The amazing Brooks Anderson with her son Asher (6) and daughter Eleanor (3).
Brooks is the eldest of 8 and and was present for most of her mother's births. She was able to view birth as a beautiful and wonderful thing and assumed that it was just how it would be for her. Brooks learned when she was in her early 20's that she had a condition known as uterus didelphys (double uterus) and that she has two uteruses, cervices and had a vaginal septum as well, which she had removed. She and her husband waited for about two years before trying to conceive and she she was able to get pregnant just before her husband deployed to Iraq. Her early pregnancy progressed well but her cervix was measuring short. They decided not to have a cerclage placed and instead chose to pray about it. After having all of their family and friends pray, at her next appointment her cervical length was longer. She says her faith is very important to her but the doctor laughed at her and said she must have just been contracting previously. Her pregnancy proceeded stably for a bit but she began to develop signs of preeclampsia through elevated blood pressure and swelling. Through it all though, Brooks says that her doctors were so focused on her cervix and ultrasounds that they lost sight of her as a person and didn't pay attention to her other symptoms. At 28 weeks, a homebirth midwife she'd consulted with put her on the Brewer's diet and gave her a lot of recommendations for care, while her MFM had simply told her to go to antepartum for observation, then go home. By 32 weeks, her mom found her on the floor in pain so they went in. Her son was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) and they gave her 48 hours of steroids shots before she had to deliver via emergency cesarean. Thankfully, the Red Cross was able to get her husband home the day before Asher was born. She developed HELLP syndrome and had to be in ICU for 24 hours after birth. They didn't warn them that they would allow Asher to try breathing on his own so her husband had to watch him struggle to breathe and thought he was dying for they rushed him to the NICU for intubation. Asher was born at 3lbs 12 oz and spent 54 days in NICU and came home oxygen for several months. Brooks was able to encapsulate her placenta and start pumping right away. Both of which she thinks helped her emotionally heal from the trauma of her pregnancy and birth. She was able to breastfeed until he was 3 years and 9 months.
Brooks was nervous about trying again but ultimately decided she needed to let go of her fear. She went to UCLA to see MFM's even though they were living about 90 minutes away at the time and saw a homebirth midwife simultaneously. She took great care of her body and Eleanor did well. Brooks gained a lot of weight but was otherwise healthy and Eleanor arrived only one day early. She attempted a VBAC at home, her water broke naturally, and she labored there for 37 hours. She says she never felt closer to her husband and everything was but she felt like she needed pain relief, was throwing up a lot and her contracts were irregular so they traveled 92 miles to the hospital. Brooks dilated to 10cms and could feel Eleanor's head come down but she tried to come out with her feet beside her head. She felt like she was treated poorly at the hospital initially because she'd attempted a home birth and was taken immediately for a cesarean. However, the cesarean itself was peaceful and family centered. Her husband got to tell her Eleanor was a girl, and they wheeled them out of the OR together, baby never leaving her side. She was able to nurse immediately and is still going strong today. They were told about 36 hours after birth that Eleanor had an unknown illness and needed to go to the NICU for IV medication. They decided to let them admit her, but after 6 attempts, they still couldn't place an IV and they told them to stop. Eleanor had become lethargic and Brooks felt like something was wrong. She told them to try again tomorrow and fell asleep nursing her in the NICU. In the middle of the night, Brooks woke up and asked why they hadn't gotten them up to give the medicine they were supposed to. The nurse told her that her last heal stick showed she'd been given a drug overdose and couldn't receive any more medication. They were supposed to stay for several more days, but they were sent home with no further discussion the following day. She healed well physically but had a more difficult time emotionally and thinks she may have had some postpartum depression. She hopes to have more children but is uncertain as to whether she should choose a cesarean or try to VBAC again.
Brooks has had a hard time feeling confident with her body postpartum. She has diastasis recti and while she is traditionally thin, has had people ask if she is pregnant when she isn't. While she has struggled with her body she has also celebrated with the fact that she has been able to breastfeed for the past 6 years. She hopes to be able to look back on these moments with joy and join together with women around the world reminding one another that every journey is special and sometimes difficult but always worthy.