March 08 2020 – Gianna Shawley
We are all in a different part of our journey to #holdbabieslovebodies. Because for most of us, loving or bodies is a bit more complicated than making a decision to. Tianna tells us about how her childhood, birth experiences, and passion to help women leads her to #holdbabieslovebodies here:
“I don’t think there was ever a time that I felt 100% in love with my body.”
I have always had these highs and lows regarding the way I felt towards it. There are days that I feel like a beautiful Goddess when I look in the mirror and days that I’ve feel less than. I am a pretty confident person, which I attribute to my mother and the other strong ass woman that helped to raise me. Growing up in Brooklyn, you have to have some grit behind you to survive in the neighborhood that I come from. But, no matter how strong I like to believe I am, I still have my insecurities. It’s just human nature.
“...would I believe in my strength and abilities.”
I worked as a postpartum/labor and delivery nurse prior to having children and work now as Nurse Midwife. I listened to endless stories of women’s fears surrounding giving birth and past birth traumas. It broke me. I spent my days advocating the best I could for women from all different walks of life and telling them how strong and able they were. I wondered, would I be able to tell myself the same when it came time to give birth. More importantly, would I believe in my strength and ability.
I couldn’t imagine my two births being any more perfect and special. I had such an amazing support system between my husband, my family, and my birth provider. It was the postpartum period that was particularly rough. Being fairly in shape before getting pregnant and exclusively breastfeeding, I thought that I would drop the weight easily, however that was not the case at all. I struggled with my new “mom bod” and not fitting into my clothes. I struggled with my new identity as a mother. Feelings of guilt overwhelmed me every time I needed a few moments to myself away from the kids or for yelling and loosing my s**t. As mothers it’s super easy to stretch yourself thin. Putting your family’s needs before your own becomes second nature to you. Self care became non-existent. Not to mention the terrible maternity leave in this country. I remember balling my eyes out the whole month before returning to work. How could I leave my little baby? He needs his mama. How am I going to put on a brave face and care for others and their babies when all I wanted to do was care for mine? It was definitely a low period in my life. Thankfully, I had the help and support of my family, but I know others are not so blessed.
“This is where baby wearing comes in.”
I read so much about the benefits of attachment parenting and keeping your baby close to you. So, before getting pregnant with my first, I knew that babywearing was a must for me. Babywearing has helped me when I needed it the most in my postpartum period. Not only has it helped with getting everyday tasks done, but most importantly, babywearing has abled me to build a connection with my boys. With Carte, I looked forward to those sling snuggles after a long rough day at work. I craved that closeness that was missed while working hard to serve other women. Smelling each other, sharing our body heat, our bodies and heartbeats intertwining. Slinging my babes feel safe and feels right. I hope they feel my love.
I remember going into my second pregnancy with Evan panicking. Not only was it unplanned, but I was heavier than I was with my first and I wasn’t eating like I should or exercising at all. I also felt sadness for Carter thinking that I wouldn’t be able to give him my all anymore and hoping that he wouldn’t feel less loved. I felt worried. Would I be able to love another as much as I loved my first. I spent many nights, just rocking him to sleep and telling him I loved him, that he was my special boy with tears streaming down my face. My mom friends kept reminding that these feelings were normal. I needed to give myself grace. The second time around was definitely tougher on my body. I had diastasis recti and symphysis pubis dysfunction which gave me terrible pelvic pain that I needed physical therapy for. I was overly tired and exhausted all the time, but still needed to bring my A game both at work and for my family at home. That’s motherhood for you!
In these time where social media is everything, it’s makes “mom-ing” that much harder.
I scroll through facebook and Instagram feeling inferior at times, feeding into this expectation of needing to be the perfect mom, with the perfect bounce-back bod, living in the perfectly tidy house with the perfect family. It’s so easy to see these seemingly perfect women and think where the hell did I go wrong. How does she have her s**t together and I’m over here drowning in a messy house with toddler tantrums and a newborn in my arms. I had to step back, take a minute, and realize that I am only seeing what people want me to see. What’s being portrayed on social media usually isn’t 100% what it appears to be. But as humans we can’t help but to compare ourselves and feel lesser than if you’re not on par with what seems like perfection. I stopped striving to be perfect, (which is hard because I’m a Virgo) and starting striving be the best me that I could be that day.
The opportunity to be a part of the #HoldBabiesLoveBodies campaign came right at the 6-weeks postpartum mark for me and I’m not going to lie, I had my hesitations. I had to sit down and really reflect on if this was something that I could do. Mainly because of the vulnerability of it all, putting myself out there, my raw self, for the world to see. After much thought, I decided that I had to put my big girl panties on (pun intended, because let’s face it, after two kids, my panties are definitely bigger) and simply do it! I had a message to share, that was greater than my insecurities. As a person of color, I struggle with the lack of representation and inclusivity that surrounds me on a daily basis. Feeling alienated and invalidated because of the color of my skin, the shape of my body, or because I am a woman is not a good feeling at all, but is a reality for so many woman out there including me. So I thought, If participating in this campaign will help other women like me (women with brown skin, thick thighs, curly natural hair, cellulite, tattoos, stretch marks, varicose veins and all) to feel empowered and feel represented, then I must do it.
Loving my whole self is still a work in progress. I am learning that my body and my appearance doesn’t solely define who I am as a Woman. I am black. I am strong. I am intelligent. I am passionate. I am a partner and a mother. So I stand here today and I thank my body for being amazing, for growing, birthing, and providing nourishment for my two boys. I thank my muscles for supporting these babies with every carry and with every hug. I just give gratitude to it all.