The beautiful JaRae Brown and Levi (9 months old). When JaRae was just in her first year of high school she became really ill. She went to the doctor and was sent home after being told it was likely just a stomach virus. She continued to worsen, to the point she couldn't walk and soon went to the emergency room where she was told she had developed an abscess on her fallopian tubes due to a bacterial infection and that her tubes were likely destroyed as a result. JaRae was devastated to learn at such a young age that she may never be able to have children.
After struggling with depression for many years, JaRae found herself pregnant. She was in such disbelief that at every appointment she asked for confirmation - could they do another blood test? could they see him? could they just make sure? She was quite sick with morning sickness throughout her pregnancy but was able to carry Levi, her miracle baby, to term. JaRae hadn't felt him move much for a couple of days and went into the hospital to make sure everything was okay. They decided to keep her there and she labored throughout the day but his heart rate kept dropping regardless of what position she was in. After it dropped to the 80's and stayed there, they decided to deliver via cesarean. JaRae says that even though she had a birth plan, no one would ever look at it and her wishes for after the deliver were not honored. She had wanted to have her baby placed on her chest but instead a nurse began making her try to breastfeed even though she was still numb and couldn't move her arms. Her partner was able to eventually help her nurse Levi but they then took him away and he had difficulty keeping his temperature up. JaRae had wanted to keep him skin to skin for that very reason but was never allowed to.
When she returned home, JaRae began to struggle with her depression even more. Thankfully, her mom was able to provide a lot of help but many days JaRae got up and handed Levi off to her, not because she didn't want to be with him but because she felt that she wasn't capable or equipped to care for him. 9 months later, JaRae admits that managing her postpartum depression is still a work in progress but now that her son is bigger, it really is he that keeps her going on the days she is struggling.
Being a young mom, JaRae says that she was the first of her friends to have a baby, though many are also mothers now. While she is proud of her stretch marks as stories of her experience and badges of honor her miracle baby left her, she knows that for many, they are seen as flaws. The mentality that mothers can and should just "snap back" to their former selves after having children is something that JaRae hopes new moms can learn to let go of. Having a platform to share her voice, her stripes and her story was profoundly important to her. She reminds herself that she is not in this alone and hopes that others can step outside of shame and stigma to acknowledge themselves as well. "We're in this together and never alone in what's happened to us".