Nicole Chambers (37), mother to Kyron Iommi (22), Zoe Rae (14 months - pictured), and Shoshana Marie (stillborn on January 5th, 2018)
Nicole shares -
"I had an abortion at 19. I was a teen mom who already had a 4 year old at home, my partner and I were on hiatus and I was battling with drug addiction. It was the right decision and I have no regrets but I still think about it a lot. I've also had 2 positive pregnancy tests only to end up bleeding a few days later and it never resulting in a full term pregnancy. I just assume those were early miscarriages as I never sought medical attention for them and honestly it had little if any effect on me emotionally.
The most recent loss with Shoshana has been absolutely the most traumatic thing I have ever experienced. The grief has been overwhelming. The pregnancy was a shock as we were taking precautions and at first I was pretty upset that I was pregnant again so soon after giving birth. Zoe was only 9 months old and she, too, was a huge surprise due to my age and history of severe endometriosis and miscarriages. But 3 kids was my magic number and I figured by some divine intervention, my dream was coming true. I quickly fell in love with the tiny life inside me. I decided to hold off on making any kind of formal announcement until after the results of some genetic testing done at 11 weeks. Then at 12 weeks I started bleeding.
On New Years Day I visited the ER and learned her heart was no longer beating. On January 5th my labor turned in to hemorrhaging and again I visited the ER only to be whisked away to a procedure room upon arrival. The rest is a blur. When I woke up from the D&C procedure I asked to see her/take her home. I was absolutely devastated to learn that was not possible. I'm a completely different person since that day. The loss of my baby combined with the lack of support from my friends and family has been overwhelming.
I've sought support elsewhere in online loss parent support groups and bereavement meetings. The hospital also had a grief counselor call me several times a week for the first 6 weeks. That helped immensely. I still have a long way to go. I received the results of the testing after she passed. I learned she was female and I named her. But because I hadn't told most people about the pregnancy to begin with, it made it harder to share my loss and for some reason that is eating me alive. I want to tell everyone. I want to shout from the rooftop "Her name is Shoshana Marie, she is my daughter and her life matters!" But most people in my life that know of this pregnancy and loss were either disapproving of me being pregnant again, were made terribly uncomfortable by my grief, or both.
My only true comfort has been nursing/rocking Zoe in our favorite chair while watching the hummingbirds drink from the daffodils that a client brought me when I returned to work after my miscarriage. Zoe is my rock. The birds, my symbol for Shoshana.
I had my son in 1995 when I was 15. Back then everyone I knew thought women were all supposed to look like Baywatch babes. My body image was already beyond warped long before that. I have memories as young as 6 years old, crying in the mirror trying to figure out how I was going to fix my face, reduce my thighs, remove my body hair. My father was a sociopath and a narcissistic. A pedophile and a rapist. He would abuse me then scrutinize my appearance and shame me for things I couldn't help (like freckles, size of my nose, shape of my breasts or lack thereof) and it got so much worse when I hit puberty.
Combine this with pressure from the media to be perfect and bounce back after pregnancy and neurosis of all types were born. I look back and am flabbergasted at the hell I put my body through for minimal results. I got breast implants at 19, tanned my skin beyond repair, tried every fad diet out there and abused drugs. All the while I had a loving partner at home who never once in 23 years has ever criticized my appearance or asked me to change. He begged me not to get breast implants. It didn't matter. My entire self worth was wrapped up in how attractive I was to others. I was broken.
Fast forward to 2017 when I had Zoe. I'm a nurse now. A feminist. Older and wiser with an education in medicine, mental health, and nutrition. The thought of my daughter ever feeling about herself the way I did scares me to death so I've changed my views completely. I can't say I'm IN LOVE with my new postpartum shape, but it doesn't bother me. It is what it is and I feel like I look EXACTLY how I'm supposed to look after 3 births and a combined 19 months of breastfeeding. I'm at the point in my life now where I care more about how I feel than how I look.
My postpartum recovery with Kyron is a blur. It was so long ago and I was a busy teenager with high school and a part time job. Recovery with Zoe was far different. I discovered 11 days after her birth that I had a fissure from my anus to my vagina that had to be repaired. That was quite unpleasant. Breastfeeding did not come as easily as I thought it would and I received minimal support. I have a habit of trying to prove that I'm this fierce mama warrior who can do it all on my own.
I also felt a lot of guilt over bringing Zoe in to this world after her father and I had decided we were not having any more children so I had a hard time asking for help. I was pressured by my employer to come back to work at only 3 weeks postpartum, a decision I greatly regret but I didn't get any sort of maternity leave due to a loophole in the laws and the type of work I do and I really couldn't afford to stay home much longer. I still have a lot of guilt over that. But thankfully I now have some great clients who are supportive of my pumping needs and around 3 months postpartum my daughter and I finally got the hang of the whole breastfeeding thing and now at 14 months we're still going strong.
I honestly don't remember how I stumbled across this project but when I saw the photos and read the stories I thought, "yes!" "This is how I will get involved and help promote body positivity, help normalize breastfeeding, help reduce stigma by talking openly about loss and abuse and abortion and sexuality. This project kinda covers all of these things. It's also pretty far out of my comfort zone and pushing that boundary is a big part of what helps me grow as a human and makes me a better parent. I want my kids to read these stories and see these photos and be proud of me for participating. I know I'm proud of myself for participating.
My truth is this: beauty "standards" do not exist. They are an illusion... a creation by an industry looking to get rich on our own insecurities and it makes me angry whenever I think about it. We are all just molecules clumped together in these human forms, mine are arranged this way, yours are arranged that way. My kids don't care what I look like and if my partner did, I would definitely be reevaluating our relationship. The pressure to meet said "standards" almost killed me. And for what? I received no happiness or satisfaction from all of the effort I put in to trying to be the "hot mom". In fact it put a huge strain on my relationship with my partner for a long time. I wish I could go back and tell my former self not get cosmetic surgery and to get professional help with regards to my mental health sooner than later. I hate that at some point I am going to have to explain to my children why I got the breast enhancement. But I will be honest with them and hopefully that conversation will open up a very meaningful and educational dialogue with my kids about self image and mental health."