Jennifer Kathleen (34), Lena (5) and Mazin (2).
Poughkeepsie, NY | Photographed in Madison, WI
Jennifer shares -
"I have had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since I was 16 years old, and before parenthood I always felt aware of my body's limitations. Pregnancy, childbirth, and especially breastfeeding completely changed that. My joints do still have a limited range of motion, but man, my body can mother! It can grow and feed new humans! It can comfort and carry and is stronger than I ever realized before. Where I used to wish so much for a flat tummy, I am now proud of my permanent roundness there. This belly gave me the loves of my life, and I love it for that.
My daughter's birth was not what I had hoped it would be. I had looked forward to my labor and to giving birth and wanted to have a natural experience. Due to a chronic health condition, I couldn't have a home birth, but hoped for the best in the hospital. Alas, an emergency c-section changed my plan. Fortunately, my daughter was healthy and I was with her soon after the surgery, but I did grieve for my planned birth. Becoming a mother was so much more wonderful than I had even imagined, and my daughter became the light of my life.
My son's birth 4 years later was everything I had hoped my first would be. An unmedicated, vaginal birth that was peaceful, powerful, and perfect. My baby was perfect too, but 6 weeks early, and after a brief hello he was whisked to NICU. We were so lucky to have a short stay there, just 8 days, but they were such hard days, not being able to have my baby with me at all moments, having to follow hospital rules instead of maternal instinct. We recovered, my baby is steady and patient, and my daughter learned to make room at my breast for her brother. It couldn't have happened any other way, and I am beyond grateful for my two amazing children.
Becoming a parent is the greatest change, I think, in anyone's life. The transition from childless adult to parent is tremendous, and difficult even for those who want it very much. It is best to embrace it, but in my experience and i think for most people, embracing it is easier for moms than it is for dads. Talk to your partner often and openly. Encourage each other. Be each other's best friend.
I lost my mom 10 years ago and grieved so hard. When my daughter was born 5 years later, I experienced the most amazing return of motherly love in my life that connected me to my mom in a new, profound way and healed my heart. I feel that connection to all moms, and I honor motherhood, and mothering. Besides, my mom was a feminist, an ardently pro-choice one, who taught me to respect the right of all women to control our own bodies. I can't wait to be part of the 4th Trimester Bodies project."