Struggling with body image after pregnancy is not unusual. What makes Jessica McCoy’s story unique is that she is struggling with postpartum body image after a pregnancy loss, meaning that each stretch mark or extra pound is a reminder of the baby who isn’t there.
The 27-year-old mother posted about the painful experience on Instagram, along with a photo of herself wearing jeans and a bra. The emotional caption describes the feeling of looking at her uncovered body in the mirror since her loss.
“Every day I get clothes on and they’re tight,” she wrote. “And every day I’m reminded that I grew my baby for six months and she died.”
”I’ve never seen anyone post about their feelings toward their body after pregnancy loss,” McCoy told The Huffington Post. “I’ve seen so many body positive posts by women celebrating their body because it grew their beautiful child. And I fully support that, but at this time, I don’t feel that. I feel anger toward my body. I feel like I can’t trust it. I feel broken. And every time I look in the mirror, or put clothes on, it’s a reminder that my sweet girl is gone.”
Already a mother to a 6-year-old and step-mother to a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, McCoy says she’d had “baby fever” since her son was 2 and was excited when she and her husband got pregnant again on the first try.
And yet, McCoy had a “mother’s intuition” early in her pregnancy that something was wrong.
At around 20 weeks, McCoy and her husband found out from an ultrasound the the fetus had spina bifida, but they seemed to qualify for fetal surgery. The couple remained hopeful.
Then, they had an amniocentesis done, and two weeks later found out that her unborn baby had a chromosomal deletion and would need multiple surgeries on top of having a severely compromised immune system. McCoy and her husband made the decision to have a late-term abortion rather than give birth to a baby who would have been in severe pain.
“It just wasn’t very likely she would be OK,” said McCoy. “We were devastated and we still are. But, we knew that it was the kindest, most loving choice we could make, to end her life before it began, so that she would never have to suffer. We now bear that suffering, so she didn’t have to.”
Now, at about two months post-partum, McCoy must deal with symptoms like hormonal changes and hair loss that serve as reminders of what should have been. But it’s the weight gain that hits her the hardest.
She wrote in her Instagram post, "There is a lot of emotion that goes with gaining weight during pregnancy. I gained 15 lbs in 6 months. And then, after everything, I gained about 5 more. I am 20 lbs heavier and two sizes bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. And I am not okay with my body. I think I would’ve been okay if Evie was here, although she would’ve likely still been cooking inside me. The fact that I am bigger than I normally am and don’t have my baby makes it harder."
However, sharing about her feelings through her Instagram post is helping her to heal.
"Sharing Evie’s story has been SO helpful for my healing journey. I feel like the more I share, the more that people know she existed, and are helped by her story, the better I feel."
By sharing her story, McCoy hopes that others will know they are not alone.
"The response has been overwhelming," McCoy says. "So many other women have been saying that’s exactly how they feel and its nice to feel like they aren’t alone, which makes it all worth it to me. Pregnancy loss is such a hard and awful road to have to walk. It is comforting knowing that there are others who share your pain and are traveling the same road as you."