Anita Smithson (34 - 39 weeks pregnant), Jack (6), and Ava (4)
Anita is a previous project participant, You can view her original photo and story from 2016 here.
Anita shares -
“I had one miscarriage in April 2011. That baby was due the same week I conceived Jack. It was emotionally really hard to endure a miscarried pregnancy but then very bittersweet because it’s very hard to imagine life without Jack.
I want to teach my children that all bodies are good bodies. We talk about the strength in our bodies, and right now being pregnant there has been a lot of talk about how my body is growing a human but that it does get big to give baby room to grow. I’ve always loved my pregnant body - instead of struggling with the changes I’ve loved the bumps, booty, and the skin/hair perks which are superficial. Being pregnant & loving my pregnant body gave me an appreciation for the after parts - because I know the good they did and also because I felt less vulnerable or maybe just learned to not care what others thought. My self worth has never been heavily weighed on what others thought but after having kids I really felt able to push aside any of the outside opinions on what I should be or my body should be. I started working out more - but to have more breath to play and dance, and to be stronger. Not necessarily to lose weight or get a certain shape. Just to feel as physically strong as I could.
The lead up to my current pregnancy has been a new phase since my Iowa 4TBP shoot. I felt frustrated and misled by the former OBGYN group I was with. I felt unheard, and like I was not participating in my own healthcare but was being told “this is what we do.” So, I sought out a patient-centered midwife for my well care not knowing if we’d want to try for a third child and then navigate the world of VBAC’s. I educated myself and learned how many interventions I had experienced that weren’t based on ACOG best practices but rather the preferences of my prior OBGYNs.
So, with this third child I feel like I’m going to experience the last of the big possible birth experiences. I had an induction with Jack. A cesarean with Ava. And now, if all goes as hoped I’ll go into labor on my own. And if I’m induced, I’ll be induced by a midwife group who believes in me and my body’s ability to deliver my baby.
I was told I couldn’t breastfeed Jack because of a gallbladder surgery and a D&C for retained placenta (I now know that I could have - that there was no medical reason to stop). And then my cesarean baby Ava was nursed until 26 months old despite the challenges with her delivery (planned cesarean because the OB said she was too big to deliver - she was 8 lb 3 oz - but they said it was risking injury or death to deliver her due to size..).
So, now I’m trying to not have my expectations get too high for this baby - with a more calm & family centered VBAC being planned as well as the immediate breastfeeding relationship we hope to establish. I expected my old medical team would give me options and help me make an informed decision but now I feel they gave me their preferred plan and I agreed to that not knowing I had other options.
My current experience is empowering because I feel much more educated, prepared, and like I’m actually participating in my care instead of having my medical care done to me.
My unsolicited advice to pregnant people is to seek out independent birth education and not rely on just the education provided by your medical team. Minneapolis has a great birth Community for this. My truth or knowledge to share is that it’s so important to be honest with yourself, even if being honest with yourself means making big scary decisions. Big scary decisions - about relationships, medical providers, your experiences - aren’t always fun but be honest with yourself because you won’t regret listening to that honesty inside of yourself and you won’t regret making the decision to make something right. I wish I had done that with my first two children’s pregnancies.
I believe in conversations and sharing our experiences. I believe we have more in common but until we start openly sharing we won’t find our common ground. I believe we need to listen to the stories of others and really hear them. The more we share our pregnancy & birth stories - the more we will force improvements to maternity care. The more we listen to our struggles & joys of our bodies - the more we will normalize them. The more we listen to the struggles of parents who look different than ourselves - the more we understand the unique struggles they have but also find our shared struggles. And then we can start to find ways to support each other and get out of those struggles. “