For those of you that don’t know, April is Cesarean Awareness Month. In the US 1 in 3 people will give birth via cesarean section. Leaving the percent of deliveries by cesarean at around 30%. Well above the World Health Organization's ideal rate of 10-15% According to a statement put out by them in 2015 “When medically necessary, a caesarean section can effectively prevent maternal and newborn mortality. Two new HRP studies show that when caesarean section rates rise towards 10% across a population, the number of maternal and newborn deaths decreases. When the rate goes above 10%, there is no evidence that mortality rates improve.”
Recently I posted an image on Instagram celebrating the beauty and rawness of a freshly postpartum cesarean mother in recognition of cesarean awareness month. I think it’s really common (and important) to see these images and posts going around in the birthing community for so many reasons. To acknowledge the normalcy of cesarean births. To celebrate the strength of those who give birth this way. To validate and encourage and support those who have had cesarean births. But in my posting of this image, a friend and follower brought up a wonderful point
This question gave me the inspiration to create this post.
To seek out cesarean birthers and ask them to tell their stories. Share their feelings. Their completely uncensored, unapologetic, thoughts. Because I think that there is this stigma in birth that you can’t be thankful and grateful for a healthy baby and also feel mad/sad/disappointed whatever about your birth. And that’s wrong. You can have both. Be both. Feel both. So these are their truths.
I ask that you respect their stories and keep your comments positive and supportive.
“If I had to choose one word to describe my youngest son’s birth it would be disappointing.
I pushed in every possible position for hours. After 3.5 hours my midwife decided it would be best to transfer to the hospital…..We got to the hospital and they hooked me up to the monitors and the OB on call immediately said that we needed to do a section. I feel like she took one look at my chart and saw that I had had a previous section along with the fact that this was an induction and didn’t even give me my chance.
The staff in the OR was the opposite of my dream. They forget that for them this is just another routine surgery, another day of doing their job. But for me this is the moment my baby will be born. A day I will remember over and over again for the rest of my life. Everything was so impersonal. I can clearly remember them talking about gum flavors and what they watched on TV the night before among other things. They made no effort to be sensitive to the fact that I was in the most vulnerable position a woman will ever be put in, laying on a cold table, literally cut open from hip to hip while they pull my baby out of me. Everything I was promised was not fulfilled and there was nothing I could do about it. There was no clear curtain, there was no skin to skin and there was no delayed cord cutting. I was not even allowed to see my baby, lay eyes on him for even one second, before they took him to the nursery. What was done, was done and I can never get those moments back.
And then to add to the insensitivity I was told, while still laying cut open on the table that it “was not a good idea for me to have more children” and did I “want my tubes tied” since they were already in there. Put on the spot during one of the scariest hours of my life to decide the rest of my fertility forever.”
“The toughest part to process of my birth experience was how quickly things changed from calm to scary. I was induced, and in labor for 12 hours, before it was realized that I needed an emergency c-section. I was okay with this until the drugs set in and made me feel very shaky and nervous. During the procedure, I could feel every tug and pull. It was painful and I was scared. I felt freezing. My warm “bun in the oven” had been removed. The hardest part was waiting to hold him, or even SEE him. It felt like an eternity, but my husband says it was more like a half an hour. I still feel that was too long. In hindsight, I wish I would have hired a doula! So, with sleep deprivation (son born at 5 am after no sleep the night before), not reacting well to the pain meds, and my new baby having difficulty latching, it was a super difficult time.”
“A lot of days, even just yesterday since my daughter was born I feel like I failed as a Mother. I didn’t have a natural birth so I feel less of a woman. Why couldn’t I have been able to have a real natural birthing experience like I had anticipated or like most of the women I know? I don’t have many friends who have had cesareans so when they talk about their birthing experiences I get very down and start thinking negative thoughts about my own body and how it is inadequate to other women. I feel like I missed out on that special connection between Mother and Baby during the whole birthing journey. Emotionally it has just been hard on me.”
“My C-Section was after a day and a half of not progressing past 4 centimeters during an induced labor which included two failed epidurals. By that point I was basically begging for a section which I felt horribly guilty about but had nothing left! I barely remember him being born because as soon as I knew he was out and safe I passed out from exhaustion (first pain free minutes in 36 hours). I had high hopes of direct skin to skin, nursing right away, etc and of course didn't get any of that. I am a firm believer that anything that end in a healthy baby and mom is a "good birth", but 8 years later I still get bummed having had such a hectic and traumatic beginning with him.”
“As a NICU nurse I know cesarean sections are amazing medical advances. I see the lives that it saves in my job everyday and I am SO GRATEFUL for my three babies that were brought into this world via c-sections. But when I gave birth to my first child after 20 hours of labor and a 'failure to progress' diagnosis that is not how I felt. My body’s inability to birth the normal way left me feeling guilty and depressed. Add the searing pain and long recovery… I was far from the glowing momma I had pictured myself to be just days earlier. My next two babies were also c-section deliveries; one after a failed VBAC (again with the failure label) and a planned c-section. And while I was more prepared for the aftermath, I still felt that tiny whisper of disappointment. But what it comes down to is that it’s ok to feel thankful for a healthy baby while also grieving the perfect birth you didn’t receive. An unconventional birth does not equal a failed birth and I have 3 sweet little souls to prove it.”
“Scared – actually terrified.
“I went into my first birth with rose colored glasses. I had done all my research, watched all the documentaries and read all the books. Water birth it was, but after two days of induction and endless pitocin I was feeling supremely discouraged, and like a huge failure. I was certain that if I was allowed the time that my body would kick into high gear and I could do this. Unfortunately I was told that I wasn’t going to progress on my own and that I needed to get that baby out immediately.
I have felt robbed at every birth of the euphoria of a vaginal birth. My births are all white sheets and strapped down arms
It’s not been magical, I try to be positive, reframe as it’s happening. But in the end it just feels unnatural, and like I’ve had a huge part of what makes me a woman stolen and lopped off.”
“The pain!!! Not being able to stand up straight (or stand at all) while trying to visit, spend time with and “mother” my babies while they were in the NICU. Doing everything was difficult in the first weeks and I didn’t feel like I was able to contribute enough to the girls as they grew and became healthy enough to come home.
Now, I also feel like I “screwed” them out of all those great microbiome vaginal bacteria that help to make kids healthier.
“I specifically went to a certain hospital because they had the lowest C section rate. I worked hard during labor 26 hours of hard work! I didn’t want the epidural until I was at least 6cm. I was on the bouncy ball, on all fours, holding the bar and squatting - you name it I was trying it. There were amazing nurses and doulas in my room cheering me on I was so grateful..... then it got over 24 hours and I spiked a fever and they had to do an emergency C section. I remember at one point the doctor said .... “I see the head, a couple more pushes” and then I was so psyched then all of a sudden they were pushing him back in and rushing me to the OR. What happened? I did everything I was supposed to do... all my hard work. I am very grateful and appreciative of the hospital team and my son is amazing, it just wasn’t the ending I expected.”
“There was a lot I did when I had the boys that I could have done differently but I was so clueless and willing to just do what doctors said.
I wish I would have stood up for myself a little bit more or had more information. I just had no idea what I was doing…We had just moved across the country and I was home alone with no friends/job the majority of my pregnancy. So I was really limited on my resources and how/where to find information and help I needed… I didn't feel empowered enough to ask more questions or really advocate for myself to the doctors. Just let them lead the way.”
“I asked them to stop touching me, to let me calm down and call my mom who lives next to the hospital and could be there at any minute. They said they didn’t have time, I needed to go to the OR now. I started having a panic attack and could barely breathe. I told them I wasn’t going to surgery. For nearly ten months I had imagined this birth where I would breathe and meditate and pray my way through the pain. Where my daughter would lay on me and we would breathe together. I started to fight and argue. Loudly. And with Lots of curses. My husband was worried and didn’t know how to help. The nurses ignored me and moved me to the OR without further discussion.
I was deathly afraid of having surgery, it had always been a phobia of mine. The sweet on call OB continued to try and help me calm down but I cried and sobbed inconsolable throughout my entire procedure.
I didn’t realize until a year later but I had extreme anxiety for nearly a year after my baby was born. I couldn’t take her places without extreme planning and without freaking out. She was a crying baby and had difficulty sleeping. She was jaundiced and then had growth issues. I was in a constant state of stress and anxiety. I was worried and scared. I have blocked out so much of her birth and first year that I’m afraid it will affect our relationship. She has two younger siblings who had amazing midwife supported vaginal births and I’m afraid she’ll notice how I talk about their baby years as opposed to hers. I was scared. My first introduction to this insane life called motherhood began with a panic attack and with no one who cared.”
“Until you’re in the position to have someone tell you you have no other choice then to be strapped down and cut open you’ll never understand what that feels like. I think for some women that feels safe. But for me that wasn’t the case. Especially after watching multiple babies being born. Sometimes I feel like it’s a punishment for judging others who had elective sections.
I remember when we first found out that my husband was sterile I cried not because I wouldn’t get to be a mother but because I always wanted to be pregnant. I saw a woman who had a stillborn baby and I remember feeling a little jealous like at least she got to be pregnant. I’m sure others hear me complain about having a csection and think well at least she has a baby.
“I do feel that my doctor did kind of strong arm me into a C-section because I was young and it was my first baby. I remember her giving me a phone call when I was about 37 weeks and asking me if I has decided to go into labor on my own or if I would like to schedule a c section. I told her I was leaning towards trying to go into labor on my own and she replied with "well your baby is measuring at over 10 lbs so you will rip very badly and will need a ton of stitches."
She also told me "I'm going to rip from end to end if I try to deliver such a big baby"”
“I never got to see my son immediately after he was born because I was unconscious and woke up in the recovery area of the hospital without my baby. I was there for a few hours. I feel like I missed out on the immediate bonding. It still hurts 16 years later.”
“I said yes to a csection because I was scared. I was told my baby was too big for me, told my blood pressure was high, told I needed to rest, told it’s okay 2nd babies can be born vaginally, told I could get an infection if we waited longer. What I was not told was the amount of “what if” questions that would haunt my mind for months, how I would feel disconnected from the greatest moment of my life, the endless conversations with my husband about how sad I am over his birth, the confusion from almost everyone I talked to, and how I would obsess over the scar tissue that would be left behind and how that could affect future babies. The list of things I was not told is never ending.
