The amazing Theresa Armstrong, Lola (6), and Jack (2).
Theresa finds motherhood to be both awesome and so hard. As a doula, she loves pregnancy and birth and enjoyed her own as much as she enjoys supporting other women through theirs.
Theresa's daughter was a pleasant surprise. She and her husband had known each other since middle school but fell out of touch. They reconnected and things moved very quickly as her husband was getting ready for deployment. They started dating in August, she got pregnant in September, they married in October, and he deployed in November of 2009. Lola was a welcomed surprise but Theresa's husband was deployed for most of her pregnancy. Her father had a stroke just before Christmas and her husband was able to come home in January to be with her just before her dad passed. The day her husband flew back to Afghanistan they learned that Lola was a girl and they then spent the next 10 months apart.
Theresa delivered Lola in hospital following a healthy pregnancy, with her husband watching everything via Skype. She was supported by her sister and sister-in-law and had a smooth 12 hour labor and vaginal delivery. Her husband was able to watch the birth but as she pulled her daughter up to her chest, the Skype connection cut out and they had to call him back. Theresa says that while this is different for most, for them it's the norm. She would take another deployment so that another family didn't have to. Through her doula work she gives back by offering free or discounted services to families who have partners actively deployed or killed in action.
Once Theresa's husband came home from Afghanistan there was quite an adjustment. It had just been the two of them and now there was a newborn. He had a difficult deployment and needed her in a different way than her baby needed her. It was a rough year as they found their way as a family.
They had decided they were good with one child but then found themselves expecting Jack. Theresa had known that if they had a second child, she would give birth at home and ultimately decided to have a planned unassisted home birth. She dug deep into her doula work and trusted her abilities. She knew this was right for them.
It was very important that Theresa's husband was hands on with this birth after being overseas with her first. Theresa says that she has never been more in love or attracted to her husband than seeing him catch and hold their baby. This labor was smooth and swift, only 3.5 hours from start to finish. She labored in her tub and gave birth to Jack squatting over the water. Theresa was supported by her husband and close friends including a friend who had just given birth 7 weeks earlier and was there with her baby. She fondly recalls sitting in bed with her friend afterwards nursing their new babies and connecting in a way they never had before. While her pregnancy was easy and her birth serene, Theresa says that Jack put her through her paces by flipping breech at 35 weeks. She's a strong believer in vaginal breech birth and felt that it was a bit of a test but he ended up turning before she went into labor.
Two babes is enough for Theresa. While she could be pregnant and give birth 100 times, she feels like she isn't living up to the mother she'd hoped to be. Living slowly and appreciating everything with Lola felt simpler but with two very different children she knows she's at her limit. She has found freedom in that, knowing that while there is a sadness with the stages as they are done, she's ready to move on to the next chapter with her children. And, with her work, she can find honor and connection in supporting other women through their pregnancies, births and newly postpartum experiences. She is also able to normalize birth, bodies, and breastfeeding for her children as they see and participate in her work.
Theresa continued nursing Lola until she was three, the day that she learned she was pregnant with Jack. She had felt done around two but knew her daughter wanted to continue, so she did until she reached her threshold. With Jack nearing two she's feeling those remnants of being touched out again, but wants to continue nursing knowing this is her last breastfeeding experience.
In supporting women, Theresa often encounters mothers who experience what we all do - some days feeling beautiful, others struggling with our worth. Reveling in motherhood some days and wanting to run away others. She wanted to do this for them and for herself. While Theresa is comfortable being in her underwear or naked, or at the beach, she finds it awkward to look at pictures of herself. And for her children, especially Lola. She wants her daughter to see her being vulnerable with herself in hopes of building a connection and dialogue around their bodies and their womanhood. She wants Lola to know she can be vulnerable and she can be proud, she doesn't need to hide anything.