The wonder Jaime Calder and Wilhelmina "Billie" (7 months).
Jaime never put serious thought into what having kids or parenting would really be like. Her dad always playfully joked, "We used to have fun, and then we had kids" and she says she didn't want to screw up anyone else's life before she was done messing up her own. She loved kids, but had a difficult time envisioning having her own. Most of her life she was acutely aware that it wouldn't have been a good scenario for her to have a child at that point in time whether it was emotions, finances or stability that concerned her.
She first started taking hormonal birth control as a freshman in high school but it made her an emotional basket case. A few years later her gynecologist was horrified that anyone had ever prescribed her hormonal birth control because she has experienced migraines with aura since she was very young and in this population synthetic hormones can cause strokes. Thankfully, she didn't stay on them because she didn't like how they made her feel, so she focused instead on alternative contraceptions as needed. Jaime struggled with disordered eating in her teens and early twenties and when she was younger, she didn't get a period or have a regular cycle due to fluctuations with her body weight. Because her periods were very irregular and she once had a doctor tell her she'd never be able to get pregnant.
Jaime's first pregnancy was in her early twenties, which came as a huge surprise as she still didn't think it could happen. She was fortunate to have close friends she could talk to about it and help her process. They reaffirmed for her that whatever path her life took from that moment, who she was as a person wasn't going to change. When she terminated her pregnancy she felt very confident in her decision and was in a positive, supportive environment. It was difficult and emotional and there was a lot of back and forth but she has never regretted it. She knows it was the best possible decision she could have made and wishes more people were comfortable with that.
When Jaime was about 6 months in to dating her current partner, Andrew, she was tracking her cycles but they remained irregular. She found she was pregnant, just after he'd left town for a full week when she was about 9 weeks along. She called to let him know but miscarried a day and a half later. She was still settling into the relationship and it was strange that all of this had happened with him, but while he was away. When she'd started bleeding she assumed everything would just resolve on it's own but she started feeling very sick and feverish. She called Planned Parenthood and they talked her through it and had her come in. She had an incomplete miscarriage that her body had reacted to and she needed medication to help her body fully let go of the pregnancy. It was a scary time that was difficult to process and it all happened so fast she compartmentalized it and put it out of her mind.
In early 2014, Jaime and her partner moved to Texas from Chicago with about 1 month notice. She struggled with all that comes with picking up your life and moving to a new place you've never been before. There was loneliness and disconnect until she found her footing in her new job. A little less than a week after she started her Grandmother started having strokes, and became really sick. She was 94 and in the place to decide that she was ready but it was still very difficult. Jaime had a hard time with everything that was changing so quickly. Her Grandmother had taken the time to make a list of death bed wishes and she specifically asked that Jaime would give her mom a grand daughter.
About three weeks after her Grandmother passed, Andrew was cooking breakfast for dinner and Jaime came out to tell him he had to throw away the bacon. It smelled horrible, it was bad, it had to go. He told her it was new and good but tossed it anyway. She felt off but knew there was so much going on with her new job and settling back in that she was sure it was just that. She ended up taking a pregnancy test on a whim and the line was so faint she went out and bought one of all the pregnancy tests and lined them up. By that point, there was no doubt she was pregnant. They had planned to get married and have children eventually but everything about their life at that moment screamed temporary. They talked a lot and realized that if they planned and waited it would never happen.
Jaime says she definitely didn't feel like a glowing Madonna in early pregnancy. It all just felt so surreal and there was so much else to focus on. Jaime and Andrew chose to have care provided by midwives at a freestanding birth center that was very welcoming and comforting. She had very typical morning sickness in the beginning but the rest of her pregnancy was very easy. She wasn't gaining a lot of weight and didn't really look like she was pregnant until about 7 months along. Her midwives kept a watchful eye and during her 6th month her body started to grow. Her breasts went from a AA to a C in the matter of three weeks which was excruciating. She's always enjoyed not wearing bras and suddenly having to wear undergarments with infrastructure was quite the experience.
Jaime left work at 38 weeks and went into labor exactly at 39 weeks. She had a scheduled midwife appointment the day that her water broke so they told her to just come back the following day. Everything was easy going until they returned to the birth center. Labor started very quickly and very intensely as soon as they got there. She got in the tub and within 4 hours her baby was there. For the last half hour she was so focused on getting her out that when they finally put her baby on her chest it took about 10 minutes to realize they didn't know if they'd had a boy or girl. Their birth team asked if they wanted to check but they figured they waited 9 months they could wait another hour. An hour later they learned they had a girl and they brought her home the following morning. It took about three days to name her and those first two weeks were euphoric.
Since having her daughter, Jaime says that she feels like she's clicked into place in her large family. She feels like she makes sense there but simultaneously was not prepared for how lonely she would be after Andrew went back to work and she was 1,200 miles away from her family and close friends. She began to have panic attacks thinking that she was never going to feel like she was grounded and settled and have her place. Andrew was available as support but she also didn't want to worry to her family. She felt like a conduit for which baby news happened but also didn't want to feel selfish for needing support. Now that she's returned to work things have gotten easier and they've continued to build a local network of support but there are still moments that everyone feels so far away.
Jaime has always taken pride in being informed on what's happening in our world but has found that motherhood has made her so sensitive to the bad things that happen. She is often overwhelmed with gratitude as to how lucky they've been and how good people have been to them. She hopes that she can impart perspective to Billie on how big the world is and the capacity of all these different emotions and personalities and possibilities and that she too can find gratitude for that.
This idea that people would antagonize a movement built to love and support, and that so many people go out of their way to be contrarian and look down on others, rather than embracing a wider world of experience, led to Jaime wanting to lend her own individual story to this larger umbrella that celebrates motherhood. She doesn't understand or believe in the need that if you cut someone down you will make yourself taller. Individual experiences should be celebrated and as a culture we don't do that, someone has to be x famous or x rich in order to have the minutia of their lives valued. Yet all of us have these personal experiences that craft the human beings that we are and the way we interact with the rest of humanity. Those experiences are meaningful and deserve recognition. We as a culture need to start paying more attention to that before they disappear. People pass through our fingers and we don't even realize the magnitude of the life we've lost. The more people do to capture those individual lives and those moments, the better.