The lovely Michelle Brundage, Elizabeth (6), and Aubrey (9 months)
Michelle always knew she wanted to be a mother but didn't think it was something she'd ever get to experience. She grew up lacking confidence, self esteem and was emotionally and physically abused until she was 16. In adulthood, Michelle struggled with obesity and experienced a severe health trauma at 23 when she had to have emergency spinal surgery.
The injury left Michelle with severe nerve damage from the waist down, she was unable to walk, move her right leg, or relieve her bladder and bowls. She spent over a month in the hospital learning to walk again with assistance and after months of rehab and therapy she learned to walk on her own again, and regain bowel and bladder functions. The injury left her emotionally damaged and she was positive no one would ever love her and she wouldn't have the opportunity to be a mother.
Nine months after her initial surgery, Michelle had a follow up operation to help with the nerve damage and one day she says she just decided that she was going to be herself, and allow someone into her mind and heart. She met her husband when she was 25 and knew immediately he was the one who would love her unconditionally, and make her a wife and mother. He never judged her on her weight, disabilities or past and saw her for who she truly was and loved all of her.
They had been together for 1.5 years before unexpectedly finding out she was pregnant. Within a couple weeks they got over the initial shock and began to look forward to having the baby. Pregnancy with Elizabeth went well and she only had minor challenges with back pain and her weight. Michelle never progressed or went into labor with Elizabeth and was scheduled for a cesarean, 16 days post dates. The birth itself went great but Michelle was separated from her for an hour while in recovery which was shocking and made her anxious. Nursing was difficult due to flat nipples which complicated her latch and Elizabeth had already been given a bottle by the nurses by time Michelle was reunited with her. She ended up exclusively pumping and after being discharged spiraled into postpartum depression.
Michelle's milk supply suffered along with her depression and she stopped producing within one month postpartum. She reached out to her doctors for help with the depression and soon began to feel better. Michelle and her husband officially wed at 29 and she felt so much joy. They knew they wanted to have another child eventually but wanted to wait a while. Michelle injured her back a second time and her surgeon told her that if she did not loose the weight she would not be able to have another baby and would be sacrificing her life. "Weighing in at 292lbs at my max I decided enough was enough. I went through counseling to prepare my mind for the weight loss journey. I had a gastric bypass surgery at 31. It was a huge success for me"
Unfortunately during that winter, Michelle fell on ice and injured her back again. This time it involved a major surgery and a long recovery. Her heart had been so sad during all of these challenges and she just wanted another baby so bad. "Every time a friend or family member got pregnant, I was so sad. Not for them but because I yearned for a baby so badly". After her recovery and loosing a total of 130lbs, Michelle conceived her second daughter Aubrey.
This pregnancy was tough on her body and she had a lot of back and pelvic pain. She developed reactive hypoglycemia and was put on bed rest at 7 months gestation. Michelle was prescheduled for another cesarean and was worried that the epidural would not take due to a metal bar placed in my back and while the doctor was successful in placing the epidural, it only took to half of my body. She felt everything on her right side while she was being cut open and while it was the most painful thing she had experienced, Michelle was determined to see her daughter be born. Once the doctor had her out and allowed Michelle to see her, they put her under general anesthesia.
Aubrey was not a fan of nursing so Michelle began to pump exclusively. She pumped for 6 months straight and had enough milk stored to get her to 8 months before transitioning her to formula. "It was the best experience and it made me feel powerful and strong." Michelle returned to work at 12 weeks postpartum and suffered from depression again but was able to seek treatment quickly. "It was a great decision and something I will not feel shame for."
"Having had two c-sections and not been able to have my babies latch has been tough enough for me to go through. Having other mothers opinions on my experience and many saying that I did not experience "real birth" or " real nursing" was hurtful. I know how hard I worked for my babies and to bring them into this world. My babies were fed real breast milk, weather it was for 1 month or 8 months - I did the best I could do to provide them the best. My body has many scars and a lot of heavy saggy skin from loosing weight and surgeries, and having my babies. My body is my constant work of art. I will continue my journey to health and happiness for myself and my beautiful girls. My story is real and it is mine. I am strong and I am a mother. I want to be able to show my girls to be proud of their bodies and to also celebrate getting through so many tough times to have my beautiful girls and be a mother."