Nicole Haley (36 - she/her), Oliver (4) and Will (1)
Ann Arbor, MI
“I had two miscarriages, which made each of my boys rainbow babies. The first, before Oliver, was at six weeks. It was scary because I had no idea what it meant for future childbearing. I felt like a statistic and, looking back, I think I had a very hard time believing it was really happening to me. I had another miscarriage when we were trying to get pregnant with my second son, Will. That one was at nine weeks and, while still hard, I knew this did not mean I would never get pregnant again. I also had Oliver to focus on so I was able to move on much faster, maybe easier. I do still wonder who those babies might have been though.”
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
During my pregnancy with Oliver, I felt like a badass. I was the strongest I'd ever been leading up to that pregnancy and I worked hard to carry that through pregnancy, assuming it would help me in childbirth. I felt wonderful, strong, connected to the baby inside of me, and nervous but excited to experience childbirth. After Oliver was born, I was so proud of my body. I continued to feel strong long after. After having the second miscarriage and becoming pregnant with Will, I was heavier than I would have liked and was not quite as confident in my body because I wasn't putting in as much work as I had the time to do when I was pregnant with Oliver. After Will was born, though, I was proud of my body and in awe of it and I continue to be thankful that I was able to sustain him for so long while we nursed. Today, I am trying to get back to feeling strong, confident, and like a badass. It's not about the numbers to me but I just want that feeling back - like I can do *anything* in this body. I do feel kinder about bodies in general though. They are amazing vessels and as long as we feel comfortable in our skin, that is enough.
What was your postpartum experience?
Why did no one warn me about hemorrhoids?! That's all I could think after the birth of my first son. My whole body felt strong and fine until the hemorrhoids kicked in and I became useless sitting, standing, laying or breathing. So I was prepared with that knowledge the second time around.
Postpartum after my first son was hard. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to feed my son (even though I'd taken all of the classes and seen many lactation consultants). I had not a clue what was going on and, really, even forgot that the outside world existed as I tried to keep him growing. He was diagnosed as "failure to thrive" due to his poor growth which was a major stressor and, really, a game changer for my postpartum time and the year(s) that followed. I did not adjust well to parenthood and really didn't start coming out of the "fog" until about five months postpartum.
With my second son, I knew more about what to expect and came armed with the realization that I could basically control nothing. The physical recovery was tough the second time too but I was much better able to soak him in and enjoy his newborn phase. Thankfully, his growth was on track and I could just relax and enjoy it all. This time, and because of having an older child, I was able to jump back into life much faster. I felt happy to have my sweet boys and to never have to live through postpartum hemorrhoids again!
What is your truth?
That you can't control everything. As much as you plan to do one thing, a lot of it is up to your baby. I was hellbent on breastfeeding my first son but, due to his diagnosis as failure to thrive, it just didn't go the way I wanted. I thought I could pump my way out of it and probably missed out on a lot of bonding time with him as I set him down to pump. It's good to be prepared and have a plan...but get ready to make adjustments the second they're born.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
Women focus so much on *getting* pregnant and having a baby. But it seems like we often forget to focus on what comes next, what we'll have to deal with emotionally, logistically, and physically. I love this project for shining some light on the other side of birth. I wanted to participate so I could add a voice in spreading what this time was like in hopes it helps someone else.