The parts of his birth that are not so beautiful and magical are in the back of my mind every single day. I bottle up the fact that I didn’t cry until 12+ hours after he was earth-side. I barely remember looking at him for the first time because of the drugs. I was too afraid to hold him on the operating table because of how shaky I was. I look at pictures to be reminded of my husband’s instantaneous ability to fall in love when he saw our son, because all I remember is how loopy I felt.
My son is healthy and I am healthy but that doesn’t cover up the pain and trauma I have experienced from my cesarean birth. It’s isolating and frustrating to deal with such guilt that surrounds your child’s first breath outside of you.”
“My son was born via C-section 5 years ago. I was very sad and unhappy with that birth. I struggled with postpartum depression. I put that birth in a box, put it on a shelf and left it there. I was so focused on my second birth being completely different, I forgot about that box on the shelf. It’s still there.”
“I was (and am) very grateful for my c section because it was what my twins needed to survive. But it is a terrible experience. The healing was awful in ways I wasn't expecting.
I think because I knew from so early on that it would be a c section and there were so many other fears and obstacles in the pregnancy, that I never honestly thought much about the cs aspect. Just accepted it and moved on. I do remember the day of them asking when I wanted my IV placed and I simply replied "I'll leave that up to you. So many awful things are going to happen to me today, I can't plan them all." And the actual operating room was a chaotic mess that was not comforting or welcoming. I remember feeling sad for anyone who only had that as an experience.”
“I'm still a little angry. I guess it's hard to be too angry when you have a healthy baby but I feel like they should have known he was sunny side up or maybe could of offered assistance with some other tools. I think the thing that makes me so upset is the feeling that I was "high" after the surgery and felt like I was going to drop my baby/felt out of it. Other than that and the recovery being tough aka shitting softballs from the pain meds (real sparkly haha) I also feel like having a csection may have limited the amount of children I can have because of the increased risk which is why a vbac is so important to me this time. It makes me feel like I'll be in control more.”
“I wouldn’t consider myself angry about how my son’s birth went, but I feel detached and somewhat indifferent about it and the fact that I have these feelings about it makes me angry, if that makes sense.
Having watched The Business of Being Born and done some research I had reservations about being induced but figured I'm healthy, everything is fine, I won’t be a statistic. What happened in actuality was everything I didn’t want happen and was anxious about. One intervention led to another and 36 hours into labor I was rushed to the OR for an emergency c section because baby’s heart rate kept dropping and my body was fighting the induction. My son was born at 430 on a Friday afternoon which seems ironically convenient for hospital personnel.
I hate that things went exactly how I didn’t want them to go. I think to summarize I feel like I was sidelined at an event where I should have been the MVP.”
“My body failed me. It made me feel absolutely horrible. It was the worst pain in my entire life. Seeing all the blood was horrific. I never thought I’d feel so disappointed in myself for something I had no control over.”
“I think my biggest thing was being ashamed of it. My first birth was perfection. Seven hours, unmediated, out within 3 pushes. My daughter was not that simple. She was transverse and needed to be taken at 37 weeks to avoid harm. Although my birth wasn’t traumatic, I felt more embarrassed that i was unable to have 2 natural births.”
It’s a mystery to me as to why there are so many taboo subjects when it comes to motherhood. So much judgement. Maybe it’s because we are so scared of fucking up our own children, that we try to bring down other parents, other mothers, for their decisions and their methods. As a way to guard ourselves? To make us feel more secure in our choices? I think that’s one of the most common forms of self-defense in our society. Bringing others down to bring oneself up. And that’s really shitty. Really, really shitty.
From conception to pregnancy, birth, and beyond, the opinions and disapproval of others on these subjects is endless. I want to break down some super common motherhood taboos in a short series in an effort to break them. While the formal definition of taboo according to dictionary.com is something that is ‘proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable’ I think in modern terms a taboo is something that makes us uncomfortable or something that we feel needs to be explained or defended. A break from the ‘norm’ (whatever the hell that is) So let’s talk about them. Let’s explain and defend them and then let’s make them the norm.
"It does not matter how
your baby is born.
Every single one of you
is a champion."
How you give birth.
I can’t tell you the number of times I've heard a woman tell her birth story and, probably without even noticing, defends or excuses her birthing choices.
“I had an epidural…. but I made it to 8 cm and had been laboring for 24 hours…”
“I had a cesarean….because my son was sunny side up and he wasn’t tolerating contractions anymore
“I had an unmedicated birth, but I was only in labor for 5 hours”
Ladies, women, mothers, birthing people… YOU DO NOT NEED TO DEFEND YOUR CHOICES IN YOUR BIRTH. You do not need to prove anything to anyone. You do not need to give reasoning for your choices. You do not need to downplay your experience. It does not matter how your baby is born. Every single one of you is a champion. A warrior. A goddess. A freaking magical, magnificent, miraculous divine being who created, grew, and nourished another life inside of you and then your body brought them earth side. Maybe with the help of modern medicine, and maybe in your home, and maybe in your car, and maybe in the woods behind your house. And that is amazing. That should be celebrated. No matter what.
It’s like we have this invisible pressure put on us to have a specific type of birth. And if it doesn't happen then we already feel like we are failing at motherhood. How fucked up is that? Like motherhood and postpartum isn't hard enough, but now our first order of business is to torment ourselves with how our birth somehow wasn’t good enough. That’s bullshit. The only person whose opinion about your birth that matters, is you. So if you feel disappointed, sad, traumatized, about how your birth turned out, that's ok. But feel those things for yourself, not because society says you should.
And for the love of Patrick Swayze, do not ever shame or belittle another woman, mother, birthing person, for their birth.
Don’t tell a pregnant friend, who might already be choosing to get an epidural, that going natural is the best choice for her and her unborn baby.
Don’t tell her that she doesn't get a trophy for doing it unmedicated, because she may have already decided to forgo one.
Don’t tell her a horror story about a cesarean that an acquaintance had, because she may have already decided to schedule one.
The judgement has got to go.
So how can we work on fixing this? You may not even be aware that you are being judgy, but pay attention to your words and your language, it matters and it makes a difference. Be conscious when you're listening to someone else's birth story and make an effort to give them non-judgmental support. I mean truly non-judgmental. Don’t give them a reason to be defensive. Listen without an agenda and let them process their birth on their own terms. We need to support each other and build each other up because this life is hard enough on it’s own, we don't need to make it harder.
There is no right or wrong way to birth, there is just your way.
Christine reached out to me on facebook wanting to share her story. She recently suffered two miscarriages and struggled with a deep depression after her losses. When Christine sent me her letter that she wrote to her two angel babies, she said it was therapeutic for her to write. This isn't the first time I've had someone tell me that. It makes this blog even more important to me. Not only are women able to share their stories to help console and validate other women, but they can find release in sharing their stories with all of us too. Thank you Christine!
Dearest Babies in Heaven,
Angel, it felt like forever, after your brother was born in 2013, that we had waited for you.
You came to us February of 2016. Your older brother would be turning 3 in just a few
short months. From the moment we had known of your existence we were madly in love
with you. Everything we thought about was in regards to your life and the life we would
share together as a family. We were so beyond excited to tell your older brother about
your coming into our lives and sharing with our families that after almost two years ( what
seemed like a lifetime) we were finally going to be able to grow in love with an addition to
our ever growing family. My dreams of the house being filled with the sound of our
children laughing together in our home and growing up together was finally coming into
fruition. We took Easter pictures to announce our excitement, never did it cross my mind
that we could lose you, and announced to our families the weekend of Easter, when I was
10 weeks along. We were so over joyed with your life that not once did it cross my mind
that you could slip away from us so easily. It was not until the following weekend that I
knew something was not right. It was then that we found out that our joy and your life
were brought to a complete halt. The sorrow I felt for your loss was the most
indescribable pain. Your father and I were dragged into the pits of despair and a new
form a grieving overcame my very being. A deep depression ensued as your father tried to
carry the weight of our pain by doing everything he could to lift my spirits. I cannot say
the pain has or will ever fade.
Angel, four months after your passing, as we begged God to grant us the graces of hope
and faith in Him, we cautiously conceived our first rainbow baby, Jude.
Jude, the joy again was real but the anxiety was also very real. Every morning I felt as if I
was waiting for bad news and yet I was so over joyed with your presence. We rejoiced
quietly and prayed for you silently. Friend’s of ours were announcing the coming of their
little ones yet we kept you our secret. Hiding morning sickness was never easy and those
who caught on wanted to share in your presence and announce your existence to world.
Your fragile being seemed so unstoppable. I would read and reread the statistics claim
that there is only a 2% chance of miscarriage twice in a row and hold on to the hope that
you would not be apart of that 2%. On the 12th week of pregnancy, in November, it all
came crashing down. Again, a loneliness and grief over took my being. I wanted to hide
away from the world. I felt that I had let you down. I would countlessly blame myself for
not doing more to avoid your passing. Regrets of things I had done and things I could
have done better flooded my head. The grief felt everlasting. The sweet babies being born
this May 2017 are a constant reminder of your absence and my empty arms. Not a day
goes by that you are not on my mind. We will always be thinking of you Jude and Angel.
We promise to keep you alive in our hearts and souls. You will not be forgotten. Your
moments here with us were so very special and I am so grateful we were able to share a
moment together in this world. Know that we pray for you and hope that you pray for us
We will alway love you, forever and for always, no matter what.
Mom and Dad
I graduated from Wyoming Catholic College in 2011, married the man of my dreams in 2012, and had my first son in 2013. I am originally from the Chicago land area, moved to Wyoming for four years in college, and I know live with my husband in Delaware. I am a mother of a four year old and expecting our second in November. I am an entrepreneur, and have a screen printing company called Go Tees ( www.gotees.co) and a Pro-life boutique called Cherub Bella (cherubbella.com).
Katie's birth story is not one that's too uncommon in the birth world, unfortunately. An array of interventions and days on end of slowly progressing labor. Add in a low platelet count that denied her an epidural and things get hard and exhausting quick! So many factors of her birth could have been prevented if the lines of communication between her and her provider were more open. She felt so removed from her own body and that made this whole experience even harder. Her message is important. We need to ask questions. We need to know our options. Katie ended up asking for her medical records after this whole experience and she recommends you do the same if you have any questions at all. Thank you for sharing your story with us Katie, I hope that it can help us pave the way for more empowered and informed births.
