Jennifer Rosen Heinz (42)
Mother to Max (12) and Lilly (8 - pictured). Early miscarriage 3 years prior to pregnancy with Max.
Cincinnati, OH. Photographed in Madison, WI
Jennifer shares -
"Before I had kids, I would say that although I talked the talk of body acceptance, I still had a deep-seated fear/hatred of my body. Growing up, I was always looking at my body and seeing things I didn't like. There wasn't one thing about my body that I thought was good enough.
During both of my pregnancies, I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. With my first full-term pregnancy, I was somewhat relieved at first to be so sick, because I was told that that meant it was a healthy pregnancy. I definitely had a lingering fear that I would miscarry, because of my first pregnancy experience. But that wore off pretty quickly-- I could barely keep anything down, was nauseated the entire pregnancy, and ended up after delivering about 25 lbs lighter than when I got pregnant. I was never treated with anti-nausea meds (I actually at one point begged for them, to no avail) and ended up in the hospital / ER multiple times for dehydration.
At the end of the pregnancy, I developed Cholestasis of Pregnancy, which is a build up of bile salts underneath the skin, and was induced with my son at 37 weeks, because at 38 weeks gestation, Cholestasis results in a much higher mortality rate for the baby. I spent as much time while I was pregnant sleeping as I could-- at least if I was sleeping, I wasn't nauseated.
After I gave birth and my breasts engorged with milk, my ab muscles were so weak, I had a hard time sitting up and standing up straight. After having so many struggles during my pregnancy, I realized that my tummy, which I had always hated, might have actually been what saved me. It was my fat storage that sustained me. Who was anyone to judge the "looks" of my body, when my body did its number one job-- kept me, and my baby-- alive.
When I became pregnant with my second child, I knew that I would have to be much more forceful in advocating for my own treatment with the Hyperemesis. Luckily, I was able to find a doctor who truly listened and empathized, and we found an anti-emetic which helped me to eat small meals and not feel nauseated all of the time.
Because of these two pretty earth-shaking pregnancies, I have a new respect for my body. My body is not an ornament, and it is not something that anyone (not even ME!) has a right to judge or criticize. I do not talk badly about my body, and I don't tolerate others talking badly about their bodies around me (and especially around my daughter!) After my second child, I started working out quite a bit, and have been able to continue doing that for the past seven years. I do not work out to be skinny, or to have rock hard abs, or to fit into some kind of ideal. I work out for my mental health, and because I've found classes that are fun. I enjoy working out. I do not diet, and I never will. There are times when I eat better or worse, but I do not feel guilty about food anymore.
While most women gain weight during pregnancy and lose it afterwards, I did the opposite. I lost weight pregnant, and gained it while breastfeeding. After starving for nine months, all I wanted to do was eat! I feel that, looking back, I was so depleted after giving birth each time, I was much more overwhelmed with the early years than perhaps I could have been, had I had healthy pregnancies. My husband and I don't have family who live anywhere nearby, and that has definitely been a challenge. We've been very "on our own" in a lot of ways that people with families don't have to be. Because of these things, I feel like I've been much more selfish and/or stressed of a mother than I could have been, had I had more resources or support. But I try to keep perspective that there are lots of women in much more difficult situations than I am in, and I try to reflect positively on the fact that both of my children are well-adjusted and are getting what they need to thrive.
Physically, I've also struggled with IBS, which started after the birth of my son, and got much worse after the birth of my daughter. It's not a condition that people talk about a lot, but it can be very debilitating. Just recently, my doctor and I ran some tests and found that I was very deficient in certain vitamins and minerals and since I started supplementing those, I've found some relief for my IBS. My body seems to want to tell the story over and over of what happens when you are totally depleted, and what happens when you advocate for yourself and receive the care you need. I don't care what my belly looks like. I just want my belly to work. To digest food, and give me the energy I need to do all of the other things I feel I was put on this earth to do!
Making sure you are fed and are getting what you need is not a luxury. You are not a second thought. In order to give others what they need, you need to come first.
A few years ago I heard about the Body Image Movement, which was started by a woman in Australia. She went on to produce a documentary called Embrace. Her main message was that our bodies are not an ornament. They are a vehicle for our dreams. Hating your body is detrimental and holds you back from using your energy to achieve your dreams. Over time, I've become less and less critical of my body. I do not judge it by the way it looks. I do things for my body because I want to keep it healthy and make myself happy. Hating your body is a habit of thought. I try and focus on the amazing things my body does and can do-- even (and especially!) those parts that always gave me the most agitas.
Letting go of my own body hatred has allowed me to be less judgmental of others, as well. It's allowed me to save my energy for making a difference in the world and nurturing my relationships. I am participating today because I want to transmit that body love to my daughter. I want her to know there is no wrong way to have a body. That every single body is unique, and we can love the uniqueness, instead of hating it. A few weeks ago at an after school art class my daughter attends, I overheard one of the girls explaining to my daughter that the girl likes her own tummy because it's thin. I burst right in like the Kool Aid man knocking down a brick wall and said, "tummies are great! All tummies. Big tummies are great, too, because then you know you have enough food!" and I proceeded to show them how far I could stick out my tummy.
My daughter is only 8, and she's going to be receiving lots of messages about her body from society, and from her peers. I want to be an example for her and even for my own friends that you can love your body AS IS, no exceptions.