Jane Richardson (33), Ginny (3.5) and Alice (3 months)
Baltimore, MD | Washington, DC
Jane shares -
"I haven't been particularly confident in my appearance as an adult, but it definitely got worse after having kids. I really, really wanted to be able to see my body as strong and powerful and capable of giving life, but though I can admire other women's stretch marks as beautiful, I've had difficulty getting past the number on the new jeans I've had to buy and the way my belly rolls over the top of my pants. I feel less confident at work because of it (despite my job having absolutely nothing to do with my appearance) and shame about how I look prevents me from easily being intimate with my husband. But I know much of how I evaluate my appearance was formed when I was a girl.
Now, having two girls of my own, the last thing I want to do is to cripple their confidence with my baggage. That's why I pushed myself to participate in this project. I've followed your feed on instagram for years and love all the photos of mothers looking so happy and free with their children. Maybe through your lens I can see my body as attractive? Maybe, if you can capture in a photo how much I love my children, I can convince myself the other part doesn't matter.
This was my second time giving birth, but it wasn't any easier than the first. I had been having prodromal labor pains for days starting about a week before my due date, but they never became regular and eventually went away entirely. I hated waking up every morning that week trying to decide if I should go to work or not, and I stayed home one day, only to have to go back the next and tell everyone I had been wrong.
I woke up Friday morning with a fair amount of bleeding, but no contractions. We decided to go to the hospital and I had a surreal morning of trying to act normal, getting Ginny ready to go to school, but mentally rushing around. When we got to L&D, no one believed I was having bleeding because I looked like I felt fine (which I did!). I was 6 cm when they checked, and the decision was made to admit me, with a plan to give me a couple hours to see if labor started on its own, and to induce me if not. It ended up being a very busy day on L&D, and a couple hours became about six of my husband and me sitting quietly, finishing up some work, doing the crossword, and knitting.
When they were finally able to start the pitocin, I was still 6 cm and still wasn't contracting whatsoever. We all thought it would be several hours before I delivered. My plan was to start getting IV fluids when the pain started, and then to get an epidural after I'd gotten 1L. I started having mild contractions not too long after the pitocin was started.
I remember very distinctly finishing a sudoku puzzle, putting my phone down, and suddenly just about jumping off the bed because it felt like my baby had just kicked me hard in the cervix. The contractions became much, much stronger then, and I had to get out of bed and stand to get through them. My nurse came in and started the fluids in preparation for my epidural. But things just got more and more intense. I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, and was so worried I was going to go on myself. It didn't occur to me then that I was feeling the baby's head descending.
Thank goodness for my nurse, who realized what was happening when I didn't. She got the anesthesiologist to come right in and place the epidural, even though the fluids weren't done. It was extremely difficult for me to sit still during the procedure with the contractions coming so quickly, and once it was done my blood pressure dropped and I had to lay down. The anesthesiologist said it would take about 10 minutes, and if I was still in pain I could give myself a bolus. I sat staring at the clock, waiting for the time to tick down, not feeling much of any relief. My husband had to push the bolus button for me at 10 minutes because I was still in so much pain I couldn't do it myself. I know there are plenty of women who do this without meds, but I hadn't been planning to do that, and my fear making the pain much worse.
Finally I felt my legs and feet go numb, but there was a portion of my abdomen that was still feeling the contractions just as strongly as before the epidural. Eventually a nurse anesthetist came in and told me the baby's head was probably too far down, and there was no way to numb that portion of my uterus. They also couldn't give me more medication because my blood pressure was still so low. I remember thinking that she looked very calm, considering she'd just told me I was going to be forced to die in pain!
Luckily I was still progressing very quickly. It had probably only been 20 minutes since that kick in the cervix when my OB said I could start pushing. This was a huge relief, because I didn't feel the pain at all while I was pushing. It only took 3 rounds of contractions to get the baby out.
They placed her on my belly, but she didn't cry, and they quickly took her over to the warmer, where they eventually placed her on oxygen. I learned later that this often happens with babies who are born quickly, that it takes them a little extra time to start crying and oxygenating well. This had happened with Ginny too, so I wasn't actually too worried, since I could see they hadn't intubated her, but it meant that, again, my baby was taken away to the NICU for a few hours before I could see her. Although I wanted her in the room with me, I know it's better to be safe than sorry in that scenario, and eventually she was moved to my room, the blood cultures came back negative, and we were allowed to go home.
I know it's irrational, but I'm still disappointed I didn't get the empowering birth experience it seems like every woman deserves. Not only did I not feel any stronger or more confident, but I was a little traumatized by how scary the delivery had been for me, and the family and friends I tired to talk about it with didn't seem to understand why I wasn't just happy to have a healthy baby.
Getting home brought with it a whole other challenge, which was Ginny's difficulty with the new baby. My main worry in the weeks leading up to my due date had been how she would take the new addition, and for the first few days it seemed like my worst fears had been confirmed. Ginny wanted nothing to do with me, and wouldn't let me hug or hold her. At one point she walked up to me while I was sitting on the ground, got right in my face, and just screamed at the top of her lungs. The look in her eyes was of pure hatred, and I just sobbed after she left the room. She was very rough with the baby too, and I didn't know how to include Ginny while also protecting Alice.
When she wasn't angry, she seemed very sad. Our first night back she insisted on sleeping with the baby soother she hadn't used in over a year. Another night, when I was awake feeding Alice in the middle of the night, Ginny came to the door and just watched through the crack. I called her in, but she just stayed outside until her Dad walked her back to bed. I knew everything was developmentally appropriate, but I was so sad for Ginny and guilty for ripping her world apart.
With time it got better, of course, but we continue to struggle with behavior in ways we really didn't have to before the baby came. There were certainly parts of the postpartum period that were easier than the first time - nursing especially - but I still worry whether I'm doing the best thing for my children. I love them so much.