#takingbackourkeys

This is a collection of stories, written by some incredibly strong and powerful women, showcasing why choice over our bodies is important. Termination is discussed very little in our society, yet it is something that becomes part of so many women’s lives. Women need support in their choices, to be given confidence that their choice is the RIGHT choice for them. So this is us, taking back our keys over our bodies and showing the world why we need to not only be given choices, but be supported in them. Share yourself holding you key on your social media with the hashtag #takingbackourkeys

Anonymous

I’m unfortunately a carrier of a rare genetic abnormality which causes severe disabilities and a very short life. There is a 1 in 10 chance with any of my pregnancies that the baby could be affected by this and unfortunately my baby was severely poorly and I had to make the tough decision to abort the pregnancy. I then fell pregnant again and lost my daughter early on due to the condition.. I didn’t choose to abort and I gave her the chance but she was just to poorly. 
Our choice matters because without that choice I would of been through heart ache more than anyone could imagine. Our choice matters because it’s OUR pregnancies and our way of life

Anonymous

My best friend and I fell pregnant at the same time; mine planned, hers accidental. I found out when I was 2 weeks gone, she did not find out until she was 13 weeks. In those 13 weeks, she had been heavily drinking, smoking, doing all kinds of strenuous activities that non-pregnant people do. When she found out, she was told it likely wouldn’t be a viable pregnancy, and if she did happen to carry to term, there may be further issues. Her partner also told her that it was him or the baby. She felt as though the decision had ultimately been taken out of her hands, with both medicine and her partner against her. She made the decision to have a termination, which at this stage had to be surgical. She had her termination at 15 weeks and a few days. It nearly broke her. Her sister also happened to be pregnant, she was two months ahead of the two of us. Throughout her pregnancy, she was messaging my best friend, her sister, photos of her bump captioned “this could have been you.” She had very little support. Despite this, she was there throughout my pregnancy, she has been there for the first months of my sons life, and she loves him with every piece of her heart. She is amazing. This experience ultimately didn’t break her, but it so easily could have, given the lack of support along with the stigma of termination. It is not always a choice, but taking away that choice is just barbaric. She wanted her baby, but having the choice to do what was best for her at the time, is a right that all women should have.

Anonymous

I think choice matters because even though I haven’t had to make that choice yet in my life, if I should have to I should have the freedom too. It shouldn’t matter the circumstances that a woman should fall pregnant it should be her choice (and her partner if they have an appropriate relationship). It should be a decision they should freely make. In my personal opinion I would rather a pregnancy was terminated then a pregnancy go to term unwanted and another child end up in the foster system. Or another woman be forced to illegal and unsafe practises of abortion leading to deaths and unnecessary illness just because safe practise was not available.

ovh_x (Instagram name)

Pregnancy and the gift of giving life is an amazing thing however it isn’t for everyone. Every life matters. Every choice matters and every woman matters. Pregnancy in itself can entail several physical, mental and emotional difficulties. As a mother myself I can vouch for this. I made the choice to have my son however I’m not afraid to say I struggled and to this day I am still struggling. I am now almost a year postpartum and can confidently say I do not want another. This is my choice and my body. Life isn’t just about surviving it’s about living. Women being stripped of this choice can imply so many downfalls, whether this be physical, mental or emotional. Pregnancy and motherhood is life changing it isn’t just a temporary segment to ones life; its impacts are lifelong. The very point in this law being applied is relative to the fact that ‘every life matters’. Nevertheless,  it is not just about life itself but also the quality of life. Whereby a woman is not in the correct physical, mental, emotional or financial state to carry a baby and become a mother she should have the right to a voice. Wherein a rape victim falls pregnant; she has a right to not carry her rapists baby, which can only add trauma to an already existing traumatic event. Where a woman has had a difficult and traumatic experience in pregnancy or relatively so, she has a right to choose whether or not she can put herself and her body through this again. Such laws don’t just impact women but also the very life that these laws have been put in place for. If a mother is not of great stability, that child may too struggle. Instability can be damaging to both children and adults. Every childhood is precious and so is every child thus every life big or small deserves the very best. The seed to stability in children stems from a stable mother and more importantly love and warmth. Women should not be imprisoned by their own bodies nor stripped of their rights. A child isn’t something to be taken lightly and nor are women. I believe it is crucial that the lives of women and children are not negatively impacted by such laws and policies. Happiness and stability are the key to success and health.

Anonymous

I had a termination at age 17 after finding out I was pregnant with my partner at the time. It wasn’t a healthy relationship and things turned ugly as he was physically and physiologically abusive. During in that time I felt pressured into having a termination by my partner, and although I was uncertain as to what I wanted – I knew the decision had been made for me.

The day of termination I was scared, the environment in which it took place was scary I was I sent into a room in a gown and got told to wait until I was called to be put under general anaesthetic (for the first time), where I’d go to sleep with a baby and wake up without. I was later sent home, with a leaflet of support but never called as I just didn’t know what to say, I was in shock and it wasn’t ever spoken of after that.

I suffered in silence for a long time after having the termination. I felt guilty that I had what I felt like ended a life when I felt I had so much love to give them. I felt shame that if anyone was to find out they’d judge me in a negative light. I felt sad, alone, scared, selfish, weak and angry.

