Sarah FitzPatrick (35 - she/her) and Ivy
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
For years I struggled with my body image and my weight. I was never really overweight, but had been made to feel that I wasn’t okay the way I was. It took me about a year to get back to my “pre-baby” weight, but now I really try to focus more on feeling comfortable in my body and not a number on the scale - which is still not always easy. I continually remind myself how awesome my body is. It grew an organ, and made a human. I mean, really, what is cooler than that?
My goal now is to try to teach my daughter how to love her body, which also helps remind me to be kind to my body. I want her to understand how to respect and love her body, and be in awe of all the great things it can do, not just the way it looks.
I also oddly love my cesarean scar. It is a daily reminder of how Ivy got here and how lucky we are to have her in our lives.
What was your postpartum experience?
Growing up it never really occurred to me that I, or others, couldn’t just “make a baby”. Society taught me that it was so easy to get pregnant that you had to do everything in your power not to get pregnant. So that’s what I did for years. Fast forward to when I actually wanted to get pregnant and couldn’t. We tried for about a year on our own, I used the apps, charted my temperatures and learned all that I could about how my body worked. Turns out I had no idea what was actually happening in my own body! We finally decided it was time to see a specialist. After a lot of testing it turned out that I had a Diminished Ovarian Reserve, or that the quantity and quality of my eggs was decreasing. We tried about 4 or 5 rounds of IUI with no luck, and were then told that we needed to look at IVF.
Our first round of IVF wasn’t very successful, they only managed to harvest a few eggs and the only embryo that we had wasn’t graded well. Unsurprisingly it didn’t work, which was still a pretty crushing, especially the thought of having to do it all over again. Fortunately, our second round of IVF went much better, we harvested more eggs than our first round and ended up with 4 very good embryos. We had the best embryo implanted, and it worked!
My pregnancy started well and we found ourselves a lovely midwife team. During one of my early ultrasounds they discovered that I had what they call “an incompetent cervix” (Seriously, how does this name not make someone feel like their body is failing them?) meaning that my cervix was starting to shorten very early and could lead to early labour. Our midwife referred us to an OB who was willing to work along with the midwifes. Following an ultrasound at 25 weeks I was told that I had to go on bed rest. Surprisingly 3 months of bed rest wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be, and although my cervix did continue to shorten, it did so at a much slower rate.
At 38 weeks I was having very strong braxton hicks and went into triage, after being seen by an OB and our midwife I was sent home but told to keep a very close eye on things. Over the next day or so I just didn’t feel right, and I started to notice that I couldn’t seem to get the baby to move. We went back into triage and now whenever I would have a braxton hicks contraction the baby’s heart rate would drop.
At that point they decided to induce me and when they broke my water we learned that the baby had already released it’s meconium. We also learned that the baby was breach (somehow no one had ever told me that before, even with all the ultrasounds I had leading up to that point). I was told that could mean that labour would take even longer. The baby’s heart rate continued to drop with each contraction and the OB told that “if it were my baby I would get it out right away”, I agreed and I was literally run to the operating room for an emergency cesarean.
I was in a daze at this point and, thankfully, I was unaware of them calling a code pink, seeing all the extra people come into the room or seeing my very gray baby being placed on the table (although my husband noticed all of these things). I was so thankful for our midwives who, weeks before, had walked our class through a scenario of all of the people that might be in the operating room when you have a cesarean, it definitely helped set my mind at ease when faced with this situation.
I was wheeled into the NICU to be shown my baby, but I didn’t get to touch her, hold her or be with her for the first 15 hours. It was surreal being in my room, knowing that I didn’t have a baby in me any longer and yet not having a baby in my arms either.
Thankfully, despite her dramatic entry into the world and initially very low apgar she bounced right back and was off of all of her machines in a day or two, and was actually released a day before I was.
Breastfeeding was a challenge. My milk came in very slowly after the cesarean and I didn’t have much in the way of milk supply. Ivy was small and was losing weight, which is normal, but with little to no milk supply there were concerns that I wouldn’t be able to get her back up to her birth weight quickly enough. We asked our midwife what she thought about us getting milk from some of our friends who had very recently had new babies - I don’t think she thought it would be that easy. Within a few hours we had milk from 3 of our amazing friends and in no time Ivy was starting to put on weight, and we began to figure out our breastfeeding journey.
What is your truth?
It sounds cliche, but try to remember that time goes by so quickly and to try to just be in the moment. I remember when Ivy wouldn’t sleep anywhere but in my arms and I didn’t know how I would ever be able to get anything done, now I look back and wish I had been able to truly relax and just enjoy that special time with her. There is always something else that you feel like you should be doing, but sometimes you just have to get down on your hands and knees pretend to be a mama cat (because your kid has decided that they are a baby cat, obviously), and forget about the giant pile of laundry waiting to be washed.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
When trying to get pregnant and going through IUI and IVF, my husband and I were very open with our friends, family and even our co-workers about what we were doing. To us, our friends and family were our support system and the people that we wanted to share our journey with.
As we continued through the process and talked with people about what we were doing, I started to learn just how many other people where going through something similar and yet were not comfortable sharing it with others, including, in some cases, their own family.
I want people to hear about others who have done IVF, or the many other methods of starting a family, and see that they aren’t alone. There is no shame in not having a family “the good old fashioned way”. Your body might not work the way that you expected it to, and that can be very hard to come to terms with, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a body worth celebrating!