Jessica Carey (33), Elliott and Zane (5).
This is Jessica's third time participating in the project with her boys. You can view their first image and story from Oct. 2013 here and their second from August 2016 here.
Jessica shares -
"I have had one miscarriage, one chemical, one unsuccessful IVF transfer, and one cancelled IVF transfer because I was not responding to any medications. I'm currently in the middle of my last IVF attempt. The doctors do not know what do next if I don’t respond to medications this time around and it is also the last of our insurance money.
I have always had a skewed idea of what I looked like. As a child I believed I was fat even at a mere 98 pounds. I continued to believe this up until my pregnancy with the boys where I think even though they were conceived using fertility interventions I felt as though my body didn’t let me down. I was healthy through my entire pregnancy and felt healthy. Now, 5 years later, two kids with severely impacted autism and multiple losses I think my body image as taken a downhill turn.
Postpartum was difficult because the boys were twins. They were born at 36 weeks and 4 days via emergency cesarean. Elliott had a placental abruption and was sent right to the NICU after he was born. Zane was healthy but was sent to the NICU several hours later for observation because he was having issues with his blood sugar. I was clotting and hemorrhaging and struggling in my own ways. In the end we were all sent home within 6 days of their birth.
When the boys reached about 7 weeks old we discovered that they had issues with their suck and by then my milk was gone. They were able to eat a combination of homemade formula (due to allergies) and donated breast milk until they reached age one. If not for the kindness of the donor moms my postpartum experience would have been very different. Those moms providing what I could no longer provide to my babies saved my from entering into complete despair. As a birth doula myself I didn’t even consider that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed them and this was a very difficult adjustment for me mentally. I worried that our bond wouldn’t be as strong as it could be and that they would in some way resent me. Neither of these things are true.
Now they are healthy 5 year olds who love me more than an average 5 year old loves their mama. And I attribute that to their special needs. They both are diagnosed severely autistic. They are completely nonverbal but we are working very hard to get them both communicating with a program on an iPad. We do picture schedules, we bedshare, we will do diapers for years to come, we still give them bottles and purred baby foods. But I have no doubts now that they know they have been loved since their very first day, even though I was unable to breastfeed them. And without that experience we would have been never able to get them all the interventions they needed at such a young time. Some days I feel very angry and bitter about how postpartum went and some days I’m very grateful for the way it went and all that it gave us. That’s the thing about life and about grief, it’s always changing.
As a repeat participant I keep coming back to highlight the way motherhood can change. The way it changes us as mothers and as people. My first photo shoot I remember saying that I was just so proud of what my body did and what I had accomplished that I wanted to document it. I wanted others to be proud too. My second photo shoot was my lowest point in motherhood. The boys had been diagnosed with autism for about a year and I didn’t see a way out of the hole I felt I was in. I didn’t know how to help myself so how could I ever possibly help them. I wondered why I was chosen to be their mom. Or to even be a mom at all. Dealing with infertility this is a constant question, maybe I can’t get pregnant because I’m unworthy of this. I wanted to participate then to document that low. To help others find hope. To maybe help someone else see that they aren’t alone. This third time I chose to participate for a couple of reasons. Now I am also a miscarriage mom. I felt that loss in my heart of the baby I had in my belly and was gone now. I’ve clung to this movement. I’ve watched and read all the stories that pass by and they help get through my hard times. Maybe there’s another mom struggling with autism, infertility, breastfeeding, anxiety, or depression, or all of the above just like me. We are all stronger together and this movement can and has brought us all together.
Trust yourself. Always trust yourself. Your body. And your instincts. You know what’s best for you and your baby and your kids. (And always hire a doula, of course).