But I know that it wouldn’t of been right for me to carry on with that pregnancy, in that relationship, at that stage of my life with a Saturday job, still at college and living at home in a abusive relationship. I wouldn’t of been able to give that baby what they deserved and for that I felt guilty and then I felt selfish because I felt that I should’ve been stronger and made the changes needed to be able to give them a great life. But I was a child and as time went on things did get easier, I was able to understand my emotions and that I was grieving the lost of someone I loved but never met.

However now 5 years later about to have a baby I’m happy in my life, in my relationship, in myself that I know I can give my baby the best start in life. I still feel a sense of guilt as to why this baby and not the one I terminated. And I still don’t have the answers which still affects me to this day. All know I won’t ever forget my angel baby.

Having that termination saved me as I dread to think what my life would’ve been like with an abusive partner so young. It’s ok to grieve over the loss of someone you love but never met, no one’s judging you. It’s ok to not be ok and when the time does come that you’re ready to create and nurture a life, you shouldn’t feel guilty because it’s your life too and you deserve to be happy.

Anonymous

When I was 19 I was pregnant with my 1st baby, I was anxious and nervous and really sick. But when it came to my 12 week scan I was told my baby had a condition called ancephaly. And was told that my baby was very poorly. And the reason I had been so poorly was because of an infection caused by baby because something else was happening too, it was pretty much all a blur. I wasn’t given any information on the condition I was just told that I should consider a termination. I went home and googled the condition (worst mistake ever) but basically it said that baby would not survive because the brain wasn’t growing. And along with the infection caused to me I was risking both our lives by continuing the pregnancy. There was nothing more that I wanted than to have this baby and hold her and love her. But the consultant basically just told me that couldn’t happen. I ended up making the choice to have a surgical termination and although it caused me massive heartbreak I think it was probably less heartbreak than if I had had the baby and met her just to lose her. If I had to go through that I’m not sure the rest of my life would have gone how it has. I now have 5 beautiful healthy babies and I am planning my wedding to my soul mate. If I wasn’t given that choice and was made to continue the pregnancy regardless I could have died, and if I hadn’t I would most probably have had to give birth to a stillborn baby and spent the 30 weeks knowing that would happen would have had severe effects on my mental health. 

Connie

I’d had pregnancy scares before. Not because I’d been reckless or irresponsible … just sometimes I’d be a few days late and no matter how safe I’d been, I’d automatically think ‘the worst’ and begin panicking. Then eventually it would come and I’d breathe a sigh of relief and laugh at how silly I was, thinking I could possibly be pregnant! Only stupid girls manage to get pregnant ‘accidentally’.

But one day, my period didn’t come. And so I waited. Nothing. I took a test, just to rule it out, there was no way I could be pregnant for God’s sake!But there they were, the lines that I was really hoping weren’t going to appear were very clearly there. And in that moment I felt as though my life had ended completely…Because that’s what society leads us to believe. All girls that manage to get pregnant while they’re young are dumb, dirty or trying to play the system to get a council house. And I’m ashamed to say I thought the same.

So there I was faced with essentially two choices. Keep or abort. Life or death. I was very fortunate to have so much love and support from my mum, who promised me that she’d be behind me no matter what avenue I went down. Not all girls get that luxury. I tortured myself trying to decide what the f*** I was going to do. I honestly don’t think I slept at all those few weeks, how could I?! This little thing was growing inside me day by day all the while I was praying to wake up one day and for the whole nightmare to be over.

I went to my GP to try and get some advice? Therapy? Im not really sure what I was expecting to get out of it, I think I just wanted someone not emotionally involved to talk to. What I wasn’t expecting was for  said GP to listen to everything I had to say, and just hand me the contact details of BPAS. So it seemed very clear to me what society was screaming at me to do.

Eventually I phoned BPAS, sobbed down the phone and booked the appointment. I went to the clinic for the pre-assessment where they talk you through the procedure, make sure you’re mentally stable with the situation and then scan you (with a very aggressive looking wand) and long story short I realised I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t for me. This baby wasn’t planned by my God was it wanted and so very loved.

But I’m not ashamed. And I’ll never be ashamed. I’m sure I’m not the only young mum who is constantly asked “was he planned” *insert eyeroll here* I’ve never quite understood why people are so desperate to know that, but I’m always pretty blunt and I’ll happily say I went down the route of abortion but realised it wasn’t for me. I can’t really explain what made me decide I wanted to keep him (possibly it was the scary wand being waved at me) but it was like a sudden light switch. Looking back, had I not been able to explore the route of termination with the love and support of my mum and my boyfriend, I truly believe I would have resented the whole pregnancy journey and worryingly even the baby. I hate feeling out of control and being able to speak to family and professionals about something as taboo as abortion whilst not feeling judged helped me feel in charge of my own body and my own life.

And now I am fiercely protective of women’s right to their Own. Damn. Bodies.It baffles me that we can be in 2019 and STILL be having this conversation. I PERSONALLY didn’t have an abortion, I made the CHOICE  that was right for me, for my situation, for my mental health. How dare ANYONE try to take that away from a girl. The thought of being forced into a pregnancy I didn’t want makes me want to scream, and that’s why I’m screaming and yelling for all of my sisters who are.

