Rachael Doss (41), Lilah (9), Dru (3 - pictured), and Celia (7 months - pictured)
South Carolina | Asheville, NC
Rachael shares -
“I am one of those annoying people who never had any problems getting or staying pregnant, but I worried incessantly over all three of my pregnancies. Last July, my cousin - with whom I am very close - lost her first baby at 37 weeks and It made me feel extremely undeserving of the fact that I was then pregnant with my third child. She had done everything right, she is a wonderful person with a huge heart and I just couldn’t make sense that she was not getting something that would be so dear to her when I feel like I am wrecking my kids in some way on a daily basis. Plus I had two pretty healthy kids, why should I get a third when she gets none? Seeing that there really was no “safe” time in pregnancy really kicked my anxiety into high gear and as a result we sort of kept CeCe a secret for a really long time. Partially it was because with social media I didn’t want to continuously show my pregnant belly or baby prep to hurt my cousin, but partially because I was afraid something would happen because I was already 40 and I just wanted to be able to process it alone without a lot of input from the internet.
I’ve never in my life been satisfied with my body. When I was young and thin, my breasts were too small and I didn’t feel like I could be attractive to men. In college, my thyroid broke and I gained 40 pounds and it was very hard on me mentally. Since then I’ve been all over the map weight-wise due mostly to thyroid wonkiness and pregnancy. I developed some disordered eating before my pregnancy with Dru because I had come to enjoy the attention of being thin and found I could use my ADHD meds to keep me from being hungry. I had started to cut back on my dosage when I found out I was pregnant and after that I ended up maintaining a fairly consistent weight. I’m still 10 pounds more than I want to be right now, but the number doesn’t bother me so much as the shape my body has taken on. I don’t recognize myself anymore.
After Lilah was born, my stomach went back to a normal looking stomach, but after Dru it’s always been distended in a weird round way right below my breasts. Celia was my smallest baby so she didn’t stretch me out as far as Dru did, but it was still another big stretch on over-40 skin and muscles. I wish I could be like so many other women and just love it and be proud of it, but I feel like it failed me and has left me with nothing presentable for my husband. I don’t really know how to get over that but I wish I could so my daughters especially wouldn’t have to see me hate myself so much.
I had suspected PPD with all three of my babies, and it was hard to have so much anxiety and sadness but happiness rolled into one chunk of time. I had my placenta encapsulated this time thinking it would help but I didn’t find it to be the cure all I had hoped for. One thing I didn’t expect was to absolutely hate all three of my children - when I was sleep deprived. No one had prepared me for the seething rage I felt for these helpless creatures I had nurtured for almost 10 months. It made me feel awful, because I really did love them, but through the exhausted lens I was looking they were my enemies. It was worst with my son because he had breastfeeding issues due to his tongue tie and was literally starving even though I was nursing him around the clock. I had so looked forward to having him because it was my chance to solidify the family with my new husband and have a newborn again - which I wasn’t sure I would ever have. And I think sometimes it still clouds our relationship and that makes me sad.
I also developed a prolapse after Dru was born that really made doing anything other than sitting a struggle for about 3 months after he was born. I expected to have so much energy and be active and do all these things but all I could do was sit. I am looking forward to starting my physical therapy soon for the prolapse now that I know I am finished having babies. I hope it helps me hate my body less and feel better so I can be more active with the kids.
I am not body positive, but I wish I were. I like to support people who have gotten where I hope to be. I also want my children to have less homogenous experiences in life, and putting myself into a situation that is different with them and for them is one way I can offer that to them. I want them to look at these pictures one day and say “my mom wasn’t perfect, but she wanted us to love ourselves even though she couldn’t love herself.” And I wanted to just catch my babies being babies, being natural with me. It’s rare and beautiful and I wanted to have some of it.”