The rocky path to my rainbow
BY BETHANY LORENE
Pregnancy is so physically and mentally difficult, even without the added fear of loss. Mothers go through so much to conceive, to nourish their babies while they develop in utero, and to bring them earthside. All of this is before the baby is even outside the womb, and the real job of parenting begins! Mothers are superheroes, I’m convinced.
My small experience with miscarriage and pregnancy after loss has opened my eyes to the experiences of so many of my fellow mothers. For something so “natural” that seems like it is so easy, the road to a healthy full-term pregnancy can be incredibly difficult and heartbreaking. Many women have miscarriages, and still they find the courage to carry on with life, care for their other children, and try to conceive again. Many mothers undergo IVF treatments, injecting themselves hundreds of times, undergoing multiple surgeries, sometimes for years on end, before they finally hold their babies in their arms. Some mothers face the unthinkable and endure the still-birth of an otherwise perfectly healthy baby, just weeks away from their due date, and yet, they find the strength to continue living. Mothers are able to withstand so much, and still remain strong.
“Many women have miscarriages, and still they find the courage to carry on with life, care for their other children, and try to conceive again.”
Last year I experienced a miscarriage, perhaps one of the hardest few days of my life. I felt like the ground fell out from underneath my feet; everything that I was so sure of suddenly felt so unreal. How could this happen to me, after 2 healthy pregnancies? Even though I knew many friends who had miscarriages, I naively assumed that I would never experience one myself.
It was so early, and I remember thinking in those painful moments: “Well, at least this happened now, and not when I was 30 weeks pregnant.” But something I realized is that all miscarriages are deeply, deeply painful. Whether you were pregnant for 8 weeks or 8 months, you carried your baby in your womb, and that baby meant the world to you. That baby was your future.
“When I started bleeding and suspected I was losing our baby, I went to the hospital to make sure. I hadn’t even had a prenatal appointment yet, so I didn’t actually know how far along I was. I thought I was eight weeks, and by that time, there might have been a heartbeat.”
When I started bleeding and suspected I was losing our baby, I went to the hospital to make sure. I hadn’t even had a prenatal appointment yet, so I didn’t actually know how far along I was. I thought I was eight weeks, and by that time, there might have been a heartbeat. So I thought, if I go to the hospital, they could give me an ultrasound and detect if there is still a baby inside me, and whether or not it has a heartbeat. During the ultrasound, the technician showed me an empty yolk sac. I was so confused…where was the baby? Without much explanation, she said I could have what is deemed a “blighted ovum.” I was left to google blighted ovum, and continue the miscarriage at home.
I so desperately wanted to know where my baby was, because I had been pregnant, right? When my body passed a large clot that seemed like it might have been something important, I tried to dissect it carefully, searching for a tiny tadpole-like body, anything to hold on to, something to bury. But I found nothing. My body might have somehow reabsorbed the tiny beginnings of my baby, and I’ll never know. Explaining this to our five year old daughter was so painful. I had excitedly told her we were having a third baby, only to have to bring her through this devastating turn of events just one week later. The best explanation I could come up with is that our baby wasn’t ready to grow yet, and when the baby was ready, they would come back to me. And I so badly wanted that to be true...I didn’t want to accept that that little soul was gone forever.
I am now eight months into my fourth pregnancy, with our third baby. I never know whether or not to say third or fourth baby…did we lose our third one? No one really can explain what happens to those babies that stop growing, so part of me holds onto the belief that this baby I am carrying IS the same baby that I lost. I want to believe that he or she came back to me.
This pregnancy, after our loss, has been different than my pregnancies pre-miscarriage. This pregnancy has been accompanied by more anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Because now I know, nothing is guaranteed. The first weeks were extra scary of course, since that is the period when miscarriage is most common. But even now that I’m almost to the end, I can’t fully trust that everything will be ok. I want to believe that soon I’ll have three kids snuggled up with me at home. But part of me holds back, doesn’t want to believe it until after I have given birth and am holding this baby, living and breathing in my arms.
Even though I know nothing is guaranteed about this pregnancy, I am believing for the best. After all, when is anything in life ever guaranteed? Should that stop us from dreaming big and going after what we desire? So, I’m applying the same mindset to my pregnancy now. There is no sense in worrying, because that doesn’t change anything. I am believing that everything will work out beautifully, and soon I’ll be holding my rainbow baby in my arms.
