Noelle Beutler (35 - currently 20 weeks pregnant), Emmery (8), Max (5) and Saoirse (7 mo in Heaven).
Long Island, NY
Noelle shares -
“I’ve had one termination, two living children, one miscarriage, and one full term stillbirth.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
My body image has always been a battle. Constant comparisons, diets, up and down weight changes. I constantly tried to hide my “imperfections” based on other people’s standards. I look back at photos pre-parenthood and am shocked at how horribly wrong I was.
After my first born in 2011 I was back in my pre-pregnancy clothing quick. I felt happy. I had stretch marks that I always kept covered, but I made a tiny human and I looked good after. With my son in 2013 I developed diastasis recti. My body changed in ways I didn’t know possible and didn’t know why. I always looked pregnant. No matter what I did. My self esteem took a hit and into hiding I went. Spanx was my best friend. I developed postpartum depression that I buried deep down inside until it finally was diagnosed when my son was 11 months old. I didn’t look or feel myself and it was hard.
In 2017 we were pregnant again! I loved my pregnant body always, with each pregnancy. Pregnancy was easy for me. Uncomplicated, comfortable, beautiful and glowing. I show really quickly which tweaked a bit at my mental body image ideals of pregnant women but I’m over it fairly quickly... but this time I miscarried at 9 weeks. This sent me into a downward spiral immediately. My body failed. I failed. I failed my husband. I failed my family. We hadn’t told the kids yet so they just saw me upset and didn’t know why. It took me a year to feel “okay” enough to try again and we got pregnant on the first try.
I had another uncomplicated, easy pregnancy. I was belly wrapping and had a beautiful henna piece to showcase my amazing rainbow baby bump. It felt amazing. During my early stages of labor it was discovered my baby had no heartbeat. Later that day I delivered my daughter at home surrounded by love. I hated my body. I still hate my body to this day. It was my fault. I did this. The physical pain of loss is indescribable. Even now, today, at 20 weeks pregnant. I resent my body. I don’t want to look at myself. I hide my belly which is close to impossible now with summer. And the physical pain still exists. This dark cloud has taken over and who knows how long it will take to pass. Hopefully, I will one day feel connected to this vessel of mine. Hopefully, one day I will look at myself and thank it for what it has blessed me with. I would say that parenthood has severely impacted my body image. I have ups and downs and in this moment I’m on that downhill slide just hanging on for the ride.
What was your postpartum experience?
Postpartum is hard. There is little to no preparation for life after a baby is born. Our culture is so obsessed with pregnancy and babies that we forget about the birthers. Everyone wants to hold the baby, see the baby, buy baby things, sit and relax with the baby. How IS mom? How IS dad? How ARE siblings? No one knows because no one really cares. All that matters is that the baby is oh so cute and my gosh look at those rolls! One month, two months, six months down the line and people have already moved on, are fed up with your photos and roll their eyes at another question.
My postpartum journey began strong with my daughter. She was my first born and it was easy to sit on the couch all day and watch her sleep. Our breastfeeding relationship was cut short by an emergency surgery I needed when she was four weeks old. The guilt from giving up broke me. I got back up and kept going knowing I was doing the very best I could do. Finally the weight was lifted off my shoulders and we moved forward.
My son was born in 2013. I was induced at 41ish weeks and he spent 7 days in the NICU. He was sedated for the first two days. I could not hold him, feed him, change him. I was released on day 3 and had to travel back and fourth from home to hospital for the last four days of his stay. My husband and I had to take turns because my daughter was not allowed to see him. It was terrible and I was so very stressed. My husbands time from work was used to watch our daughter so I could be at the hospital for feedings. That time was supposed to be for us to bond as a family. We lost those moments. Balancing two kids was difficult. I made every effort to accommodate Emmery and not use Max as an excuse. There was zero time for my self care. My cup ran on empty often as the thought of doing something for myself presented with overwhelming mom guilt. I cried all the time. I lost interest in everything I loved. There was no more joy. I suffered from postpartum depression and didn’t know where to turn so I buried it deep down inside. It wasn’t until I was 11 months postpartum that I finally sought help and was medicated. That helped for a bit, things got better and I slowly weaned off the meds.
