GL (34) and GL (4.5)
Los Angeles, CA
Have you experienced any pregnancy loses?
[I’ve had an abortion and a miscarriage] All with the same person in the span of 8+ yrs and all without his support. As painful as all may have been, they have all shaped the woman and Mom I am today. And while I am the one constant, they all have helped me ride out the changes, struggles, and growing pains. And they are the reason why I worked up the courage to speak up about past trauma and abuse and to move onward from a life of shame and secrecy to one of strength and self-love.
It wasn't until I was in the sharing circle for my 4TBP participation that I shared with complete strangers for the first time. And from that extra special gift on Mother's Day, there has been a huge shift and release of ton of weight I had been carrying for years. Right after I first gained courage to speak up about my truth and painful toxic past with my ex, there was a shift in our society where women felt safer to share of their own stories. And with those few steps forward, there goes the dance of life with some steps back from progress with the current abortion ban. With ongoing therapy and joy of parenting GL, I am now at peace with past choices. But heart hurts for others who have been stripped of their rights to choose.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
Parenthood has been so good to my mind body and soul in so many ways. One of them being body image. I would say I had body image issues from early on -- with looking different from my cousins and Mom to being bullied as the new kid in junior high to having low self-esteem. I was at my lowest adult body weight with my ex and gained weight between pregnancies. And gained little weight during pregnancy but gained weight with breastfeeding when everyone else I knew lost all their baby weight, plus more, while nursing. But I still kept at it and continue to do so today -- 1730 days and counting! And since I stepped forward at the end of 2017 and started working out regularly, I have actually put on even more weight. Not just from building muscle but from the chronic stress and trauma.
Still, I know motherhood has changed me for the better because I am okay with the weight loss going at a gradual pace and don't compare myself to my skinnier past self. I will not pass down any body image issues and try to eat healthfully and show/raise my son to make healthier food choices and remain active on a regular basis. I now enjoy zumba, cycling, strength training, and yoga and don't work out to lose weight but to release stress and rewire my brain to regain strength and confidence. And to show my son that ANY BODY CAN MOVE. As long as I can carry/solo travel with my 40+lb child and wear him if need be during our weekly hikes and perform all the roles of parenting by myself every hour of every day, I will proudly wear my scars and extra weight and stretch marks. Knowing all that this body has endured in my short life and having provided for my child all his life, I am in awe of what my body is capable of and am far more gentle towards myself and so much more confident in myself and my body than I would have ever been pre-parenthood. Even if my body still has yet to fully process and release all of the painful past, I am learning to love it for what it is at this present stage. And that is another one of life's many blessings in disguise.
What was your postpartum experience?
My entire life changed when GL was conceived and again when he was born and again when I was "snapped into reality" with a second chance at life in 2017. But even if reality and expectations did not match up and my world was turned upside down, one thing I am so certain and confident and grateful for is the deep bond I share with GL. I felt so strongly connected to GL since the moment the ER nurse revealed I was pregnant. I did all I could to protect him and myself and started bonding with him early on. Most likely from what had happened before and during pregnancy. I was overjoyed he picked me. Even with extreme nausea and the decision to steer clear of the medication that made it worse. The doctor scheduled a cesarean but thankfully, GL had other plans. I went into early labor a little into my 37th week and decided to be discharged to get a good meal and sleep in my own bed until I felt the need to go back to the hospital. I went back the next day and remember everything from my birthing experience -- all the feelings, nurses' chatter, the doctor's "requests". I also remember what I was doing before and during my little sister's birth, so I guess some things stick. I still remember the nurse's paella recipe she shared as I was taking a break from pushing. As traumatic as my pregnancy and birthing experience was, GL came out healthy and the bonding only grew stronger outside the womb.
The nurses tried to get me to tape a tube to my nipples to supplement with formula but am so glad I went with my gut and let my flow come. And am so grateful to have been able to nurse with my past surgery and family history. I went to weekly lactation groups and have continued breastfeeding until today. Yup, when others said I could not, should not, will not have a baby nor breastfeed. GL is a happy social kind loving kiddo who is BF at 4. 1730+ days of nursing.
I was not prepared for the painful healing from the tears and hemorrhoids and I’m still dealing with them to this day. The hardest parts of this postpartum period -- along with the grief/absence/counter parenting -- were when I was crawling around with broken foot at 5mo postpartum, when I had food poisoning, and working through loss while remaining present for/homeschooling GL. But I have truly loved being a mother and find joy, even in the darkest of days, every day from having my most favorite teacher in my son. Being a single parent and working through past trauma has shown me how strong I am. And my son's confidence in me encourages me to dig deeper and fill my cup with all the forms of self-care. Because I matter.
What is your truth?
As cliche as it is, trust your gut. Your guttural reaction is almost always pushing you forward and/or protecting you. And it always knows you the best. And if some thing in life or someone in your life has dimmed your light or made you question your voice, I hope you know that you are worth all the love and all the healing and all the lessons and all the time that will pull you out of that hole. You are so much bigger and so much stronger than what he/she/they had you believe and YOU ALONE ARE ENOUGH. Just as you are, right now and then and there. You are a survivor and warrior and will continue to thrive.
And if there is any other Mama out there living in fear, please reach out. I promise there will be at least one person willing to help or guide you to safety. And if there is anyone reading this who may feel "less than" for having a child out of wedlock or for not conforming to societal standards, you can be a single parent and be a joyful one at the same time. Do not let society or others strip you of your joy and worth and love.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
"Do one thing everyday that scares you" I have been following 4TBP since pregnant with GL when I was not welcomed by my community -- Asians, past, friends etc (but had not been active on social media past couple years). As silly as it may sound, scrolling through the instagram page provided a sense of hope and inspiration, along with belonging and community. In complete strangers. I wondered if I would ever be able to openly share my story and my body. I truly feel that the little seed of confidence and courage was planted then which bloomed and catapulted me into this season of metamorphosis.
I came across the call for LA stories a day before the shoot --wee hours of the night after an off putting encounter with a male acupuncturist who made rude comments about my body in front of myself and another patient-- and immediately contacted 4TBP. I strongly felt that the serendipitous timing was my call to step into the light. To own my truth and my story. And to put my past insecurities to test by showing others my body at its heaviest and all its scars (including the cupping hickies all over my body). To practice loving all of myself as I am at this moment -- physically and emotionally. To put a face to a survivor and thriving child from a single mother. To share to another hurting Mama that YOU CAN DO IT-- scary as hell but you can steer your own ship.
After the initial excitement, I felt myself scared and shameful again -- didn't have a black bra that fit, logistical fears, my son and I never gotten professional photos. And even when we were running late, Ash and Flowers embraced me with such grace - I am so glad I worked through all the anxieties and negative self-talk and just showed up for myself and my son. And maybe also for that one Mama who may come across our picture and story and find hope for better days and inspiration to start the change. I am hopeful for more support for other single Mamas out there -- especially, but not exclusively, in the Asian communities. Because how you became a mother should not determine your worth as a parent. And because we should lend an embrace before passing judgment and lift each other up in this difficult journey of life. It is hard and lonesome as it is, let's be there for one another, lets continue to SPEAK UP AND OUT.