Learning to love your new postpartum body is a struggle many moms go through, but for Jessica McCoy, seeing how her body has changed is also a constant, painful sign of the baby she lost.
McCoy, a 27-year-old mom in Missouri, shared a photo of her body in a bra and jeans as a reminder that not all postpartum bodies are the same. Each stretch mark or pound gained has its own history and can symbolize entirely different things for different women.
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Already a mom to a 6-year-old son named Brennan and a stepmom to a 10-year-old and 12-year-old, McCoy had dealt with postpartum body changes before. After Brennan, she felt uncomfortable in her larger body but wasn't upset because it grew and birthed her son.
However, now, 20 pounds heavier and two sizes bigger than she was pre-second pregnancy and dealing with hormonal changes and hair loss, McCoy feels angry and broken.
"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," she wrote on her Instagram post.
McCoy lost her baby Evelyn Louise at 23 weeks. At around 20 weeks, she and her husband found that the fetus had spina bifida, a condition in which the spine doesn't develop properly and leaves a gap. They were still hopeful until they had their amniocentesis results, which showed Evie had a chromosomal deletion. Their daughter would have to go through numerous surgeries while having a severely compromised immune system.
The couple made the hard decision to have a late-term abortion.
“It just wasn’t very likely she would be OK,” McCoy told the Huffington Post. “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.”
Even during this difficult time, there are critics. To them, her abortion doesn't qualify as a loss.
McCoy responds, "First of all, no one gets to hold a monopoly on what counts as a loss. ... Second, I am realizing that ending a wanted pregnancy is such a different place than a miscarriage or stillbirth, because people aren't as kind and accepting. There's this question of if you belong. I'm here to say that I am grieving my daughter just as much as if I would've had a stillbirth. It may be different, but my sadness is just as valid. And it really isn't a fucking competition either."
The mom has enlisted the help of a personal trainer and says sharing her story has helped. Even though her loss of Evie has been immensely painful, she's also so grateful for her daughter.
"I don't think I've ever felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant with my sweet Evie," McCoy writes. "She was still with me and I was so thankful for her life. I still am. She taught me more than anyone else ever has."