany every waking day over the last year.
Pregnancy, birth, parenthood -- it will push you to the edge of everything you think you know and are capable of. You will stand on that edge certain there is no way to go forward; certain that the challenges of this journey that make you question everything you know will drive you over that edge to a place of no return, where you are unrecognizable. But it won't. You will stand on that edge, looking into the abyss of the unknown and recognize one overwhelming truth: you are enough. For this life, for your partner, and for your child. And when you surround yourself with the love of knowing you are enough, everything else flows from there. We come undone through this process and are born anew, just as we birth our children. Their very survival depends on our raw undoing and giving over of ourselves to the sweet, sweet journey of parenthood. The days and nights can be long, but the months and years fly by, and the happiness will overwhelmingly drown out the doubt and darkness.
I'm here today for my Charlie. I feel so fortunate that her beautiful soul was entrusted to me in this life. I decided that I wanted a picture of this moment, a time that marks our first year together, raw and exposed, which is what I would describe the process of becoming a parent has been for me. It has stripped me down -- my body tells a story of this year. The stretch mark across my abdomen where she stretched herself out at 40 weeks in utero; my breasts larger and full, lower to the ground so she could nurse and be nourished for the last year (and counting); my arms and legs, larger and stronger from hours spent carrying my growing child, rocking and bouncing her to sleep; my skin more dry as my body rallies its resources to make milk. There is so much to look at on this body and find frustration and shame for its failure to fit into the distorted notions of beauty in our society. But when Charlie looks at me, waddles over to wrap her whole body around mine, I also realize that there is immense beauty in the change, and in the coming undone and finding a new path, and a new life together. I want her to have these pictures to look back on someday when she is questioning her own beauty and worth and realize that nothing about our lives is stagnant -- we are ever changing, ever growing, ever becoming someone different. And I love the new person she has made me -- a mother."