Being pro choice doesn’t make you ‘anti-life’ It means you respect women enough to let them have control of their bodies and their lives.

Jade

Knowing what I know now, at 26 with 3 children, I know that I did the right thing when I was 15 and decided an abortion was something I needed to do. At 15 I got the shock of my life finding out I was pregnant, I got pregnant in my final month of school, and had only been with my then boyfriend 3 months, so I tried to deny it for as long as possible, if I didn’t think about it, then it wasn’t happening(or so I thought). At 15, I wasn’t mature enough to look after another human being, I was very selfish in my wants and needs, and I had no job, no money and stayed in a 2 bedroom flat with 5 people Fair enough I could of applied for my own flat, but I could barely look after myself, my mum still did everything for me, I would of had no clue on what I was doing so I would of needed her with me. That wouldn’t of been an option though, as my mum made it very clear how disappointed she was in me, and the fact that I would be doing this on my own. And well, my boyfriend at the time made that pretty clear that he didn’t want a baby. He was trying to get into university, he wasn’t trying to become a dad and raise a child. A d&c was my only option as I denied it for so long, and the procedure was fine, apart from me feeling incredibly upset before and after. I felt this choice was bullied upon me, and it wasn’t one that I fully made myself. I do regret it everyday, and funnily enough so does the guy I was with, I wish we spent more time going over it all, and truly talking about it instead of just no we can’t do it and that’s it. I know it was the right thing to do though – we had no money, both stayed with our parents, no job and had just left school. We had nothing, and I always knew I wanted to give my kids the best start in life and I just honestly don’t believe they would of got that with me at that time. I believe that abortion if not misused is fine. Nobody should feel judged for a choice they have made, because if they are anything like me I can guarantee they probably feel terrible about it every single day. You never know a persons situation, why should someone be forced into bringing a child into the world if they honestly know that it isn’t the right thing to do? 

Amy

As I lay in the bath googling “termination” scrolling through the sterile environment of online information about how they will remove my baby from his home, my mind flashes to my 3 beautiful children all laid snug in their beds. Each child I carried and brought into this world, each child becoming my entire world the moment I knew about them. So why am I laid here reading through about termination? Life is chaotic. I have 3 children 5 and under, work full time living in a 3 bed home with a car that seats us all comfortably. My relationship is strained with the day to day stress of managing financially along with 3 young children who demand our attention. My youngest hadn’t turned one yet, she was still only 9 months old! 
It’s Tuesday. I took the test this morning. I don’t know why, but there it was, “positive” staring right back at me. I took another and another. Now I’m laid in the bath. Pregnant. Fuck. 
I’d always thought of myself as someone who would never even consider termination. The information online scared me. The questions and thoughts that bounced around my head completely contradicted each other. My body didn’t feel strong enough to deal with this even more so my mind couldn’t. I’d not been back at work long from my youngest child, we had only just got used to life with 3, to being outnumbered in our home, to the stress it brings not having enough pairs of hands to console everyone at the same time and now I was crying too.
I read through posts from women who were asking online communities their opinion, what they should do, asking the faceless strangers online for advice…

 “should I terminate my 4th baby” 

“Help! What shall I do? Pregnant with unexpected 4th child”

As I scrolled desperate for an answer myself I read though comments from women supporting women. Pro choice, everyone knows their own circumstances and what will be best for their family. Then, the comments started, hateful, nasty comments, “murder” “selfish” “not worthy” “undeserving” 
Do these words really define me at this moment in my life? The hundreds of faceless people online telling women they will cope and they need to have the baby and manage. Will they manage though? Will they cope? Was I coping right now? Is coping a way of living? 
I stared down at my stomach and cried, for what felt like forever. 
Would bringing this baby into the world destroy my relationship? 
Would having this baby ruin my career?
I don’t think I could spread myself any thinner! 
We’d have to buy a new house, a new car.
I can’t deal with this, I’m tired and stressed and emotional. 
What will my family think if I have another baby? 
What will my family think if I have a termination?! 
What will everyone think if I have a termination? 
Will I cope with a termination, could I live with the guilt? 
Termination. It’d be a secret. Something swept under the rug, never to be discussed. Silently eating away at me as I looked at my children, as I celebrated their birthdays. Always there.

I’ll remember forever the day I went to the “clinic” 
British Pregnancy Advisory Clinic.
That’s what they call it these days. Also known as the door I struggled to walk through. I went alone. I needed to be alone. It took me 4 attempts to try and walk through the door. An inconspicuous door at the side of the main hospital. I sat outside across the road for half hour before my appointment. Looking around for people looking at me. They know why I’m here, I can see the look of disgust on their faces. As I finally walked inside it was quiet, very quiet, not the usual busy hospital corridors and wards. 
This was a “first appointment” a smiley face approached me and offered me a cup of tea. “No thank you” I was sat in a waiting room plastered from wall to wall with different kinds of contraception available. Advice I feel was slightly inappropriate for a room where women go to discuss options on unplanned pregnancy. A sort of “this is what you should have done” being thrown in their faces. A man and woman sat opposite me, in complete silence. I could feel their presence, I could see the thoughts running through their head seeing me sat here alone. Maybe I shouldn’t have come alone. But I wanted to be alone. 
I was taken and quizzed about my past pregnancies.

