When you have a post-pregnancy body - but no baby

"I want to talk about my #postpartum body."
"I want to talk about my #postpartum body."  Photo: @habe_mccoy /instagram

Everywhere we look now we see mums on social media posting bodies of their post-pregnancy body. Sometimes it's to show an almost miraculous return to form, and sometimes it's to show a raw and honest look at the difference a pregnancy can make.

But even when pregnancy has wreaked havoc on a mother's body and the way she sees herself, the overarching message is often that it was all worth it, because the result was their incredible baby.

But what we don't see or hear about is what it's like to have a post-pregnancy body, but no baby.

That's what led Jessica McCoy of Missouri in the USA to share her own raw and honest image of her post-pregnancy body. She made the heart-breaking decision to have a late-term abortion at 23 weeks due to her daughter Evie having serious health complications. Jessica hopes that by sharing an image and her true feelings about her body will bring comfort to other mothers who are going through the same thing.

Two months after her pregnancy ended, Jessica shared a photo of her body in a bra and pair of jeans on Instagram, and her pain is evident.

"I am 20 pounds (about 9 kilograms) heavier and two sizes bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. And I am not okay with my body," she wrote. "I think I would have been okay if Evie was here, although she would've likely still been cooking inside me.

 

A post shared by Jessica (Habe) (@habe_mccoy) on

"Every day I get clothes on and they're tight. And every day I'm reminded that I grew my baby for six months and she died. It really is a constant reminder to me. I don't have love for my body. I am angry at it right now. I can't be body positive right now. It's too hard and it hurts too much.

Although it's unusual to see this subject discussed in a public forum, there are plenty of women that will sadly relate, and hopefully find comfort in Jessica's post. One in three women will experience a miscarriage, and around one in a hundred pregnancies end in stillbirth. And on top of those statistics are the mums who have made the decision to end a pregnancy because the health of the child is compromised, or the health of the mother is at risk. That's a lot of mums going home without their babies.

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All of those women (and families) suffer from the grief of losing their child, and on top of that they have to deal with physical changes that are mostly kept secret.

"I've never seen anyone post about how they're upset with their postpartum body because they don't have a baby to hold," Jessica told Scary Mommy. "Lots of people are sad they're bigger, but it's very different when you don't have a baby in tow.

"I wasn't prepared to have this body with no baby," she says. "I was looking forward to having the baby and slowly working out and getting back to my normal size."

Jessica has a six year old son Brennan, and was excited to be having a girl with this pregnancy.

But early on she could feel something was wrong. At around 18 weeks, she found out that her baby Evie had spina bifida. While being evaluated to see if Evie could have foetal surgery to fix the spina bifida, her amniocentesis showed more serious problems.

"I got a call while I was at work from the genetic counsellor that the baby had 22Q deletion," Jessica says. "A whole host of things can be wrong and coupled with the spina bifida, it's even more severe."

Evie would most likely have been in a lot of pain and require intensive care 24 hours a day for the rest of her life.

"We decided this was the most loving thing to do as a mum, because I never wanted her to suffer," explains Jessica.

The healing process for Jessica and her family has been tough, but Jessica credits her husband with being the support she needs to keep moving forward.

"I don't like looking in the mirror at myself," she says. "My husband is kind to me, and he's always been incredibly attracted to me no matter my size, which is really nice. I wish I could be kind to myself too."

Jessica's advice for other mums going through the same is, "Just give yourself forgiveness and grace."