Bethany Blake (35), Solaya Lee and Giselle Marie (Identical twins - 5) and Zenon Elliot (4).
Photographed in Portland, ME
Bethany shares -
"I was in 4th grade when I started my period, I was wearing 2 sports bras in 5th grade because my boobs were already so big. When we created aol.com e-mails in 5th grade I picked Belle because she was my favorite Disney character, years later through AIM (remember that?!) I was harassed online, anonymously by a group of girls making fun of my body - saying it should be belly not Belle, they said - "Go lose weight, you should stop eating, you are ugly".
I have always been aware of my body, I have always loved my breasts, my strong muscular legs, my long eyelashes but it was my stomach that I had the most insecurities with because of other people. In middle school boys started asking if I were pregnant because of my big stomach, and I know my friends referred to me as "the fat friend." Even at my thinnest or fittest, I had a big belly. I tried diet pills, I tried hardcore exercising, I tried not eating, I tried throwing up after eating, I tried waist trainers. My whole life I have had a belly and I was ashamed of it - at 10 years old I started to believe that it was unnatural, gross, unhealthy, unattractive to have a belly.
After I had my babies, my belly was still there - but then I was hearing "oh she let herself go," and I was like "wait, no, this has always been here." I think that really started my own self love/body positivity journey because everyone was having something to say about MY body. The body that birthed 3 babies in 18 months, the body that I should be the only one caring about. Let's be honest my stomach is still my #1 insecurity but to put it simple, I just stopped caring what others thought of it. Nobody wants their own children to be ashamed of who they are, what they look like so I personally do not and will not say anything negative about my own body in front of them. I wear bikinis, I sleep naked, I walk around the house in a bra and undies, my children shower with me. Because my body is natural, normal and beautiful - and parenthood snapped that reality into my head.
Within one year I left a bad situation, moved from California to Boston, met a man, fell in love, got pregnant, found out we were expecting twins, moved into an apartment with him, and had twin girls. I had ZERO expectations of birthing, postpartum, parenting. I remember leaving the hospital with our girls who weighed just over 5 pounds each and asking ourselves "Is this real?" We didn't understand how the hospital was letting us leave with these two tiny beautiful human beings. We were exhausted and unprepared!
I breastfed because it was what my older sisters did. My girls lost weight during their first month at home and I thought it was all my fault, that I was doing it wrong. I remember the lactation consultant would literally grab my breast and squeeze my nipples to place them in my children's mouth, she would pick each baby up and move them around in different positions while I just sat there and cried for weeks. She tried to find the best position for not only them but me as well. I can not remember a single thing she said to me but I know she kept me going. I was so checked out, my nipples were sore, cracked and I was so tired of just sitting all day feeding them. That first month was the hardest, after the girls started gaining weight we got in a groove - I got myself a Netflix account and spent hours binge watching shows with a baby on each breast. The girls just self-weaned at 5 years old. Their brother who was born when they were 18 months is 4 now and still nursing. Our breastfeeding journey is so not over yet!
I got pregnant with my son before my twin girls were one - whatever anxiety I was experiencing was always blamed on "you just had twins," "you are pregnant." One day I was unmotivated, the next day I had this unstoppable energy and both days I would be agitated. Everything bugged me - and because my children could do no wrong - it was every single thing my coparent did that bugged me. Because he was there, he was getting the wrath of it all. To this day I wonder how the hell he dealt with me - because I was mean. When I went in for my sons 1 year check up, our family doctor asked how I was doing and I decided to just tell her. She asked if anyone had spoke with me about Postpartum Depression or Anxiety? I didn't think I had it because I didn't want to hurt my babies or myself. I remember going home and telling my partner but he already knew. He knew the whole time, I am sure he said it a few times and I shut him up. I loved him a bit more in that moment knowing that he knew and he dealt with it as a new father the best he could.
My children are 5 and 4 now, and things are not perfect but just like everyone else, we are working on things and taking it one day at a time. Knowing that postpartum depression and anxiety are real and can happen to anyone, and can happen differently to anyone has helped guide us in the direction we needed.
I am very transparent, I enjoy sharing my stories with others. I have lived a very interesting, hard, and fun life. I will be 35 in a few days and I feel like this is a perfect time to just share the story of me and my children. I am so excited to be a part of this! My self love journey is continuing every day. I want my children to be proud of me and sense that I am proud of me too. "