Shira Moss (38 - she/her) and Elazar Isidor “Elli” (10 weeks)
“I had one miscarriage at five weeks on May 21st, 2018, almost one year to the day before Elli was born. The incredibly special part of this for me was that Elli was actually born very very late, which meant he waited to be born during the only week I had been aware that I was pregnant the year before. This felt deeply meaningful to me and like an important spiritual loop was closed with his birth.”
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I have never felt awesome about my body. Growing up, I didn't received tons of messaging that my particular version of beauty was preferred. As I have aged, my confidence has grown and my perception of myself has shifted towards feeling more positively about my appearance. I was a very skinny kid which was commented on constantly by weird adults, which I hated, but somehow I knew I was supposed to like. And then when I became a young adult and gained some weight and those comments stopped, it felt like an identity shift and I felt ashamed that I no longer was being noticed in the same way, even though being skinny and the commentary that accompanied it had never meant that I had felt good about my appearance. Right before I got pregnant I was the heaviest I'd ever been, and yet the moment my belly started to grow I felt like I looked the best I'd ever looked. My most recent insecurities have centered around my stomach and how it doesn't look like I wish it looked, and so pregnancy was an incredible respite from worrying about that. Now that I am 10 weeks postpartum and am heavier yet, I am of two minds. There are days when I look at my body and think "I can't believe my incredible body grew my beautiful baby. Look at those gorgeous stretch marks! Look at the pooching of my stomach! My body is a genius and these are the markings of having experienced this divine creation." And there are other days when I am aghast when I look in the mirror. I cannot believe how large I appear, the rolls make me cringe, the pudgy hanging belly fat/skin makes me feel like I am deeply unattractive. Every day in this 4th trimester I wake up and try to really lean into the first narrative and let go of the second one, and I am intermittently more successful that I would've thought possible!
What was your postpartum experience?
I am a single parent by choice, as well as a midwife, and so I was very aware that I would need a ton of support postpartum. I asked seven different friends and family who lived out of town if they would be willing to fly in and take care of me for some amount of time in the immediate postpartum period, knowing that it would not be possible to do it without this level of dedicated care. There are not enough words to express the quantity of gratitude I have for these beloved people in my life who have taken care of me in this moment of my life. I have been cared for so beautifully by not only these dedicated friends/family but also my local community, that I have felt the opposite of isolated or alone, which feels like a profound blessing, especially given how difficult these initial weeks can be.
In my first week postpartum my oldest friend who is like my sister and her mother who is like my second mother stayed with me. I attribute a lot of my early success as a mama to them. I didn't change a diaper or learn how to swaddle my baby for five days -- they did everything until I was ready to learn from them. I had every meal and snack brought to me, had my yucky iron supplement handed to me three times daily even though I annoyingly whined about it every single time, and was gently nudged to nap when I felt exhausted but adrenalized because we were edging towards a dangerous zone of sleep deprivation after a long labor experience with minimal sleep. When I felt too anxious to have my baby sleep next to me in those early days because I was afraid he would stop breathing, which was exacerbating my sleep deprivation to an even more dangerous degree, the incredible team of people taking care of me decided that something needed to be done to support me to sleep. My "second mom" said that my baby could sleep next to her and she would wake me up when he needed to breastfeed, which allowed me to sleep and heal in a way I would not have been able to do otherwise. I don't know what I would've done without them that first week as a new parent. I have been saying that I think it should be illegal to give birth without these two magical people taking care of you and your baby immediately postpartum and I believe it with all of my heart.
And I feel equal amounts of gratitude for every other person who cared for me and Elli in that period as well. At 6 weeks postpartum when everyone left and I had my last visit with my beloved midwives, I sobbed and sobbed. The intense love and connection that I felt with everyone who took care of me was profound. In fact, the way people took care of me both in pregnancy and in the postpartum period felt like I was finally living the life I'd always wanted to live, and the end of that era felt like a deep and beautiful heartbreak.
What is your truth?
Trust your instincts as a parent. Actually. If your baby is thriving by all quantifiable accounts, make the radical decision not to worry. Decide to lean into the cozy, slow, connected experience of being with a newborn. Decide that feeding, sleeping, diapering and loving this little being is enough. Be with others only when it feels good to you, and don't try to accomplish anything at all outside of parenting. If you can really let go of feeling like you should be doing anything but sitting around and gazing into your baby's eyes, or lying next to them when they're falling asleep, or allowing yourself the guilty pleasure of binge watching some stupid tv series in the middle of the day as you endlessly feed and feed because you are too tired to do anything else, then the experience has the potential to be truly delicious.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I think the postpartum body is incredible. It has a story to tell that has been previously hidden in our culture. The idea that you are supposed to try and get your pre-baby body back in any way at all much less as soon as possible after the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth is baffling and offensive. Why would I want my pre-baby body back when I get to look in the mirror and see the markings on this post-baby body? Each time I look in the mirror I am reminded of how strong and incredible my body is to have conceived, grown and birthed my beautiful baby and I am hopeful that by sharing my photo and story that others might be reminded of this for themselves.