Cara Badgett Evans (35), Victoria (19) & Vance (1). Bonus mom to Catherine (16) & Matthew (12)
Kentucky / Photographed in Tampa, Florida
Cara shares -
"Having an unplanned pregnancy at 16 was a serious jolt and my teenage body. Literally doubling in size only added to the shock! I was completely unprepared for the changes my body went through. I gained weight so quickly and stretch marks started popping-up everywhere. I don't know that I had ever even seen a stretch mark before I became pregnant. I was self-conscious about everything from my ginormous breasts to my enlarged feet.
I became even more uneasy in my own skin postpartum. In true teenage fashion, I thought my body would just go back to being the way it was before. I struggled with how I looked compared to my friends and how it would never be the same. I felt like my body was no longer my own.
As my daughter grew, I never wanted her to feel that her body was in any way inadequate. I consciously made an effort to not just tell her, but to show her through my own actions that what we may view as imperfections are what make us unique.
My second pregnancy was 17 years later. After finally coming to terms with my body it started all over again. This time I was much more prepared for the changes my body was about to go through again. My stretch marks may have stretched a bit more, but what's one more in a sea of them? I was definitely a bit down on my bod while going through my clothes and contemplating never fitting in them again. Having to buy new suits and work clothes. I was convinced that I would keep a bit of my "baby weight" as I did with my first pregnancy. Instead, I have become even smaller than I was pre-pregnancy. Most women want to lose all their pregnancy weight, right? People make off-handed comments about my bum disappearing and ask if I've been sick; on the flip-side, I receive praise for not looking like I've even had a baby. I feel floppy and bony. I miss my curves, but my body has become lean from the changes I had to make for my son and the energy and strength it takes to keep up with him. Does a mother's body ever truly become her own again?
My first pregnancy was a whirlwind. I had my first child when I was 16 and I tried (with my family's support) to maintain as normal of a life as possible. I don't think anyone can prepare you for the realities of sleep deprivation or having a small person depend on you to literally keep them alive. I didn't know it at the time, but she was such an easy going baby. It is hard for me to remember exactly how I felt 19 years ago other than overwhelmed and always surprised. Everyday I learned something new. I didn't have any friends or young family members to share parenting experiences with, so I learned as I went. I was fortunate to have so much support, but it was extremely challenging.
I moved away from my family and went to college with my daughter when she was 2 and the toddler years hit me hard! No one knew me where I moved, so I began to hide my age from the parents and teachers at her preschool and avoid their questions when they made comments about how young I looked. I continued this behavior until my daughter started asking how old I was when I had her and able to understand. I never wanted her to have to deal with the stigma of teenage pregnancy.
My second pregnancy was almost as big of a bombshell as my first. I never in a million years thought I would be having another child. Especially not when my daughter was a senior in high school. It was a very difficult adjustment. My daughter is closer to my age than she is to my son. My daughter and I have always had a very close relationship and this new little one changed our family dynamics drastically. My son was born early and had a lot of dietary issues. I struggled with nursing and I had to alter my diet significantly. Sleep deprivation, hormones, strict dietary rules, engorged breasts, and a screaming colicky baby made our house a very volatile place to live for a few months.
I thought this time would be much like the first, but everything was different! I thought I was older and more prepared. I was wrong! It took everyone a longtime to adjust to having a little one in the house. I was not prepared for colic, food sensitivities, boy pee (yes that's a thing), nursing problems, and family dynamic issues. While my body healed and was more prepared this time around my mind and emotions were in an uproar.
Being a single parent is hard, but adjusting to co-parenting with a baby might be just as hard. Having a baby as a teenager is hard, but having a baby with your teenage child at home might be harder. Breastfeeding is time consuming and hard, but pumping and trying to get your child to latch might be harder. Breastfeeding my first child was so natural and easy. I was completely unprepared for meetings with lactation consultants and mastitis. I felt like an absolute wench for inwardly rolling my eyes after hearing women talk about "not being able to breastfeed" their babies. Who knew it could be such a struggle? The pressure we put on women regarding how they feed their babies is ridiculous!
In addition, I lost my childcare a few weeks before I was supposed to return to work. My spouse and I decided I should stay home with our newest addition and I felt so grateful we had the resources to make that decision. What I wasn't prepared for was the shock of an additional part of my life and routine being changed so abruptly. Leaving a career I had built and the people I had spent the past 8 years with for at least 8 hours a day and 5 days a week was stressful! Yes, leaving my job to care for my kids was stressful. It is hard! Why did no one tell me how hard it is to stay at home and care for my own children? Mind blown!
Expect the unexpected! No two births, babies, or postpartum experiences are the same. No matter how much effort you put into designing a birth plan, a nursery, arranging childcare, or any other variety of planning you may attempt be prepared to be flexible. You do you and don't let anyone else's opinion change what you know is right for you and your family.
I believe it is imperative to normalize real women's bodies and to stop shaming the transformation the female body goes through while nurturing life. It doesn't stop in the womb, but continues until our bodies return to the earth."