The stunning Allison Harrell, Eli (almost 5), Theo (3), and Bennett (15 months).
Allison had always anticipated it taking some time to get pregnant but her boys were conceived very easily. Pregnancy went well with Eli and she carried about 10 days post dates when her doctor became a bit anxious and they decided to induce. They started pitocin but Allison never progressed past 1-2cms and they ultimately decided to deliver via cesarean. She'd had surgeries before so she didn't find the procedure to be overly shocking and was grateful to be able to have skin to skin with him in recovery. Allison had hoped to breastfeed but despite her best efforts and the help of lactation consultants, she couldn't get him to latch well and was only pumping 1-2 mls through the course of a day. She was given a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to try but again, because they couldn't get a good latch, they were not able to make headway and Allison switched for formula after about 6 weeks. She felt ashamed and as if she had to explain herself for just feeding her baby the way she needed to and wished that there wasn't so much judgment of mothers needs and choices.
When Eli was about two, they decided to try again and were able to get pregnant with Theo quickly. Pregnancy went well and Allison knew that she wanted to attempt a VBAC. She interviewed new providers and finally found a midwife with a supportive back up OB to provide her care. Her water started leaking post dates and she called her midwife to let her know but she cautioned her that if she was certain it was her water they had to start the clock and she'd only have 24 hours to progress before they had to intervene. Allison decided she wasn't certain and waited three days before learning that her waters were low and she went in for induction. The back up OB was very supportive of her desire to VBAC and decided to try induction with a foley catheter and Pitocin. Unfortunately, she never progressed beyond the 5cms the Foley catheter got her and delivered via repeat cesarean. Still, it was a good experience and she was grateful that she had been able to try. Allison realized that she'd been so hopeful for a VBAC because she thought it may allow her a better chance at breastfeeding successfully. She tried again and thankfully, Theo loved to nurse. With the help of Domperidone she was able to produce a bit more milk and nursed him with supplementation via bottles and the SNS until he was 6 months old.
Allison had just come to a place where she felt like she had some freedom in her life again when she found she was unexpectedly pregnant with Bennett. She struggled through her first trimester trying to accept a pregnancy that she hadn't wanted at the time and simultaneously feeling guilty for feeling that way. As she entered her second trimester she slipped into a space of really enjoying her pregnancy and says that the love he has brought their family is beyond words. Allison hoped to attempt to VBAC again but didn't want to be induced or have any interventions to get there. If it happened, then she wanted to try to push forward but if it didn't then she was fine with delivering via cesarean. Once she got to the hospital the doctor who was on staff was a bit abrasive and urged her to have a cesarean then, rather then the middle of the night when she (the surgeon) was tired and wouldn't do as good of a job. Allison wanted to wait but after about two hours of things not progressing, decided to give birth via cesarean again. Things went very well and this was the first time she was able to have immediate skin to skin in the delivery room which was a wonderful experience.
Allison was determined to breastfeed again and this time has been able to produce a couple ounces at a time with the help of Domperidone. She has had great success nursing with the SNS and at 15 months, she and Bennett are still going. The ability to be able to comfort him at her breast has been so wonderful and it's so important for her to showcase that breastfeeding doesn't have to look one way and it doesn't have to be an all or nothing experience.
Body image is something that Allison has struggled with in recent years. She was always thin growing up while her mom and sister struggled with their weight and she saw how it affected them. Now that she has had three children via cesarean, she doesn't have feeling in her belly due to the nerve damage from her births and has gained weight due to Domperidone and pregnancy. Allison finds that there is a disconnect between who she sees in her mind and who she sees in the mirror. In addition to showing other mothers that there isn't one right way to give birth or feed your babies she hopes that this image will help reframe and celebrate herself for her who she is now versus who she used to be.