Jessica Althoff (41), Tino (2.5), and Gus (3.5 months)
Los Angeles, CA
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
In the first weeks postpartum, I felt embarrassed to even have my 2 year old see me naked. But I am now okay with it. I realize I likely will never have my "pre-baby body" back, but oh well. A few years ago, I saw something that said, “you'll have a baby body as long as you have a baby”. Just seeing this helped me immensely as it gave me permission to cut myself some slack. I still have two babies, so I still have my "baby body" and will for a few more years. I obviously have a some self-consciousness, especially living in an area where people are so fit. But, it is my body and I am learning to love it.
What was your postpartum experience?
I planned to have a non-medicated birth and practiced self-hypnosis in the months prior to and early hours of Tino's birth. I went to the hospital feeling so confident and relaxed, and very little pain. It did NOT go as planned and several hours later I was given pitocin, followed by an epidural (I just could not find it in me to self-hypnotize those pitocin contractions away or recover from them in time to get ready for the next one). 24 hours later, I had an emergency cesarean. I was devastated and tried to talk the doctor out of it. I felt like a failure.
But, we had a very healthy baby. I know I should have been ultimately grateful but I still felt like I had failed our baby and that my doctor could have waited (I know she couldn't). I follow a lot of holistic and natural mama bloggers online and I allowed myself to fall into the belief that the natural home birth is the best way. I felt guilty for the better part of a year and then again when I got pregnant with our second baby. I knew going into it that I would need another cesarean and started feeling guilty months before he was born. I know that both of my guys were born healthy and with no complications because of the surgeries, but that didn't initially help with the guilt.
The second one was scheduled, so was less stressful but the recovery felt harder. Maybe it is the toddler at home. I felt sad for him because I could no longer carry him and let him play on me. I missed holding his little body and being able to comfort him by carrying him. He is still a baby and in one day had to grow up just a little bit.
Postpartum is really easy and really hard all at the same time. There are moments when I feel like that this is the only thing I was born to do and things are exactly as they should be, like breastfeeding my second baby. And then there are moments when I am sure they would all be better off without me. There are moments when I am lying in bed with my little guys and I just can't help thinking how wonderful life is. And then there are moments when I am convinced I will lose them both too early. I sometimes feel like I have everything handled, dinner is cooked and no one is crying. And then there are times when all three of us are crying. To me, having a toddler and an infant is a lot like triage. Much of my stress comes from constantly having to decide which baby needs their needs met first. This decision always makes me feel guilty. So, there is a lot of guilt baked into my motherhood experience but there is a lot of joy also. I find that I am the most relaxed and happy when we are just at home, snuggling. Or both kids are asleep on me. I love this stage so much and I already miss Gus's fourth trimester.
What is your truth?
It doesn't get easier but you get stronger and better at it. Also, say yes to ALL of the help.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I started following on Instagram and the images are so beautiful. I am desperate to really soak in this time with my babies. It is so fleeting. I thought this would a way to have a keepsake. And also to be a part of something that is greater than us.