Sarah Dolan (36), Milica "Mili" (3.5) and Ehan (7 months)
Sarah shares -
"After I gave birth to my first child, a friend and colleague told me: “You have a child now. You’ll never be the person you were before you had her. So why would you expect your body to be the body you had before her?” It’s simple, but profound. I grew and carried and nourished my babies. I gave birth without medical intervention – and in under six hours, the second time around. I nursed both babies and continue to nurse one of them. I am both deeply grateful and proud I was able to do all these things. Since adolescence, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder and poor body image. Being a birth parent has, finally, given me something to be proud of about my body.
Beyond how it’s impacted my own body image, it’s also impacted how I view my mother’s body – I remember her soft tummy and, if I wasn’t exactly judging it at the time, I certainly wondered why it didn’t look like the flat stomachs of women I saw in the media. I never asked her about it, and neither did she seek out opportunities to tell me how proud she was of her body (if, in fact, she was proud – I still don’t know how she feels). I want things to be different with my own daughter. She jiggles my tummy affectionately, and I tell her about how I grew her and her brother, nourished them from my body, gave birth to them, then how my body made milk for them to drink. I tell her how strong my body is, and what a miracle it is that our bodies grew and changed and adapted to one other, and how we danced together to bring each of them into the world.
Of course, I don’t always believe it. I feel frustrated when I have to buy pants that are a couple of sizes bigger than I’d like. I start self-shaming when I look my tummy and wish it looked like it used to before I had kids. And I get fearful when I think about how my breasts will probably look when my baby is no longer nursing. But I have little ones looking up to me now, and I want them to know that we’re all freaking miracles and so for now, I’m going to fake it til I make it. I’m going to act proud of my body until I actually, unreservedly, feel proud of it, too.
Briefly, my postpartum journey has been such a blessing. My births were uncomplicated; learning to breastfeed took some time, but then I successfully nursed both my children; and despite a couple of bumps in my path to physical recovery this time around, I now feel nearly up to full strength, all of which I’m exceedingly grateful for. I also didn’t do any of it alone – I had love and support and acceptance from a community of folks: spouse, family, neighbors, fellow new moms – and I most certainly would not have come out as unscathed as I did without them. I never understood the importance of community until I had children, and now I can’t imagine parenting without it.
Other than that, I am simply amazed, on a daily basis, by the depth of my love for my children. I just didn’t know, before, about how fundamentally having children would alter my perception of the world and how completely and selflessly I’d be able to love another person. It’s pretty astonishing.
I feel like I should say I'm doing this for other people, and I am. I'm doing this for others, so that hopefully someone, somewhere will see my image and hear my story and find hope and strength in them, just like I have from viewing others’ images and reading their truths. I'm doing this for my daughter, so she can know what a body-positive badass her mama is. But I'm also doing it for myself. Honestly, and kind of embarrassingly, I think I initially signed up for 4TBP thinking that it'd give me motivation to lose the baby weight. But as the day approached, I realize I want to see myself honestly, objectively. I want to see the beauty in myself that I see in 4TBP parents and the beauty that my spouse sees in me. I want to document in this very intimate and vulnerable way the work that my body and my soul have done to get me through pregnancy, labor and delivery, and early parenthood - twice. Honestly, I’m scared to do this. But. I want to be the kind of person who will shed her clothes and proudly, unabashedly, bare her fourth trimester body. By participating in this movement, I actually become that person."