Angela DeCarlo Ferreira (37), mother to Angelina (18 - not pictured), David Junior (14 - not pictured), Marcelo (9), Natalia (8), and Violeta (11 months)
Angela shares -
“Prior to having my first baby, I weighed barely 100 pounds. I was fit and petite and drew a lot of my confidence from my body and the way I dressed. So when I gained 50 pounds, with a belly so large people were constantly asking if it was twins, it was definitely a shock. I loved my pregnant body so much, but I did worry what would happen after I gave birth. Everyone told me not to worry, I would walk out of the hospital in my old clothes. I’m not sure why anyone gave me that expectation, because that was far from reality.
The next thing everyone said was that breastfeeding made you lose baby weight. When I was still wearing maternity clothes six months postpartum, my father finally made me go shopping for the size I was. I was still nursing and didn’t want to jeopardize my milk production, so I waited until he was a year old to start working out. By the time he was two I was almost back to my old size, but with a few extra pounds in the chest and tummy. My tummy pooch was something my son always seemed to point out starting at a young age, coming from him it hurt my feelings more than it would from anyone else. When my youngest bonus daughter came into my life at two, I realized I needed to do better about not talking negatively about my body.
With this last pregnancy, I had much more realistic expectations for myself. I was not concerned with how much weight I gained, nor how quickly I would lose it. Due to a gestational diabetes diagnosis, I did not gain 50 pounds. But as it was with my first, I am also not loosing it quickly even with exclusively breastfeeding. I am much more settled into the body I am in and put away the maternity clothes quickly and bought for the size I am. I still struggle with seeing my body as beautiful, especially with the criticisms from my younger kids. To this day I am not sure if they are simply repeating things they have heard me say about myself or what they see in the media, but I want to do a better job of teaching them that there isn’t one standard of beauty and my postpartum body is beautiful.
With my first baby, everything was such a blur. I moved a week after he was born and went back to work when he was six weeks old. I was also in the middle of taking my CPA exams when I got pregnant with him, so I had only a short time to study and test for the remaining two. My son’s father also left to work out of the country shortly after he was born, so I was doing everything by myself. I didn’t take care of myself physically or emotionally, it was strictly survival mode.
So with my last baby, I wanted everything to be different. But that was not to be. We ended up moving in my ninth month of pregnancy, unpacking the kitchen is what put me into labor. I wasn’t ready for her, and once she came I felt like I was playing catch up. With two other young children to take care of, I was constantly on the go. I went to a back to school event straight from being discharged from the hospital and was at a soccer game five days postpartum. I was doing all of the school drop-offs and pickups, as well as everything else that needed to be done around the house.
Luckily I took twelve weeks off this time around, as at six weeks I hit a wall. I was physically unable to get out of bed in the mornings to take the kids to school, and the baby was feeling it as well as she was sleeping late with me. The next six weeks I tried to focus on our physical and emotional well-being. But that left me ill prepared to go back to work. I had such a different plan for her first year, but I have spent far too much time working and not enough time with her or the other kids. To say nothing of taking care of myself or even sleeping enough. Now that she is almost one, I need to recommit to taking care of myself and the kids. I am also struggling with the fact that I want one more baby, but this may be as I haven’t had the experience of being able to put pregnancy or postpartum recovery ahead of work. I would like one more time to do it right so it feels good, but that may be idealizing. What I should be focusing on is forgiving myself for what I feel I did wrong and do better in the now.
I needed this not just for myself but for my children. To see that I should not hide my postpartum body, but celebrate everything it has done for them.”