Casey Newman (35) Charlotte (5) and Ellie (11 months)
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
“My body image has always been an issue, but not for the reasons most people think. I was born at 28 weeks, so I have always been thin. My thinness combined with the medical evaluations you have to go through as a preemie kid made me think I was different than my peers. I always thought I had a defective body to some degree as I struggled with muscle stiffness, spasticity and coordination at times.
As an adult, I’ve had countless people remark about my thinness, which, if you hear it enough, makes you think maybe you do look weird or maybe something is wrong with you. I thought my defective body wouldn’t allow me to get pregnant or give birth the way I wanted. When I was pregnant with Charlotte, I kept waiting for something horrible to happen because my body wasn’t like everyone else’s and surely it would reject this child growing inside me. I read all the pregnancy things and would get irritated when they all said “trust your body” or “your body knows how to do this.” Not me. Not my body.
After she was born, my body felt weird to me. It was soft and stretched and stuff hurt that didn’t hurt before. It seemed as if I now had this alien body. I had a cesarean scar, a pooch above that scar, stretched out skin, a bent tailbone and terrible pelvic floor pain.
When I got pregnant with Ellie, I was again met with the “you’re so small,” etc. comments. Throughout that pregnancy I was terrified I wouldn’t gain enough weight, and was on the verge of a panic every time I stepped on the scale at my appointments. I gained more weight than I did with my first daughter, but still felt like it wasn’t enough. I went into labor on my own and had a VBAC with Ellie and I wish I could have "trusted my body." It seemed to know what it was doing, but I spent most of that labor and delivery frozen in panic and that's something I regret.
Sometimes I look at my girls and it doesn’t seem like they came from me. I grew them and birthed them — at full term and they’re healthy — and I can’t believe it. But then I look at them and they look just like me. Little and badass. And I’m going to make sure they know how badass they are.
That Shakespeare line “though she be but little, she is fierce” always annoyed me. She is fierce. So what if she’s little?
Feel free to share your postpartum journey.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I thought I’d go into labor by myself, get an epidural, push the baby out, take her home, she’d sleep a lot, and it wouldn’t be hard at all. My experience was pretty much the polar opposite of that. I had to be induced. I had an unwanted cesarean. I felt like I failed as a birthing woman and that my body had let me down because I needed a cesarean. Breastfeeding sucked (and hurt). And my baby would not stop crying.
All these things combined to hit me with brutal postpartum depression. I wanted to give my baby back to whatever force gave her to me because this was all a massive mistake and I couldn’t do it. There were times where I just laid on the floor sobbing, certain that I’d ruined my life. When I wasn’t crying, I was resenting my baby, wanting to put her in the kitchen cupboard for just one second of peace and quiet. I was afraid to be left alone with her because I had no idea how to care for her, and I was certain that my resentment and lack of baby knowledge would somehow permanently screw her up.
During my second pregnancy I was fully prepared to feel like that again. Except I didn’t. I wasn’t sad, I didn’t cry a lot, and I didn’t feel like I made a mistake. This time I was angry. Not just your normal anger, but throw things, slam doors screaming rage. I thought this was just a normal part of having two kids and being stressed, but no. It turns out that this too is a symptom of postpartum depression.
No one talks about postpartum stuff. We’re all supposed to be glowing, happy people snuggling sleeping babies, and when it doesn’t go that way it’s easy to feel like you fucked up. But the truth is, we’ve all experienced some postpartum issue, we just don’t realize how common it is because we’re all keeping quiet to preserve that super mom image. I’m not a super mom, and I’m okay with that.
Both of my pregnancies and births have turned me into an advocate. Looking back on my first birth, and speaking with other women, I realized that we all in some small way — and for some women very large ways — have been disrespected, brushed off, not listened to during pregnancy and labor. I want people to know this happens to practically every person who has been or is pregnant and I want it to change.
Pregnant people are not walking lawsuits, and our babies do not carry more weight than we do. We are human, we deserve respectful care, we deserve to be heard, we deserved to be trusted, and I want to help make that happen.
What is your truth?
I want my former self (and new parents) to know that you're a badass, you're stronger than you think. It doesn't feel like it, but you are. You're doing it. It sucks sometimes and you feel shitty, but you're did it and you're doing it. And also, you'll get through it. If you're laying on the ground sobbing or you want to give your kid back, you'll get through it. You can do it.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I've been following this project since I had my first daughter. I'd sit at my desk on my lunch break and look at the pictures of women whose bodies were not on the covers of magazines and read the stories I'd feel better about myself. I want to share my story because I want other parents to know that whatever you're going through it's okay. I want to make a change. I want people who give birth to be treated with respect. I want my daughters to know how strong they are. I'm also hoping to see myself in a different light. My body has done a lot for me, but I still find myself focusing on what it can't or doesn't do.”