5 pregnancies. 3 children.  1 missed miscarriage. 1 molar pregnancy. This is my 6th pregnancy.

“How many weeks?” 
Erm, I don’t know. I don’t have monthly periods.
*sigh*

“Do you want the baby?” I was asked, without her looking up from her papers. Fuck. I didn’t know the answer to this question. I paused in silence. Silently screaming inside my head. I burst into tears. 

I was taken into the room with the scanning machine. No excitement. No smiling. No chatting. Silence. I laid on the bed as she scanned my stomach. She moved further up my stomach. 6 week foetuses don’t sit that high up. “All done” I sat up on the bed, 
“Can you tell me how many weeks?”
She nodded,
“24. I have you at 24 weeks.” 

The decision was taken from me because of how far along in the pregnancy I was. To be honest this worked best for me. Because I wasn’t dealing well with the torment in my mind of what to do. There was nobody to talk to, nobody who was giving me advice on my options, if i had options. When I look back and think about it I was scared of what people would think, with whatever I decided. 
Having babies is an amazing privilege that I’ve been able to experience 4 times over, its talked about day in day out. The good, the bad and the ugly is healthily discussed with my friends and family.  But not having babies isn’t. It’s not discussed. It’s not talked about. Meaning when the situation arises it becomes a whole whirlwind of confusion and emotions. 
I don’t know what would have happened if I were less weeks than what I found out I was. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to think about the what ifs. But what I do know is that choice is the be all and end all. Your choice. Your body.

Lauren

I had a termination in 2014. I had just met my current partner and we conceived the first time we had sex. I didn’t know we would still be together 5 years later, and with a 10 month old. I had just finished my first year at university and he had just started his career as a fireman, and we lived 220 miles apart. Even though I’m still plagued with guilt, it was the best decision in those circumstances. And I wouldn’t have changed it!

Anonymous

A year ago today I found out I was pregnant.

I was on the pill at the time so thought that this would never happen. Everyone kept saying to me ‘what are you going to do?’, at the time I thought ‘what do you mean?’ and then I realised they meant that I could always just have an abortion.I had been with my boyfriend for just over a year. We were starting to look for houses so we both knew that we were going to be in it for the long haul. When the test said pregnant we both cried, not because we didn’t want it but just the pure shock of the fact that our lives were going to change drastically and that I was actually pregnant! Once we’d both got over the shock both of us just looked at each other and we both said that we could do it. At no point did we ever want to abort the baby and I’m so glad that we didn’t because we now have a beautiful baby boy but the thing we also had was CHOICE.

A few weeks later we had our 12 week scan. That was the first time we really spoke about abortion and this is the reason why. At your 12 week scan you have screening tests done on your baby, we were lucky enough that ours were 1/100,000. However, some people aren’t as lucky. If the test had come back and said that our baby was going to be really poorly and wouldn’t have a proper life; in and out of hospital and to be in pain or even die before he was 1 – then we both made the decision that we would have an abortion because it would not be fair on the baby to be raised in this world in so much pain. Once again we had a CHOICE.

Our baby boy is now 4 1/2 months old and is happy and healthy and I’m so glad that he chose us. However, a few weeks ago we had another pregnancy scare. It turned out that I wasn’t pregnant but we had had the discussion that if I was we were going to have an abortion. The reason why is the fact that we are not ready to have two children, not financially and I am not mentally ready. I really struggled adjusting to the lack of sleep and at times felt that because of my age people had made me think that I wasn’t good enough or mature enough to look after my baby. Once again it is not fair to raise a child in a world where you can’t give them your all. But once again, I had a CHOICE.

How can people decide what you do with YOUR body? Everyone has their reasoning behind abortion and no-one should have to explain or have that choice taken away from them.

When does postpartum end?

This question has been playing on my mind a lot lately. Does it end when we have our 6 week check? When baby has been out longer than they were in? Or does it never end?

Of course, I don’t have a scientific answer to this – is there even a scientific answer? But I think it’s an important question that acts as part of a wider discussion around motherhood.

A lot of people (including healthcare professionals) talk about feeling ‘normal’ again after having a baby. What an annoyingly awkward phrase. Just think, right now, about how you would define ‘normal’. You can’t can you?

I remember sitting with my health visitor (who is a LOVELY lady – those people do an incredible job) and her saying ‘You’ll probably begin to feel normal around 9 months after having the baby’. I just sat there and thought…but I feel normal now? Right now is MY normal. For me, this kind of ‘talk’ just highlights the bounce back culture we live in. Comparing how we feel ‘now’ to how we felt ‘then’ and how we will feel ‘soon’.

As a society we need to focus more on being present, on embracing the ‘now’ and taking that as our current ‘normal’. If we are constantly comparing how we feel or look to how we used to feel/look, we are stealing the joy of the current moment without even realising it.

Postpartum essentially means ‘after baby’. So in my opinion postpartum doesn’t end, but evolves. I will always be living ‘after’ I gave birth to Arlo (unless someone invents a time machine…which would be quite exciting). I am constantly changing, healing, growing but I am always postpartum.

