Alex James (32) and Indiana (6 weeks)
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
At six weeks post-birth, I’m still getting acquainted with my postpartum body. What I can say right now is: it’s a strange thing to have my body be so tethered to another human being. I’m feeding my baby exclusively from my body. My breasts respond when I’m away from her for too long, or when she cries. They fill and swell when she needs them. It’s fascinating, beautiful, and downright annoying, all at the same time. My breasts are now living, breathing entities. They have a purpose and agenda, which they make quite clear to me with all kinds of sensations I could never have imagined. I cannot ignore my breasts; their presence is loud and overbearing at times. They’ve also become enormous. I can’t say I like how they look or feel right now, but I’m grateful for the important work they’re doing, and hopefully in time I’ll learn to love them.
What was your postpartum experience?
I am having a wonderful postpartum experience. You know something - it feels kinda weird to say that. There is much talk about how hard the postpartum transition can be (It’s no joke, everything that happens physically and emotionally after giving birth!) so part of me feels the need to keep quiet about how great my experience has been, so as not to sound like I’m bragging or preaching. But this is not the platform for hiding; this is for sharing. So here goes.
I made it my goal from the beginning - from before I even got pregnant - to have an amazing postpartum experience. I felt inspired by postpartum traditions from other countries, which all involve an extended period of rest, lots of warm, nourishing foods, and basically just round-the-clock snuggle time in bed with baby. I resolved to have a postpartum experience like that.
I did a lot of prep work before my postpartum time. I knew going into this that it wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows, so I did what I could to be as prepared as possible. I stuffed my freezer with meals. I gathered herbs and supplies for healing my perineum. I even got some frozen breast milk from a friend to have on hand in case I needed to supplement my own breast milk. I spent time making my home a peaceful sanctuary for nesting in with baby.
Above all else, I made sure I had good support, and I grounded my expectations. Everything about birth and babies and parenting is unpredictable.
My partner was home for three weeks. For the first ten days, I pretty much stayed in bed, resting my body and feeding the baby, and he took care of absolutely everything else. I truly believe this is the reason why my experience has been as great as it has.
Were there times when I found myself in tears for no apparent reason? Yes. Have I dealt with a torn perineum and incontinence and painful engorgement? Check, check, check. It hasn’t all been a walk in the park - but it’s been pretty lovely. It really is possible to have an amazing postpartum experience.
I recognize that there are many things about my unique situation that have contributed to my having a great postpartum time. I am blessed with an amazing, supportive partner who was able to take three weeks off work. This is my first baby, so I don’t have the added stress of parenting a toddler during my recovery. I also feel satisfied and happy overall with my birth experience; I’m not left dealing with birth trauma (which is way, way too common amongst birthing people).
I also recognize that I’m still very much at the beginning of what is a long journey, and I don’t know what’s to come.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I’m here to be seen and acknowledged - along with the rest of the beautiful postpartum bodies that are part of this project - for what my body has done and is doing. Postpartum folks, and their experiences, are kind of invisible in our culture. People love a pregnant belly, and people love a cute baby, but there is little reverence for the postpartum person.
I went for a short walk by myself (without the baby) at 17 days postpartum, and I couldn’t help but think about the fact that no one on the street had any idea I’d given birth so recently. It felt weird. I’d grown accustomed to smiles and nods from strangers during my pregnancy, after all, so I guess I felt like the world now needed to know that I’d birthed that baby - that it was hard work, and that I did it. To be clear, I don’t think I’d want to walk down the street holding a large sign announcing “I just gave birth!” - but I do feel we need more sharing of birth and postpartum experiences in general. There is wisdom in these stories and we should encourage the sharing of them. I love this project and movement!