Rebecca Ball (35), mother to Will (4), and Jamie - pictured (10 months)
Rebecca shares -
"My body image has been problematic for most of my teenage and adult life. I've dealt with disordered eating since college. My first pregnancy and the birth of my first child did nothing to improve it. I spent my whole pregnancy trying to cover up and minimize my growing body. While I didn't have any unusual issues, pregnancy was very hard on me both physically and emotionally. I was the first in my group to have a child, and didn't have any idea of what to expect.
While pregnant, I worked full time as a freelancer, renovated a condo, and moved from the city to the suburbs. Taking care of myself was my last priority. After my child was born, everyone told me that I'd just nurse off the weight, and that definitely did not happen. The only way I lost weight was by weaning. I didn't finally lose the last pounds until I started training for my first postpartum half marathon, which I ran 5 weeks pregnant with my second child. This time, I was determined to embrace my pregnant body, in all its strength and glory and roundness. I was also able to take much better care of myself, since I was at home full-time parenting, even though I was mostly solo while my partner traveled. I lost all the weight within the first month, although regaining my muscle still feels impossible. I don’t always like what I see in the mirror, but I’m trying to set a good example of healthy exercise and eating for my kids. I’m trying not to measure my worth by my warped image or how many miles I run each week.
My first child’s birth was not the birth I had envisioned; my hospital recovery was traumatic and set the tone for my first months of parenthood. I never thought I would be a parent until shortly before we decided to start trying to have a baby. After he was born, I was lost, isolated and alone in a new city. All I could see was my old friends going about their lives, while I was stuck at home with a sweet baby who never slept, unless he was on me.
Life finally started getting better when I met other moms at our local library, and developed a local support network. Thanks to those amazing people, I had other parents to ask questions, complain, commiserate, brainstorm, and figure out this incredible experience. I would never have considered having a second child without this community. In fact, two of the women in this group helped me give birth to my second child when I went into labor while my husband was out of town. I loved giving birth in a room full of women: my two friends, two midwives, a couple nurses, and a bunch of nursing students.
Several more friends took shifts to stay with me in the hospital and bring me food, so I was never alone until my husband was able to get back to us. My son had fluid in his lungs when he was born, and was taken to the special nursery 30 minutes after he was born. I got to hold him for all of a moment before they whisked him away. My next view of him was in the nursery, with tubes in his nose, an IV, and wires all over him. I couldn’t nurse him until he was 36 hours old. The strength and love of the women carried me through five scary days until we could come home.
While this is short for any NICU stay, I never thought it would be part of my experience. This time, I had a better idea of what to expect postpartum, especially with the hormone crashes and physical exhaustion. Ten of us had our second or third children within a year. I spent my second pregnancy seeing my friends give birth to their children, complete with their joys and struggles, so I had some concept of the challenges to expect with incorporating a new baby into our family and how my older child would feel. Instead of being alone in a new place with a new baby, I could lie on one of their floors while our big kids played and our babies slept in their car seats or sat together. The parents who didn’t have new babies in their houses took on even larger roles to support those of us who did.
This movement helped me begin to heal and accept my postpartum body after the birth of my first son. I want my children to grow up only seeing the beauty in their bodies and the bodies around them. By participating, I want to continue to heal and grow; maybe my story can even help someone else. I hope my involvement helps me to be stronger, to see the beauty in my body, and to model healthy behavior for my kids.
Ask. For help, for food, for ideas. Asking for help is strength, not weakness. We are not supposed to raise families and exist in a vacuum. We shouldn’t have to do everything all the time. Many cultures live together with multiple generations for this reason."