When I found out I was pregnant, my husband Luke and I decided not to find out the gender. This is still one of my favorite parts of the whole thing. We were cautiously excited to share the news of the pregnancy with family and friends, still recovering from an early miscarriage the month before. My pregnancy was smooth. I was under the care of an OB, and decided to switch to a small practice in my area in hopes of more personalized care. We had our monthly, then bi-monthly, then weekly checkups as everything progressed!
Although I was under the care of an OB, I was focused on having an intervention-free, unmedicated birth. An acquaintance of mine told me of her success using the Hypnobabies techniques years before I became pregnant, and I decided that this was definitely something I wanted to try. I also took prenatal yoga and a natural-focused birth class led by a doula. During my pregnancy, I switched to a vegan diet from vegetarian.
My husband was super supportive of my approach to the pregnancy. He picked up extra chores around the house so that I could fit in Hypnobabies or prenatal yoga during the evenings. I poured over books and blogs and websites about childbirth, especially unmedicated childbirths, successful birth stories, really anything I could get my hands on! I could not get enough of learning about how amazing our bodies are throughout this entire process. During the childbirth class, we covered all aspects of labor, delivery, and breastfeeding. While interventions and cesareans were covered, I was so incredibly confident that my birth would go according to my plan, I just didn’t pay too much attention to those parts.
As my due date drew closer, my doctor began discussing an induction. Still, I was completely convinced I would go into labor on my own. Finally, at 41 weeks and 2 days, I scheduled my induction at the hospital. My husband and I switched our thinking as quickly as we could, trying to make the best out of this new situation. We downloaded “The Walking Dead” to watch in the hospital, decided an epidural would be the best route, and started planning. My husband was working out of state at the time, so part of our decision was knowing that if we didn’t do this now, the chances of him being out of town if/when I went into labor would continue to increase. We were scheduled to go into the hospital on a Thursday night, and we were as ready as we could be! Then, ONE HOUR before we were scheduled to arrive, the hospital called and said they were full. We were shocked, no one said this was even a possibility! Our options were to have the hospital call when they had a bed open that night, or go to bed and try again the next day. We chose the later. The next morning, we touched base with the nurses and were told that we’d get a call at some point that day. At this point, I was really starting to doubt the decision to go with an induction. If this was so necessary to a safe delivery, then why could it be pushed back and rescheduled? However, I knew that everyone was ready to get this baby out, and we decided to just keep with the original plan. Around 11:30 the following morning, the hospital called and we were all set to go in. The hospital is about 15 minutes away, and our bags had been packed, so we arrived around 12:30 in the afternoon.
This is when everything really gets turned upside down. My husband and I got into a room, I changed into a gown, and the nurse drew blood and I was hooked up to a monitor. I will never forget this next moment… our nurse walked into the room with a very disheartened look on her face and said that my platelets were too low to have an epidural, and we would have to continue with the induction without one. I was very surprised and disappointed that my doctor had not come in to discuss this or any of my options moving forward. There is an increased risk with bleeding if you get an epidural with low platelets, and my platelet count was below the threshold that the anesthesiologist was comfortable with. This is something we were not prepared for. I have since requested copies of my medical records from my pregnancy and delivery (something I highly recommend!!!), and low platelets were noted in my records, but never shared with me during any prenatal visit. This is a condition called gestational thrombocytopenia that can occur during pregnancy. All I knew about pitocin at the time was that the contractions were strong, close together, and your body was not able to “deal” with the pain in the same way as it can with naturally occurring contractions. I was terrified. My nurse hooked me up to the pitocin, started at a low dose that increased throughout the afternoon, and we were on our way to meeting our baby. I was not even 1cm when I was induced, and due to the induction being pushed back, my OB decided to skip any other induction medications and go straight to the pitocin. Maybe 30 minutes later, an anesthesiologist came in looking very somber. He shared that I had signs of preeclampsia and would need to have an emergency cesarean under general anesthesia because of the low platelets. Ok, now even more terrifying! Luke and I decided to just go through with the emergency cesarean and tell our families after the fact as to not add additional stress. We then called our nurse, and she came in looking very confused. The doctor had the wrong patient. Apparently there was another person with the same first name who had this situation occurring. After that we got a slew of apologies from the nurse and the charge nurse, but never from the anesthesiologist.
I was laboring for a few hours on the pitocin and handling the contractions well. I tried using Hypnobabies, but honestly at that point everything had just been turned around and changed up so many times I could not concentrate enough for anything to be effective. My husband and I were halfway through a Walking Dead episode when I felt my water break around 5pm. We were very excited that labor was moving along! However at that point, the contractions intensified immensely. This is definitely when things start getting very fuzzy in my memory. I have very few memories of the entire night as I labored. My husband was amazing, and only left my side to get refills on my ginger ale. When Luke would walk down the hallway to get me a refill, he said the nurses kept their heads down and didn’t look him in the eye. At that point they had been hearing me throughout the night. I remember the only way I could get through a contraction was to “catch” it as it was beginning. I developed a breathing pattern that worked as well as it could. If I didn’t get ahead of the contraction, I would just bear down and scream through it. Due to the pitocin, the contractions would come a few at a time, and I do remember watching the monitor and seeing a new contraction starting and just feeling completely defeated. As the pain and intensity of the contractions increased, the nurse offered a pain medicine called Stadol. She said that this would help take the edge off of the contractions, but I could only get 2 doses so I had to really wait until I was ready to use it. I was progressing, and at 4cm at about 7pm. Luke was so fantastic supporting me during this time, I honestly don’t remember most of it. I did decide to go ahead with the Stadol at some point, and Luke said I would be very out of it in between contractions, and then wake up and begin working and breathing through them. At around 9pm I was at 6cm. Things continued on, I was at 7cm at 12:30am, and at 9cm at 2:30am. The nurses were fantastic, but Luke did so much work. I was bleeding and passing clots throughout labor, and he changed countless chuck pads. He helped me walk to the bathroom, we very quickly learned how to unstrap and restrap on the fetal monitor. I stayed at 9cm for hours and hours, and my OB decided to turn off the pitocin around 8am to just take a break and see what was happening. I had been stuck at 9cm for about 6 hours still having intense contractions. At that point, Luke and I were both exhausted, I was in so much pain and the contractions were so non-stop, I couldn’t even talk or form a thought until the pitocin wore off. In between contractions, the pressure from the baby’s head in my pelvis was so intense, it hurt just as much as the contractions did. My OB decided to take my blood one more time to run the platelet count to see if there was a change. This time, they had gone up slightly and there was an anesthesiologist willing to do the epidural. Our amazing nurse waited outside of the OR to grab him as soon as he was out to come to us. I will never forget him walking in and saying “Normally I’d have the patient just tough it out at this point”. Wow. So I got an epidural around 9:30am, and my OB decided to let me rest for a few hours and then come back and check for progress. Luke and I slept for 4 hours and it was one of the highlights of the whole experience. At 3:00pm, I was finally at 10cm and ready to push.
I remember being so excited and determined when it was time to push. Our nurse was great and coached me through how and when to push. At that point, I was loving the epidural and didn’t want to feel anything so I was relying completely on the nurse and monitor to tell me when to push. The machine that gives the epidural stopped working at some point, but was fixed quickly. So one hour passed, still pushing, then two hours, then three hours. At 3 hours, the OB came in (she had been checking in periodically) and gave me 30 more minutes to get this baby out. In retrospect, I think she knew he wasn’t coming. Due to the epidural, I was on my back in the hospital bed and did not try any other positions to push. After 3.5 hours of pushing, the OB called it and said it was time for a cesarean. Luke texted our family, who had been in the waiting room since I started pushing. There was an emergency cesarean who had to go in before us, so we were pushed back a little bit. We were well known in the L&D unit at this point since everyone on the floor had heard me screaming for the past 24 hours. A few nurses on the floor came in to say hi and check in while I was being prepped for surgery. We went through our third and final shift change, which made for our 4th nurse, and then it was time to go to the OR. The cesarean went fine, and our sweet baby BOY was born at 9:10pm. He was 9lb. 1oz. Luke texted pictures to our family, but waited to tell them the gender until he went down in person. Our baby boy, Cole, had aspirated some meconium so he went to the NICU for an hour for monitoring. We are incredibly grateful that Cole was so healthy after such a long, traumatic labor and birth. Luke split the next hour between Cole, our family in the waiting room, and me in recovery. After about an hour, the nurse brought Cole to me and the three of us made our way to the recovery room. It breaks my heart that Cole spent the first hour of his life away from me and Luke. I still look back on Cole’s birth and just feel sad that I don’t remember most of it. I don’t remember him coming out, or his first cry, or who said, “It’s a boy”. I was so looking forward to skin to skin, and breastfeeding for the first time, and those other precious first moments, and I didn’t get them. Luke remembers, so I still ask him questions about what happened from time to time.
Once Luke, Cole, and I had settled into the recovery room, our families visited for a few minutes around midnight. I remember asking repeatedly when I could nurse Cole, it had been 4+ hours since he was born, and the nurse kept saying his sugars were too high or low (I can’t remember), so he kept getting heel pricks until they were stable. Then I could finally nurse, which I also don’t remember. Another nurse came in a few times throughout the night, and would wake me up to ask when she could take Cole for a bath. At some point I just said to take him. None of those first hours with him went like I had imagined or hoped.
Recovering emotionally from my birth has been a process that I am continuing to work through. I feel like so many things were taken away from me during my birth, and with information from the medical records, I also feel like I wasn’t given all of the information necessary for me to make a completely informed decision regarding the induction. Once I was in the hospital and in labor, I was unable to have any sort of conversation with my OB regarding interventions being used or any questions or concerns that arose due to the pain. There is so much that I wish I did differently looking back, but I am getting to the point of feeling that we made the best decisions we could with the information we had, and after going through so many interventions. The night following Cole’s birth is a complete blur, I remember so little of his actual birth and the first few hours of his life. I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I just wanted to eat and sleep. Requesting my medical records is something that I really recommend for anyone who has similar feelings. I requested records from the hospital, and my prenatal records from the OB office.
I recently read an article in support of women whose births did not go as planned. She drew the comparison to a graduation ceremony. No one would ever tell a recent graduate who missed graduation that it didn’t matter because they still graduated. It is acknowledged that the act of walking across the stage is a hugely significant, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even though you still have a degree, you still missed that moment in time that you can never get back or recreate. That is how I feel, that the birth I wanted and the first hours of my son’s life were taken from me.