Along with how we ‘feel’ as mothers, comes an important discussion around how we ‘look’ as mothers. With the phrase ‘your tummy will shrink back to its normal size’ or ‘your stretch marks will fade and begin to look like normal skin soon’ being thrown around all too regularly, women are experiencing a tidal wave of emotion around what ‘normal’ really means.

Let me set this straight. You were normal two months ago, you are normal right now and you will be normal in two months time. Your postpartum tummy was normal 2 minuets after birth, it is normal right now and it will be normal in two months time. Growing your confidence is about defining your own ‘normal’ and living by it.

Postpartum isn’t a mere fleeting 6 week time period, it is a completely new chapter that is now your own individual ‘normal’.

Georgia X

The importance of Birth Photography, and why we all need to see it.

Before becoming pregnant, I’d never seen birth. In actual fact I’d never ever talked about birth, I suppose it has been a bit of a ‘Taboo’ topic. Images of birth are often censored, many parents don’t discuss birth with their children and the representation of it in the media is awful.

I knew I had to do something about this…I was about to experience one of life’s most intense moments and yet I had never been exposed to it in any capacity.

I took to Instagram and searched “labour” in the hashtag section. All of a sudden millions of images of women in labour, all around the globe, appeared. I was amazed at the rawness and emotion filled images I was seeing, thousands of women in the throws of such a powerful experience. But not only that, I was amazed at the amount of different births I was seeing. Water births, home births, c-section births…the list could go on.

From here I began to uncover the pages of lots of astounding Birth Photographers. I filled my feed with all these images. I was exposing myself to the raw realities of a diversity of births every single day. It was this gradual but consistent exposure to birth that I believe helped me exponentially during labour and postpartum.

I was able to have trust in my body, to know that all births are wildly different but equally beautiful. In addition, I was able to process my birth with much more clarity afterwards.

We need to work towards a society where these images are not censored, and are more widely seen. Where birth is an open discussion. Not only for women to feel more power in their experience and confidence in their bodies, but for the rest of society to be able to support women.

I know that birth will be an open and encouraged discussion within my family, and if I go on to have another child I would want Arlo to be included in the experience of birth. Exposure is key to understanding.

Among some of the photographers I found was Lacey. Lacey Barratt is a pioneer in the birth industry, paving the way for a more inclusive, dynamic, and unapologetically raw content through visual arts. As a doula, she pushes the boundaries of what women think they are capable of; helping them to break free of any societal norms or standards by understanding they are their own individual with individual needs. Lacey makes sure that her imagery is nothing less than artful and educational, striving to help women gain knowledge through her images.

Here are Lacey’s thoughts on why birth photography is important.

When I had my first baby seven years ago my mum asked if my husband was going to take any pictures. Actually, I was mortified by the thought of looking back at them. I also thought she was being selfish because she was in the states and that was her way of being invasive without being *invasive*. Man, the regret I felt 12 months later….We all know good ole Facebook. Reminding you of the things you did on this day twelve months ago. Timehop. Yep….facebook’s Timehop had me crippled on his one-year-old birthday. I was already emotional and then add on top of it that I had three photos from the day of his birth and I was devastated. It shook me to my core so much so that I started offering birth photography as a service to my clients.

I never wanted anyone else to feel the regret that I felt that day. Or any family to experience that type of void. I now see all the ways that birth photography benefits families. I see that my mum was not actually being selfish. Or invasive. Or passive aggressive. It was for both of us.

I wondered if I had that birth face that you see in all these stunning birth images. I wondered what my husband looked like when he had skin to skin. I wondered if he touched me during labour more than I remembered. All of these questions will be there forever. I’ll never actually know the answer to any of them.

I can say that my subsequent babies had birth photographers.

I have this theory that documenting your birth extends the high of a good birth and helps heal a bad birth

No, my images won’t magically take away the pain of a traumatic birth. But with 100 time-stamped images it can help you process what happened in a chronological order better than your memories can.

When you are in labour we naturally (if left unhindered) go into what is called labour land. This is a place where all of your hormones are making a concoction potion, so to speak. Oxytocin, testosterone, adrenaline, progesterone….and heaps more to get you out of your logical brain. So you don’t have to think…you just do what feels good in that moment. This enables you to go deep inside of yourself and focus on your body and your baby. Making you less aware of the things that are going on around you. This is why we forget. We are biologically programmed to not remember. Not to protect us from the physical pain as mainstream society would say. But to help you birth your baby. This is the fight side of the fight or flight phenomenon.

After our baby is born, if things don’t go exactly to plan we have the ability to process exactly what has happened to us. Births, where we felt empowered, enables us to relive that feeling of being empowered. Hormonally, we are getting boosts of oxytocin over and over and over every time we look at our images….meaning our high lasts longer.

Why do you want to relive this experience ESPECIALLY if it was traumatic? This seems like it would be a trick question. But it isn’t. It is because after we experience our power being taken away, the only power that we have left is the power over our emotions. When our bodily autonomy isn’t respected our emotional autonomy is OURS. Forever and ever amen. Once you have your images, with the time they were taken and an unbiased documentation of your birth story, it is then that you are able to look at them and decide how you want to feel and own that in whatever capacity you want to. It’s a way to take your power back, if not with your body, with your emotions. That in itself is incredibly empowering.

