Johanna Hatch (34), Liam Freeman (7), and Aurora Beatrix (2)
Eastham, MA. Photographed in Madison, WI
Johanna shares -
"Though not a loss in the typical sense, I lost my ability to ever carry a pregnancy again. In the fall of 2016, following a lifetime of normal Paps and a negative HPV test, I found out I had early stage cervical cancer (adenocarcinoma stage 1a1). After meeting with a gynecological oncologist, I elected to have a radical hysterectomy to prevent a recurrence. On January 3, 2017, my surgeon removed my cervix, uterus, left ovary, and 29 lymph nodes. Thankfully, the cancer was so early that nothing was found beyond the initial lesion. While I already knew that I wasn't going to have more kids, I still felt a feeling of loss when I let it go. More than once, I cried in the shower, saying good bye to these organs that had done really exceptional work. But I had to let them go. It was the only way I knew I was doing everything I could to make sure I was here and healthy for my family.
Parenthood has had such a mixed impact on my body image. Some days, I am in awe of what it has done to bring my kids into the world - not once, but twice! My body can be fierce and strong, and at the same time, incredibly soft and vulnerable. Some days, I look at the stretch marks and scar where my navel ring used to be, and I think, "Well, that's never going back to the way it was!" But mostly I'm grateful to this body that has carried me through pregnancy and birth, and continues to carry me through motherhood. I try to express my gratitude for it daily, even as I struggle with the challenges.
Nothing is perfect. No birth, no postpartum, no decision to work or stay home. None of it is perfect. But a hell of a lot of it sure is great, and I almost missed that trying to get to perfect.
Walking around in a female body in our culture is so fraught. We are judged if we choose to continue a pregnancy or choose to terminate it. If you continue your pregnancy, your body becomes a place of public comment and possibly legal action. We are judged for where and how we birth. I even had people second guess my decision to have a hysterectomy. I want my children to see this body as a place of strength and joy, not a place of judgement. And I want to see it for myself."