Katie Lowden Bahr (37), Izzie (6), and Willow (2)
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
Becoming a mother has given me confidence and acceptance for my body that I never had before. Ever since puberty, I was always somewhat uncomfortable in my own skin. I remember always wearing shorts over my swimming suit as a teenager. But after children I’ve felt comfortable in my body, felt grateful for what it’s capable of and been the mom who puts on a swim suit and dives in with the kids.
What was your postpartum experience?
When I was pregnant, I planned a birth center birth with no interventions. I ended up two weeks late with a hospital induction. In hindsight my girl knew what she was doing and where she needed to be born.
When Izzie was born, my entire life changed. Everyone’s does right? But my journey was a little different. She was born with a previously undiagnosed heart defect called Ebstein’s anomaly. She came out blue and not breathing. She was whisked away with my husband following. It would be hours before I saw her, days before I could hold or feed her and weeks before we would take her home. Home was short lived and we were back in the hospital again. When we finally left for good there were home nurse visits, many appointments and lots of medicine. But somehow I figured out how to breastfeed a baby who didn’t want to, and successfully nursed her until she was four. My fears about her health never really went away. Every cough or sneeze caused anxiety. And illness last spring landed her inpatient. Every cardiology visit felt like the one where they would tell us it was time for surgery.
Willow was born four years after her sister and the experience was a complete 360. I felt in control of my choices, and immensely supported by the people around me. I held my baby immediately when she was born. She nursed within the hour. It was an incredibly healing experience for me. Her newborn period on the other hand was pretty challenging. She was a very high needs baby and cried a lot. Right before I was set to return to work, we discovered she had stopped gaining weight appropriately. I went to several appointments and lactation consultants and discovered she had a lip and tongue tie. I traveled two hours for a provider experienced in revising them and her feeding issues improved within a few weeks.
Two years ago we decided to take Izzie to The Mayo Clinic for a second opinion about her heart as they specialize in her condition. Our providers had mentioned a different surgery than most research I read suggested so I felt like getting their input was important. This past fall they decided surgery was in the near future, and eight weeks ago she had her first open heart surgery. The months and days leading up to it were the hardest of my life. The night before and day of surgery were horrendous. I’ve never felt fear like that before. Fear that physically manifested itself in the form of physical symptoms. It was easy enough to keep at bay when she was around. But when I left her in the operating room I felt like I would give anything to pick her up and run the opposite direction. Those hours my husband and I spent waiting for them to be done were so difficult. Her surgery went well and she has been amazing during recovery. Children are so much more resilient than adults, and handle health issues with so much grace.
What is your truth?
Parenthood is big. It’s intoxicating and wonderful at times. It feels heavy and hard others. And it can be so lonely even when you’re surrounded by people. We weren’t meant to do this in a bubble. We need support. We need someone to look at and say, I’ve been there. Someone who really gets it. Finding that community is so important, and something I wish I had done sooner.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I want my children to know that their bodies are amazing. That they’re capable of wonderful things. That those bodies are beautiful. That even when you feel like your body betrays you, even when it’s broken and in pain, it is still all of those things. I want my girls to feel self love and confidence in their skin that seems to often escape young women. I’m hoping that by participating in this project I am helping to show them that I feel all of those things about myself and it’s something they carry with them.