Without realising it, our birth experiences shape us. Scientifically, with the bonding of our babies, how we respond to touch, how we process feelings and it spills into our everyday lives…even if we don’t realise it.

This is why I regret not documenting my first birth. I’ll never have that physical evidence of my power, of my vulnerabilities or my trauma to process.

Embracing clothes postpartum

Now I will start this one with a bit of a disclaimer; I very strongly dislike clothes shopping and so am most definitely not about to give you tips on fashion. Partly because I know nothing about it… and secondly because I don’t like the idea of things being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of fashion. I will wear what I want when I want thank you very much.

So you have this new body. It has bumps, marks and everything else all in places they weren’t before. Nothing you used to wear fits or looks right… and the idea of going shopping to find new clothes is not something that sounds fun. Sound familiar?

Firstly, don’t attempt to try on old clothes/buy new ones the second that baby pops out. Your body changes most rapidly in the few weeks after birth, so spend as much time as you can in those comfy maternity leggings and oversized t shirts. Enjoy not giving a shit about what you put on in the morning for a while.

Then, when the speed at which everything is changing slows down (that will be a different time for everyone I might add) start thinking about updating your wardrobe. After all, you’ve most likely just spend 9 months in boring maternity clothes so you deserve it.

I treated myself to some new sports clothes at first… they’re comfy and will still fit me if I change size. Reebok is one of my favourite brands. I waited until about 11 weeks postpartum to go ‘normal’ clothes shopping.

The first mistake I made was shopping for my so called ‘old body’.  I picked out a load of clothes that I would have worn a year ago… only one size above my old size and went to try them on. I probably don’t need to say it, but nothing fitted and anything that did fit was the complete wrong shape/style. Not my most ‘body confident’ moment to say the least (and to add to it… changing room lighting is often awful)

I put everything back, left the shop and we went for a coffee. I definitely needed a breather after that experience. A bit of a pep talk from Kieran in the coffee shop (which I might add he is particularly good at, that man can read my mind without a word coming out my mouth) and we went to try shop number two… with a much better mindset.

Zara is a shop I have always loved, especially during summer, so we went there. I picked up lots of different style clothes (some I would have never worn a year ago) in LOTS of different sizes and went to try them on. I’m not too bothered about the number on the hanger… I know full well that clothes look better and make me feel better when they fit. Small, large or otherwise. Low and behold… I LOVED some of the things I tried on. And I really mean loved. I think I even stood in the changing room grinning like a Cheshire cat at a couple of the items – things I would have never liked the look of on me before, suddenly looked great. Shop the jumpsuit here, and the shirt here.

Que the love and respect I have for my body shooting through the roof in this moment. Success.

After this we went to a few other shops and picked up some more bits;

So in summary, pick things up you would never have worn before and in LOTS of different sizes. You’re new shape/size body is just as amazing as the ‘old’ one… but most likely suits different clothes. And most definitely don’t give shit about the number on the hanger… I can wear an 8 in one shop and a 16 in the next, so it’s all bollocks anyway.

Georgia X

Has motherhood changed me?

Before I fell pregnant I was, I would say, a fairly average teenage girl. I was unsure in myself and in what I wanted to do with my life, I struggled with my body image and confidence and was just starting the path to really learning about myself.

I had a place at University to study Medical Biochemistry. A subject I had chosen (after lots of discussions with different people) due to being convinced that it would be a waste of my intelligence to study anything that wasn’t highly academic with professional, well paid job prospects.

I placed a lot of emphasis on valuing myself based on other peoples standards, I would put what other people thought of me above what I thought of myself.

I was allowing difficult relationships to take up space in my life, which consequently were affecting my mental health. This was also something that heavily affected me during pregnancy.

And then I gave birth to my son.

I’ve heard the phrase ‘with Birth, the woman is born too’ a few times, and I very much believe that holds a lot of truth. Becoming a mother has changed me in so many ways.

I have completely disregarded anyone else’s opinion on what route I should take my life down and as a result am now holding a place to study Sport and Exercise Science. My true passion. Becoming a mother has given me unrecognisable confidence in myself to do what I want to do, this is my life and my life only.

I now only place value in my own opinion of myself. Being a young mother you have to face a lot of negativity; people thinking you are less capable than someone older or people thinking you’ve somehow messed up your life. I am incredibly proud of myself, of what I have done and what I am doing. Me, and my family, have an amazing life ahead of us.

Arlo clearly wasn’t happy about this…

Becoming a mother has given me clarity in what I want to do and who I want to be. It has given me the space to flourish as a woman and grow confidence I never thought I could have. I have gained unconditional love and respect for my body, something I had been working very hard on for the last few years.

A lot of people want to tell you all the negative sides to becoming a parent, about how you’ll loose your own identity and it will test your relationship. Something that is emphasised when you’re younger, as you can add ruining your career prospects etc into the mix. But personally, I have found non of those things to be true. Mindset makes a lot of difference to your experiences in my opinion.

Alfresco dining

Arlo has taught me so much, bringing so much love and happiness with him. He has brought me and Kieran so much closer and not only helped us grow in ourselves but as a couple. Seeing Kieran be a better Dad than I could ever have asked for will always make me happy.

Georgia X

Is the ‘instant bond’ with your baby real?

