Jen Cimala (38 - she/her), Eloise (4 ) and Henry (11 months)
Oak Park, IL
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I am incredibly proud of what my body has done during my two pregnancies. I feel strong and empowered by that. I'm still in awe of the fact that I grew these two precious beings. I knew nothing about breastfeeding before I was pregnant, but now I have a whole new appreciation for my body. I had a challenging time breastfeeding my first baby, but pushed on through for 14 months. And now, 11 months later with my second baby, I don't want this to end. It has been one of the hardest, most exhausting things I've done, but it's all worth it when I give my son "mama milk."
What was your postpartum experience?
I didn't find out I was pregnant with our first baby until I was almost 10 weeks - not because I was naive but because I never got my period after I stopped taking birth control and I had zero signs of being pregnant! It was quite a surprise. And on top of that, our baby was born almost a month early. We weren't prepared at all. We didn't have anything for her yet - no furniture, clothes, diapers or any of the essentials. I felt like I didn't really have time to process things at first as it all just happened so quickly. I think all things considered I adjusted rather easily to being a mother but didn't expect how the lack of sleep would take a toll on my body and my relationship with my husband. It's terribly exhausting to constantly feel tired and sometimes all too easy to bicker with the person you love the most.
With our second baby, we found out I was pregnant right away this time and he arrived on his due date. Our birth plan went out the window when my water broke at home, we left the house at 4:15 am and he was born at 5:23 am. There was no time for an epidural - I'm just lucky we made it to the hospital in time! I'd say this postpartum journey has been much more emotional and challenging as I have been trying to make it as smooth of a transition as possible for our four year old daughter. I've found it difficult to manage her needs with those of our baby. I'm constantly second-guessing myself and over-analyzing every decision I make. Looking back on things, I can't help but think how "easy" it was with our first baby when she was a newborn. I could relax and nurse her on the couch while watching a show. There is none of that now!
What is your truth?
You can do this! I say this to myself several times throughout the day if things get tough. It's OK to ask for help. Take time for yourself. You need a break. Do something outside of the home that brings you joy - even if it's just a walk around the block, getting some fresh air helps!
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I started following 4TBP on Instagram and it brought tears to my eyes. I could relate to so many of these individuals. I loved how honest and open everyone was and I wanted to be a part of that movement.