Motherhood sent me a curveball before it ever fully came to fruition. I could spend hours going over the details of every single thing that went wrong with my pregnancy, from how I found out (emergency room), to how many times I thought it had become a loss (six) but that would be a tireless checklist, and quite frankly, too long. So, I'll quickly sum it up the best I can. As many of you know, my son SJ is feisty. The same way he illuminates this world is the same way he entered it.
At 28 weeks we saw the very first signs of our little baby's growth stopping. A probable factor due to my uterine didelphys (google away) and testing indicating placenta abnormalities. I began contracting regularly mere days after the first signs of growth slowing, and every few days I returned for multiple IV infusions to slow contractions and fetal monitoring. The Georgetown Medstar parking attendants were my besties, fist bumping the familiar pregnant lady maneuvering her SUV through their garage time and time again, and my buddy Matt, the tech, often explaining nuances of elevated cord blood levels and walking me through counting my unborn baby's breaths. Certain breaths within a minute and we were clear, certain movements within an appointment and we were clear... on and on it went. I cried silent but grateful tears every drive home and each week my app told me my baby's "size" I again cried silent tears in my office because my baby wasn't that size and my body was trying so hard to force this tiny human out. Quickly, my baby wasn't any size, dropping off charts, yet we fought for another week to keep this new life inside, hopeful lungs and brain would continue developing. Did you know a fetus with a depleting cord blood supply instinctively knows to send the blood flow to the brain and less to the stomach in a fight for survival? I didn't, but this smart unborn baby did.
After more appointments than I could possibly count, my baby fully stopped growing. At 33 weeks and 3 days, the contractions couldn't be stopped and my little 3 lb. baby had stopped moving. "Have you eaten recently?" my friendly tech asked, concerned. I had just demolished a big brunch and coffee.
I remember the specialist trying his hardest to keep the baby in one more day, leaving the labor and delivery room saying he would see me in the morning and further discuss options then. "Does your wife cry?" he asked Shaun seriously. If either of them ever knew the countless, lonely tears or times I spoke and prayed to this baby alone in my office, the car, the courthouse... everywhere, every moment. The head of the NICU came in to discuss the morning, the door my child would be quickly moved through after delivery, the baby's size, indications of breathing, possible brain bleeds, and other complications. She was kind. I was still scared. "You'll likely not hear a cry because the baby won't be breathing independently," she said.
Minutes later we couldn't find a heartbeat. "We are going to put you out now," a nurse said quickly. Panic set in... slowly the beat came back. The c-section couldn't wait until the morning. As they rolled me, I cried, every ounce of my heart opened up and cried a very public and very necessary cry. All I really could think of as I lay there shivering was this baby not breathing and not crying. A silent and massive unknown as the baby was removed and then silently moved into the NICU. How would I even know the baby was alive? Would anyone even tell us if it was a boy or girl? Would I be able to hold my baby, see my baby, let my baby know the only way I made it this far was praying over him or her?
Suddenly I heard a cry. The doctor let Shaun announce that the baby was indeed a boy. She even went so far as to hold him over the curtain, I saw a small foot before he was whisked to the NICU. SJ has entered the world. All questions had answers, he was breathing on his own, and while his health wasn't perfect, he continued to push through. The next year many things weren't perfect, but he was here.
So motherhood sent me a curveball but quite honestly, with some lonely tears and prayers, we are here. It is a month before his third birthday, and I would relive every hard moment a million times to see him run circles like the little cave man.
There is no other job in this world like motherhood. Highs and lows, moments that make you want to cry (ugly cry) and moments that melt your heart. I don’t think there is a job out there that can throw as many curve balls as motherhood. I learned early on that being a mom would be one curve ball after another and that was before my kids were even born.
I suffered two miscarriages before Connor was born and then went into labor at 33 weeks and spent several weeks in the hospital on bedrest until he was born. During my pregnancy with Connor I learned two important things about motherhood; (1) kids will do things at their own pace and (2) none of this is in my control.
Five plus years later I would be pregnant with our second. I did everything I was “supposed” to do and had the VBAC I had wanted. It was the most amazing thing in the world to watch our beautiful healthy daughter be born. I was rocking this mom thing. Then I tried to get out of bed and everything came crashing down (literally).
It turns out I had suffered a rare delivery complication (I would later find out it was nerve damage). I was unable to walk/stand unassisted, I had no feeling in parts of my leg, and my quad was “paralyzed” in my left leg. It just didn’t work anymore.
I’ve always been active whether it was through Fit4Mom or running, and now I was unable to do anything on my own. My husband had to take me to the bathroom, I couldn’t walk on my own, and I couldn’t even take care of my own newborn. You don’t realize how often you need to walk around with your newborn until someone tells you that you can’t. I left the hospital needing 24 hr care and a walker. I joked that I took my geriatric pregnancy a little too literally.
