Shunnell Lewis (42), Zariel (10), Anaya (8), and twins Aaron Jr. and Alexandra (4)
Hyattsville, Maryland | Washington, DC
Shunnell is a previous project participant. You can view her original photo and story here.
Shunnell shares -
"I personally did not experience a loss, miscarriage, or have an abortion. However, while pregnant with twins, I did live in constant fear that I would lose one or both - especially in the first trimester. The anxiety that builds up right before each ultrasound to make sure the twins are still there and if you will hear their heartbeats. I was a lucky one, but yet felt so guilty for being able to carry them as long as I did without loosing one or both twins. Even right down to the delivery, my outward appearance was perceived as strong and ready for anything. I was scared shitless, that something would go horribly wrong in that delivery room and I would leave with just one or neither of them. Again, lucky to deliver and carry home two blessings, but yet I still felt guilty for the Mother of Multiples who did not share this experience.
When I had Zariel, I was small and thirty something, I gained about 30 pounds while pregnant with her. I was able to provide breastmilk for Zariel that first year, but she sucked the life out of my breast. My breast were flat as pancakes! Who in the world is going to want a flat chested woman? I purchased push-up bras to assist my pancake breast to sit up high and look cute in lace. This was great temporary confidence booster but deep down I knew would never give me bigger boobs.
Then, came Anaya, who decided to use her chicklets she received around seven months old to nibble on my nipples. I no longer wanted to nurse her to nibble on me. I stopped and the very thing in my mind would bring a snatched waistline and a chance to lose weight. I was a little thicker in the waist but my breast filled out a bit more.
However, I became self-conscious about the left over pregnancy belly hanging around and the stretch marks that ran down my thick thighs and spider webbed down my belly. I stopped getting dressed in the mirror to avoid seeing the flabby belly hanging low and the glowing stretch marks. I continued to feel self-conscious about how I looked. Everything I wore at this point that fit the old body was too small or too short and my new curvier body would not comply. I would hold in my tummy when I saw someone I knew because I did not want them to see my low hanging belly. I continued to squeeze my thickness until my life was going through some changes.
I lost weight, due to starving myself and I went down to 130 pounds and BOOM! a twin pregnancy and an extra 60 pounds invaded my world. How in the world was I going to lose this weight? Breastfeeding would help but it was not going to suck away all the weight. Society was in my head making me feel like I should be a super model after giving birth. I had to stop searching the internet for what everyone else thought I should look like after giving birth and look at the four beautiful blessings I was blessed with to become a Mom. Every single stretch mark spawning across my breasts, legs, and stomach and my beautiful cesarean warrior scar I so proudly wear. My body did that! My body is beautiful! My body is the carrier of life so precious.
With Zariel I was alone for twelve weeks. Granted I had visitors, my cousin was my roommate, but I was alone with baby each day. My biggest hurdle was breastfeeding. I felt like GIVING UP! I cried, I talked with other mothers who breastfed, but I really wanted to just quit because it just seemed as if baby did not get it and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Sleepless nights, falling asleep while nursing to find Zariel had rolled down my lap as I had fell asleep with her in my arms. Trying to find time to eat and shower. Will I have enough milk stashed for her to have while I worked? Will these daycare people take care of my baby and not harm her? Once, I got the breastfeeding down to a science after talking with a young lady younger than me, I became a breastfeeding pro. I began to manage a little better after getting the hang of things.
Second time around I had a partner and believed it would be easier than the first. Not the case, the worries were the same with added extras. Time off from work was less. Less time to build a stash, would it be enough once again? The worry of whether my partner would be able to handle being with a tiny human for eight to nine hours out of the day without loosing his mind. I weighed a little more and did not like who I saw when I looked in the mirror.
It just rolled right on over to the twin pregnancy only this time there were two babies at the same time. I was sliced open and left with a scar. I could not take a shit for a week. My legs and feet swollen and my blood pressure was high. Again, I worried about producing enough milk to feed and stash before having to return to work. The pain, and the constant feedings had me feeling like I was trapped and would not be able to do anything but feed and go to the bathroom. I confined myself to my room and would come out every now and again, but I mostly stayed closed up in my room to avoid the outside world. I only came out of my room for appointments, the bathroom, or to wash and boil bottles for the twins.
I had to force myself to interact with my own family. The older girls stayed with their grandmother in order for everyone to adjust with having six people in the house. I felt guilty that all my attention focused on the twins, giving the girls little attention, or pushing them off on their dad. I returned to work with my hormones everywhere and life was happening again to the point I began to break down just anywhere. I continued to press forward and was able to maintain the best way I knew how as a mother to four children counting on me to survive.
And still - I am STRONGER than I know. The one piece of knowledge I would pass on to my former self is to research everything about pregnancy and all the options available to you. Take control of the pregnancy and the birth you want to have and how you wish to deliver. The traditional hospital birth is not the only option their is.
I consider myself an alumn of 4TBP. I participated 3 years ago to bring awareness and to reassure mothers to feel beautiful and great about the body that carried the gift of life and gave birth. Never mind the stigma of what people say you should look like or how you should feel after giving birth. Here I am, three later still loving all my warrior marks and supermom scar I carry."