Lynne Nelson (63), mother to Martha (36), Rachel (33), and Aaron (24). Photographed with Rachel (33) and Theo (2 years, 4 months). Rachel is currently pregnant with her second baby due October 2017.
Rachel is a previous project participant. You can view her original image and story here.
Lynne shares - "My second daughter invited me to share in this experience with her and her son. I gladly accept this beautiful opportunity to share in the vulnerability of parenthood relationships expressed through generations.
I lost one of twins in uterine during my early 2nd trimester. I didn't experience grief issues as the lost twin was not clear until birth, however, I ended up supplied with milk for twins with one child in my arms. This became a significant issue for breastfeeding my daughter, Rachel. I had to express milk before nursing. Rachel would get too much milk even after I expressed at least 4 oz. and then she would have projectile vomiting of milk. She became a 'gunshy' nurser. After I nursed her I had to express the rest of the milk to avoid mastitis. Rachel refused to nurse past 6 mo. which for me was a loss of this cherished intimate relationship with her. However, I had sufficient stores of my frozen milk to last another 6 mo. of bottle feeding, so I knew that I had given my daughter the best possible food for her first year.
The tough part of the oversupply of milk initially was the exhaustion I had from spending so much time expressing milk and nursing problems. After I stopped nursing my second child, my breasts never returned to the smaller size that I preferred. Going from a b cup to a c cup, or larger, was very difficult for me. I felt immensely self-conscious about the size of my breasts. Finally, at 48, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast. A lumpectomy and radiation diminished one breast while the other got bigger over the years. Now I am not as self-conscious about my breast size, but the significant size difference has made bra fit and clothing fit a major issue which is an issue of self confidence in my clothes. Once at VS, I was offered a solution of adding to my surgical side. I declined as I really don't want to be bigger.
Being a pregnant mom and breastfeeding my children was the most fulfilling experience of my body I have ever had. To feel the kicks of my babies and the intimacy of breastfeeding are experiences I still cherish deeply despite the discomforts and frustrations inherent in these life events."
Rachel shares -
"When I look at the picture on my wall from my first session, I see something beautiful which isn’t usually what I think when I look in the mirror. It’s a gentle reminder that the negative commentary in my head is something I can change. I wanted to participate again at a time when my body is in transition, to document how our family is growing, to combat some of the anxiety around the changes that will happen. This gathering also happened at a time when I had the opportunity to participate with my mom, to celebrate this motherhood thing that we now share in common.
What surprised me most about heading into a second pregnancy was the renewed anxiety. I anticipated feeling more confident. Instead of feeling like I already did this once, and I can do it again, I feel even more anxious about my body changing in ways beyond my control, my ability to successfully breastfeed even though my first nursed past his 2nd birthday, and the upcoming sleep deprivation. I know in the end, we’ll get through it again and have another lovely human being in our family that will be worth it all; but facing the unknown I guess is scary whether it’s your first time or not.
I’ve struggled with negative body image and disordered eating since high school. I can’t say that I’m more or less critical now than I have been in the past. What parenthood has changed is my commitment to address the problem and try to change it. When my first baby was born and my husband announced he was a boy, one of the first things I remember feeling is relief that I was less likely to pass unhealthy body image and behavior to a son than a daughter. Relief that I could continue to be hypervigilant about my weight without that behavior impacting my family. It took me a while to realize that’s not true. I can’t expect to raise my children to be confident in their own bodies while treating my own less than lovingly. I also had to realize that my relationship with my body is a significant part of my PPD, which most definitely effects the health of my whole family. I can’t say that I know what it means to have a positive body image or that I will ever be able to reach that place; but for the people I love most, I can’t not try to change it.
I don’t think I have any single coherent truth to share. I guess I wish I had understood much earlier that we aren’t just static beings. I spent a lot of time trying to fit into an identity I had made for myself, making decisions based on this ideal version of myself I thought I should be or thought other people expected me to be. Becoming a parent has forced me to start making decisions based on what I need or want to be over what I feel I should be. I’ve had to do and continue to do a lot of work to let go of the "shoulds", to understand that as humans we’re not static identities that we grow and change, to allow myself to feel emotions I wouldn’t before, to understand that sometimes life feels messy or overwhelming and sometimes it feels wonderful and that all of these things are just part of our universal experience as humans."