Many of my models write something for me after modeling for me. This woman, Leyla Nisaa, wrote so beautifully about her experience with her son that I wanted to share it. The picture which accompanies it shows her holding a necklace which her women friends made for her at her Blessing Way before her son's birth. Each woman brought a bead to add to the necklace so that Leyla could feel the presence of each of them as she was giving birth.
My son is teaching me to love my body. Before having my son, I’d look in the mirror, and all I’d see are my imperfections, my sagging breasts, fat rolls, cellulite, blemishes, gray hair, wrinkles, and stretch marks. I have been on every single diet there is: the grapefruit diet, Weight Watchers, Adkins, low fat, low cal, Slim Fast, the list goes on and on. I’d loose weight, go off the diet, and then all the weight would come back plus some. I never saw me when I looked in the mirror. I saw everything I didn’t like about me.
The planets were aligned, and all was right in the Universe the night I conceived my son. It was a lovely hot, sultry July evening. There was something in the air that night. 40 weeks and 4 days later I would meet the love of my life.
My pregnancy was rather uneventful. I had some pubic symphysis dysfunction issues (pelvic separation) at 17 weeks that made it very painful to walk. I measured big my entire pregnancy. My son’s father is over six and a half feet tall, so it didn’t surprise me that my son was measuring large. I started having signs of early labor on my due date, Monday April 11. I lost my plug that night and had amazing rocking contractions for the next 3 nights. They’d always stop as the sun would come up. It was so frustrating. At my doctor’s appointment on Thursday April 15 (Tax Day!), I had protein in my urine, and my blood pressure was sky high. I was told they were going to induce me that day, so to go home, and grab my things, eat some lunch and come back. I ended up going in to labor on my own almost as soon as we got to the hospital. I was natural, active labor for 17 hrs. I had progressed quickly to a 6, then went down to a 4, and my cervix was swelling. At 8am the next morning, I opted for an epidural and pitocin as a last ditch attempt to avoid a C-section. 8 hours later, I was still at a 4. I was wheeled into surgery at 5, my son was born at 5:13pm on April 16, 2010. It was love at first sight. He weighted 9lbs, 10.5 oz, and was 20 inches long. He was the largest baby born that day.
I had such a hard time processing everything. I thought I had done everything right. I had attended all my natural child birth classes, I had eaten right, I had a wonderful doula, and I had mentally prepared myself for a natural, medication free, intervention free birth. To add insult to injury, my son never latched. I have inverted nipples which complicated things. I also didn’t have any milk for 5 days after he was born. It was another week after that until I finally was able to make enough milk for him. If I had more time at home, I probably would have worked harder at getting him to latch. I had to go back to work when he was 8 weeks old. I was so tired, and I was getting a bad case of postpartum depression. I felt so inadequate. Not only was I not able to birth my baby the way I wanted to, I couldn’t have the nursing relationship I so desperately wanted. It took months to finally feel ready to deal with everything that happened during my labor and his birth. I later found out that I have a low pelvic arch. With the way my pelvis is shaped, I wouldn’t have been able to get my baby out.
Even though he wouldn’t latch, I was bound and determined to give him my milk. I pumped every time he fed. Pretty soon I had a nice supply of extra milk in my freezer. Then one day I opened my freezer, and was attacked by bags and bags of extra milk. I found a mama who was pregnant with her third baby, and needed milk. She had a congenital breast defect and was unable to produce enough milk on her own. I gladly gave her my extra milk.
In the early days, the only thing that seemed to comfort my son was skin to skin contact. I spent many days with a naked baby lying on my naked chest. I rarely wore a shirt when I was home. I was either pumping, or had a naked baby laying on me. As he got older, he’d protest and throw a fit when his father or I would try to dress him. We soon realized, like most babies, he’d rather be naked. I was happy to oblige him. He’s spent more time wearing just a diaper, than in clothes. One day I was looking at him and I realized the same things that I fell in love with on him, his fat rolls, the dimples on his bum, fat, chunky thighs, were the same thing I despised in myself. It was a wake up call.
I started to question the way I saw myself, and how I thought. It was the first time I was ever comfortable being naked for an extended amount of time. I felt that I was embarking on journey of self discovery, and at the end I somehow knew I was going to be a different person. I changed the way I dressed. I felt my body deserved not to be seen as a sexual object, but as an amazing being that did an amazing thing. I needed to honor and respect my body for what it allowed me to do. Being naked was no longer sexual. It was simply a way to provide comfort and food for my son. It didn’t matter what my naked body looked like, all that mattered was my skin gave comfort to my son. I saw my breasts as a source of food for my son, not as sexual objects. For the first time in literally YEARS, I was truly comfortable with who I was, and what I looked like; I was comfortable in my own skin.
I strongly believe everything happens for a reason. I know now, that had I not been built the way I am, strong broad shoulders, and wide hips, I wouldn’t be able to wear my son in a sling . At ten months, he’s 25 lbs, and 29 and a half inches long. Did I mention, I’m only 5ft 3? He’s almost half my height yet I wear him every where we go, either on my hip, or on my back. Several people comment to me on what a “good” baby he is. Most of us are “good” when we’re happy. My son is happy, as long as he’s cuddled up next to Mama.
My body did an amazing thing. I wasn’t able to birth my son naturally, but I grew a big, beautiful, healthy, and strong boy. My son doesn’t latch, but I’m still able to feed him, and give him the best thing for him, my milk. At ten months, he still gets the majority of his calories from my milk. I was able to help another mama make sure her son would only get breast milk.
When I look in the mirror now, I don’t see all the imperfections I saw before. I see soft flesh that provides comfort and food; I see amazing skin that stretched to fit my growing baby; I see strength where before I only saw weakness; I see wisdom, ready to be passed down to my son.
My son taught me to love, honor, and respect my body, for all the amazing things its allowed me to do.