Apparently my body had decided that taking care of a newborn was too easy, so I needed a little extra excitement in my life. I will forever remember Shay’s first pediatrician appointment because I had a total meltdown in the waiting room when I couldn’t get out of the chair on my own. It was so embarrassing, frustrating, and enraging. My body just didn’t work anymore.
I was super thankful that I had such amazing support from my family, friends, our FIT4MOM Ashburn family, my pediatrician's office, my neurologist, and my amazing Physical Therapist (who also acted as my mental health therapist at times). I used a walker for a month or so, and then graduated to using a cane. I fell several times during those months and it was infuriating, frustrating, and humbling (again I am so thankful I had someone with me during those times to care for Shay as I can’t even think about what could have happened to her had I been holding her during those times). My legs just didn’t work like they used to. Then I got sick and realized that now not only does my leg not work right, but I had pelvic floor weakness so every time I coughed I was now peeing myself (that’s on top of the diastasis recti I also had). I walked into PT that morning in tears because my body really did not feel like my own. Nothing seemed to work like it used to. I felt like my body had literally been destroyed by motherhood.
That was almost 8 months ago (time sure does fly by). I am still not the person I was before my daughter was born (I have been told it could take 18 months to be back to “normal”), but that’s ok. The most important thing is I’m here for my kids and it could have been so much worse. I am really lucky. I have two amazing and healthy kids that have kept me going every day. Of course there were bad days, but there were far more good days. I also enjoyed the newborn phase way more this time around. Maybe that’s because I was forced to take it slow and enjoy it, and I’m sure it’s also because Shay is the sweetest baby in the world (I mean I think I earned an easy baby).
Motherhood is never easy and we all go through something that throws us for a loop. All we can do is hold on, do our best, know it will get better and #momboss through it. I wouldn’t trade our birth stories for anything, although you can bet they will both hear about what I did for them/went through for them for the rest of their lives.
Motherhood was not easy for me. It began with a lot of hope since my husband had just finished 6 months of chemo after being diagnosed with cancer 7 months into our marriage. We thought we were in the clear and decided we didn't want to wait any longer to start a family. Due to health issues when my husband was younger, and by the grace of God for the foresight of his parents, we knew we had to go the IVF route. We were very fortunate to get pregnant on the first round. But around the end of the first trimester as we were getting excited to start telling family and friends we found out the cancer was back. At 14 weeks we found out we were having a girl. At 20 weeks we found out I had Placenta Previa and that my husband would need a highly controversial surgery only performed by few surgeons in the country. Our world came crashing down and I think from then on is when my fear and anxiety of having to do this whole parenthood thing alone really set in. My pregnancy, for having Placenta Previa, was really very uncomplicated, but spending 2 weeks in a hospital in Philadelphia while my husband recovered from the massive surgery he'd had as well as the hospital acquired pneumonia and sepsis made things very difficult. My last trimester was spent driving all over NOVA to different emergency rooms in the middle of the night trying to get my husband the best care we could get him because he was still having so many issues recovering from his procedure. We finally decided he needed to go back to Philadelphia. So one month before our daughter's due date, we drove up to Philadelphia and spent the weekend there for him to get back on track. I did all of this while trying to work as a full-time PT. I stopped working 2 weeks before my scheduled c-section due to the fear that I would go into labor where I worked and having Placenta Previa just makes everything more complicated (I worked at a hospital in DC and was living in Leesburg at the time). I was upset initially that I had to have a c-section, but it was God's way of making sure we had some normalcy as my husband started his first round of chemo after all the recovery just a week before our daughter was born.
Looking back I definitely had postpartum anxiety and no one could blame me, I know. With the fear of my husband's health issues and doing all this alone, I felt and still feel sometimes great guilt for having thought to myself that I didn't want to pregnant anymore. Once we heard our daughter cry while only her head and shoulders were out of me, our lives changed like soooo many others. It took me a long time, though, to figure out how to weave our daughter into my every day. I decided I would stay home because of so many factors, but I honestly just felt like I couldn't handle work and the family health issues we were dealing with. I wanted to focus and dedicate my life to my family and my home because I had no idea how long I would have it all.
I found FIT4MOM relatively soon after having my daughter and I enjoyed it, but again, it was almost too much for me at the time. I couldn't figure out how to feed her and she stopped napping in the stroller. It was all soooo stressful to me and on top of all that, I didn't feel well and wasn't myself. It wasn't until my daughter dropped to one nap at 13 months that I started coming back regularly and I can honestly say FIT4MOM and all the Stroller Strides moms saved me. I started to feel more like myself again. A year after that is when I became an instructor and I haven't looked back since. FIT4MOM gave me confidence, camaraderie and the hope and the grace I had been needing. I look back and there was and is so much fear that goes into doing something you've never done before and becoming a mom requires soooo much confidence and faith that it's near impossible sometimes. But being a part of such an awesome community within our own huge NOVA community has helped me feel like if ever I have to do this whole parenthood thing alone, I wouldn't ever really be alone because I have my village and with my village I can do anything.