Siân de Freyssinet (35), Ada Belle Ripley (2.5) & Bryn Alan (in utero)
UK | Chicago
Siân shares -
“Even before Ada was born I was pretty down on my body’s ability to do “what it’s supposed to do”. We tried to conceive naturally for years with no success other than an ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. We ended up doing IVF to get me pregnant.
The process was horrible. The first IVF doctor we used made me feel like just another defective reproductive system he had to work on that day. His office & nursing staff never read my charts properly and constantly butchered my name.
Once we’d changed providers and I’d gotten pregnant, I’d planned on a non-medicated, home water birth. I read Ina May’s books to prep for the birth. I got the impression that’d be so “easy” and everything would come so naturally. However, Ada was two weeks late and I made the choice to take castor oil to kick start labour. This decision ruined all my plans. The oil made me so sick. After 50 odd hours puking, shitting my guts out and labouring at home, my midwife ran out of tricks to get me to progress and I had run out of energy. I had to transfer to hospital where at every nurse hand over i was introduced as “Siân, a failed home birth”. That “failure” stuck with me for a long time.
Ada had to go to the NICU due to an infection. She had to stay in hospital for a week to be given antibiotics. We had to fight to stay with her and managed to get her transferred out of the NICU & up to the children’s ward so we could room with her.
Breast feeding didn’t go well to begin with. Ada couldn’t/wouldn’t latch. I got a number of infections in my breasts: thrush (in my boobs! Who knew that was a thing?!), E. Coil and a staph infection.
It took about 3 months, a tongue tie revision, using a nipple shield and 3 different lactation consultants to get the hang of nursing. Throughout that time I pumped. A lot. Pumping helped immensely with my supply, which was the silver lining of all the pain and bullshit. The way I viewed how my body looked physically didn’t really change. I’ve always been large. I got larger after moving to the US. I got larger still postpartum. My birth family have a pretty narrow view of what an acceptable body type should look like and are constantly striving miserably to obtain that.
I care a lot less about how my body looks since becoming a mum. My husband thinks I’m beautiful, I still think I scrub up pretty well and I now strive always to project a strong, loving self body image so that my daughter and (soon to be earthside) son grow up knowing that every body is valid, acceptable, beautiful & desirable.
Some days that’s easier than others. Often how I see myself in my minds eye is a lot different to how I see myself in photos. I guess I think I look a lot cuter, thinner, prettier than I photograph.
The first year of motherhood suuuuuuucked! I felt like such a failure. I didn’t magically shit out my baby like Ina May suggested I could do, then after failing at that, I couldn’t instantly get the hang of feeding my baby how I was supposed to. How did the human race evolve if feeding one’s baby was so freaking hard?
Everyone kept telling me “you have a live, healthy baby, what more could you want?”. This has got to be the least helpful thing you could say to a new mum. I kept thinking “I want everything I was led to believe I’d get, obviously!” my home water birth and a baby who latched would have been a good start.
I also discovered I do *not* do well at all on little to no sleep. Everyone said “sleep when the baby sleeps” like it’s that freaking easy! But you don’t know if they’ll be asleep for 10 minutes or an hour & by the time you drift off, the baby’s awake and you’ve got to start all over again. Then there’s all the laundry to do, the pumping equipment to wash, the constantly disappearing nipple shields. I was told to ask for help and take it whenever it was offered, but I didn’t find that easy to do at all. I didn’t know what to ask for or what I needed. I felt I should be able to do it and no one could do it the way I needed or wanted.
I got up with the baby whenever she woke as I had the boobs and the milk and I worried that if I missed a nursing session my milk would dry up. All this combined gave me some pretty intense postpartum anxiety. I struggled on for a few months without knowing what was going on. Everything that I read about postpartum depression/baby blues didn’t fit with what I was feeling, which was mostly a mix of intense rage and apathy.
I didn’t tell any one for a long time as I was scared of their judgement. I couldn’t stand for my husband to think less of me, to feel like he had to watch me in case I hurt our baby, to think I was incapable of doing the thing I’d been saying I’d wanted for years: to be a mum. It was so hard to reach out for help, but in the end I did. I got medicated (another failure in my mind. My birth family are pretty down on anti-depressants and are skeptical of medications. A lifetime of believing that misinformation put a dint in my head about being prescribed them by “big Pharma”).
My anxiety has been stable for a couple of years, though I’ve felt my rage building up during this pregnancy. My midwives upped my dosage of Zoloft and I’ve felt much more able to cope with a toddler and quite a challenging pregnancy (I started getting nauseous at around 7 weeks in and didn’t stop until I was prescribed 8mg Zofran twice a day)
Get all the help you can. Everyone says that! But again, it’s so hard to do. A friend of mine suggested making a spreadsheet of all the chores and errands I’d need running so that I can give it to people who offer to help without feeling guilty or embarrassed to be asking or accepting support. This time round we’ve got a labour support and postpartum doula. I’ve got more friends on board to help with Ada and I’m more willing to let my husband do some night feedings.
I’ve followed 4th Trimester Bodies Project since Ada was born and love the ethos. I always wanted prenatal photos taken, but don’t like the flower crown, posed under a waterfall type shoots so thought this would be the perfect answer. I feel like a lot of new parents believe it’s going to be rainbows and sunshine, and when you get in the trenches of that first time parenthood it’s such a massive surprise that you feel you’ve been duped. I don’t want to burst any bubbles, I just want to share my reality.”