Shira Sussi (32), Lior (10 months) and Abe (forever 23 weeks gestation)
Shira shares -
“Lior is my first healthy, living child and my third pregnancy. In January 2017, I had an abortion for medical reasons at 23 weeks. We named him Abe. His birth defects were so severe he wouldn’t have been able to breathe or swallow at birth, if he made it to that point. It was the hardest decision I have ever made, and the months following his loss were the darkest and loneliest of my adult life. It took us 7 months to find the courage to try to conceive again and I had a first trimester miscarriage. When I got pregnant with Lior I didn’t think I could emotionally make it through his pregnancy. It was an incredibly stressful nine months.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
The stress of my pregnancies and postpartum has taken more of a toll on my body than anything else. Grief brain is real, as is mom brain so I feel like mentally I’ve been in a fog for almost 3 years! I look at pre-loss pictures of myself and think, wow I look so beautiful and content. Naivety is bliss. I battle with this more than those 5 extra pounds of baby weight stuck to my thighs.
After losing Abe I really struggled with this idea that my body had betrayed me in creating a sick baby that I wasn’t able to save, but since giving birth to Lior I’ve come to see my body in a new light and appreciate what it's lived through. This is my mother body. It’s carried three babies for different lengths of time. It's beautiful and strong, albeit a bit more squishy.
What was your postpartum experience?
Early postpartum has been a lesson in new motherhood – throw your expectations out the door and ride out the beautiful, messy chaos. People say it gets better, but really it gets different. I try to remind myself every phase is temporary, so how can I appreciate what's happening now for what it is knowing it won't last forever. Do I miss waking up every two hours? No, but I do miss all 7 lbs of little Lior falling asleep on my chest at 3 AM after a feeding, breathing in his sweet smell.
Lior’s birth was incredibly traumatic. After a short labor I arrived to the hospital ten centimeters dilated and he was born via vacuum-assisted delivery within the hour. Three days later we were in the ER for elevated bilirubin levels. My husband had started a new job a month before Lior's birth so he was back at work after three days at home with us. There was a lot of tears and a lot of just me and L trying to figure things out the two of us. In the thick of early postpartum it was pure survival mode.
Breastfeeding did not come easy – my milk took almost two weeks to fully come in, and even after Lior’s tongue tie was corrected it took months to establish a good feeding relationship. I constantly battled with clogged ducts since he couldn’t efficiently empty my breasts and was married to the breast pump 8-12x/day. When I imagined what life would be like once Lior arrived earth side it never crossed my mind that I would have such trouble feeding him. Breastfeeding added a whole layer of stress those early weeks, and while I'm grateful I muddled my way through it I now better understand why people choose not to.
I've also struggled with a lot of guilt postpartum. Guilt that Lior is here and healthy; that he will never know his older brother; that I am feeling so much happiness in watching him grow and thrive. I'm still very much working through this.
What is your truth?
I can be grieving and still find joy. For the longest time I kept asking myself, when will the pain go away? The truth is the pain never goes away; it gets softer as time goes on, and it doesn't control my every waking thought like it once did. This took time and patience, trust and acceptance, countless hours of therapy and so much work on my relationship with myself and others. Pregnancy loss robs you of many things - your innocence, a year of "firsts", the ability to say your child's name in normal conversation. But there is so much to be grateful for. I choose to see all the light and beauty. There will always be a void, but my life is SO FULL.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
If my story about ending a wanted pregnancy for medical reasons reaches just one mother who is going through something similar, experiencing the isolation I did back in January 2017 and is the slightest bit comforted knowing she isn't alone then sharing today so publicly will have been worth it.