In 2017, we found out we were expecting again around 6-7 weeks along. This was going to be my healing birth. Healing the trauma from my sons birth and postpartum experience. I began to miscarry at 9 weeks. I was devastated. I’ve never had fertility or pregnancy issues. This was new to me and it crushed me. I chose to miscarry naturally so I bled on and off for quite a while before any normalcy returned. No one knew we were expecting so I didn’t have to deal with telling anyone the news. I kept telling myself 1 in 4 women miscarry. It’s just a part of pregnancy. It happens. Society says it’s normal. So I grieved silently and slowly moved forward.
After a year of fearing it would happen again we decided to try for another baby. We got pregnant quickly and of course waiting until we were in the “safe zone” to announce it to the world! We were pregnant!! 14 weeks!! Yay! Pregnancy was easy for me, no hiccups, no complications. Our planned home birth was going to happen and my kids would join me and my husband in the pool with their brand new brother or sister! It would be amazing. THIS was my healing birth. I was surrounded by love and light! I was educated and knew what I wanted.
I began slowly leaking on 11/11/18 at 11:11pm. After sleeping the night with slight contractions and a few bathroom trips, at 11am the next morning we discovered our baby had no heartbeat. My husband, midwife, myself, and doula decided to leave the hospital and have our baby at home surrounded by love. This was a little less than 7 months ago. An entire piece of me is missing. There are no words to describe birthing a dead baby. The silence is deafening. No words to describe having to say hello and goodbye in the same breath. No words to describe your daughter crying into you arms as the pain consumes her as well. No words to describe my kids and I watching as my husband placed our daughter into a black casket that would take her away from us forever. I am a different person today. I don’t recognize myself. I’m not sure I will ever recognize myself again. This is a new life I never expected.
I am thankful for the strong women in my life. I am thankful for my living children and my husband. They keep me going. They help me laugh and to see the good in this new life. I will say that a big part of my postpartum healing journey was pumping after Saoirse’s birth. I pumped over 2,000oz and was able to donate and help nourish 5 babies. Saoirse nourished 5 babies. I was just the vessel from which her love flowed. It was these pumping sessions that helped me begin the grieving process. It got me through what would be the most physically and emotionally extreme postpartum time I’ve had. Grief has no concrete path and flares at no predictable moment. Triggers are all over. There is no time frame with grief. I will grieve forever until we are reunited.
What is your truth?
Live in your moment. Acknowledge your emotions, feel your pain, feel you joy. They are all valid and it’s okay to not be okay... It’s taken me 8 years, 2 living children, one miscarriage and the loss of our daughter to realize that you need to fill YOUR cup first. I need to take care of myself the best I can before I can take care of others. Postpartum is different for everyone, especially after loss. Find your tribe. Trust me, they are out there. Ask for help. Follow your gut - It doesn’t lie. There’s a mantra that I’ve heard and try to convince myself to follow on a daily basis - I will not let fear stand in the way of joy. It’s difficult but I’m trying. It’s the best I can do at this point in my journey.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
Our society needs to revamp postpartum. It is not ALL about the baby. Parents need support, siblings need support. This project is wonderful in showing the vast differences of postpartum periods for many individuals. Reading others journeys allows them the ability to connect, to feel validated. You are never alone, there is always someone who shares a similar story. This project shines a light on those with imperfect social media stories. It’s not all the rainbows and unicorns you see on Facebook. Behind that sweet baby post is a parent who is unsure of something in their life. I wasn’t going to share my story, but there are others who need to hear it. I am a full term stillbirth mom. Not a day goes by that I don’t think or cry about my daughter and that’s okay. Loss sucks. Grief sucks. Pregnancy after loss is a full on daily panic attack. You are not alone.