Christa Couture (40 - she/her) Mother to Sona (2), Ford (deceased, would be 10), and Emmett (deceased, would be 13)
Toronto, ON | Descendant of Plains Cree
“I terminated my first pregnancy when I was 24, and I am grateful that I lived in a time and place that access to abortion was available and normalized. At 26, I carried my second pregnancy, and a week after the due-date, I welcomed my son Emmett into the world. He died the following day because of complications during labour and we were heartbroken. At 20 weeks into my third pregnancy, the baby was diagnosed with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome. He was born full-term and into a life of intensive medical care. He died at 14-months-old following a heart transplant, and we were beyond heartbroken. The abortion, to me, was a kind of loss, but desired. The deaths of my sons remain deeply painful losses. Their presence in the past and absence in the present are deeply entwined in my identity.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
Parenthood has powerfully impacted my body image. As a person with a disability, there have been so few role models in parenting, that I could find, and in ways I felt isolated learning about my pregnant disabled body on my own, but in other ways, I was empowered to define the experience for myself. How does disabled pregnancy look in my body? How does disabled parenting look in my body?
After the deaths of my sons, I cherished the evidence of their existence in my postpartum shape. Proof in stretch marks, the os, a cesarean scar. At the same time, I struggled with doubt and resentment -- that my body had somehow been responsible for the losses. That I had failed. After the birth of my daughter, the sense of achievement and awe in my body was nurtured, and I love that my body bears the marks of all three of my children.
Being a parent has been a complicated experience of intense pain and intense joy, physically, emotionally, spiritually; parenthood has brought to light my limitations, my desires and my abilities. When I see my body, I see these complexities.
What is your truth? What is one piece of knowledge you'd pass along to your former self, or a new parent?
To my former self, the one before the first pregnancy and termination: parenting will be nothing like you expect it to be. But the good news is, you can and will get pregnant (despite what oncologists told you), and you can and will parent (despite your fears about your disability). My truth is that there is no ideal. Learning to let go of that pursuit, has allowed me to stop comparing myself -- how I look, how I choose to parent, and how I've had no choice to parent.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I'm drawn to the diversifying of what a parent looks like and this project has been beautifully capturing so many different experiences. There is a lack of representation of disabled bodies, of bodies like mine, in so many parenting spaces -- from maternity photos to parenting articles. This project is inclusive and I was drawn to both be welcomed by that, and to contribute to the continuing, expanding representation of diverse experiences. I’m grateful to document and be documented at this moment in my motherhood journey!