Rhonda Marie Carter (37) and Neale (10 mos)
Los Angeles, CA | Photographed in Seattle, WA
Rhonda shares -
"I loved my body as a pregnant person. I had never really given my body much thought (or much care) before outside of the occasional complaint about being overweight or out of shape. Pregnancy came with its share of anxiety and physical discomfort but I guess I was proud of how my body conformed to the task it was assigned--to nurture and protect our daughter.
I'm back to occasionally lamenting my new stretch marks and wondering if I'll ever wear a bathing suit in public again. And while I know those feelings are not helpful or even consistent with my progressive views as a feminist who is anti-shaming, I try to hold them without judgement. I try, and often fail. Even so, I often marvel at what we can do--our bodies together--when I feed her. I marvel at her, and all her body can already do, and I can't help but reflect some of that wonder myself. "I DID that. I MADE that. And she's amazing, so something about me, my body, must be amazing too?"
I am already inclined to be depressed in spells. Having a baby in the dead of a Seattle winter was not going to be sunshine and rainbows for me, I knew that. And so did my husband. I had planned to have an unmedicated birth, but at 41 weeks and 6 days, I scheduled an induction. And two hours before that induction, I went to the hospital in labor. After many hours at the hospital and choosing my own adventure along the way with full knowledge that every choice I made moved me closer to a cesarean (skipping a doula, having the baby in a hospital, opting for an epidural...), I ended up with a cesarean. In sharp contrast to the experience I had with pregnancy, I felt that I'd let myself and my baby down.
The cesarean was textbook, and my baby was healthy, but in those first moments, all I could think was that I didn't do enough to prepare mentally or physically, and fixated on what I already knew but it still felt devastating to realize: that motherhood wasn't going to transform me instantaneously into someone else, someone better, someone more worthy of guiding this tiny person--someone physically stronger, mentally tougher, more organized and prepared, more knowledgeable. My cesarean felt, as it does for so many women, like a failure. And then I beat myself for being a cliche. I tried to focus on being grateful, and when that wasn't enough, I tried to force myself to at least just be present, to my daughter whose every cry and dirty diaper was a miracle as far as I was concerned, and to my partner who was blossoming before my eyes into the kind of loving, gentle, playful father I'd wish for every child. So that's how I adjusted and continue to adjust. Looking back, I now have many more positive thoughts about the whole process. Some distance and seeing how beautifully my daughter is growing puts it into pretty wonderful perspective--she's here and this itchy scar is how.
You won't know until you know. Trust that you can and will learn."