Raquelle Petersen (27) and Juniper (22 months)
“When I was nineteen I became pregnant with someone I barely knew. It was a terrifying/surreal feeling when I found out, and even more surreal when I had a miscarriage one week later. I grew up in a religious household and a very conservative/religious culture in general so I knew nothing about my body and felt so much shame. The doctors/nurses who I encountered during this ordeal didn’t treat me like a human being worthy of good healthcare because I was so young and unmarried. I wish I could go back in time and stand up for myself and demand better care. It was an incredibly lonely and sad experience, albeit relieving because I was in no way ready to raise a child, basically being one myself.”
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I have always had what people call a “little boy” shaped body. Very flat chested and straight. I tried not to let it bother me too much but after going through pregnancy and the postpartum period (which in my opinion is the rest of your life after carrying/birthing a child) I have learned to love and adore my body so much. My chest is still just as flat, and I have cellulite and stretch marks in places I didn’t think possible. And I am grateful for every dimple, line, and stripe. This flat chest proudly and wonderfully fed my beautiful baby for 19 months, this soft tummy carried and formed every detail of her lovely face and body. I am so grateful to my body for being so strong and capable.
What was your postpartum experience?
As many parents can probably agree with, the first couple of months of parenthood were a complete blur. I barely remember any of it. I remember being scared all of the time and thinking something was wrong with me because I was so far from the person I used to be. I started talk therapy for postpartum anxiety and it helped immensely. I found a fun group on meet up, and have since made some really great friends who are also mothers. But I’ve realized more and more along the way that the system to support new parents is completely broken/almost non-existent. I decided to train as a Postpartum Doula because I want to be for others what I needed in those early days. My child also has always had difficulty sleeping, and although the sleep deprivation was (is) hard, it was much harder dealing with these ridiculous societal “norms” (which are not normal at all, by the way) that say our child should be sleeping through the night by no later than six months, not be rocked to sleep, and not be nursing during the night after a certain age, etc. etc. Unless you decide that’s what your child and family needs, it’s bullshit. I am so glad to have moved away from the norms of other kiddos and just focus on what’s normal for us.
What is your truth?
Your old self is gone. You will become yourself again, but it is a different person than you once knew. Give yourself time, and ask for help. This new person that you are is incredible, intuitive, capable and strong. (And still lots of fun!)
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I’ve followed 4TBP on Instagram for about a year now and I absolutely love reading all the stories and seeing all of the beautiful people who participate. I am incredibly nervous but really grateful to be apart of such an enlightening and empowering movement.