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In acknowledging the damaging view I had of my body after stillbirth, I couldn’t avoid that I was applying one of the most toxic of behaviours toward myself, a behaviour I was desperately trying to not have others throw upon me: judgement.
I was afraid that others could see my broken postpartum body, and they would look and somehow see that within me was an abnormality of life, a mother with no baby. That my function as a child-bearer had been so faulty and that I was incapable of the living up to the word ‘mother’. Blindly, I preempted their judgements by casting judgement on myself.
My daughters’ stillbirth was late-term. Physically, I looked ready to give birth. Mentally, I was ready to give birth, but only to a live baby. The adaptability I had to show to cope with her sudden death was not a perpetual unending reserve. All my love went into her, her birth, her funeral, the unbalanced emotions of saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ simultaneously. All that I had left for myself after the hurricane were the dregs of emotional coping; the frustration and the judgement.
This manifested in the need, (and I choose that word specifically) my need, to rid my body of any outward sign of the pregnancy. Physically from the process of natural labour and birth, and mentally from the shock and trauma of a child’s death. But by judging myself I refused to allow that flow of natural recovery. I forced my body to become what it was prior to my daughter’s pregnancy and birth, instead of allowing it be become something that felt so uncomfortable to carry.
A very raw Monique Bowley speaks about miscarriage, grief, and how friends and family can help someone who is struggling. (Post continues below.)
It took me just weeks to stop my milk supply and weeks to rid my body of the extra weight I had carried during the nine months of pregnancy. When family commented on how I lost my baby kilos so quickly, my answer was always along the lines of: “I thought I would be spending all my time with our new baby, so now I just exercise with all this empty time.” And exercise I did, excessively.
I was seeing all that was wrong with my body. To me, it was a compliment if I could be outside and have no one suspect what these last few months had dealt me. I was trying to be normal again; to not be that mother, to not be stuck in the physical body of a new mum but carrying only the burdensome label of ‘bereaved parent’.