Carli Vokes (31), Leda (3), and Elayna (14 months)
Guelph, ON | Toronto
Carli shares -
“Becoming a mother has changed the way I think of myself in so many ways. I dealt with a lot of body image issues as a teen, hating parts of myself and trying drastic things to try to change them. It took a long time to get past that. It's so important to me that my children learn to love themselves and grow up with the self confidence to accept themselves and others for who they are. I know magazine covers and a society full of negative messages will follow my daughters around but I also now know how powerful a mother’s words can be. I want to show them what it looks like to be happy in your own skin and marvel at the things we can do. My body has done too much for me not to have respect for it and love it. My body has grown and nurtured my babies, and until my last breath it is where they can always find arms to wrap around them, warmth and true, non-judgmental, fierce love. I want my daughters to know this.
My first pregnancy was fairly uncomplicated and I was determined and excited to have an unmedicated home birth. I got to take home the “home birth kit” from the midwife clinic after my 37-week appointment but the next day an ultrasound revealed that my daughter was breech. I tried everything from yoga to a very painful and scary ECV (external cephalic version) in the hospital where an OB attempted to manually turn the baby from the outside of the belly. Nothing worked. I felt like I was completely ripped from the driver’s seat and had no control. When I asked about trying to deliver on my own in hospital I was met with the horrifying possibility that I could be putting my baby in danger and I couldn’t take the chance. I remember signing the release for an “elective” cesarean and thinking that the form might as well say “mandatory.”
The surgery was scheduled and everything went textbook; physically, my baby and I were both in great shape and I was in love with my little girl. I did, however, struggle with what had happened. I had been planning my method of birth one way and got the complete opposite and I felt guilty for complaining because my baby was healthy and happy. I was later diagnosed with PTSD and started working through the cesarean. I had found it cold and violating; arms and legs being tied to the operating table, no one telling me what’s happening while half of my body is numb and separated by a curtain. I had wanted to experience the birth but it seemed to have happened without me.
I was very nervous about my second pregnancy. I wanted desperately to try for a VBAC and was a good candidate as the baby was head down. My midwives were fantastic and encouraged me to try. It was a very empowering experience. My second little girl arrived and I got to hold her immediately. I got to be totally involved. I can now look back and be thankful for these two different births and perspectives. The methods were very different and needed to be processed in their own rights but the first sounds of them crying, first time my girls looked up at me, had the same power. My babies are here now and I am forever changed for the better.
This movement has helped change the way I see myself and I want my children to see that I am proud of the body I have so that they can be proud of theirs.
It is so easy for us to criticize ourselves but our children look up to us to guide them through this world, I don’t want to be another negative voice to them.”