The wonderful Esther Warren, mother to Sidney (miscarried at 9 weeks) and mo-di identical twins, Bo and Finley (19 months).
When Esther learned she was pregnant her husband said it was one of the happiest moments of his life. At their first ultrasound, their midwife showed them the baby, but couldn't find a heartbeat. The baby was measuring correctly which meant it must have passed recently. They were both devastated, and she remember's thinking her identity was now one of a woman who miscarried. Their midwife recommended a D&C, which she had two days later. "I couldn't wait; I remember the pain of thinking about the baby still inside of me, and I imagined it cold and gray. There were so many tears, but I remember breaking down when the nurse at the D&C said "I'm sorry for your loss," the first time anyone had said that. I still have doubts about whether I should have opted to miscarry naturally. I had so little bleeding when I was recovering that I sometimes feel distant from the experience".
Esther went to group therapy with other women who had lost, but says it was still too fresh for her and at the time, it was too difficult to hear of others' loss as well. She struggled a lot with honoring her feelings but wondering if she had a "right" to be so sad when she was "only" nine weeks along. "It took awhile to let myself be as sad as I was. It also took awhile for me to recognize that naming the baby would help me during my grieving, "despite" being "only" 9 weeks. We named the baby Sidney and take a special family trip each February - Sidney's due date - in remembrance".
"Now, with my identity of a woman who miscarried, it helps with my grieving that I'm open about it. I want to help normalize the experience. I also know that all women experience miscarriage differently, and I want to honor all of those experiences. I've also come to accept my own, seemingly conflicting feelings about the miscarriage - if we hadn't lost Sidney, we wouldn't have Bo and Finley. But, I miss Sidney terribly, and adore Bo and Finley. Both are truths."
Esther conceived again two months after loosing Sidney. They went back to the same midwife but learned they were having mono-di twins and needed to be referred to high risk doctors. They had really hoped for an experience with midwives, hopefully a natural birth, but it was clear that it wouldn't happen that way for them. The pregnancy itself was relatively uneventful, but she was monitored closely with ultrasounds every two week to ensure both babies were growing. Each ultrasound brought anxiety, as it brought her back to the miscarriage experience. Fortunately, the babies were healthy and growing each time. The doctors wanted her to deliver at 37 weeks and after negotiating they agreed to induce her at 37 weeks and 4 days. "I'm so grateful for the ability to experience contractions for several hours and get support from my husband, parents, and doula. Oh, the doula! Major props to doulas. I had hoped to deliver naturally, without medication, but the high risk doctors required that I get the epidural. These "requirements" of course bothered me. Upon reflection, sometimes I wonder if we should have fought them more, or found another hospital. It upsets me that mothers' wishes are often pushed aside, and there is intimidation during the pregnancy and birthing process. People often say, "at least the baby is healthy," which is problematic for many reasons, but for me specifically, it discounts my experience. The mother's experience matters!"
After receiving her epidural, Finley's heart rate dropped. Alarms went off, doctors and nurses flooded the room, but no one told her what was happening. They told her, "put this under your mouth!" "Turn on your side!" Finally, her doula came to her side, and told her that she may need to deliver via cesarean, and she believed it may be necessary. Although she was scared, hearing that from a person she trusted helped ease her anxiety. When the doctor arrived he was calm and checked the monitor, telling her they would wait a couple of more minutes to see if his heart rate returned. When it did, she was thrilled, but remembers hearing a resident say, "ok, but I don't see how these babies are going to be born without a c-section."
They had one more scare with Finley's heart rate dropping again, but it recovered. After the epidural, she was progressing much slower than before, which left a lot of waiting. In the evening, she was fully dilated, and her doula helped with practice pushes before they took her to the operating room (they told them this was standard procedure with twins, in case a c-section is needed). Since she had the epidural, she was relying on the doctors and nurses to tell her when to push. She had hoped for an experience where she could be in tune with her body, with her body telling her what to do, but because she didn't feel much of anything, she was reliant on others. Within 10 pushes, Bo came out, head first. They did a quick ultrasound, and saw that Finley was breech, and they were able to pull him out by his legs. They were able to spend time with both of them before they took Finley to the NICU - likely because of his low birth weight, he was having some respiratory issues and had low blood sugar. She came home with Bo in two days, but Finley was in the NICU for a week. It was difficult to be away from him but during that week, her husband would transport her breastmilk to the hospital twice a day, and was able to do skin-to-skin. Breastfeeding was a challenge at first - it hurt, and everyone was telling her that it shouldn't. "With the support of my doula, mom, and husband, I was able to keep going, and we are still breastfeeding. I hope to go as long as Bo and Finley want".
"I wanted to participate for a few reasons. First, for my boys. I always thought raising girls would be more difficult for me - to raise strong, feminist girls, knowing they lived in a world where they were seen as less than. Of course, mothers and fathers who do this have a heavy weight on their shoulders. However, for me, when our boys were born, I realized the enormous responsibility of raising strong, feminist boys, knowing they lived in a world where they had tremendous privilege. I want my boys to participate in this project, to honor women and mothers. I also wanted to participate for the community of women this has brought together. Reading their stories and seeing their photos has been such an inspiration, and a reminder that we all have pain, and all have hope, and this bonds us all. I want my story added, in hopes my story can add just a small part to this larger movement. And, of course, I'm doing it for myself. My transition to motherhood has been full of joy, but also a lot of struggle. There have been so many difficult moments and times when I really wasn't sure I had enough strength to go on - the sleep deprivation, the doubts I was doing the right thing, the breastfeeding, the toll on my relationship. Participating in this project captures this struggle but highlights for me my body's - and by extension, my own - incredible abilities. It's truly an honor to participate."