Shira Moss (38 - she/her) and Elazar Isidor “Elli” (10 weeks)
“(I had) one miscarriage at 5 weeks on May 21st, 2018, almost one year to the day before Elli was born (he was born 5/17/19). Elli was born the only week I knew I was pregnant (from 4-5 weeks) the year before which felt very special to me and like an important loop was closed.”
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I have never felt awesome about my body, particularly my face. Growing up, I haven't received tons of messaging that my particular version of beauty is preferred. As I have aged, my confidence has grown and my perception of myself has shifted. I was a very skinny kid which was commented on constantly, which I hated, but 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 I had hated being noticed in that way and being skinny had never meant that I felt good about my appearance. When 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 experience." 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 periodically successful!
What was your postpartum experience?
I am a single parent by choice, as well as, a midwife and so knew 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 it would not be possible to do it alone and just with the help from my parents and community of friends who are local, but who wouldn't be able to dedicate themselves day and night to me and Elli, given their very full lives in New York. 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 was taken care of so beautifully by not only these dedicated friends/family, but also my local community that I have felt the opposite of isolated or alone.
In my first week postpartum my oldest friend who is like my sister (and has an 8 year old son herself) and her mother who is like my second mother stayed with me and I attribute a lot of my early success as a mother to them. I didn't change a diaper for five days or learn how to swaddle until I was ready, had every meal and snack made for me and 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 dangerously extended my sleep deprivation, the incredible team of people taking care of me decided that something needed to be done, so my "second mom" said that my baby could sleep next to her and she would wake me up when he needed to breastfeed and I was able 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.
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. And I feel equal amounts of gratitude for every other person who cared for us in that period as well. At 6 weeks 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. The way people took care of me in pregnancy and in the postpartum period was like 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, but like truly. If your baby is thriving by all quantifiable accounts, make the radical decision not to worry. Wear a sports bra at night to compress your breasts so that when your baby intermittently sleeps for a 4 hour stretch instead of waking every 1-2 hours to breastfeed, you don't wake up two hours later in desperate engorged pain and forsake the precious sleep opportunity. 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 people, but don't try to accomplish anything else. 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 binge watching some stupid tv series in the middle of the day as you endlessly feed and feed, 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. The idea that you are supposed to try and get your pre-baby body back like ASAP after the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth is baffling and almost 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 and be reminded of how strong and incredible my body is to have conceived, grown and birthed my beautiful baby?