I am able to look back and think of some of the things that went well. Even though I disagree with a lot of the decisions our OB made during the whole process, I do remember her putting my hair in a ponytail, which was nice. The nurse that was with us during the cesarean asked me what Pandora station I wanted to listen to during Cole’s birth. This is one of my favorite memories. He was born when one of my absolute favorite songs was playing - “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show (originally by Bob Dylan - fun fact). Our nurse that was with us while I was pushing came and visited a few days later when we were recovering. This quote has also helped me process through many of my feelings regarding my birth experience and how I am moving forward. “Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created” Esther 4:14. I am in the process of starting an ICAN chapter in my area, and look forward to connecting with other mothers who are also recovering from their birth experiences. So while everything did not go as planned, and there are moments that I regret and moments I will never get back, I continue to focus on healing from the experience, being proactive in planning for future births, and growing a community of support in my area. My goal in writing this is so that other mothers going through a similar experience feel supported and understood. It’s so frustrating to hear repeatedly that a healthy baby is all that matters. While this is true to a degree, what happens to a mother during birth is also an important, life altering experience that should be respected.
I'm Katie! I live near Annapolis, MD with my husband (Luke), son (Cole, 1.5), dog (Patrick), and 6 chickens. I was a special education teacher for 8 years, and am now a behavior specialist for a local school system. I'm also a vegan and all about that lifestyle, while my husband is an avid hunter and fisher. When Cole goes to bed, I enjoy crocheting, drinking wine, and watching "The Office". Instagram: @theherbivoreathome Facebook: Katie Peternel
I recently sat down and watched When The Bough Breaks. A documentary about postpartum depression and mood disorders. Being a doula and having taken a class on postpartum mood disorders I consider myself pretty educated on the subject. But after watching this documentary it made me realize there is still so much that I don't know. Seeing women and families first hand speak of what they went through and what they are going through still, was so eye opening and so heart wrenching. These brave women bear their souls in an effort to normalize postpartum mood disorders and to encourage others to seek help. 15-20 percent of women suffer from some level of PPMD in the first year after birth. And that's only the documented cases. That is a HUGE number. PPMD are treatable and preventable if you know what to look for and how to reach out for help. I encourage everyone to watch this documentary in order educate yourselves. So that you can help someone going through it or offer sympathy and empathy to someone who you might not have understood before. If you've dealt with a PPMD yourself, this film can offer solace. If you are currently suffering, you are not alone. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
I reached out to Lindsay, the Executive Producer of them film, so that she could talk a little bit more about the films purpose and her hopes for it's impact. Please give her interview a read and then check out the documentary. It can quite literally save lives.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and give a summery of When the Bough Breaks?
Hello! My name is Lindsay Gerszt. I am one of the producers and executive producer of When The Bough Breaks- a documentary about postpartum depression. The film is also Narrated and Executive Produced by Brooke Shields. It is a shocking film that uncovers this very public health issue which affects one in five new mothers after childbirth. I agreed to let the cameras follow my story and journey to recovery. We also meet women who have committed infanticide and families who have lost loved ones to suicide.
Babies are dying, women aren't speaking out and the signs are being missed. When The Bough Breaks takes us on a journey to find answers and break the silence. This film also features stories from singer Carnie Wilson, actress Tanya Newbould, celebrity chef Aarti Sequeira and Peggy Tanous of The Real Housewives of Orange County
What is one thing you learned about postpartum mood disorders while making this film that you didn't know prior?
There is so much that I learned about postpartum mood disorders that I did not know prior to making the film. The one thing that I was truly shocked about was how many people suffer in silence because of the fear of being judged or looked down upon. Because of this, they do not get the help they so desperately need. On the films facebook page, everyday I share someone story. So many write to me and say they have not told anyone before but because they read others stories they now realize they are not alone and are ready to share their story. It is a powerful feeling for them to see the response and how many can relate. If YOU want to share your story please send it to me on our facebook page. I would love to share it!
What's the best piece of advice that you would give a new mom who's just coming into her postpartum depression?
The best advise I would give to a new mom struggling with ppd is to get help right away. Talk about it and reach out for help. There are many treatment options and when you find the right one for you, you WILL get better! Also please be kind to yourself. Having a baby in itself is so difficult. Add PPD to that and I know somedays you feel like you just cannot do it anymore. Please remember this is temporary and your child will not remember your struggle.
What's the biggest misconception society has about postpartum mood disorders?
Unless society is educated about what the different forms of postpartum mood disorders are, they will think they are all the same; which is dangerous. In fact there are many forms; ranging from the baby blues to postpartum psychosis. I suffered from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD along with ptsd from my delivery. My recovery was based on particular therapies for these disorders. On the other hand, someone experiencing postpartum psychosis can lose touch with reality and can be in serious risk of harming themselves and/or their child. Their treatment is very different from mine and if not treated properly can result in tragedy. We must understand the different disorders and help our moms find the proper treatment.
What is the main message you hope to send to those suffering from a postpartum mood disorder through this documentary?
The main message I hope to send to those suffering from postpartum mood disorders through this documentary is that there is hope. Up to 1 in 5 new mothers will experience some form of a postpartum mood disorder. With the proper treatment you will get better. When I was suffering I did not know how or when I would recover. I thought the depression would last forever; that I would never bond with my baby. I felt like it was somehow my fault that I got it and that noone would understand what I was experiencing. I remember one day after the medication started to work, I felt a sense of relief that I had not felt before. With therapy and medication I did get better and with the proper treatment so will you! Open up, share your story and educate yourself.
To someone who has a loved one going through it?
If you have a loved one who is suffering please watch When The Bough Breaks and educate yourself on postpartum mood disorders. It is so important that you show your support to them and let them know you are there for them. Postpartum depression is a very lonely illness. We feel like no one will understand what we are going through and often lose friends and push away family. Sit with them and let them know you are there even if they can't be there for you. Ask if you can help with anything; whether it is bringing food over or watching the baby so the new mother can rest. Most of all tell them you support them and are there for them. Tell them that they do not have to go through this pain alone. By doing this it may save a life.
When The Bough Breaks is available now on Netflix, Itunes and most VOD platforms in 70 countries.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a postpartum mood disorder please get help
or visit http://www.postpartum.net/
And never hesitate to reach out to me! MotherhoodTabutiful@gmail.com
Lindsay Lipton Gerszt was born and raised in Miami, Florida. In 1997, she graduated with a BA from the University of Miami, where she majored in Communication and Sociology. Because of her love for music and the arts, in 1997, she began her career in Los Angeles at Capitol Records doing A&R. In 1999, she worked at MCA records and in 2003 she worked as a music manager at The Firm. Lindsay had the pleasure of working with, managing and doing PR for some of the biggest artists in the music industry.
In 2007, she stepped back from the music industry to begin her family. It was at this stage in her life that she came face to face with postpartum depression. She has now committed herself to raising awareness for PPD, it's many faces and the path to a healthy life and family. Her commitment to PPD has included working on the important documentary...When The Bough Breaks-a documentary about postpartum depression. This work has included fundraising, producing and telling her story, along with helping other women tell their story. This work has become her passion.
Today I'm sharing the last installment of Kate's three part story. I've talk about her card line for parents of loss and I've shared her birth story. This last post is the story of her own miscarriage and the spark behind her company. This story was originally posted on her personal blog and she's allowing me to share it here with you all now, in order to bring awareness to miscarriage and to help other parents going through loss in some of their hardest days. Thank you for opening up to me Kate and for allowing me to tell your story.
A couple weeks ago, I shared the complicated birth story of our son, which had been on my heart for a few weeks now. This story though, our miscarriage story, has been on my heart for over a year. I have wrestled with it, worried about coming out with it, but ultimately felt that I should share about the experience. And now, it's finally time.
Having a baby is not an easy thing. I think our culture has instilled this belief that trying to get pregnant is a simple and quick event that doesn't take much effort. For some, this may be the case. But for the vast majority of friends and family in my experience, the pregnancy process is one that takes time: months, if not years, in some cases, and the path is often riddled with waiting, worry, doubt, and trials along the way.
Our situation was no different. It took months of planning, of deciding we were ready, coming off birth control and waiting, and then months of trying before we were actually pregnant. And then I was like everyone else - I had this preconceived notion that since I had a positive pregnancy test, in 9 months I would be holding our little bundle of joy. There was no trace of doubt, no concern in my mind.
I had morning sickness to start, but slowly, it started to dissipate. I didn't think too much of it; I was just glad to be feeling better. The morning of our first appointment came, after weeks of waiting from the initial positive pregnancy test. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and didn't know why, but I couldn't shake it. On the way to the doctor's office I asked Jonathan, "What if there's something wrong?" He couldn't believe I was even asking that... Why would there be anything wrong.
Our first appointment was at a new OB's office, and although I would love to air my experience all over the Internet of what a poor excuse for a medical practice this place was, I'll refrain. I will say that they did a horrendous job "caring" for me, and I feel like I still should be upset with my experience there, but instead, I will choose to be grateful. If I hadn't gone through my miscarriage at that office, I would never have found my current OB, who expertly and safely delivered our son this past February, and is a complete and utter blessing from God.
My poor experience started with my sonogram. The RN wasn't even finished "looking around", if you know what I mean, when she gave us the news: there was a baby... but no heartbeat. I was in for my standard 8 week appointment and she said it looked like the baby had stopped growing at 6 weeks, 1 day. I was then diagnosed with a missed miscarriage. Basically, your body hasn't figured out the fetus has died, and carries on like you're still pregnant.
Tears filled my eyes and I couldn't believe the news we were just given; in that moment the gravity of our situation was crushing. She continued the sonogram, and managed to start telling me about my "options" while she finished up. Horrible, I know. She left the room, and I just looked at Jon. He shook his head and whispered to me, "How did you know?" Now looking back on that, I cannot think of anything other than a Mother's intuition. How could I have possibly known? Since then, I have trusted my gut feeling more often than not. I just wish that I had been wrong on that particular occasion.
1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
A staggering statistic, I know. I'm not including this statistic to insight panic, but to simply show that miscarriage is common. More common than we think, and more common than we would probably like to acknowledge. To me, miscarriage is like this dirty little word that no one wants to mention; we don't want to think about it if it hasn't happened to us. But the truth of the matter is that it's real, and it's something that will effect many, many mothers...a friend, a sister, an aunt, maybe even your own mother.