Follow Bethany’s journey @bethanylorene
Recharging to remain resilient
BY MARIANA FRANCO
Hi! My name is Marina- wife, mom of 5, and postpartum registered nurse. During my free time I enjoy sharing my motherhood journey on my socials, all things postpartum and what its like juggling home, work and everything in between. Working in postpartum has always been a passion of mine. Helping women and their babies transition from pregnancy to postpartum is so incredibly special, and as a nurse you feel honored to have the front row seat to someone else’s journey and having the opportunity to help them through it. Whether it’s a first time mom who might need a little more support, or a seasoned mama who has some tips and tricks to share, you learn that no matter where you are in your motherhood journey, one of the most incredible things is seeing how resilient mothers are.
“Whether it’s a first time mom who might need a little more support, or a seasoned mama who has some tips and tricks to share, you learn that no matter where you are in your motherhood journey, one of the most incredible things is seeing how resilient mothers are.”
Let’s talk about this a little bit. Why is resilience in motherhood such a big deal? Because no matter how exhausted we are, or how hard things might seem, we must keep going. There is no quitting in motherhood. We push through with every ounce of strength that’s left in us. As a nurse, I don’t just have the honor of seeing babies being born, but I also have the privilege of witnessing the birth of the mother as well, and let me tell you, she is equipped with resilience from the start. Even if one doesn’t realize it, there is absolutely nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her child. As a mom of five, I have learned that motherhood is always going to have hard days and hard seasons, and when things get hard, we have to be able to push through it.
In my personal experience, through being a mother and working as a nurse caring for other mothers, I have learned that the key to resilience is not pushing so hard that we burn out, but rather the opposite. The key is pushing hard, stopping, taking the time to recover, and then trying again. Resilience is taking the time to recharge our batteries in order to protect our health, our mental wellness, and our energy, so that we can actually be the best version of ourselves for our children. I have been a mother for 10 years, and realizing this has made being resilient much more achievable. I have navigated some challenging roads in my motherhood journey, but taking the time to recharge my batteries when necessary has made me a much more effective parent, and one who can better handle the hard times.
“I have navigated some challenging roads in my motherhood journey, but taking the time to recharge my batteries when necessary has made me a much more effective parent, and one who can better handle the hard times.”
As a mother, you can be scared, stressed, overwhelmed and make mistakes, but accepting these feelings and not allowing them to take over your life is what makes you resilient. You have the skills and resources to handle what comes your way.”
Follow Mariana’s journey @marinaaaafranco
Riding the rollercoaster of motherhood
BY SAMANTHA FLEMING
Hey ladies! My name is Samantha Fleming. You can follow me on instagram @_samanthaLfLeming. I am currently 6 months postpartum with my son and also raising my beautiful daughter who is 6!
Motherhood is such a beautiful experience but it is also the most demanding job in the world. And, unlike most women, I was thrust into motherhood at 19. I had been dating my boyfriend (now husband) for less than a year and was going into my sophomore year of college. My husband had just graduated from college and both of us were working simple summer jobs. I could not face my parents to take the test so I went to the local community park and took the test in the bathroom. I felt it in my gut that I was pregnant and when I took the test, I flipped it over so I couldn’t read it right away.
“My period was a week late and I was feeling morning sickness, which I originally thought was motion sickness from a car ride.”
My period was a week late and I was feeling morning sickness, which I originally thought was motion sickness from a car ride. The minute the timer went off, I flipped the test over and dropped to my knees at the dark pink lines that showed that my future was going up in smoke. I struggled emotionally, physically, and mentally throughout the first 2 trimesters of my pregnancy. I was constantly throwing up, and emotionally absent because my boyfriend lived 4 hours away with his parents. I was still living at home and decided to stick it out at my summer job with my parent’s company.
From the beginning, I knew I needed my village, so I refused to move in with my husband’s family even though they had more room in their home. My boyfriend continued to tell me that he was going to be there for us, but I didn’t feel it in my heart. I knew he would be a good dad, but I was having to come to grips with the reality of being a wife and a mother all at once. My focus was strictly on what I needed to do to help my daughter have a good life. I continued doing school and after a while, my boyfriend moved in with my family in a small 3 bed 2 bathroom 1,100 square foot home. He roomed with my younger brother, my parents, 2 dogs, myself, and now our baby. Also, my grandmother, who was in a wheelchair, stayed over on the weekends.
“The pregnancy was taxing, but after my daughter was born (Feb 2017), I started a new journey of doing the best I can for her.”