Lots of women talk about feeling that ‘instant bond’ to their baby right from when those two pink lines appear on the pregnancy test. About how they feel this unconditional and fierce love for their unborn child, and the moment that baby is placed on their chest they feel eternally bonded. For some, this may be very true. But are some of us saying this in fear of judgement for not ‘instantly’ loving and bonding to our babies?

With the rise of social media, we are all constantly comparing ourselves in all aspects of life…and that definitely does not exclude motherhood. Mum shaming is everywhere…and with that comes guilt for our personal choices and emotions in parenting.

I most certainly did not feel that instant bond when I found out I was pregnant…nor did I strongly feel it during pregnancy…or when I first met my baby. Does that make me a bad mother? Absolutely not. Am I ashamed to say that? Not in the slightest.

I am a very logical person, and very scientifically minded. A ‘see it to believe it’ kind of person. I found pregnancy hard to comprehend. The idea that this growing bump and the fluttering kicks were from an actual human being that we had created was foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I felt fiercely protective and definitely had very strong maternal instincts but I just couldn’t ‘love’ someone that I didn’t know.

All in all, I didn’t feel hugely connected to my baby or the experience of pregnancy. This, I think, was mostly down to it being unexpected and me and Kieran not having our own house and stability. The difficult relationships I have with my family didn’t help either – just goes to show that the external circumstances hugely affect how we feel about our experiences. Now that I have my boy with me, I can look back on my pregnancy very differently. Knowing that it was Arlo kicking around inside me, makes it feel all the more magical. That’s what makes me feel eternally bonded to my baby, knowing that for 9 months my body sustained his life.

I feel that a lot of mothers are being denied the space to feel this way about pregnancy…as it’s considered ‘wrong’ to voice anything but overwhelming love for your child…born or not.

After an intense and physically draining labour (what labour isn’t!), a baby was placed on my chest. I can say that at this moment I felt a strong responsibility for the safety and welfare of him, but I didn’t ‘know’ him like I know all the other people that I love. I think that as a society we need to be allowing mothers to freely express how they feel without fear of judgement. After all, how can we support each other if we don’t feel able to talk openly?

Here I am, 10 weeks in to having Arlo with me and getting to know him, and I love him more than I ever thought was possible. It feels as though each day my love for him grows, and I am loving being his mamma more than anything.

As i learn more about Arlo and he learns more about me, our bond strengthens. I definitely have that ‘I miss him when he’s asleep’ kind of feeling now.

The way i feel about my pregnancy and birth has also changed with getting to know my little boy. All the kicks, scans, contractions – all suddenly have meaning. My respect for my body and the process of creating life has grown exponentially, with that comes the beginnings of unconditional love for my body and my experiences.

Not feeling instantly bonded with your baby does not make you any less of a mother, and not having the ‘magical’ pregnancy experience doesn’t either. Perspective changes with time.

Georgia X

Managing expectations postpartum

This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. As with all aspects of life, the postpartum period holds so many different expectations. Expectations on how to parent your child, how your body should ‘bounce back’, how your relationship with your partner (if you have one) should be flourishing etc etc etc. As mothers, how should we managed these? How can we not fall into the traps of comparison? And as members of society, how can we support our pregnant + postpartum women better?

I am extremely into my fitness, and while I was pregnant I was able to maintain a fairly intense training program. Throughout my pregnancy I received the comment ‘oh but you’re fit and young, your body will bounce back’ more times than I could even count. The irony being that I didn’t keep up my training in an attempt to ensure I got my pre-baby body back postpartum, I kept it up because I love it.

There are so many things wrong with this comment, and it’s been bugging me because no one ever talks about why we shouldn’t be saying such things to pregnant (or postpartum) women. Without talking about these things, we can not expect to change them.

When someone said something like that to me, it didn’t fill me with optimism and confidence, in fact quite the opposite. It piled on the pressure for me to go back to looking how I did before I got pregnant as quickly as I could after giving birth. It made me feel as though my identity as a powerlifter relied on how I looked after giving birth. This filled me with anxiety during pregnancy, I felt like who I was was hanging in the balance, waiting to see how my body would look and perform 2,4,8 weeks postpartum.

Why are we doing this!?

Our bodies are fluid, constantly changing, adapting, improving. And when a woman grows, carries and births a baby her body unsurprisingly changes too. I haven’t ‘bounced back’, I haven’t lost all the weight I put on during pregnancy, I haven’t started exceeding the fitness levels I had before pregnancy. BUT, I most certainly haven’t lost my body, instead I’ve transitioned into a new one.

So how about instead of denying women the right to embrace the changes we experience during pregnancy and birth by enforcing this ludicrous idea of ‘bouncing back’, we support them to see life (and our bodies!) as an ever evolving journey? Stop placing such unobtainable expectations on our women, and let them experience the changes; the softness of motherhood, the vulnerability of those early postpartum weeks, the intricate and unique nature of the transformation our bodies and minds undertake.

In addition, if one more person comments on how I look like I’ve ‘shifted all the baby weight’, or ‘gone back to how I used to look’ I might just explode. Have you seen me naked recently? I didn’t think so…so how the hell would you know the ins and outs of how my body has changed?. Yes I am training incredibly hard in the gym, day in day out, but that is purely because it is what lights my fire. I don’t want my ‘old’ body back, I want all things that represent my journey to stay – stop telling our women they should think otherwise!

