Kathryn R. Gray (34 - currently pregnant) and Otis Gray (15 months)
Photographed in Austin, TX
Kathryn shares -
"I have always been very self-conscious. However, I felt overall comfortable being pregnant the first time around. Being actually pregnant took off a lot of the pressure of always trying to not look pregnant. I felt like I could kind of just relax and "be". Although I know a lot of women don't like the extra attention and being touched (e.g., bellyrubs) when pregnant, I really enjoyed it. I felt like everyone who reached out to feel my stomach was sending me and my baby good vibes, and I also felt a connectedness with the other mothers and older women who had been through it before.
In the months after my son Otis was born, my body was as big as it had ever been and in a lot of ways I felt really uncomfortable. However, my new stomach pooch provided a wonderful little shelf to rest my son on when I was holding him, and when I focused on that the whole process just seemed to make sense. I breastfed until he was about 8 months old and was expecting to easily, casually lose weight doing so (I felt like this is what everyone had told me). However, not only did I not Iose weight but I ended up gaining some. When I stopped nursing I quickly found I wasn't as hungry all the time and I naturally settled close to my pre-birth weight. Looking back on the whole process it made me really aware that in a lot of ways my body knows better than I do what it's doing, and has helped me let go and "just be." Overall being a mom has given me a sense of confidence in myself, rooted in the love I have from and feel for my husband and son.
What my body is looking like physically has been moved so far down my list of priorities that I don't really care much one way or the other what anyone thinks about it. I don't mean that in the sense that I am a mess or dirty; what I mean is that I know that my husband and son light up when they see me and they light for me, not for what I'm wearing or how my hair is fixed, etc. They keep me focused on who I am and not what I look like.
Our postpartum journey was a lot more difficult than we anticipated. I knew it would be hard...but it was harder and hard in more ways than I imagined. Our son cried and screamed a lot in his first 3 months, and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to keep him from being upset and wondering how we were doing so badly. We have friends with similarly aged children and it seemed like no one was experiencing what we were, and no one's advice had any usefulness. We felt really alone and like we couldn't be honest about the hardness of it all with friends or family, and that when we did they would respond with platitudes about "how magical it is" or "phases."
After about 3 or 4 months he started to settle; however, he was still very difficult to put down for sleep or a nap for the next many months. We finally found that what worked best was ignoring all the advice we got from friends and books and just finding out what works best for us. Now, he's 15 months old and a fairly easy kiddo. He's happy all the time and sleeps great. Either we're just getting used to it or he's getting easier but all around it's a lot easier experience now, and we marvel all the time at what a wonderful kid we are blessed to have.
Coming up on the birth of our second, we don't know what to expect! (But hope that we already got the "hard baby" under our belts.) Throughout this process I would have completely floundered if it had not been for the patience and kindness of my husband. He acknowledged early on that he could never equalize the work I did in carrying our son and nursing him those first months, and that went a long way in making me feel appreciated and understood. He is so giving and such a total partner, and now I joke with friends that he could speak more to diapers because he really changes more than I do. We work hard at helping each other and finding the balance that works for us and I couldn't imagine doing this alone or with anyone else.
I would want my former self and any new parent to know that they are doing an awesome job and the hardness is not a reflection of how good of a parent they are. And never ever ever ever compare to anyone else's experience.
I love following the 4th Trimester Bodies Project and am so excited to be a part of it. I don't think my own story is very enlightening or helpful, but I love the sharing of experiences to normalize the differentness of our lives and our experiences as moms."