Elke Klukowsky (41), Milena (7), Benjamin (3 - - not pictured), and Julian (7 months)
Bad Krozingen, Germany | Oakland, CA
Elke shares -
“Between my boys I had a miscarriage. I did a pregnancy test at home, which came back positive. But shortly after we found out, I had some bleeding, so I went in to see the doctor. I was pregnant around 6 weeks, so we saw something on the screen, but there was no heartbeat. The doctor said it might be too early to hear it. So we had to wait for another 10 days, that felt like a roller coaster. The next ultrasound confirmed: no heartbeat, and the fetus hasn’t grown. I will never forget the silence during that examination. In the end, I had to take some medication, because it was a missed miscarriage. Nothing prepares you for that: labor pain, cramps and a lot of blood.
With two kids at home, there was no time to think about what was going on and what’s happening with me and my body. That evening my husband Christian and I sat down and we cried together. My husband was my support person, the one who cried with me and the one who asked the same questions. When that miscarriage happened, I just thought, I was too old and my body was done with being pregnant. But shortly after, I got pregnant again and Julian will always be our rainbow baby. When I told my friends, a few opened up about their own miscarriages, because it happens more often than we know. It is a sad topic, but we can help each other in talking about it and being there for each other to support.
I was always one of the smallest kids in class or school, and of course I always wanted to be taller. But that was never a big problem for me. So over the years, I gained a positive body image. I want my kids to grow up and accept their bodies and other people's bodies without judgment. We call all body parts by their real names and we talk about them when the kids use the restroom or when they get changed. We are not ashamed to be naked in our house. So our kids see us taking a shower or changing our clothes. And when my 3 year old son asks me, if there is another baby in my belly, I say "No, but my belly was home for 3 babies." My kids also see me and my friends breastfeeding so they know, that boobs are made for nursing babies. As a mum of a daughter I am afraid, that she will grow up with a false body image, mostly presented by the media. I want her to accept and love her body. And I hope that we can teach all of our kids, to accept other people’s bodies as they are and that they accept people who look and dress different from them.
I think nothing can really prepare you for the journey that you start as a mum and parents when you have a baby. You read a lot of books, you try to be prepared, but life is very different and challenging.
With our daughter I had a cesarean. I was sad by the time I had to schedule it, but she was breech and didn't turn by herself. I did a lot of pregnancy yoga classes, my husband joined me for the yoga birthing class, so I was sad, that all the effort I had put into the idea of a natural birth didn't work out for us. In the end, it was a good experience, there was a comfortable atmosphere in the hospital, my doctor and the nurses were really nice, and I was happy, that my husband was able to stay with me and later with my daughter for the whole time. Recovery from a cesarean isn't easy, so I really don't understand, why people call it "the easy way out". You have had a surgery, you are left with a scar, that needs to heal. Taking care of the baby and yourself is very tough, when you are in pain.
We had some difficulties with latching on, so breastfeeding started with a challenge. I had to see a lactation consultant to get some ideas what I can do better and that helped us. In the end our breastfeeding journey took nearly 3 years.
When I was pregnant with baby #2, I wanted to try for a VBAC. My husband and I went to another birthing class and when he talked there about the first hours with our newborn, I was sad, that I had missed all these first things, because of the cesarean surgery. I wanted to try to be there this time. With baby #2 I did most of the laboring work at home and came to the hospital ready to push and I had my natural VBAC with a healthy little boy. Comparing these two different birth experiences, the cesarean was way harder to recover. Also the immediately bonding after a natural birth is helping to set up a better connection with your newborn. Breastfeeding my 2nd baby started right away and I nursed him until he was 2 1/2 years old. I had the idea of tandem nursing him and the arriving baby, but with all the nausea I had again during my 3rd pregnancy, I couldn't handle it. I was very sad by that time, because we stopped from one day to the other.
Our 3rd child was also a successful, natural VBAC. My doctor had to break my water and 1 1/2 hours later we met our baby boy. I think it’s amazing, what a woman’s body can do during labor and delivery. All the strength, the power, the will for the moment to meet your newborn. With #3 everything is a little roller coaster, especially emotionally. This is the last baby for us. So on one hand, I am happy, when he starts something new, like when he started to smile or crawl. On the other hand, my little baby is growing, way too fast… All his “first ones” are the last ones for me and this is hard to handle. It’s getting better, but I felt very sad during the first months.
With 3 kids, I try to make room for the little one, just for him, and enjoy our mornings without the older kids. I embrace all the times he needs to nurse, because that is our time together. And I try to have a lot of mommy and me time without the older ones. Our days are sometimes crazy, busy, chaotic, but we wouldn’t change it for anything.
I think it is important to show that postpartum is a special time in a woman's life. A new family member brings new responsibilities, new challenges and new adventures. I wish, there would be more support groups for postpartum, for new moms and dads. You just had a baby, everybody is cheering for you in the hospital, they take good care of you, and then you are sent home with a newborn. And sometimes you don't know what to do, you don't understand what you feel or what is going on. Even with baby #2 and #3. There are a lot of challenges, that the body of a new mother has to handle after giving birth. And then you have to be there for the rest of the family, for the daily life. That balance can be challenging. I wanted to be part of this movement, because we all have a story to tell: different pregnancies, different birth stories, and different postpartum journeys. It's something that connects all mamas and that is something big.”