Body Image After Loss

I never really dealt with ‘body image issues’ growing up. I mean sure, I had the same insecurities about the way I looked that every girl has from time to time, but overall, I was pretty happy with my body and truly confident in my own skin.

But that all changed the day my body failed me in the worst way possible; the day it failed my baby.

My daughter died inside of me when I was 6+ months pregnant because of blood clots that developed in her umbilical cord. She was perfect. It was my blood, my body, that killed her. Three weeks after she died, this is what I wrote to her (on my blog):

One thing that I’ve been dealing with lately is not only feeling sad, but feeling ashamed about losing you. I’m embarassed that my body wasn’t able to do the one (or at least most important) thing it was created to do: produce a living baby. I mean seriously, the odds of something going wrong at 6 and a half months pregnant are less than like .5% (I would know, I googled these kinds of statistics all the time, mainly to give myself reassurance. Ironic, huh?). It seems like everyone else in the world has no problem making a baby that they get to keep. I feel like a piece of faulty equipment. I feel broken.”

When I became pregnant again, those feelings were still there. I was a mess, constantly worried my body was going to betray me–and the new baby growing inside me–once again.

Because I wanted to have a natural childbirth, I started taking Hypnobabies (hypnosis for childbirth) classes in my third trimester. A huge part of the program is all about trusting your body. That was incredibly hard for me to do. I mean, how could I trust my body to keep my baby safe, when it couldn’t do that the last time? The only outcome of pregnancy I had firsthand experience with was loss, so I simply couldn’t get myself to truly believe it would be different this time around.

I did make a little bit of progress with my body image issues through the Hypnobabies program, but it really wasn’t until March 23rd, 2012, that things really changed.

The day my son was born. I won’t turn this into a birth story post, but the moment I gave that final push, felt him leave my body, heard him cry, I felt like a new woman. I remember breathing the biggest sigh of relief in the world, looking up at my husband, and exclaiming, “I did it, I really did it!” over and over again.

The feelings of empowerment and pride I felt after I delivered my son were  the exact opposite of that brokenness and shame I had experienced when I had to deliver my stillborn daughter in that very same hospital nearly two years earlier.

I began to not only stop hating my body, but actually look at it in total awe. In it, life had been created, sustained, and now, it was providing my son with all the nourishment he would need to continue to grow and thrive.

So where does that leave me now? After the ‘high’ from my amazing second birth experience has worn off a bit, I’m left in sort of a strange place. On the one hand, I love my body for giving me my son. But there’s still that part of me that is really angry at it for taking away my daughter.

Like many aspects of my life, the way I view my body has been forever changed by the loss of my baby girl. Slowly but surely, I am trying to learn to forgive it–and myself–and embrace the fact that in the end, my body has given me two beautiful, perfect children, and I am lucky to have carried both of them within me.

Those of you who have experienced a loss, or who have or are currently struggling with infertility, how has your own body image been impacted?

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