Kristen Enge (35), Ellison (4.5) and Olive (2)
Madison, WI | Minneapolis, MN
Kristen shares -
“I have been incredibly fortunate to have never experienced a loss. My body has carried to term the only pregnancies it has embodied. I have always advocated for choice but parenthood has amplified this vigor.
Parenthood has given me a new lens to look through. Someday it feels more like a kaleidoscope and other days everything is clear. It has been an interesting paradox for me. I have simultaneously felt strength and wisdom in my body as well as an unyielding desire to hide my belly. To tuck away the proof that I have carried and bore children. But this transition to motherhood has unearthed more love than fear and lead to a birth that was guided by intuition and self-trust. I had previously never imagined feeling so good or strong. There’s almost a sense of humor about the whole thing. It’s only after acquiring a belly that looks like a map of a river delta do I feel the power that lives in my bones.
Postpartum was as vastly different as each of the births. My son’s birth was long and hard. I felt like I didn’t have the ability to surrender into the power of birth. He was born vaginally 10 hours after my epidural. They knew he had aspirated meconium which robbed me of my deep desire to hold him immediately. I went on to be released and he spent the next four days in the NICU. And while I would never imagine comparing our journey to that of a parent who has lost their child I will say there is a shared pain and fear that bonds parents who have had to leave hospitals without their babes.
He came home Christmas morning. It was magic! At least until I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed, sobbing, trying to figure out why his latch was making me bite my lip so hard I bled. Why my milk was not coming in. Why every trip to the bathroom filled me with dread. After my doula guided me to a lovely and kind lactation consultant I discovered I had thrush. No one talked to me about a catheter and infection. I think this is a quality of care issue. I wonder how many people are like me and get a UTI after an epidural?
My daughters birth was empowering and intuitive. I birthed with a midwife who trusted me and guided me. I labored at home until I knew something in my body was different and when we arrived at the hospital I was 9 cm. She was asynclitic (head tipped toward a shoulder). We were fierce and brave. And when she came out she was placed on me immediately and began to latch. I filled the room with laughter and tears. The postpartum was an extension of birth. It was filled with self-trust and a confidence that I didn’t have access to with my son. My body was again soft and droopy but this time I knew it was just a phase. My breasts were swollen and leaking and I where I remembered feeling despair with my son, I felt grateful this time around.
These two experiences have shaped me. Have changed my course on this earth. I now work as a prenatal yoga teacher, childbirth educator, and soon to be doula.
I wish that I would have know that birth does not ask you to be fearless. It asks you to be brave. Listen to yourself throughout pregnancy. Listen to the voice that doesn’t use words. Then make your choices from that place. Don’t be afraid to change it up or go against the “norm.”
I had struggled for many years with my body image. Struggled to feel at home in my skin. This struggle has left me feeling hollow. I looked outside of myself for approval and fulfillment only to repeat the cycle while continuing to feel empty. My body moved to the sound of a heartbeat echoing within the walls of a body on autopilot; and the system was fueled by as much negative self talk as there were seconds in the day.
What I understand now is the feelings of inadequacy were the driving force behind choices that didn’t help me feel good or proud about myself. A lifetime of hearing the women closest to me referring to themselves as fat or ugly shaped my view of myself. Women who spiraled in their own torment and self hate. And even when I was significantly underweight, each time I looked in the mirror and was unable to see my own true reflection.
I want my children to have a different experience. I want my children to see a mother who feels her worth. Who speaks with reverence when talking about herself. Who works hard to be strong and healthy. I want my children to see themselves as they truly are, strong and capable of so many things. I have to be their guide in that. That’s what brought me here. To face a fear, to be scared and brave at the same time. To hold my head up and be proud of the body that brought these two magnificent beings into the light.”