Ebba Peterson (35), Russell (3), and Karin (18 months)
California | Photographed in Portland, OR
Ebba shares -
"I've always been a larger girl, albeit a very strong and active one. Throughout the years, people have felt free to comment on it along the lines of "I never thought someone your size could do a backbend" which is pretty insulting. Fortunately, I've had the wherewithal to not let that stop me from cycling, hiking, yoga, etc. While I'm now carrying a few extra pounds, I still do those things.
The hardest part is, being a working mother of 2, I don't have the time to do them as much as I would like. This affects not so much my image, but how I feel. I don't feel 100% of where I want to be health wise, and my weight is a part of that. But I expect I will lose the weight as Karin stops nursing (I didn't lose a pound until I stopped nursing Russell, after which I lost all the post-pregnancy gain), and as both kids get more independent we'll be able to do more vigorous activities.
Until then I'm focused on being healthy and happy the way things are. And if I don't I've got to learn to be happy with that, too. Parenthood really drives home the need to have and project a positive body image, both for my kids, my husband and for myself. My family needs me to be there for them, and not focused on how I think I should look. And I deserve to be happy regardless of how I look. My kids love me regardless, and I was surprised to find my husband loved me regardless, too. I don't know if I ever truly realized that until I became a parent.
I loved being pregnant and I loved having newborns. Their home births went so well I was up trying to make pancakes right afterwards before the midwives told me to sit down and rest. Both my kids were also pretty drama free as babies. Russell nursed well from the get go; Karin not so much but we figured it out. I think the hardest transition right after the birth was saying goodbye to our midwife and the personal care one gets while pregnant, and watching Russell transition to being a sibling. Our midwife provided all our care and birthed our two children at home; I greatly appreciated the support she gave me while I was pregnant with Karin and separated (briefly) from my husband. Once the baby is out, the emphasis on care of the mother drops away. In the midwifery model there's a bit more personal care for the mother but it doesn't last very long. I can't imagine not having her resources and check-ins should we have gone with a hospital birth.
We've got no family in the area, so it was really upon me to keep things together. Since Russell was so young when Karin was born, that was especially hard as he really depends emotionally upon me and didn't understand why I couldn't be as fully available to him. To say he was distraught would be putting it lightly. But now that the kids are older, things are moving much more smoothly. There was a bigger adjustment for me going from 1 kid to 2, as my kids are still young enough to constantly need me. There is literally no down time. At all. And somehow there seems to be 4 times the amount of laundry and food preparation.
Getting back to work was both an adjustment and a relief. Though I work at a state university I didn't get paid maternity leave and lost my health insurance along with my salary (my husband doesn't get either through his job). So being fully off for 6 weeks then part-time for a few months was expensive. I never harbored the idea I would be a stay-at-home mom -- I love my job -- and we were very fortunate to get into a wonderful in-home daycare for both kids. What a relief it is knowing they're getting what they need apart from me so I can focus on my work, albeit with a moderated schedule. I'm a self-supporting research biologist, and without kids would easily be working 60+ hours a week. Now though, I take Wednesdays off in addition to the weekends to be with my kids, to take care of whatever errands need to be done, and do some serious cooking for the next few days meals. For me it's the perfect balance and I'm a better mom for having a career, even if it's not working out exactly how I wanted.
The adjustment has honestly been harder for my husband, who had no experience with kids and no great capacity to predict how having kids would impact his life. Even now that Russell is 3, he's still adjusting. But he loves his son and daughter and is a supportive, present father. One of my hardest postpartum adjustments have been changing my expectations of him, and being compassionate while he struggles with the loss of financial freedom (daycare is RIDICULOUSLY expensive) and much of his free time.
This is part of my "self-care" quest. So little of motherhood the way it's practiced these days is doing things for oneself. I love the idea that mothers are on their own journeys, and can share their stories. I love the positive embracing of one's experience, including how those experiences affect our bodies. Being here is one way for me participate in the idea that we are all awesome.
Be gentle with yourself, and compassionate. You can't do it all. Don't try. Embrace being "good" rather than "perfect". You don't have to work hard to love with all your heart.