Andrea Altomaro (32), Benji (3), and Theo (8 months)
Andrea shares -
"Being a midwife myself, I had so much anxiety over the process of trying to conceive. I overthought everything. Luckily, I was able to get pregnant easily both times.
I feel like my body image has actually improved since giving birth. I'm definitely in better shape now than I was before I had kids. I think having kids has motivated me to be in the best health possible. I want to be around for them for a long time! I also had gestational diabetes with my first pregnancy. After losing a significant amount of weight before getting pregnant the second time, I didn't get gestational diabetes during that pregnancy. I worried a lot about my increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes after having GDM, so I made a lot of lifestyle changes.
After having Theo last year, I was really inspired by my mother-in-law to go vegan. She had made that lifestyle change for her health, and it really got me thinking about my long-term health, as well as how veganism can impact the planet. I would be lying if I didn't mention that I also really wanted to lose the rest of my pregnancy weight, too. I missed feeling strong and confident, like I had felt after my first pregnancy with Benji. I think, though, I care less about how I might look in a bathing suit, with my sagging skin and my stretch marks, and more about how strong and healthy I feel when I'm eating a plant-based diet and working out regularly.
I was surprised at how physically well my body felt after giving birth both times, but I'm not sure that anything could have prepared me for the exhaustion. Benji was a very particular baby; he needed to be held at all times. He would only sleep while touching me. I was overwhelmed, and couldn't help but feel some disappointment that I had gotten an epidural during his labor. It made me feel a little bit like a failure. I'm a midwife! I am supposed to be able to do this! Then I struggled with breastfeeding. I had a breast reduction when I was 22. The surgeon didn't really say much about future breastfeeding except that 'it would probably be fine.' As someone who was not even in a relationship at the time, and who had no idea that nurse midwifery was on the horizon for me, I didn't think twice about having the surgery. I remember crying in my pediatrician's office 5 days after having Benji. I was crying first because I failed at having an unmedicated birth, and now I was failing at breastfeeding. We had to start supplementing him when he was 4 days old. I ended up working with an amazing IBCLC, and she helped me to see that breastfeeding does not have to be all or nothing. I was able to nurse Benji until he was 2.5. He weaned himself when I was around 30 weeks pregnant with Theo.
I felt a lot more prepared going into Theo's birth. I had doubts about my ability to have an unmedicated birth, but I had the most amazing support team. My best friend, who I met in midwifery school, was the one to catch Theo. She was by my side through my entire labor. I had the most amazing doula. My husband was my rock. My mother-in-law was quiet and supportive. The only downside of Theo's birth was that my own mother wasn't able to be there, because she had surgery the day before I went into labor. I had the unmedicated birth I had dreamed of, and I felt so strong and powerful.
Theo is a pretty chill baby. After experiencing a needy baby the first time, Theo seemed like a breeze. I didn't know why I felt so anxious all the time, though. I kept writing it off as normal adjustment, or thinking that it would pass soon. There were nights that Theo was sleeping, and I would lay awake worrying about all sorts of irrational fears. What if the curtains catch on fire in Benji's room and I don't get to him in time? What if my husband and kids get in a car accident on the way to day care? I cried a LOT. I felt guilty for feeling so bad all the time when I had this easy, laid back baby, a smart and funny toddler, and a supportive husband. Thankfully, I opened up to a midwife colleague of mine, and started counseling and medication, and I'm feeling so relieved to be feeling like myself again.
I have wanted to participate in this movement since I first heard about the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, which is even before I had children! I love the idea of honoring our bodies and everything they have accomplished. There were many times in my life that I would have never imagined participating in a project like this. I've had a lot of negative thoughts about my body throughout my life, and only now as an adult and a mother, am I finally embracing my body for all that it has done and all that it can do. I want to be an example in showing my children that all bodies are beautiful.
There is no perfect way to birth a baby, and there is no perfect way to parent. Ask for help postpartum. Finally, take time for yourself. Self-care isn't selfish. I'm a better parent when I've been able to take even just a few minutes for myself each day."