As a society we have dug our women such a big hole that it’s so hard not to fall into it. I suspect many postpartum women find themselves comparing themselves to pictures of other women at the same stage as them (I know I have been guilty of this). ‘oh but she hasn’t got any stretch marks anymore’, ‘she got her abs back 10 days after giving birth’….I could go on. Almost like it’s one big competition. We must start supporting women in their own postpartum periods by applauding and validating them as individuals, as every woman will have a wildly different experience.

As for expectations on how to parent your child…well they can take a running jump. Motherhood seems to have become this huge commercial, opinionated, debatable subject. Erm…why? It’s the most instinctive, natural process there is. YOU know how to parent YOUR child. Mamma, stop second guessing yourself. When I was pregnant, I made the conscious effort not to read a single book about parenting and still vow never to do so. Society is teaching our women to suppress their instinct, and replace it with advertised products or methods etc….oh look it comes back to the big commercial giants making money. We need to be giving our women confidence in their choices. Want to bottle feed? Great. Want to go back to work 4 weeks after birth? Great. Want to be a stay at home mum until they leave school? Fab. Want to co sleep? Fantastic.

Please, lets stop comparing ourselves. Lets start supporting the beautiful, chaotic journey that pregnancy and motherhood is. We must stop forcing expectations on our women and start giving them the tools to embrace their own unique experiences.

I hope this isn’t just a ramble and actually gets my point across. I am so passionate about changing how we are valuing our women and helping them through what is possibly one of the most vulnerable stages of life.

Georgia X

Body Image and confidence

It takes a long time to truly find ways that make you feel confident in yourself, and even when you get to a point where you feel great there is always further to go. Finding your confidence and having a good relationship with your body is a continually evolving journey.

Now this may just be the sociologist in me, but personally I think the most important thing is to know why and how we are all conditioned to have poor body image. After all, knowledge is power right?

Corporate businesses sell us all an idealised version of ourselves, be it beauty products or underwear adverts showing body types that are genetically unobtainable for 95% of the population. They do this because by selling you a way of ‘reaching’ those unobtainable standards, you buy into their products and they make money. In short, rich people are thriving off societies ingrained self hatred. Alongside this, women are continually objectified and degraded to be nothing but items of beauty. Something that happens right from birth, girls are continually referred to as being ‘pretty’ or ‘kind’ etc while boys are ‘strong’, ‘funny’, ‘clever’ – notice how boys are valued for things completely unrelated to their appearance? As a result, women relate their confidence to how they look, not what they’re doing.

When I first began to understand all of these things (Thank you A-level sociology) the first thing I did was clear out my social media. EVERYONE should do this. Unfollow all those accounts who’s pictures make you feel awful about yourself, block all those people you don’t want in your life anymore and fill your feed with things that inspire you. Social media is your tool, to use how you wish, and that can either be extremely detrimental or extremely beneficial – you decide.

Deadlifting with a tiny baby bump

I slowly began to focus on what my body could DO, not what it LOOKED like. Here’s where Powerlifting completely changed my life – suddenly all I cared about was my performance in the gym, and it was achieving goals within that that gave me confidence – not having abs or fitting into a certain size of clothes. (I urge everyone to invest in their personal fitness or take up a sport)

When I fell pregnant, all the confidence and positive image I had built was really challenged. Your body changes so quickly and beyond your control. It is one of the only times in life that you have to just step back and let it happen, and that is hard. My advice to get through this, would be to have trust in your body that it is doing exactly what it needs to do – even if you do gain more than the ‘recommended’ weight (we all know those numbers are bollocks anyway) or you get more stretch marks than the ‘average’ woman (trust me there’s no such thing as average). Your body was build to do this and it knows exactly how to do it without any input from you, so don’t waste your money or time on stretch mark creams or any other item sold to reduce the effects of pregnancy on your physical appearance.

Now, postpartum is a whole other ball game – just when your getting used to your pregnancy body, you give birth and your left in a strange in-between stage. You’re no longer growing life, but you don’t look or feel anything like the you before pregnancy.

Number one, don’t jump straight back to trying to put on your old clothes – they most likely wont fit. Number two, give your body and mind time. The most important thing in those first weeks is looking after you and your baby, focus as much as you can on soaking up all those first moments. Also try not to place to much importance on that stupid ‘6 week’ mark. Women are continually sold this idea that everything will go back to ‘ normal’ at six weeks – you resume your sex life, start exercising and supposedly look like how you did before pregnancy. All complete lies given how different we all are. For me, I had sex at 4 weeks, began working out at 3 weeks and am never going to look how I used to.

As a young mother, there’s increased pressure to ‘get my body back’ (a ridiculous phrase). As an 18 year old I’m supposedly meant to be wearing tiny clothes, showing off my flat stomach and going clubbing. For one, I wear nothing but sports clothes (you’ll catch me in heels and a tiny dress when i’m dead) and for two i hate the idea of clubbing and is most likely something I will never want to do. I’ll do me, you do you and we’re all happy right?

Here’s to building each other up, raising confident women, and placing our self worth in the things we are achieving.

Georgia X