Jessyka Iskander (34 - she/her), Grace (2.5), and Elijah (3 months)
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
When I was pregnant with Grace I worked out consistently in a gym and also at home and I didn't stop until I was one day shy of 40 weeks. I felt healthy and vibrant and strong. I dropped the baby weight plus 15 pounds in the first 4 months postpartum. I was back at the gym 6 weeks postpartum. While pregnant with Elijah I did not step in the gym once. My workouts were few and much shorter, gentler and with a toddler clinging to my leg. I still felt healthy and vibrant and strong but I knew my weight gain would be different and of course in turn my weight loss. My stomach has new gatherings of excess skin and fat, I am riddled with ever expanding stretch marks (which my daughter and I call "love lines") and by the end of the day I look 3 months pregnant. I have no idea how much I weigh and I still haven't worked out once since Elijah was born in April. Overall I am okay with that. Am I okay with it every day, every single second? No. Of course not. Like most other Moms I compare myself to others but honestly with time (or lack there of!) I find it easier to turn off that little "if only you..." voice that makes me think I am not good enough.
What was your postpartum experience?
My first (Grace) was in occiput posterior position. I had a natural birth in the wonderful Toronto Birth Centre but I pushed too hard and ended up with over 40 stitches. I was in bliss.
Unfortunately, from day one I was a people pleaser. We had visitors to our home not even 12 hours after she was born (nope not family), I went out to visit people day 2, I squeezed into belly bands and I wore tight jeans, heels, make up, did my hair and and overall cared way too much about what people thought about me and couldn't say no even when I was drop dead tired. I slept tops 1-3 hours in a 24 period for weeks. I checked her breathing every 5-10 minutes. I had horrific intrusive thoughts and my first ever panic attack.
Later I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and OCD. I slowly healed with help from therapy and the wonderful programs at Women's College Hospital. On top of that I also thought pain was typical with breastfeeding (in the early days) and didn't seek help until chunks of my nipple was falling off and it felt like razor blades slicing me open each time she latched. After wonderful support from my midwives, supplemental nursing systems (tube, cup and finger feeding) along with pumping after every day feed we got the hang of it and by week 6 we were like pros.
With Elijah I very ready for natural labour and after 3 days of contractions but not active labour I went ahead to have a planned home birth (almost unassisted, luckily my midwife made it just in time). My active labour was under 2 hours from start to finish. At 6 cm my water broke. I was 10 cm at the next contraction, his head crowned, I allowed my body to push naturally twice and had him all in 15 minutes. I was so elated and happy during that I actually said, "This is feels amazing, this is wonderful."
My daughter took a while to adjust despite my planning and prepping (obviously she's 2. I don't know why I thought everything would be perfect) and I had/have a hard time navigating her new moods and occasional tantrums. I love her so dearly and have a shit ton of Mom guilt (mostly when I feel touched out at days end). I am trying my hardest and I still see a therapist monthly to make sure I don't struggle too badly but it is a huge adjustment going from one child to two and NOTHING can prepare you for it. I am just trying to take it day by day and soak in this brief sweet stage. The days may be long but the years are short.
What is your truth?
My Mom told me once, "it's not a bad life, it's just a bad moment." I honestly repeat that anytime I feel stressed out and overwhelmed
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I researched pregnancy and natural child birth so intensely that I totally over looked the postpartum stage and damn every one needs information on the postpartum stage. It should be a MANDATORY part of sex ed. I had no idea that what I was experiencing was common and it wasn't until I came across 4th Trimester Bodies and read the stories that I truly felt heard and understood.