So where did this leave me? I left that office with the worst possible news. I was pregnant and carrying around a baby, but that baby was dead. I couldn't help thinking that my body had failed me. It hadn't figured out what it needed to do. Now, in the situation of a missed miscarriage, you really have two options: you can wait for nature to take its course, or you can use some type of medical intervention to help that process along. There are pros and cons to both options really. Ultimately, it came down to choosing the "best" option for our family, and for my specific situation.
I could go into what my options were, how I chose, and what exactly it was like, but really, that's not important. Everyone's journey is different, and if you feel like you must know about the options, Google has all of those answers. I also don't think it's worth sharing my own decision process in case you're reading this and in the midst of a miscarriage yourself, hoping for a clear answer in a blog post. Believe me, I did A LOT of Googling after my news, (mainly because I wanted my diagnosis to be wrong, when it unfortunately wasn't) and I wanted clarity. I wanted desperately for someone to tell me what to do, and all I will say to that is: you need to make that decision on your own. No one situation is the same, and deep in your heart, you have the answer, no matter how scary or difficult that may be to face.
In the end, I wanted to feel like I had control, a small sense of power over this absolutely uncontrollable situation, so I opted for an outpatient surgery, what is known as a D&C.
During all of this, we told no one. It was a deep, dark secret we carefully buried in our marriage. I'm sure it was hard for Jonathan, but it absolutely wrecked me, and tore me apart from the inside out. It felt like there was now a small, baby-sized hole growing steadily larger in my heart that could be filled by nothing. The grief was horrible, and something I felt no one could understand. I had never before struggled with depression, but I now know how hard and horrible that darkness is.
I felt like the loss of that child would swallow me up into a pit of despair. And if I'm honest, it did. It's hard to admit, especially in the midst of the situation, but I needed help. I sought that out in a family counsellor, who helped me immensely, and I would recommend to anyone going through a miscarriage to do this, or to seek help in your own way. Healing on your own is incredibly difficult, and in retrospect, I wished I had sought help sooner. I could go on and on, about how hard and difficult that experience was, and I by no means wish to take lightly what I went through. But I choose to believe there was purpose behind it all.
I had my D&C at Sharp Mary Birch, the same hospital that I could praise up and down for keeping me hospitalized for 43 days during my last pregnancy, the same hospital that delivered my son this past February, and that kept him safe in NICU for 5 weeks after he was born. But when I had my D&C there, I had a much different experience at Mary Birch, one that was unfortunately, much less than stellar.
After my surgery, I came out of anesthesia and the first sound I heard was that of a crying baby. Not the best sound to wake up to when you've just had a surgery to remove your own deceased child. I didn't know it at the time, but Mary Birch was going through some remodeling, so unfortunately those mothers recovering from a D&C, were in the same room as the mothers recovering from a C-section. Not great planning on the hospital's part, but maybe it couldn't have been avoided. And when I was discharged, I was given paperwork about the procedure and about my specific physical recovery. However, I was given no paperwork on my mental recovery, and as I explained earlier, I desperately needed it.
Months went by before I felt strong enough to speak with a family friend about the situation. Cheri Kuptz, what a blessing she was, suggested a couple of things to me after listening to my story. First, she thought it would be good for me to write the hospital a letter - to explain my situation and that even if no one read it, at least it would bring me a little closure from the whole experience. So after a lot of prayer and speculation, I finally sat down, wrote a letter and sent it off to Mary Birch.
I was not expecting anything in return from that. So when my phone rang, and the head nurse from Mary Birch was on the other line wanting to speak with me about my letter, I was completely shocked. (By the way, I want to mention that it's a total testament to the hospital that someone followed up with me. It just goes to show that they really care about the patient experience.) The nurse took 45 minutes and walked me through each and every single one of the points I had made, and was deeply moved that I had even bothered to write my experience down, much less send it their way. She explained to me that the recovery room was a temporary solve, and that she knew how hard and traumatic that must be for patients to wake up to that situation, but that they did already have plans to separate out those recovery rooms specifically for that purpose.
We also talked about the discharge policy for D&C patients. She said it was up to the patient's recovery nurse to determine whether or not that patient received paperwork regarding grief counseling and their mental recovery. I mentioned that not all people may show signs of their grief immediately upon waking from anesthesia. In my case specifically, the grief didn't hit me until a week or so later (not to mention, I'm probably also too proud to let a stranger know when I'm having a hard time). She thought I made a good point, and said she would talk to her supervisor about issuing the brochures to every D&C patient. Again, I didn't think much of this. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a package in the mail a couple of weeks later with a letter letting me know her supervisor had approved that request! She also sent over the papers and brochures these patients would all be receiving so I could see them myself.
After months of depression and grief, I finally felt like there was a silver lining from this whole experience. If my miscarriage was able to help just one mother like me who was suffering the same fate, then I felt like there was purpose behind my situation. I'll never know why that baby didn't survive. But I choose to believe that God had a plan, and as corny as it may sound, maybe the loss of my child was for the sole purpose of helping other women to not experience a soul-crushing grief in the same way I did. At least, that is what I will hope for.
Love Letters to Miscarried Moms: Written in the Midst of My Grief So That You Will Not Be Alone in Yours.
By Samantha Evans
So the other thing that came from my earlier conversation with Cheri Kuptz, was her recommending I design something around my miscarriage experience. I dragged my feet, wasted time, and ultimately tried to put off what I was being called to create. We came up with an idea for greeting cards, to gift to those specifically struggling with miscarriage.
While I was going through my own personal ups and downs, I purchased a book: "Love Letters to Miscarried Moms: Written in the Midst of My Grief So That You Won't Be Alone in Yours" by Samantha Evans. This book was SO impactful during my struggle, and through its pages was a woman who had experienced exactly what I had - the crushing loss of a child. I cried and sobbed through the pages of this book, but it was so cathartic. It let me confront my grief and understand it (and I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling with miscarriage or knows someone who is).
In the book, well in the title even, she coins the phrase "Miscarried Mom". I love that. I think it's important to note that as soon as you're pregnant, and I would even argue probably at the moment you decide you want to have children, you become a mom. Just because you don't have a physical child in front of you, and even because you may have lost your baby to miscarriage, doesn't make you any less of a mother. And don't let anyone make you think otherwise! We need to get rid of the notion that you have to have children to be a mother. There are so many of us, hoping, willing, praying, and wishing for a child, and I think that in and of itself defines the very start of motherhood.
From this idea has come my first line of greeting cards: The Miscarried Mom Collection of our Noble Greetings. Specifically designed for those women struggling with miscarriage, infertility, pregnancy-related issues, and those trying to navigate the difficult journey to baby. These cards came to life because of an initial prodding from Cheri, but I think that idea ultimately came from the good Lord himself (as I'm sure Cheri would attest to).
After much prayer, design, and procrastination, they are finally here! I'd like to think they are one-of-a-kind, as I haven't seen anything like them available, and I am just so proud to finally be sharing these with the world.
"God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling"
So, I am so in love with these cards. But there is also one other note I want to mention: A portion of the sale of each card will be donated to the charity Miracle Babies. Miracle Babies is a charity that strives to provide financial assistance to families with critically-ill newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; and to enhance the well-being of women, children and their families through education, prevention and medical care. Miracle Babies were so impactful to us during our stay in the NICU at Mary Birch. Not only did this charity help to support us emotionally, as well as financially, while Sebastian fought to come home, but their founder, Dr. Sean Daneshmand, was the physician who diagnosed me with vasa previa (and all the other millions of conditions I had while pregnant... seriously, read our birth story.) while I was on bedrest at Mary Birch. We want to give back to them in any way we can, and donating a portion of the sales of these cards seems like the least we can do. That donation will go straight to families just like us, who have babies in NICU fighting to come home.
So there they are, the Miscarried Mom collection of greeting cards by The Noble Paperie. And now time for ALL THE FEELINGS. Terror, joy, love, excitement... A leap of faith: for finally coming out with our miscarriage story, for finally designing these cards and feeling like I'm literally putting a piece of my heart out on the Internet. These cards are so personal to me, to my own story and journey, but I didn't create them for that. I created them because I know the Miscarried Mom's heart, inside and out. I know how hard and debilitating that time in your life can be, and how all we want to do is sweep it under the rug, ignore it, not talk about it, and run away.
And I'm here to say, I think that needs to change. I think it's worth wearing our heart on our sleeve for once, and letting our community, our family and our friends surround us during our time of struggle. And maybe these are just greeting cards, just pieces of paper, but I'm hoping and praying they will be more than that. I hope they can comfort and console the woman with a Mother's heart, at any point during her journey to baby. I pray that even though we lost our first child to miscarriage, that that baby's life can be glorified by helping to lift up those walking in the same struggle.
Feel free to share these cards with people you know, share your own story by dropping me a line here, or leaving a comment. My promise is that I will personally read each one of them. And last but not least, if you're in the midst of your own miscarriage or infertility story, deep in the trenches of your own personal journey to baby, I'll leave you with this:
Don't worry. God is never blind to your tears, never deaf to your prayers, and never silent to your pain. "Be patient. He isn't finished with you yet." - Philippians 1.6
Kate is a 30-year- old mom of one, currently living in San Diego, California and is passionate about designing beautiful paper products for those with a Mama’s heart. Kate graduated with a BFA in graphic design and printmaking from Notre Dame de Namur University, a small private school in the bay area. In 2011, she accepted a position at a San Diego-based pharmaceutical advertising agency and worked tirelessly to become an award-winning art director. Pharmaceutical advertising can be very clinical, and Kate needed a creative outlet. She founded The Noble Paperie and started designing bespoke wedding invitations. After a miscarriage and an incredibly difficult pregnancy, Kate’s goals for her personal life and business immediately changed - turning The Noble Paperie into a greeting card company with cards specifically designed to spread hope and joy to those struggling with miscarriage, infertility, and pregnancy-related issues.
In case you missed it I did a spotlight on The Noble Paperie earlier this week. I mentioned then that I would tell the rest of Kates story this week through a few of her personal blog posts. The first of those posts is the story of her complicated pregnancy and birth. I can be caught saying this almost daily, but it will never cease to amaze me the strength of a woman's body and what lengths we can go to, to create life. Kate's story and what she has been through to become a mother are inspirational and a true credit to her strength and faith. I hope through sharing her stories you will get a better feel of how much heart she puts into her work and her products.
