The stunning Stephani Shell, RJ (2.5) and AJ (8 months).
While conception was uncomplicated for Stephani, her pregnancies were quite rough on her. With RJ she was healthy until 21 weeks when she was found to have a short cervix and funneling. She had to have an emergency cerclage placed and was on bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy. She was incredibly sick the whole time and swore she would never do this again. When her cerclage was removed at 36 weeks she began contracting and did so constantly but things never really progressed from there. The day she was scheduled to be induced she went into labor on her own and went into the hospital. She labored for 4.5 hours before requesting an epidural so she could catch her breath and cope with the pain.
About 45 minutes later she was rushed for an emergency cesarean birth. RJ's cord had been wrapped tightly around his neck twice and his heart rate was decelerating, there was also meconium present when he was born but, thankfully, he was okay. Stephani had a very painful recovery and wasn't able to stand up straight for weeks. Still, she was flooded with emotion and was so thankful that he was there and that she could love someone so much.
Stephani's husband is 10 years older than her, so when he was ready to start trying for another they went for it, even though she may have preferred to wait a bit longer. Conception was straight forward once again and her placenta had attached higher which allowed her to avoid a cerclage. Her pregnancy was still trying however, with bedrest, additional ultrasounds and monitoring and she had the hardest time not being able to lift and play with RJ. She wasn't sick however, and found herself enjoying her pregnancy in a way that she hadn't with her first. At 37 weeks, Stephani woke up itching from head to toe. She had to shower multiple times per day and oil her body to try to calm her skin. She was diagnosed with Choliostatis and had to schedule her cesarean for the following day rather than attempt the VBAC she had been hoping for. She wasn't ready to let go of her pregnancy and she didn't want it to be over yet.
AJ was born without complication and her recovery was much smoother than her first. She chose to have a tubal ligation during her cesarean because, while she would love to have more children she feels that with the complications she's had, she just can't justify the risks.
Stephani had been able to stay home with RJ and went to LPN school during that time. Due to some life changes, however, she's had to find a job when AJ was just 12 weeks old. Going back to work has been hard on her even though she enjoys her job working nights on the labor and delivery floor where she had her own babies. RJ had never had a good latch to breastfeed and after 6-8 weeks they transitioned to formula but nursing with AJ was going very well until she returned to work and her supply dwindled. He still nurses but it isn't the relationship she'd been working towards. She also struggles with everything feeling like it is going by so fast. That she goes to work and comes home and see that the boys have visibly grown.
After seeing a friend participate in this movement, Stephani found it encouraging and knew that she had to do it too. We're always second guessing ourselves, she says, but we're only going to be here one time. She's working to learn to love and embrace herself for who she is now and who she is growing to be in the future.