The pregnancy was taxing, but after my daughter was born (Feb 2017), I started a new journey of doing the best I can for her. She and I struggled to nurse and since she slept extremely well, I let her sleep, which wasn’t great for weight gain. She was on formula and I pumped. I was only able to get 2 oz total from both breasts and it was devastating. At 5 months, I chose to be done and focused on my parenting and bonding in other ways with her. My boyfriend and I got married in January 2018 and moved into our small 2 bed 1 bath duplex. It was amazing for our little family and we lived 1 street away from my parent’s home. After having my daughter and leading up to our wedding, I chose to get on birth control. For years, I struggled with birth control pills, and since I kept switching and not finding the balance my OBGYN said we shouldn’t do an IUD yet which was a benefit because I had ovarian cysts that were found a few months later. Fast forward to June 2019, we moved to North Carolina and I started my job as a teacher.
We talked about having more kids and we didn’t want to have a large age gap between our children, so we flirted with the idea of having more while my husband was in medical school. The school was beyond stressful and in October of 2020, I decided I was done with birth control and whatever was supposed to happen would happen. We were not officially trying, but we were not using any contraception. We chose not to start trying until January 2022, since he would be graduating that summer. Well, when I was at work and I was feeling under the weather, tired, and semi-nauseous. I took a test when I got home and there was the lightest pink line that resulted in a positive pregnancy test at 3 weeks pregnant. I hoped and prayed for an easy pregnancy since my first one felt like a roller coaster of emotions and sickness. This one, by far, was the worst out of the two pregnancies. I was extremely sick, taking medication, and still throwing up with the medicine. I was extremely uncomfortable, I had no control over my bladder, and I struggled with aspirating in my sleep due to excessive acid that Tums would not diminish. I also found out that I have something called a bicornuate uterus, or a “heart-shaped” uterus. It means that only 1 side of my uterus will grow and expand with the baby, which can restrict the baby’s growth. I had to have ultrasounds done at every visit until my 39-week visit. Everything was healthy, except for my son being breech throughout the entire pregnancy. I did not qualify for a doctor or nurse to “flip” the baby because of my uterus, the likelihood of it working was extremely slim. I attempted every at-home trick I could find on the internet, including glute bridges on an elevated surface, which felt semi-dangerous since I was 8 ½ months pregnant doing it on my couch.
After tons of patience and praying, he finally flipped! I was able to have a natural, unmedicated birth again! Out popped a 7-pound, healthy boy, ready for the world 1 day before his due date! With my daughter struggling to nurse, I was adamant about my son and me having the full breastfeeding experience. I had my mom who would help me wake up at night and stay up with me to get the full nursing experience. He was gaining weight, and I was producing milk like a machine. I was so proud of the bond it had created and felt like I could nurse forever! At 6 weeks old, my son started sleeping from 9 or 10 at night until about 3 or 4 in the morning. At his 2-month appointment, the doctor said his percentiles had dropped and that he wasn’t gaining weight the way that they wanted him to. They gave us another week and then did a weight check, still hadn’t gained much weight. To the point that my doctor said he lost 3 oz, which was not okay, and that he needed to be put on an extra calorie formula as soon as possible. She described my milk as skim milk, rather than whole milk, which is what the baby needs. She said it was rare but more studies are coming out about moms not having enough hind milk balance. The doctor told me, since my son was so far behind a healthy baby weight, he would likely never nurse again because the amount of milk he was drinking couldn’t be tracked. Immediately, we put him on formula and started the process of me pumping full time.
“I cried almost daily in that first month because I just wanted to quit. I was missing out on bonding with my son, which was something that I craved more than anything. After a month of exclusively pumping, I decided it was the end of my breastfeeding journey.”
Pumping became emotionally taxing and felt impossible since I was trying to keep up with a 6-year-old and an infant who had to eat every couple of hours. I felt like I couldn’t give him the pumped milk anyways, so what was the point of continuing? I cried almost daily in that first month because I just wanted to quit. I was missing out on bonding with my son, which was something that I craved more than anything. After a month of exclusively pumping, I decided it was the end of my breastfeeding journey. We are choosing not to have any more kids because of my uterus having a complication, the babies would continue to stay small, and because of how miserable I felt throughout the entire pregnancy. Now, my largest struggle is my son excessively spitting up to the point of weight loss. It has been emotionally taxing because of all the money we spend on specialty formulas, only for it to not work for him. It has been a roller coaster for 6 months with life and staying so busy. I would never trade my kids for the world and I love them with all of my heart. I know I was meant to be a mother and even if my journey of motherhood ends with 2, I am beyond grateful for the two that I have.
Follow Samantah’s journey @_samanthalfleming