As a new Mum, I have felt called to share our story and my journey through motherhood.
A big part of that journey is the story behind our pregnancy and sharing that has really been on my heart for the past few weeks now. Some of those close to us know about the complications that led me to 5 months of bedrest (6 of those weeks were in a hospital), an unexpected delivery at 32 weeks, and an additional 5 weeks in the NICU for our sweet, baby boy.
But most people don't know about any of it. And I'll even venture to say that some people close to us probably don't know or understand the extent and severity of our entire story.
We didn't share what was going on, and during that time, I took an extended leave of absence from social media... And really, the internet. I didn't feel like publicizing what we were going through. I didn't want people to know we were struggling, and I certainly didn't want to advertise about our [very] complicated pregnancy with the possibility that something truly terrible could have gone wrong. Now that we're on the other side of it all, I feel like it's finally time to share.
I also want to preface this post with an obvious statement that I am not a doctor or medical professional. This was purely my story, my experience, and what I have learned during my journey. Please do not interpret any of the following as medical advice, and if you're reading this and going through a tough pregnancy yourself, I pray that you are surrounded by a well-educated medical staff that can help bring your babe safely into this world. So with that said, if you're truly interested, and want to invest a little time (I apologize in advance, as this is not a quick story), I'll gladly tell our son's birth story. So here it is, poured out of my heart, in tiny digital letters for you to read:
It all started with our miscarriage really. Yes. A miscarriage. Even as I write those words, I don't really believe it happened. But it did. And we were covered with an insurmountable amount of grief. I intend to share much more about that experience as well, and even though it's where this story begins, I believe it deserves space and explanation all on its own.
As the doctors told us, we needed to keep trying. And we did. Finally, we were given the news that we were expecting, and we were given the due date of April 3rd. I don't think Jonathan or I could believe it. This was THE SAME EXACT DAY we had lost our first to miscarriage, only a year before. I should have known right then and there that this child would certainly be a gift from God, but I think it took us having to experience this pregnancy as a whole to truly find that answer. It's only in light of the end that the process makes sense.
At 17 weeks, the complications began. One Sunday evening, I felt my water break. At 17 weeks, I knew this was far too early, and that we needed to get to the hospital immediately. After several hours, the nurses were concerned enough with my situation that they admitted me. I don't if you have ever had a stay in the hospital, but let me tell you, I think one of the scariest moments of that ordeal may have been when I was first admitted. The fear of the unknown seemed far greater than anything that could possibly lay ahead.
Over the next three days, I had tests and more tests, medicine, IVs hooked up to me, and what felt like scan after scan to check fluid levels and to make sure baby was alright. It all came to a head on the fourth day. One of the tests came back with some unfavorable results and my OB came in to walk us through it.
She told us the outlook was grim: it looked like I was leaking amniotic fluid, and because I was only 17 weeks, it was about 7 weeks shy of being able to use medical intervention to save the baby. She told us it would ultimately be our decision as to what to do, but she wanted to give us all the facts, plain and simple first:
If we kept on with the pregnancy, this baby would not be the same baby we saw on a scan only a week earlier. Babies need amniotic fluid to grow, develop, eat, and survive; not having enough causes serious complications for the developing child. If we kept going despite that, we needed to know our child would be severely deformed and would likely be disabled on multiple levels.
We also needed to know the danger I would be putting myself in if we continued. If I caught an infection (which was a major possibility since my water had broken), not only would they have to terminate the baby, but if I then became septic from that infection, my uterus would need to be removed and I would never again be able to have children. So while the choice was ours to make, I don't know how much of a choice there really was in any of those circumstances. So our OB prepared us for the worst. But before we would make any decision, we would have one last ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.
The wait for that ultrasound may have been the longest of anything I have ever waited for in my entire life. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I of course cried, how could I not... but was then told not to cry because it supposedly puts stress on the uterus and could cause me to leak even more fluid. Okay. So don't cry. That sounds easy enough with the information we were just given.
Finally, we were taken in for our ultrasound and as they wheeled me in, I prayed for a miracle. Not just any miracle, but a miracle to keep this baby in, for him to be healthy, and for my body to heal itself from whatever trauma it had endured to put me in this predicament. The specialty Doctor, a perinatolgist named Dr. Tiff, looked at the scan and couldn't believe what she saw. Not only was there enough fluid in there for our little guy, but my fluid level had increased by an entire centimeter within 6 hours! I don't think the doctor knew what to say. She repeated another test herself, and managed to say, "at this time I cannot recommend you terminate the baby". Even though that may have been the most clinical answer we could have received, it was nothing short of a miracle to us.
After reviewing the test results herself, our OB concluded that I had PPROM (Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes), which she thought was most likely a small, high leak in the amniotic sac which had managed to seal itself up.
PPROM occurs in fewer than 3 percent of pregnancies, and is usually accompanied by other risk factors that can attribute to the condition (none of which were applicable to me). Rarely, the break in the membranes heals and the leakage of amniotic fluid stops on its own, which is what had happened in my case. Where I wasn't able to find exact statistics for how often a seal-up happens after a rupture, from what research I did, I gathered it was far more likely for the baby to be delivered than it was for the membranes to seal up.
Our OB prescribed two weeks of strict bedrest at home. Although I cried when I was admitted to the hospital, and after 5 days with ALL the ups and downs, I was now crying that I had to leave. The hospital was safe; and I knew that if something were to happen, we were in the best hands possible. It took some major convincing (and prayer) to feel like home would be a better option.
Two weeks of bedrest at home came and went without a hitch. We were scheduled for an additional ultrasound to check fluid levels one last time and I passed without any issues. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all flew by, and I was actually looking forward to returning to work on January 3rd, after being out of the office since the 15th of November.
On Sunday, January 2nd, I woke in the morning with what I was sure were contractions. I thought it best to stay in bed and see if they would go away on their own. After about an hour, no such luck. I got up to go to the bathroom and (if you're squeamish, skip this paragraph) had what I can only describe as a massive bleed. I don't think I need to remind anyone, but for the record: any type of blood during pregnancy is a very worrisome thing. Back to the hospital we went.
The previous time I had gone into triage, I was monitored and then admitted after about 5 hours. This time, it took the nurses all of 15 minutes to assess me, check baby, and wheel me down to a labor and delivery room to be admitted. Whatever was going on was very serious and I needed to be in a delivery room, and in close proximity to an operating room in case I was to deliver.
At this point, I was exactly 27 weeks gestationally: three weeks past the age of viability, but one week shy of a 99% survival rate if baby was born. High risk started there... And the issues kept coming. I was put on bed rest, hooked up to an IV of magnesium sulfate to stop the contractions, and was visited by our on-call OB that prescribed other medication to stop labor as well. I was also scheduled immediately for an ultrasound.
A few hours later, Dr. Daneshmand, head of Perinatology for San Diego (and an absolute Saint of a human being), wheeled us up to the fourth floor for our ultrasound. After a thorough examination, he gave us our diagnosis:
Ultimately, I was diagnosed with Vasa Previa, as defined by What to Expect When Your Expecting as "a condition in which some of the fetal blood vessels that connect the baby to the mother run outside the umbilical cord and along the membrane over the cervix. When labor begins, the contractions and opening of the cervix cause these vessels to rupture and can cause fetal death." I'll be the first to say that this is an extremely broad explanation of the condition.
From my understanding and experience with the incredible nurses and doctors at Sharp Mary Birch, I found that for me, Vasa Previa could be broken into three tiers:
Tier one of Vasa Previa was essentially the growth of an abnormal placenta. In a normal, healthy pregnancy, the umbilical cord grows out of the center of the placenta. In my case, the cord had instead grown abnormally out of the side. The placenta, being the baby's only life support in the womb, cannot function properly and cannot correctly sustain the baby during the pregnancy with such an issue.
Tier two in my case, was caused by a bi-lobed placenta. This means that as the baby and placenta grew, the placenta managed to split into two parts and was held together by tiny, fragile stands connecting the two pieces together. This was extremely dangerous; if any of those strands ruptured, it would essentially mean the baby would suffocate to death within minutes.
Tier three was what was called velamentous cord insertion. This is where the abnormal placenta comes back into play. Since the umbilical cord grows out of the side of the placenta instead of the middle, it is able to traverse down the birth canal and get stuck in between the baby and the cervix. This is a problem on its own, but it causes (if you can believe it) further complications. The umbilical cord is strong, and is surrounded by a super tough jelly that protects the cord from being torn or crushed in utero. When velamentous cord insertion occurs, this jelly disappears and the cells of the umbilical cord implant themselves into the amniotic sac. This leaves the cord highly susceptible to damage. Any damage to the cord (my water breaking, contractions, basically... labor of any form) means rapid fetal hemorrhage or suffocation, and ultimately death.
I'm a visual learner, so for all of you out there that read the previous paragraphs and don't have any idea of what I'm talking about, I've included a diagram below to better illustrate exactly what Vasa Previa is, and specifically how velamentous cord insertion works. My condition specifically was a combination between the two images below. Also, please note that our babe (of course) was breech, not head-down for the majority of my time during bed rest at the hospital.
Now Vasa Previa is extremely rare, occurring in about 1 in 5,200 pregnancies. It's even more rare if you conceive naturally (the incidence rate rises in IVF or IUI pregnancies). If it goes completely undiagnosed and a mother progresses to labor, the fetal mortality rate is about 95%. So, if I haven't hit you over the head with it enough, our little boy was in some serious danger.
And if you can believe it... my issues didn't stop there. To top it all off, I also had a blood clot on my cervix which had ruptured, causing a partial placenta abruption (and what they think had caused the initial bleed that brought me in). The doctors were incredibly impressed. Not only were they shocked that we had conceived naturally, but they had never seen this many complications present in one pregnancy. Great. At least I wouldn't be the boring patient on the high-risk floor.
So what did this all ultimately mean for me? I think it goes without saying that me, but more specifically baby, were in some serious trouble. We found out that day that I would be staying in the hospital until delivery. This time, I had been admitted at exactly 27 weeks, and if I could stay pregnant, they would plan to deliver our sweet son via c-section at 35 weeks (anything past that risks labor starting or your water breaking on your own). That meant an incredible 8 weeks of bed rest. Let's just let that sink in for a second. 8 weeks of hospital living, of not going home, not sleeping in my own bed, not cooking or eating what I wanted, not WALKING, not having a baby shower, not getting our baby's room ready... Of not having anything remotely close to a normal pregnancy.
