FOLLOWING Stacey Solomon’s no-holds-barred post-birth Insta pic after the recent arrival of son Rex, we asked three women to share theirs – and the stories behind them.
Jaimie, Holly and Natasha's first moments with their beautiful babies was captured and shared for the world to see.
‘I didn’t care about how I looked – I was in pure survival mode’
Jaimie Sarah Crooks, 32, is a female executive coach from London.
She and fiancé Aaron, 37, a property developer, welcomed son Joshua on October 16, 2018.
“When I look at this photo I feel grateful that Joshua and I made it out of childbirth alive. After a three-day labour and emergency caesarean I was exhausted and out of it on meds, but it authentically captures my experience and I now share it to help women gain peace around birth.
“I got pregnant within seven months of meeting Aaron in May 2017. We’d talked about having kids and agreed we wanted them, but never dreamed it would happen so quickly.
“We were overjoyed, but my pregnancy wasn’t easy. I suffered morning sickness all day every day, and at seven months developed a pyogenic granuloma on my forehead – a benign vascular lesion caused by hormonal changes, which left me self-conscious about my appearance.
“I believed that while my pregnancy had been difficult, the birth would be better. I had my heart set on the birthing pool at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital – but it wasn’t to be.
“During the last four weeks of pregnancy, my baby’s movement slowed and at 40 weeks, after my second reduced movement monitoring, the midwives wanted to induce me.
“My birthing centre dreams were crushed and I was frightened. I had depression as a teen and anxiety in my early 20s, and in that moment the anxiety returned.
“I knew I had to do what was best for my baby, so the next morning I was induced, and nearly 48 hours after the induction began my waters broke. I was exhausted and needed pain relief to get through it – initially I had gas and air, then an epidural.
“Labour went on for another 23 hours and the midwives first tried to get Joshua out naturally, then with ventouse and finally forceps. But he became stuck and his heart rate dropped.
“I was rushed to theatre, where I panicked after hearing a crack as the team gave the forceps one more try. I thought they’d crushed my baby’s skull and was terrified one or both of us would die.
“After an emergency C-section, the doctors said Joshua was fine and asked if I wanted to hold him, but I was too upset to even look at him.
“I was annoyed with my baby for wrecking my body – something I felt guilty for. I asked the anaesthetist if it was normal to not want to hold your newborn after a traumatic birth and she reassured me that it was, but urged me to seek help if the feeling continued. Thankfully, it didn’t.
“Once I was stitched, up Aaron placed Joshua on my chest and I felt a rush of love, but I was dazed and in incredible pain.
“I felt violated, and in that photo every emotion – love, pain, fear, intrusion, worry – is etched on my face.
“For weeks after, I didn’t care how I looked in front of a camera. I was in pure survival mode, concerned with whether I could walk or breastfeed.
“For the first three months I had postnatal depression, which I believe was triggered by the difficult birth. Because of my mental health history, the hospital had allocated a perinatal psychiatric nurse, who I’d seen twice in pregnancy and then saw once a week for two months after Joshua’s birth.
“Six hours after he was born, I posted a happy family pic on Insta and five days later I posted about mourning the loss of the plan of his arrival.
“Three months later I shared the raw, honest first birth photo, opening up about how my labour had gone differently to what I’d planned, how that was OK and how it’s also OK if you’re suffering afterwards and need help.
“I hope women who’ve had a traumatic birth will see my journey and realise it’s possible to recover and that one day, they will feel better, too.”
‘Applying make-up kept me calm before my C-section’
Holly Stevens, 35, is a beauty PR director and lives in London with her sports marketing partner Tom Fogg, 40.
Their son Freddy was born on September 10, 2018.
“My first photograph with Freddy represents the reality of my birth: completely flawless. I had a planned C-section and it felt totally calm and beautiful, largely helped by the surgeon who played relaxing classical music throughout.
“Tom and I had only been together for three months when we conceived. The pregnancy came out of the blue and I was instantly terrified of giving birth.
“I’d freaked out watching an Instagram birthing video and heard horror stories from my sister Louise, 38, who’d had pre-eclampsia and endured a terrible labour followed by an emergency Caesarean, for which she’d not been properly anaesthetised.
“In the hope of a smooth birth, I booked privately for an elective C-section. It was costly, but as I’m self- employed, it was a huge advantage to know exactly when Freddy would arrive.
“I’m a real planner and because I felt so out of control during pregnancy, it helped me claw back some agency.
“Looking my best during the birth was another thing I could control. After I fell pregnant, my best friend Alex, 34, said: ‘You can’t look s**t in your first baby picture.’
“Neither of us had been pregnant before, but we follow lots of celebrities on Instagram, including Abbey Clancy who looked stunning after giving birth. It really inspired me to do the same.
