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
When I first created this site I didn't know if I would ever talk about my difficult journey postpartum. It's always much easier to tell other peoples stories than it is to tell your own. And while I have talked a little about my ups and downs postpartum on Instagram and in blog posts, I've never told this part of the story. Mostly because it's really personal and also because my family sometimes reads this stuff and I'm about to get real intimate with yall. (I'm bout to talk s.e.x.) So if you're my mom or dad or brother you should probably stop reading now. Seriously.
Tonight is the eve of my first baby's eighth birthday. Eight. Eight years ago my life flipped upside down and right side up in all the best ways. Eight years ago I learned what it meant to love. Eight years ago I started a journey that would lead me to start this blog and share these stories and connect women around the globe through our triumphs and our struggles and our unwavering, unbreakable bond that we share in motherhood. This is my story.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a mother. I think I stopped playing with dolls when I was like, 13. So when I got pregnant at 20 I wasn’t scared. Sure I was young, and sure I didn’t have my shit together (I'm 28 now and still waiting for that shit to get itself together) But taking care of a tiny life, becoming a mom, that was exciting.
I remember after Peyton was born my husband kept saying ‘Im supposed to be looking for signs of postpartum depression’ like aversions from the baby or maybe not ever wanting to let her leave my side. I was fine. I loved her, and being her mom felt every bit as natural as I had always expected. I didn’t care when other people held her or fed her. I didn’t freak out when I had to go back to school full time when she was only two months old. There were no compulsive thoughts or feelings of inadequacy. I was fine.
But I wasn't fine. Not completely.
Reading the birth boards I was on there was always that woman, the one who couldn't wait the 6 weeks to have sex. Are you actually crazy? Sex was so far from my mind it was in like, Pluto. Like, back when Pluto was a planet, far away. Far. Far away. I tore terribly with my first. I ripped upwards and every day tasks such as peeing, were torturous. I literally had to fill up the tub and sit in it every time I went pee for the first two weeks postpartum. So yeah, no sex for me please and thank you.
And that’s normal right? I mean I wasn’t even technically allowed to have sex for 6 weeks anyway, and most of the other women on the boards all thought those 2 weekers were crazy too. So I’m still normal.
And then 6 weeks came and I reluctantly had to tell my husband that I was ‘good to go.’ He was thrilled, me, not so much. We tried. It hurt. Like a mother fucker (no pun intended). Awful. And that was normal too, right? I was still healing from a bad tear, I had still just given birth (to a 9 lb baby might I add) It would probably take some time. But how long? Every time it hurt and even worse than it hurting was the fact that I still didn’t want to do it. The thought of being touched made me cringe. Every night we would climb in bed and I would pray that he would just go to sleep. And when he stared kissing me, I would cry. I would silently cry while we attempted to have sex. I say attempted because every position still hurt. I was broken.
So here I am, in pain, with zero sexual desires, and all I could do was feel awful for my husband. I loved him, I was so very attracted to him, I wanted to want to have sex with him. I just couldn’t. I constantly said ‘it's’ not you, it’s me’ and I’m not sure he believed me because how shitty does it feel when your partner feels repulsed by the thought of being intimate with you? It must feel really really shitty.
I thought it may have been because of my postpartum body. I was fat and jiggly. I had stretch marks. My boobs were massive and much much lower than they once were. I was unhappy with how I felt and looked. And as much as he would assure me that I was beautiful, I didn’t believe it. So that must have been it.
But it had to be something more than that because not only did I not want to be touched, I didn’t want to touch him. I didn't know what to do. I was so scared that it would never go away. That I would never want to be intimate with my partner ever again.
This wasn't just a lack of interest in sex. It wasn't because I was wiped out at the end of the day from parenting and being a full time student and would rather sleep. The thought of being touched made me cry. The fear that he would try something would debilitate me. Going to bed was the worst part of my day. And then it just got to the point where he wouldn't even try anymore. And I was thankful. I was thankful that my partner didn't want to have sex with me. That he gave up on me. These are not normal feelings. This was not normal.
After about 9 months I graduated and moved home. I began to take care of myself. I started exercising and eating non poor college kid (with a kid) food. I started feeling like myself again. I took long walks with my daughter, I went out with friends, I got into a really great place both physically and mentally. And somewhere along that road, it all went away. I can’t remember if it was a gradual thing or if all of a sudden one day I was like ‘maybe we should have sex?’ and it was all just fine. All I know is that I was finally ok. And that was the best feeling ever.
When I got pregnant with our second I was terrified that it would happen again. I couldn't go through that. We were in such a good place and we were happy and I loved him and I never wanted to feel like that ever again. Thankfully it never came back with either of my next two pregnancies.
I learned to love my body in all of its stages. I learned to appreciate motherhood and what it’s done to me. I joined The Fourth Trimester Bodies Project to help encourage other women to love themselves and their bodies. I've tried to maintain a healthy balance of eating crap and eating carrots, and binge watching netflix and going for runs. I spend most of my time with my kids but I make time for myself. I found my dream job and in between the drama of life I'm mostly really very happy. Taking care of you is the most important thing you can do. Because if you're tired, or unhappy, or broken, then what use are you going to be to those who depend on you? And that's what this whole thing taught me.
I don’t have an official name for what I went though. I don’t know if it was postpartum depression, or anxiety. I don't know if I was touched out or if it was sexual aversion disorder (Whos initials are SAD... how appropriate) I never talked to anyone about it and I never got help. I can tell you that it’s not something that just happens after you have a baby. It’s not something that you should ignore and hope it goes away. So if you are going through this, reach out and get help because no one should ever have to just ride that out on their own. Postpartum is hard. It’s really hard. It’s normal to be tired and to be sad sometimes. It’s normal to take time to get back to how you felt before. But it’s not normal to be miserable. In any aspects. Never be afraid to speak up and reach out because I can guarantee that there is some else out there who has felt what you're feeling. Don't postpartum alone.
My name is Ashley and I'm the face behind the blog. I'm an almost 30 (esh, still haven't come to terms with that) mom of three living outside Washington DC.
I went to school for fashion design, but after having a baby my senior year, my high fashion dreams took a hiatus and that's OK! Because it lead me to where I am today, and that is a mother and a Doula (for the amazing team at Doulas of Capitol Hill). And that lead me to create this space that has become so important to me!
I speak sarcasm fluently, drink coffee through an IV, and I have a deep and possibly borderline obsessive love towards all things Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I truly believe that kids should spend their time being kids and adults should spend more time learning from them. I never take anything too seriously and I try to live life with my cup half full (of wine) My playlist is a perfect mix of 90's pop and Taylor Swift and I'm imaginary best friends with Blake Lively (girl get at me). In my free time (of which I have SO much) I can be found grammin over at @thepeanutgallery