I felt like I was being denied so many things at this point. But I was suddenly reminded that God knows exactly what we need, often times before we do. I remember when we had been admitted at 17 weeks, and they had talked to us THEN about being in the hospital until I delivered! I remember telling Jon that that amount of time in the hospital would be so difficult, but that I knew there was no way I could do the holidays in that hospital. I could not do Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in a hospital bed. And wouldn't you know it, the good Lord knew I wouldn't be able to handle that.
While sitting here writing this post, I was reminded of a verse: "And God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10.13) He only gives us trials he knows we can handle and overcome. I was home for the precise amount of time I felt I needed - released from my first admittance two weeks before Thanksgiving, and re-admitted the day after New Years. If that's not a promise that there is a God, and that He has our best intentions at heart, I don't know what is.
Even with that promise, it doesn't mean that my road during that hospital stay wasn't paved with trials and tribulations. I'll be the first to quickly admit, it was incredibly hard. Probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I'm sure there were days where I was at my absolute worst, and it's a huge testament to my family and friends, the doctors and nursing staff, and especially to my devoted and loving husband, who all helped me stay strong.
I'll save you the ups and downs of my hospital stay. I don't have enough time to explain it all here, so I'll summarize it this way: it was full of some really high highs. Like when all my college roommates (including two of them who were pregnant themselves!) made a trip down from San Francisco to San Diego and stayed with me for two full days! Or having my OB come and visit me EVERY. SINGLE. DAYUMN. DAY (Despite her absolutely insane schedule). Id also like to mention that she was a total gift from God, and don't have time to share all about her here, but I know that she was TOTALLY part of His larger plan.
My stay was also filled with some really deep lows. All of the drugs and medications I had to be on, the lack of sleep from being disturbed every 4 hours around the clock for medication or monitoring. Pretty much constantly being in labor for over a month. Or IV day. Oh my sweet Lord Jesus, IV day. I have a very irrational fear of needles. That was the absolute worst, and literally, I'm breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about when they would need to change out my IV. *Massive emotional shudder*
I'm realizing now I could go on forever about all of this, so I'll get to the point. It all came to a head on Super Bowl Sunday, at exactly 32 weeks. 32 weeks was the first goal our OB had given us. She said at 32 weeks, our babe would be small, but he would be healthy and anything past that gestationally, was just a bonus. By 9pm that night, I was in full blown labor. Now where I was actively having contractions on the daily, that night they were coming in full force... Like every 3 minutes.
As I already mentioned, labor was extremely dangerous for our little one. So the nurses pulled out all the stops. I was given every dose of my medication, nifedipine, which is actually a blood pressure medication but is also indicated to slow contractions during pregnancy. I was given my normal dose... plus the maximum additional doses. I was also given a shot of terbutaline, which triggers the "flight or fight" reaction in your brain. It stops labor immediately... But it also really boosts your adrenaline, causes high blood pressure, and some major heart palpitations. I was put back on an IV of magnesium sulfate, which also helps to stop contractions and has the added bonus of protecting our boy's brain if we were going to deliver. Those nurses did everything - and I mean EVERYTHING they could to keep that boy inside.
I managed to last another 4 days. At 32 weeks and 4 days, I couldn't keep him in any longer. I was up at 4am answering work emails when the contractions started again (yes, if you're wondering, I worked the entire time I was in the hospital, and I'm also totally insane). By 6:30, I was in full-blown labor again and the nurses made the call. They contacted my doctor, and I called my husband - we were going in for delivery.
Both my OB and Hubby made it to the hospital and were in my room by 7am. I was prepped for surgery, and we were wheeled down to an operating room. While the OR was being prepped, Jonathan and I just happened to see two familiar faces scrubbing up for a surgery. Dr. Tiff and Dr. Daneshmand, the only two perinatologists that had consulted on our case just happened to be prepping for a surgery themselves. I couldn't hold it together any longer. Both of these doctors were SO impactful during our stay, and I believe it was a little love note from the Lord that we were able to see them both before we delivered.
Surgery started at 8:11. Almost immediately, my placenta ruptured. It was imperative to get that baby out quickly, and within 5 minutes, he was taking his first breaths. On February 11, at 8:16 am, I heard our son's first cry. Our OB quickly lifted him over the curtain for my husband and I to see him, and then he was handed off to the NICU team who were patiently awaiting his arrival. He was here. He had all 10 fingers and all 10 toes. He was safe. After all that we had been through, he was finally here.
And he was BIG! At 32 + 4, he weighed a whopping 4 lbs. 9 oz. and was almost 19 inches long! This was a gigantic baby for that gestational age. All of our prayers had totally been answered. I had prayed (given our circumstances) for a healthy, and heavy baby. And we were graciously granted miracle after miracle.
Sebastian was born on February 11th, a day specifically chosen for him by the Lord. On a side note, this day happens to also be our dear family friends Steve and Cheri Kuptz's wedding anniversary. And I don't believe this is any coincidence. These two were a major part of our journey while we were in the hospital, they were our most consistent visitors, they were a major source of prayer, and they have been a massive part of our lives, as the two of them were the ones who presided over our own wedding ceremony five years earlier. God had put our support system in place long before we knew we would need it, and we are SO thankful for them.
So to be clear, Sebastian's fight wasn't over really. He did another 5+ weeks in NICU, which was on its own another incredibly difficult experience. It's probably something I'll write a blog post about some day. Or maybe I'll write a book about all of this instead? Who knows what the Good Lord has in store for us! Either way, I wanted to get his birth story out in the open, to have people understand a little of what we experienced to bring this babe into the world.
I wanted to share my experience of a tough pregnancy, to give people hope, and to also show that not all pregnancies are easy. Creating life is not a given, and it's something that I would like to shed light on, to call attention to, because so often I think we forget. We forget what a gift it is to create new human beings. It's not always simple to get pregnant, to carry to term, or to deliver that babe safely into this world. Not only do I think that growing a life is a gift, but I also know that there are millions, if not billions of things that have to happen in your body for that baby to arrive safely...and that is a mind-blowing thought all on its own.
But I'll leave you with this: I have come to realize that God's timing is incredibly beautiful. He is always setting us up for His bigger picture. I cannot describe the subtle nuances of our story in any other way than that we experienced a few of the Good Lord's miracles. We are blessed beyond measure to have had such an incredibly trying, and at the same time, absolutely incredible birth story for our son. In hindsight, even with all of the ups and downs, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Sebastian is completely loved and adored, and I know with complete certainty that he is meant to be here. He is our little miracle baby, he made it to us, and he is a constant reminder to always be thankful for this wonderfully beautiful life! It is something we should cherish. What a gift we have been given! So thank you! Thank you to our family and friends for your support, for covering us in prayer during our journey, and for loving on Sebastian. And thank you to everyone else, for letting me share our son's birth story - I am hoping you got here, to its completion, and above all, I hope it brought you joy!
Kate is a 30-year- old mom of one, currently living in San Diego, California and is passionate about designing beautiful paper products for those with a Mama’s heart. Kate graduated with a BFA in graphic design and printmaking from Notre Dame de Namur University, a small private school in the bay area. In 2011, she accepted a position at a San Diego-based pharmaceutical advertising agency and worked tirelessly to become an award-winning art director. Pharmaceutical advertising can be very clinical, and Kate needed a creative outlet. She founded The Noble Paperie and started designing bespoke wedding invitations. After a miscarriage and an incredibly difficult pregnancy, Kate’s goals for her personal life and business immediately changed - turning The Noble Paperie into a greeting card company with cards specifically designed to spread hope and joy to those struggling with miscarriage, infertility, and pregnancy-related issues.
Today I'm doing a spotlight on The Noble Paperie. Similar to the one I did a while ago with I Had a Miscarriage, Kate created a company of greeting cards targeted towards parents of loss. Kate has been through a lot of trauma in motherhood and in dealing with her heartache she noticed the same void in the card market that Jessica noticed. Instead of ignoring that void, Kate turned her heartache into something beautiful and purposeful. She created a line of support cards for The Noble Paperie.
Kate was kind enough to send me some samples of her products and I cant enunciate enough how well made they are. The quality is so high and the details are so thoughtful (the back of every card has a custom design!). You can tell that she takes care and pride in each design that she creates.
Some of her cards are filled with heartfelt words and other use humor to help mend the wound. And if you're like me, humor is the way to my heart. And also adult beverages ;) So the options are a welcomed detail of her shop.
A portion of the profits from these cards goes to Miracle Babies, a charity whose mission is to provide support and financial assistance to families with critically-ill newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; and to enhance the well-being of women, children and their families through education, prevention and medical care. If the cards weren't great enough on their own, I'm all about supporting am amazing cause.
In the next coming days I will be sharing more of Kates personal story that lead to the creation of these cards. I'm so thankful for people like Kate who use their own personal struggles to help others. I hope you check back and follow along with her journey and that you use her shop to help comfort parent in need. Sometimes just a small 'hey, I'm thinking about you." can make a huge difference in someone's grieving process.
With that I will leave you with The Noble Paperie's mission statement
"Our mission is to spread joy and hope to those with a mama’s heart, who are struggling through miscarriage, infertility, and other pregnancy-related issues. We believe that becoming a mother starts when you prepare your heart to have children – not the actual manifestation of a child. Our paper products are designed with love and care to support, advocate for, and inspire a community to live with joy through the journey."
Like a lot of the stories I share through social media, I stumbled across Shonni's story on Instagram. Her image was so beautiful but her words are what really took my breath away. This is from the post that introduced her to me.
"My life is no laughing matter, but I thank God that He always finds a way to bring laughter into my life.
I have debated this moment for MOOOOONTHS! I am currently pregnant, surprise! Well not only that, but I am also fighting for my life and that of my child. In this war, I have had to make some hard, scary, humbling, not 100% certain decisions. I have stage 2 breast cancer. I don't tell any of this for sympathy, text messages, or for myself. I share this because as I have embarked on this journey I have not been able to find as many resources to help ME along the way. I have spoken to people with cancer, but not pregnant. I have had cancer the entire time I have been pregnant. What came first the chicken or the egg? WHO KNOWS! Apparently, the way cancer is set that its always in your body, but it started losing its damn mind to a point where it was noticeable on Friday morning, October 28, 2016.