“I knew that my first photograph with Freddy would go on Instagram and Facebook and be seen by friends, family and people I work with – clients, journalists and influencers – so I wanted to look as good as possible.
“Working in beauty PR, I’ve got a hairdresser client, so fortunately I rarely have to wash my own hair. I also keep my nails looking good with Shellac and get my eyebrows tattooed regularly.
“People might think I’m being vain, but it’s crucial in my line of business that I’m always immaculately presented – and that includes in photographs of me with my newborn.
“Two days before going to hospital I had my hair blow-dried in a salon and got my lashes extended and tinted so they’d look great in all the photos of me looking down at my new baby.
“I’d had my eyebrows tattooed just before I got pregnant, so luckily they were still visible, too.
“Just before I was due to have the C-section, I suddenly felt scared about the surgery so I distracted myself by applying make-up. Then I’d cry because of the nerves and would have to start over again!
“As soon as I went into theatre, however, everything calmed down and I felt relaxed. I didn’t even realise they’d started operating until I felt a weird tug and Freddy was pulled out and held above the screen.
“When my sister took the first photo of us together at 9.15am, I was on cloud nine, back in my hospital room drinking tea, munching on Hobnobs and feeling hopelessly in love with our baby son.
“At the time, I’d taken lots of painkillers and was so excited that I don’t actually remember the photograph being taken! But I’m glad that it was, and that it’s there to remind us of the special moment.
“Unlike Stacey Solomon, I’d never dream of posting a photograph of myself covered in blood while cradling my newborn, because I wouldn’t want to remember the first moment with my baby as being all gungey.
“It’s important for your own self-esteem to feel as good as you can. A few days after I was discharged with Freddy, I had a professional blow-dry at home to feel less like a sleep-deprived, ragged new mum.
“It feels nice to look back at that first picture with Freddy knowing I felt my best at the very best time of my life.”
‘I was just so grateful my son was alive’
Natasha Bray, 32, is a rapid transformation therapy coach and psychology expert and lives in Bridgend.
Her son Jenson, two, was born on October 5, 2016.
“When Jenson was placed on to my chest after a horrific 14-hour labour, I was in a daze. My body had tried to push the baby out before my cervix was fully dilated, and by the time I was ready the contractions had stopped so I delivered him without them.
“I was severely torn internally and externally and was later diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse, a serious but common complication that comes from birth when one or more of the organs in the pelvis slip down from their normal position and bulge into the vagina.
“At the time of this photograph, I had no idea of the severity of my injuries. I just remember thinking how beautiful my boy was and how lucky I was to finally have him after over a year of fearing I was infertile.
“After being abused as a child, it was the first moment in my life when I had experienced unconditional love.
“I’d become addicted to food when I was young, which was an emotional escape from the pain of childhood trauma. Then at 16, after ballooning to a size 16, I joined a gym but became addicted to working out.
“Within three years, I had dropped to a size 6. I’d always dreamed of being married with children by 30, but when I came off the Pill in my late 20s I couldn’t get pregnant with my then boyfriend.
“I thought I’d ruined my chances of being a mum because I’d treated my body so badly – it was a huge wake-up call. At 28 I transformed my diet.
“I started taking natural supplements and eating more food and within 18 months, when I was a healthy size 10 and in a new relationship, I fell pregnant unexpectedly.
“I’d not been with Marc, 33, long but I was over the moon, because I desperately wanted to be a mum.
“The birth was traumatic. During labour I was in immeasurable pain but feared the worst for my unborn son, so when he arrived I was just grateful he was alive.
“Because of the pelvic organ prolapse – a lifelong injury – I was told I could never exercise again. The news floored me, and although my relationship with fitness had become a lot healthier before pregnancy, I still used exercise as a distraction to blot out traumatic memories from my past.
“Imagining a life without it was petrifying, and when Jenson was 10 months old I split up from his dad and was signed off work with stress and postnatal depression, which I believe was linked
to the birth trauma and medical issues that followed.
“For a while I couldn’t look at Jenson’s birth photo without thinking about what I’d lost: my health, the family unit, myself. Now, it symbolises the start of my journey towards healing my past.
“I’ve been told I can have surgery to repair the pelvic prolapse, but the op has a 30% failure rate and will stop me from having more kids, so it’s a decision I’m not ready to make at my age.
“I’m having physiotherapy to strengthen my pelvic floor, but it’s a long journey ahead.
“Without exercise I’ve been forced to deal with stress and emotional trauma in different ways, including launching my own business and having therapy sessions, which are a mix of CBT hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming.
“I’m also working with a postnatal personal trainer to build strength through light, low-impact exercise.
“Having a baby has put everything into perspective and I’ve got one person to thank for teaching me so much: my little Jenson. He really is my saviour.”
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