In a new essay for Glamour, Ashley Graham opened up about the complications she faced after giving birth to her twins.
For context, Ashley welcomed twin boys — Roman and Malachi — with her husband Justin Ervin back in January. The two also share Isaac, aged two.
"The night I gave birth to the twins, I hemorrhaged," she began. "It was 2 a.m. when my contractions started. At 3:45 a.m. I went to the toilet thinking I needed the bathroom, and Malachi came out just as my doula was arriving, in time to bring him into the world."
Roman was then born just over two hours later in her apartment bathtub, as there wasn't time to blow up the birthing tub. "At first we were all celebrating. We couldn’t believe that my labor lasted just three and a half hours, and I was feeling so incredibly grateful to this team of skilled, intelligent, and trained professionals around me," she continued.
"The next thing you know, I looked at my midwife and I said, 'I don’t feel good. I think I need to lay down,' and I blacked out. All I can remember is feeling a light touch on my cheek, which I found out later was actually somebody smacking the crap out of my cheek, someone holding my hand, my husband Justin in my ear, praying, and someone jabbing me with a needle in my arm. And I remember seeing darkness and what seemed like stars."
When Ashley regained consciousness, she said that everybody told her that she was "fine." However, she continued, "They didn’t want to tell me, right then, that I’d lost liters of blood. They didn’t want to tell me that one of the midwives had to flip me over, press her finger down right above my vagina bone to try and stop the bleeding. And they didn’t want to tell me that the vein in my arm kept collapsing and they couldn’t get the needle in for the Pitocin, so they’d had to put it in my hand."
"But even though they didn’t want to go into the details at that moment, I looked around the room, saw blood literally everywhere, and let out this deep, visceral cry — an emotional release from the chaos I had just experienced."
Following the birth, Ashley said that she couldn't sit up or crawl, so had to be rolled onto a bed sheet and slid down the hall into a trundle bed. "Thank goodness the twins were fine, while I lay on that bed for four straight days. I couldn’t walk for a week. And I didn’t leave my house for nearly two months," she recalled.
Ashley's resulting postpartum experience led to a complicated relationship with her body. "Malachi and Roman’s birth was incredible, but the aftermath was deeply overwhelming. I couldn’t walk properly for a long time, let alone exercise. I would shake, I didn’t feel like myself physically or emotionally. I had planned to be back at work after eight weeks, but I was a wreck, and when I saw myself in the mirror, I still felt like I looked pregnant," she said, noting her ability to take a longer maternity leave than many in the US.
"Even now, if I’m completely honest, I go in waves. I am still not entirely comfortable in my body, no matter my own body positivity advocacy. There are days where I look at myself and I say, 'There's nothing you can't handle. There's nothing you can't do.' Then I look at the stretch marks that still exist and will forever exist on my stomach, and I think, God, why did you have to go up above my belly button?"
She concluded, "The truth that this wasn’t easy for me. This was messy. This was emotional. And it included me reteaching myself the affirmations that I have taught many — that I am bold, I am brilliant, I am beautiful — and that we all are."