I tried to be optimistic, but I felt in my heart it was cancerous. So, the adventure of finding out and getting a diagnosis began. It was the hurry up and wait affect. NOVEMBER 22, 2016, it was confirmed that I had stage one breast cancer. WHAT IN THEEE HELL IS GOING ON! I had just lost 40 some odd pounds and was getting my sexy together for 40 and beyond. I thank God that I lost enough weight that I could find it when I did.
Needless to say, I was scared, but I said let's tackle this. I scheduled my appointment to have a bilateral mastectomy with a reconstruction so that I could truly come out a better model than I did going in. I cried and cried and prayed, and cried, I cried while praying, and I cussed. Finally, on December 19th the day before my surgery God and I had an amazing talk on the way into work and I was ready to take this thing head on. OH...to appease my fake clairvoyant husband who said he dreamt I was pregnant, I took the test to work. I knew it was just a formality to quiet him and move on with the surgery. I knew God would not put a child in the middle of this mess. So, I got into work and took the test. Well, y'all know how that turned out. I say this exactly "God, are you fucking kidding me? Sorry God! Thank you for this blessing."
She is fighting this disease with humor and grace and I'm so thankful that she was willing to share her story with you.
I TALK A LOT! I mean A LOT, but it’s funny that when I was asked to write for this blog I was like say wheeet, what do I say? What do I write? I was asked to write something inspiring and from the heart.,
so here it goes. GO KICK CANCERS AZZ!! That is what I can tell you. Cancer is an invader and it wants to take you from everyone you love and care about. It isn’t a cold that’s like a cousin who doesn’t want to leave for a week or two, it is a robber. It is coming for you, and it also is coming to place a void in your family. THAT IS UN-A- DAMN-CEPTABLE! So, get your crew, get your weapons (mine have been my prayer, laughter, and random writings) and go to work on cancer. Let it know that no one comes to take from you, because Your house is guarded by God. Cancer might have gotten in, but it can’t and won’t stay. Fight to exhaustion, and then let your friends get some licks in while you recoup. It’s like wrestling, remember World Wrestling Federation(WWF), when wrestling was real. They would tag their teammate in to get their breath, but sometimes they would double up right before the one tagging out left. LOL!! I can see me tagging my Kevin in as he dives in off the top rope. The visual it cracking me up.
I fight for me, because daggone it I am breathtakingly wonderful, and if God chose me for this it was because He needs me to win this for the kingdom and not just myself. So, in essence if he has me, and I have already won, I just have to go through the process. It’s almost like you have the job because your friend owns the company, but you have to go through the formalities and hiring process before you start work. I also fight for my unborn child (Zoe), my first born Kelsi, and their co-creator, my ace, Kevin.
This rode even with an entourage of loved ones can get lonely. You feel at times that no one
understands or can understand, and most cant. I have spoken to many cancer survivors, but they were not and are not me. They have persevered and overcome, but none were pregnant with cancer. Even the ones that were, were staged differently. I mean you find all types of cockamamie reasons to keep saying to myself I am different. Yes, you are different and your body will respond differently, but you need whatever they had to win. Listen, learn, be humble, but fight this fight your way, because your lesson isn’t their lesson. Honor your feelings!! If you are mad that you have one boob, be mad!!! Don’t let anyone tell you it’s okay, or downplay it. You had plans for that boob dammit, even if it was just to hang lower than the other, and how dare something or someone take that from you. I am mad for you!
Now that I have 4 ill-written paragraphs I am unsure what I have said to encourage, but I can tell you this, I am here fighting with and praying for you. We all have a cancer fight. We all have something in our lives that is trying to overcome us, whether its abuse, weight, depression, unemployment, kids, or low self-esteem. IT CANNOT HAVE YOU! You have one great life to live and as soon as you finish this last sentence I expect you to get to living it! You still reading I said start after the last sentence, stop procrastinating!
DeShonjla "Shonni" Peterson is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mom, and pregnant with Stage 2b breast cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2016 and discovered she was pregnant with her second child the day before she was scheduled for a bilateral mastectomy in December. That's when it hit the fan boys and girls. She chose to have a unilateral mastectomy while pregnant, but forego chemo until she birth her daughter. You can follow along with her Instagram @Logan2kelsi
I started following Sarah somewhere in the third trimester of her pregnancy. She had the most adorable bump and such a great outlook and positive words. She was planning a homebirth and I was sitting idly by hoping that she got to tell the story she had planned for. And she did! Her experience inspired her and her husband to create the Doing it at Home podcast all about prepping for a home birth. But in spending her time and energy preparing for birth, she almost forgot about what happens afterwards, motherhood. She has done an amazing job sharing her story and being open with her struggles and her balance. And I love this story she wrote for you all. I hope you can find comfort and encouragement in in her words.
I was one of those pregnant women who focused a lot on birth and not so much on what would
come afterwards. We chose home birth (and started a podcast all about it), and while I was at
peace with the decision, there was just this huge feeling of not knowing what to expect. My mind could barely wrap itself around the idea I was growing a human inside of me and then said human would launch out of my body. To then think about the rest of my life and my ability to sustain, raise and teach her afterwards...that was such a faraway and foreign concept.
So much of my preparation and mindset work centered around birth. The vision, who would be
there, the music we’d play, how long it would be, how I’d move through contractions, what I
would say and do when baby made her grand entrance.
It was easy to forget that the race wasn’t over after I gave birth. Birth was just the opening
ceremony (pun intended). It’s a great thing pregnancy is 10 months, because it took that long for me to really process what was happening. And just when you think you’ve got the whole pregnancy thing down, you’re thrust into this world of motherhood. Motherhood.
I’m a balanced lifestyle coach and trainer, so in the few years before becoming pregnant, I had
been working on striking the best sense of “balance” for my life and what that looked like. I will
readily admit that I had some romantic expectations of what life would be like on the other side
of birth. I imagined gliding gracefully in and out of my roles of mother, wife, coach, entrepreneur,
friend and family member, and oh yeah the role I have to myself - I call that my Queen role. My
husband and I are both entrepreneurs and work primarily from home. So I pictured us tag
teaming baby duty and having enough time for all the things we want to do in our businesses,
whilst having carefree quality family time together, day in and day out.
And I won’t say that NOTHING has looked the way I envisioned. That wouldn’t be accurate and
would be a little dramatic from where I sit. I am experiencing all the things I wanted. However it
has taken some fun twists and turns and some days I have to look extra hard to see the
resemblance of what I thought it would be like.
My sense of “balance” has, at any given point in time since motherhood began, been rocked to
its core. It’s been shattered, pieced back together with dollar store glue, beat up some more,
dragged around and mushed into the dirt and then been rinsed off with toilet water. I know that
sounds intense, but that’s just been a part of it (and I emphasis a part...not all of it). It’s amazing
how motherhood presents this whole pandora’s box of contradictions. Like how you can feel like a superwoman in one moment and then within the same day manage to sink yourself down into a pit of despair and helplessness. The line between “I got this!” and “I suck” can be very thin
I remember nights in those first couple of weeks of postpartum - boobs engorged, organs
floating all around inside of me, vagina doing her best to heal, eyes heavy and burning from lack of sleep, legs and underarms were hairy and neglected...you get the idea. And just crying.
Crying for no reason. Thinking, “What the HELL am I doing? In what universe did I ever think I
was ready for this? Do I even want this? How do other women do this?”
Having a baby has magnified everything in my life - the good, the bad, the in between. For
myself as an individual, my partnership with my husband, my work, my friendships. It’s a true
transformation, one that you can feel like is happening to you rather than with you as a lead
creator and orchestrator of your life experience.
There’s even a balance to how you share your experience of motherhood - what you tell
yourself about it and what you tell other people. For me, it’s been about acknowledging the real,
the uncensored and raw reality of what’s showing up. Then taking that, processing it with my
current understanding of who I know myself to be (my mission, values, identity) and how I see
the world. That allows a shitty situation to just be a shitty situation, and not something that
overtakes your whole perspective - mind, body and spirit.
There were deeply intense days in the beginning of being a mom that I felt completely
disconnected from who I was and what I was doing. I didn’t feel the intuition, the instinct that
bonds you with baby with this knowingness of “This is exactly what’s supposed to be
happening.” And I judged that. Shouldn’t I have transitioned full-heartedly into this experience I
designed and chose for myself?
There are moments when I feel like a fraud, like when I haven’t entered into REM sleep for days
because the baby is waking up every 90 minutes to nurse, when there’s shit all over my house
(sometimes literally), when dishes stay unwashed for more than a day, and I’ve worn the same
leggings for a whole week. When I’m a high functioning zombie person. I have moments of
scarcity when I feel like this reality reveals me as an imposter. How can I coach someone on
balance when I have moments of hanging on by a thread?
What helps me get out of that rabbit hole of funk is the reminder that all of this is moment to
moment choice. And giving myself gentle kindness and grace. I actually think I’d be less
qualified to study, practice and coach on balance if my vision of it wasn’t challenged and tested
So now that motherhood is here, and there’s no going back, I can decide how I want to move
forward. For me right now this looks like taking a moment. One moment, each day, for balance.
A Balanced Mama Moment. Making my own self-care, well-being and sanity as big a priority as
feeding my baby. I ask for help. I take deep breaths. I drink lots of water. I stretch before going
to sleep. I share gratitude with my husband when we sit down to dinner.
I take all of these moments and string them together to create the fullness of this experience
that I call life, and the sense of balance that works best for me.
So here are 5 things I leave you with that you can do to get back to balance and create a bit of
peace in your day (throw your own spin on them and make them work for you!):
1. Affirmation in the mirror like “I am a powerful divine goddess,” or “I love and accept
2. 10 deep breaths (they go a LONG way)
3. Saying out loud something that you are grateful for right now in this moment
4. Some quick form of physical movement to break the pattern of what’s happening - it
could be jogging in place, hopping on one foot, squatting...move something!
5. Listen to something that empowers you - a podcast, YouTube meditation, even a song
Sarah Bivens is a balanced lifestyle coach, trainer, podcaster and mamapreneur. She works with mamas who are looking to create their own sense of balance through healthy living, mindset and self-love. She also co-hosts a podcast on home birth with her husband Matthew called Doing It At Home. She lives in Atlanta, GA with Matthew, their daughter Maya and their smelly adopted hound Watson. To learn more and connect with her, you can visit sarahbivens.com or follow on Instagram @sarahmbivens