Elise Marthe (29) and Henry (11 weeks).
Ithaca, NY. Photographed in Madison, WI
Elise shares -
"During my first pregnancy I was worried about all kinds of things. I spent hours looking for a cute way to reveal the good news to everyone and designing the perfect nursery. I've always been slender so one of the things I worried about was my body. Would it go back to normal after giving birth? Would I be able to wear my summer dresses again? When that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage everything changed. I realized how inconsequential and selfish all of those worries had been. All I wanted was my baby back.
When I got pregnant again the sparkle was gone. I told as few people as possible that I was pregnant and didn't get excited over any baby things or do any planning until I could feel the baby kicking consistently. When I finally did start to show, people would comment on how I looked too small for how far along I was. I was in a constant state of worry that I was failing this child as well, and would obsessively track my weight and measurements to make sure that I was within normal range. I no longer cared about how I looked - I just wanted to meet this baby. I had the picture perfect pregnancy up until week 32 when my blood pressure spiked and my doctor told me that this baby was going to have to come out three weeks early. Baby was also breach, so unless he flipped over in time it was going to have to be a cesarean birth.
When the day arrived that baby had to come out we first tried a version to see if I could give birth vaginally. Baby didn't want to flip so we went ahead with the cesarean. When Henry was born I was expecting to have them lay him on my chest, but he wasn't breathing so they had to take him away for immediate intervention. As I was laying there waiting to hear him cry, the doctor said to me, "Your belly is flat again already!" I couldn't believe that they were paying more attention to how my midriff looked than the fact that my baby wasn't breathing. A huge wave of relief washed over me when I finally did hear Henry cry. They brought him over for a second and then took him up to the NICU. While I was laying there my blood pressure was steadily increasing to dangerous levels so they whisked me off to go get hooked up to an IV for medication.
I had hoped to have skin to skin contact with Henry but since that wasn't happening I begged my husband to go up to the NICU and hold Henry since I couldn't. I spent a few agonizing hours with the hospital staff trying to get my blood pressure under control enough so that I could be wheeled up to the NICU to meet Henry. They finally got it under control and allowed me to hold him for 5 minutes before being taken away to my room. Luckily Henry only had to stay in the NICU for 24 hours so we only had to be apart for one day. My husband spent those 24 hours running back and forth between us.
After Henry was released from the NICU he was allowed to spend the rest of the week in the room with me while I was going through two doses of magnesium and plenty of other medications to treat the preeclampsia I had developed. When I finally was able to go home I found that I couldn't eat food without having terrible pain and becoming ill. I was dropping weight at an alarming rate and was quickly plummeting below my pre-pregnancy weight. Most people felt comfortable commenting on my body; letting me know how great it was that I had bounced back to my skinny self so quickly, not knowing that the reason I dropped so much weight was because I physically couldn't eat anything. It was surreal looking in the mirror because I didn't remember what I was supposed to look like and I couldn't tell if my body was normal or not.
Finally, I was diagnosed with gallstones and was scheduled to have my gallbladder removed. Due to more complications I ended up in the hospital hooked up to an IV for a full week before they could finally take my gallbladder out. I got to have gallbladder surgery on my first Mother's Day, but I was ecstatic because it meant I could finally go home and concentrate on being a mom. After spending 10 weeks of being in the hospital, in surgery, recovering from surgery, or ill every night, I am finally getting back to normal. I am so thankful to have this healthy little rainbow baby at home and to finally be well enough that I can actually take care of him!
Things rarely happen like you plan them. The things society tells you are important typically are not. The only things that matter are you and your baby.
I am finally trying to get back to my old confident self, but I am still struggling looking in the mirror. My body looks foreign to me. I'm excited to be able to look at myself with a sense of pride. My body went through a lot and I want to acknowledge the fight it went through and that it was a true warrior."