Jessica Herrera (35), Miles Parker (2), and Ezra Jacob (6 months)
Jessica shares -
“Being pregnant were the times I felt the most comfortable with my body. I felt natural and beautiful despite being big and swollen. More than anything, the experience taught me to value my body by taking care of it. It wasn't just about the way I looked, it was the realization that my babies were relying on me both during the pregnancy but also after birth. Suddenly, my view of self care wasn't a waste of time or of being selfish but an earnest way of caring for my babies. I'm so much more aware of what I what I put in my body and making sure to get enough rest. I liked my pre-pregnancy body and youthful looks, but I have a deep appreciation for my new body because it's evidence my boys were here.
For my first pregnancy, I was committed to having a natural, vaginal birth. I did the stretches, drank the red raspberry leaf tea, and did all the research. At almost 39 weeks, I was admitted because I was slowly leaking fluid. The induction process began and thirty hours later, Miles was born via cesarean. I was exhausted, elated to have my baby, while mourning the birth I thought I could have. I didn’t realize the onslaught of intense emotions I would experience after birth.
Recovery seemed to be going well the first couple of days but I was very anxious and felt like I needed to be awake for every moment. Even now as I share this, I realize it was the first signs of the very intense and undiagnosed postpartum anxiety I experienced. My son had jaundice and I was told he may not be able to be discharged with me. In an effort to get my son well enough to come home with me, and to avoid giving him formula, I pumped and fed my baby every hour and a half. I barely slept. The next day we were home. I stayed home with Miles and breastfed him until he was 13 months old and just after I realized I was pregnant with Ezra.
I had felt like I was just getting to be myself again so although I was thrilled to be pregnant, I had a feeling of “oh no, so soon?” mixed with a twinge of guilt for even thinking that. Right away, I shut down the idea of a VBAC because I wasn’t sure I could endure the hours of labor to end up with a cesarean anyway. Plus, scheduling was ideal because I could arrange for childcare and be home with both my babies as quickly as possible. It ended up being a worse experience.
The anesthesia they gave me made me feel sick, it took longer to recover, and because I couldn’t hold the baby myself because I was so weak they were trying to convince me to give Ezra formula instead of letting me nurse him. Finally, a nurse who is also a lactation specialist came in. She was given the mission to convince me to bottle feed my baby but after speaking to me, she helped me nurse my baby and taught my husband how to help me latch him on.
Things seemed to be getting better but by the next day, I knew there was something wrong with my incision. After a few days of being dismissed by nurses and ignored by my doctor, it was clear that something was very wrong. I had a staph infection and was not able to go home when planned. It was incredibly painful, itchy, and after having a bad reaction to the initial antibiotic, I had to switch to one that would not allow me to nurse.
Once again, I found myself up around the clock to care for my newborn, except this time also taking meds and having my vitals checked, to then pump and dump. I was glad to have a healthy baby and that my condition was not life threatening but I missed my toddler and was heartbroken I couldn't nurse my baby. I also was worrying and wondering if he would latch on again.
Eventually, I was able to go home, recovered fully, and even exclusively breastfed Ezra after I was finished taking the antibiotics. However, my trust in my doctor and the nurses I interacted with was completely shattered. Although I know it could have been a lot worse, I am heartbroken on how I spent the first days of Ezra’s life, and the moments I missed with Miles. Adjusting to life with two under two was hard but thankfully my husband has been by my side through everything and has supported me in every sense of the word. Recently, I realized I have a very real struggle with anxiety and he is helping me to identify triggers on how to cope. In addition, I am a believer in Jesus Christ. It is through prayer and scripture that I have found the most peace. In the most difficult moments for both births, praying is what centered me. I have spoken to a counselor, and have an upcoming appointment with a different doctor to work through this but my faith has been my hope and anchor through this.
I love this movement for everything it stands for. I love the validation each person receives despite their story or journey. I love that real bodies and breastfeeding are not only being normalized but embraced. I love that I will have an intimate and real moment with my boys captured. I love that I will be able to look back and see the beauty in the curves, wrinkles, sleepy eyes, and scars from both my cesareans as well as scarring from the skin infection. I love that I can have a professional photo without the stress or expectations of traditional photoshoots. I don't need to shop for outfits, get hair and make up done, and try to coordinate so many parts. I just get to show up. As a Christian, I am also eager and hopeful to represent a population in a more positive light. There are some of us who see the beauty of this project and are not interested in leaving a mean thing to say in the comments section.”