Lynn Ross (she/her), Brittain Sobey (33 - she/her) , Sabina (4), and Juniper (5 months)
Ann Arbor, MI
Brittain is a repeat project participant. You can view her original photo and story here.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I was frustrated with my body after my first birth via cesarean section. I had unrealistic expectations regarding how long it would take to recover. The second time around I have had much more patience with my body, but I still struggle with accepting the way it looks at the extra 10 pounds I carry from my pregnancy that just want to stick around. Round two we had a birth photographer who beautifully captured the labor and birth of our second baby girl. Whenever I find myself feeling down on my body, I like to revisit the photo book I made of the photos from Juniper's birth. It always makes me feel like a friggin' rockstar. Further, I have now been nursing for over four years. I am currently tandem nursing my two daughters. My boobs are rockstars. My body nourishes not one but two tiny humans. I should have nothing but gratitude for this body of mine and the things it has done. But I would be lying if I said it was not a struggle to love, appreciate, accept what my body is today after two babes. It's even somewhat difficult for me to look back on the pictures from my photoshoot just over a year ago. My body is different now than it was then. Makes sense, since it grew and birthed a second tiny human in that time. Darn those societal expectations and norms!
What was your postpartum experience?
My two postpartum experiences are night and day. I developed postpartum depression with my first and felt the worst I've ever felt in my life. My body was broken. My mind was broken. Everything broke. There were several times in her first three years that I thought she and my husband would be better without me. Of course this is so not true and I've learned to recognize that anxiety is a LIAR. My expectations were so far from reality and it took me a good while to recover from that discrepancy. I'm so grateful for the age gap between my first and second. Though it wasn't what I had planned or wanted at the time, now that I have it I realize it was so necessary for my own growth and healing.
My second postpartum experience has been wonderful, even with the third degree tearing my second babe gifted me as she exited the womb. My first was a planned cesarean section because of breech presentation that became a not planned one because my water broke a couple days before the scheduled procedure. My second was a successful vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). The labor was long and hard for me. 21 hours from when my water broke. An epidural I requested 8 hours in that only worked on the right side of my body. The whole time I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to achieve my successful VBAC and several times I thought about throwing in the towel. But by the grace of God, I got what I wanted and was able to push my baby out with the support of my husband and doula and a birth photographer capturing the whole process. The whole experience was so raw and beautiful. I'll never forget the moment when Juniper was placed on my chest covered in blood and vernix. I've never felt so proud of my body. "Oh, my baby! We did it!" I said over and over.
I have come to say that my first birth broke me and my second healed me. Both were necessary. I wouldn't necessarily change anything about my first experience. It has shaped me into who I am today. My second postpartum experience was, as the first, nothing like what I expected. I expected another experience like my first! And it was nothing of the sort. My second baby barely cried the first two weeks. I could barely move and it took all my strength to walk to and from the bathroom in the first weeks because of blood loss and low iron. But I was calm. Content. Confident. Full of grace for my body that had just run the marathon of its life. I had hoped to be able to carry my baby and bounce her immediately. It took time for that to become reality due to the extensive tearing my pelvic floor endured. But I got there! And even though the vaginal birth experience wasn't what I thought, I knew to have patience for the healing as that was my mistake the first time around -- not giving it grace and patience and kindness but rather being frustrated and feeling limited by it.
I feel like a better mom of two than I was of one. I adore having my two little girls. They are both complete opposites and I absolutely love each of them for their individuality. They keep me on my toes. They fill me with more joy than I could have ever imagined. Juniper makes me want 18 more babies. I think we should have named her Joy because that is what she is, pure joy. And seeing Sabina as such a sweet big helper makes me think it might be possible to have 18 more. And then I'm up in the night tag teaming with both of them conspiring to keep me up all hours and I think yeah maybe two is good. They keep me humble. The keep me full of gratitude. I am so thankful for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Maybe not in the moment because it can be so so so hard in the moment. But in hindsight, I know these two are refining me every day into a person of greater love, compassion, kindness, and capacity for joy.
What is your truth?
We're all trying our best. Sometimes our best just sucks. But there's grace to cover it all. Be kind to yourself. You are your babies' whole world on your best day and your worst.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I participated in 2018 as we were on the domestic infant adoption journey trying to grow our family. A few months later, around my and my husband's 10th anniversary, we decided to give a baby by birth another try and became pregnant. We have since put the adoption process on hold and will revisit resuming that in the next six months. Since my last time participating, my body has grown and birthed a second human. I feel like the process has come full circle. And I wanted to commemorate this experience, my first four years of motherhood and all the heartache, joy, personal growth, and development of resilience that has ensued in that time. I love that 4th trimester bodies shows a myriad of experiences and has helped me see that birth and postpartum can look so many different ways. And it's all okay. The experiences we've had, good or bad, beautiful and broken, they make us who we are. And everything that has been broken can be made beautiful. I think my own experience is a testament to that, and I wanted to share it with others. For myself, and for others.
I have my mom with me here today from Arizona. She originally was coming to help me wrangle my tiny humans. But then I thought it would be beautiful to have her participate with us. Three generations. The woman who birthed me with me, her daughter, and the two sweet girls I have birthed. What a beautiful and powerful visual. Motherhood and grand-motherhood. All the sacrifices it took to get here, broken and beautiful. Just as we are.