Amy Hughes (33), Gus (3), Arlo (2) and Iris (10 months)
Photographed in Seattle, Washington
Amy shares -
"We struggled with infertility for three years before we were able to conceive. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and a low thyroid. After multiple doctors, tests, blood work, surgery and a few rounds of IUI, we finally got pregnant with our first IVF cycle in late spring of 2013. I had four viable embryos, Gus was the first and we froze the remaining three. All of my pregnancies were complication-free until the end when I developed preeclampsia all three times.
I was very upset with my body for a long time during those years of infertility. I felt like it had failed me. Conceiving Iris without any intervention was very healing for me. I had 3 babies in 34 months and I'm still nursing. I still have insecurities but I'm learning to stop being so critical. It's so important to me that my kids have a realistic and healthy body image.
With Gus I had planned on delivering at a birthing center with midwives but had to be transferred to the midwife group at our local hospital at 38 weeks due to high blood pressure which ended up being preeclampsia. He was born 5lbs, 12 oz and spent three nights in the NICU for low blood sugar. The first night home with him was awful. We were so tense from lack of sleep and his crying which only increased all our nerves. I remember distinctively thinking he would be an only child because there was no way I was going through this again. Luckily I came out of the newborn fog after a couple months.
I struggled with breastfeeding as he already had a good thing going with the bottle he was given during his NICU stay. I continued to pump for him, supplementing with formula and saw several specialists before he was diagnosed with a tongue tie at seven weeks. I was still unable to get him to stay latched on as he would get mad with my flow being so much different from the bottle. I pumped for six months and stopped right before taking another dose of infertility meds to try and get pregnant again. We were concerned it might take another few years so we didn't want to wait long before again. The first embryo we transferred did not implant so we went back in three months later for the remaining two. Arlo was the only one that implanted and I made it to 37 weeks before developing preeclampsia again.
Luckily, Arlo was healthy and able to come home with me right away. Once again I found myself struggling to breastfeed. I saw multiple lactation consultants and I had done a lot more research leading up to his birth. He began losing weight fairly quickly and the stress of getting him latched on was really upsetting me. I cried on and off a lot during those first few weeks and also developed mastitis twice. I ended up supplementing him with formula and pumping again for another six months.
I hadn't started my period yet after I quit pumping at six months postpartum. After a few days of feeling off, my husband suggested I take a pregnancy test. I didn't think it was possible for us to conceive naturally and I still can't believe we caught the first egg but sure enough, we were pregnant again! I had done some research and found out that there may be a link to IVF and preeclampsia so I was really optimistic that I wouldn't have to be induced for a third time.
Unfortunately, just after 37 weeks the symptoms started again and I knew we were headed down that path. I decided early on in the pregnancy that if I had to be induced again to make peace with getting an epidural and not trying to labor on pitocin without one. I wasn't prepared for the intensity with Gus and got one after a few hours. With Arlo I labored to the end without the epidural and got one as I was 10cms and pushing (he was born 15 minutes later). I thought if I could labor with pitocin then I could handle laboring without it.
I never got to have that experience of laboring at home and transferring to the hospital when I felt it was time. However, I have had three healthy babies which I don't take for granted and I realize how lucky I am in that regard. My postpartum period with Iris was the easiest of all three. I finally figured out that lying on the couch and soaking up all her newborn sweetness was what was going to be the best thing for healing. I believe it's what helped me to breastfeed exclusively for the first time. I am going on 10 months and loving it. I had friends tell me that it would get easier after the six week mark and they were right. It was painful at times and I wasn't sure I would ever get there, but I did.
The hardest thing I ever had to go through was infertility. My heart is broken for anyone reading this that is struggling or has previously struggled. It's not something that goes away the moment you get pregnant. I feel guilty on the days that I'm not loving motherhood because there are thousands of women that would trade me in a heartbeat. I am grateful for it because on those days I usually have a moment when I remember and it shakes me from the stress or exhaustion I'm currently facing. My biggest advice is to find people you can confide in. I didn't realize how many women were silently struggling until I became very vocal about our trouble conceiving. Now that I have kids, I struggle the most with having a vision of how things should be and the reality of how they actually are. I've really had to learn to relax and go with the flow now that I have three kids, three and under. It's a daily challenge and I do find myself getting impatient. I'm working on myself every day.
I wanted to participate in this project for two reasons. I want my kids to see a mom that embraces her flaws and tries to do better every day. I also wanted to share a little of my infertility story."