(This is my seventh child, Eve, just moments after her birth. Isn't she perfect? I made her!)
My husband and I tried for two years to get pregnant with our first baby. As the months turned into years, we worried that we might never be able to have a child. I felt broken, I wanted a child like I had never wanted anything in my life. My husband never doubted we would have a large family someday. When we finally saw two lines on our home pregnancy test, we were both overjoyed. Pregnancy felt like a miracle and a blessing to us, and it was.
There is something magical about that first ultrasound. When you see inside your abdomen and hear the strong, fast beating of another heart. I was amazed how fiercely I loved that unborn child within my womb.
My pregnancies were never easy. Aside from daily morning sickness, I was diagnosed with a blood condition that required blood transfusions throughout the last few months of each pregnancy. I had many miscarriages. Even delivery was difficult for me. People often told me that they would have had a large family if pregnancies were easier for them. I wondered if I would have had a smaller family if pregnancies were easier for me.
I think having to fight to have a family helped me to feel that pregnancy was a gift. Having to fight for two years to get pregnant and nine months to stay pregnant, having to endure hours of Pitocin and fear of emergency surgery during deliveries, just made that magical moment when I held my beautiful child for the first time, feel almost surreal. It was like crossing the finish line of a marathon I had run for over 9 months. No medal around my neck could ever compare with the rush of accomplishment and pure amazement I would feel the first time my warrior, mother body was able to feed my newborn baby.
Women's bodies are AMAZING. We create life. We sustain life. We nourish life. Oh, what a privilege it is to have a mumbod.
My body created EIGHT, beautiful children. I have spent 105 months of my life creating another human being in my womb. I have never felt more powerful, beautiful, and tired, than when I was filled with life. To feel life inside your abdomen is one of the most amazing experiences one can ever have. To know that while I was living my normal life, my body magically and instinctively formed a beating heart, ten tiny fingers, or two fully functioning ears is quite incredible.
Why is it that as a society we so often miss the miracle of a women's power to create and focus instead on how a woman looks in a bikini?
Did you know that your children have personality even inside your womb? My husband used to talk to my babies inside my belly each night before we went to sleep. I'm sure that they learned to recognise his voice and were easily calmed by him after they were delivered. As a child development major in college, I read that children in the womb can count. So, my husband used to play a game where he would tap my belly three times and my baby would kick back three kicks. He would tap twice, and the baby would kick two times. (If you're pregnant, try it. It's really neat.) My most active child, would feel us tap one time and he would go crazy, kicking and flipping around.
We didn't plan on having eight children. We hoped we would have a large family, but for me, it was a feeling that would come with each pregnancy and delivery. I just knew in my soul that my family was not complete. I have learned that you might regret not having another child, but you will never regret having another child.
One of the most incredible moments of my life came laying on the table for the ultrasound of my eighth child. The technician told me that we were having a little boy and I felt a warm, electric feeling pulse through my body. This baby was mine. I knew that he was my last child and I loved him as fiercely as I had love the seven other children in my womb. The feeling was so intense that it brought tears to my eyes.
Moments later, a doctor came in and told me that I had the most severe and life-threatening case of Placenta Accreta they had ever seen. I chose that day not to abort my baby, a controversial choice that I never thought I would have to make and a decision I have never regretted making. Please don't judge me for this choice I made. I didn't know until that very moment, that I could never choose to end the life I celebrated inside my womb. I was willing to die for that baby although I am grateful every day that I am still alive and still mothering
I spent months on hospital bedrest as doctors monitored. My placenta had attached to a previous c-section scar and had grown through my scar, like cancer, attaching to other organs in my abdomen. Placenta Accreta carries with is a high risk of hemorrhaging. Doctors would often crowd around my ultrasound table commenting with concern about my super-placenta that kept growing throughout my abdomen. One time, after a particularly scary conversation, I asked the ultrasound technician if she could just take pictures of my baby and not tell me at all about my placenta. I printed the pictures she took that day of a perfect, beautiful baby and I hung them all around my hospital room with a sign that said, 'He is worth it.' I would often remind my doctors that attached to my crazy placenta was a perfect, miracle baby.
Little Ben, my magnum opus, was born via cesarean section at 34 weeks. When my right iliac was accidentally severed during delivery, I received a massive transfusion of over 200 units of blood, and surgeons worked heroically to save my life.
(Holding Ben for the first time, one week after he was born.)
Coming back to life after giving birth was a solemnly symbolic and sacred experience. I think often of the 200 strangers who donated the blood that kept my heart pumping. Nurses, doctors, and hospital staff literally fed me, changed me, and taught me to walk again. As I gave life to my child, so many beloved strangers gave life back to me.
Once again, my mumbod amazed me. Do you know that even after a major surgery, my breasts swelled with milk to feed my tiny, NICU baby? It took me over two weeks for my eyes to see clearly, it took me months to be able to walk again, I had an open wound on my stomach for over six months, it took years and follow-up surgeries for my bladder to function properly. But today, I am strong and healthy. My body is incredible. Our bodies are incredible.
(9 months pregnant and 9 months after the birth of my eighth child.)
Sometimes I am tempted to lament the fact that scars crisscross my stomach. It helps that my husband adores my scars, witnesses of the victory and miracle of my life. I am surrounded daily by the beautiful children that we created together. I have never modelled swimsuits on a magazine, published a book, painted a masterpiece, or composed an orchestra sonata, but I have created eight human beings!
A woman's body is more than an image. A woman's body is the greatest tool of creation known to man. With all the technological advances that surround us, none can compare with a woman's ability to build human life, to nourish human life, and to nurture humankind. Our bodies are designed to heal.
Struggling with infertility made me cherish pregnancy. Facing death made me cherish life. I am still so amazed that my body made me eight children. I'm grateful to be alive, to be able to walk without a walker, to be able to pee without a catheter. It is an honour to be a woman, it is an honour to be a mother, and every day I am grateful to be alive and for the gift it is to spend another day in my scarred, stretched, seasoned, absolutely incredible MUMBOD.
(Me with my husband Todd, and our eight children. Jakob age 18, Drew age 17, Anna age 15, Ellie age 13, Leah age 10, Lily age 9, Eve age 6, and Ben age 3.)
HuffPost UK Parents has launched 'Mumbod', a new section to empower mums and mums-to-be to feel confident about their bodies pre- and post-baby. We'd also love to hear your stories. To blog for Mumbod, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To keep up to date with features, blogs and videos on the topic, follow the hashtag #MyMumbod.