Rachel Nowlain-Sisk (27. 14 weeks pregnant at time of photograph) and Evelyn (14 months old)
Rachel shares -
“I have always had a poor body image. I have always been too focused on how other people think I look and based my self image on that. That has gotten so much worse with pregnancy and postpartum. With my last pregnancy, I constantly compared myself to other pregnant women like it was some sort of competition. My postpartum body was completely foreign and felt broken and it took me almost a year to try and find myself again in this new home and completely new lifestyle.
This time, I am desperately trying just to focus on what all my body CAN do instead of what I focused on last go round which was what my body couldn't do. I'm trying to become a strong and confident woman so that I can teach my daughter to be the same as she grows up.
Ultimately, what I have come to realize is that everyone has something physical, emotional or mental that they struggle with. All we can do is learn how to modify our movements and and our lifestyle and learn how to take care of ourselves in the best way we can.
One major aspect that has affected my parenthood journey so far is I have a back injury from work that happened about 6 months before I conceived my daughter. The limits that injury placed on me right before and during my pregnancy put a major damper on the excitement I had felt as a teenager when I imagined myself becoming a parent.
From the moment I suspected I was pregnant I felt this overwhelming dread of what that would mean with my back: would I be able to carry the baby without becoming paralyzed? Would I be able to carry her full-term? Give birth to her naturally? All of those things contributed to me not really feeling connected to my baby until after she was born. I felt like I was a failure as a mother before I even brought her earth-side. Add to that a long, difficult and traumatic birth that ended in an emergency cesarean and a baby who needed heart surgery at 6 weeks old and a difficult time establishing a breastfeeding relationship due to an un-diagnosed lip tie and we had a very rough start.
Another thing I think isn't discussed enough is postpartum anxiety. I've always had some mixture of mild depression and anxiety with anxiety taking the lead most days. I thought during pregnancy that I would be at high risk of PPD but what really happened was after I went through weekly appointments with her cardiologist for 6 weeks and then we brought her to Vegas for heart surgery on her 6 week birthday I developed severe PPA. I envisioned all the ways my daughter could be injured and tried my best to prevent or avoid them. I even had nightmares about our car falling off the mountain while driving and had to breathe deeply anytime I drove near a cliff for months. I was just so afraid. I have a feeling that hormones had a good deal to do with how I was feeling and eventually as my daughter became stronger and more self sufficient a lot of that anxiety and fear passed. But just know, if you are struggling with anxiety at any point in life, especially in the first difficult months after bringing a tiny human into the world, it is okay and you are not alone.
With all of that said, I wouldn't trade my daughter for the world. She is the brightest, funniest, strongest little girl I have ever known with the best dance moves a mom could ask for. I am currently 14 weeks pregnant with my second child and though there is a lot of fear when I think of the months and years ahead I am really trying to focus on what my body can do this pregnancy that I wasn't able to do last time. I am planning a home birth with a midwife. My husband and I feel like this is our chance for some healing after everything we went through with the birth of my daughter.
Becoming a mother and all it entails has been so different than how it is usually depicted in media. Everything we are told growing up in our society fails to prepare us for what it is really like for most people. I want other moms to be able to see real images and real stories of other parents out there. So we can learn to see how many different versions of normal are out there and not feel so alone.”