Noel Elizabeth Rowley Fernandez (33) Madison, WI
Noel is mother to Kaleb (passed at 11 months, would be 17), T (15). Frankie Bliss (13), and Blanca Sol (8)
Noel shares -
"My sweet boy was born with a rare congenital heart disease. We found it when he was 4 months old and had gone into heart failure. He was put on a slew of meds and seemed to be doing so well when one day at 8 months old he woke up crying, as soon as I picked him up he just stopped breathing. He was in a coma for 16 days and suffered severe generalized brain damage from the time he went without oxygen. I took Kaleb home on even more meds, with a whole team of specialists to visit weekly.
On January 10 2001, in the early morning hours, Kaleb's heart monitor awoke me, which was not uncommon, this time though he did not perk up with a bit of cuddling. My boy's heart simply wore out. Losing him has never gotten easier. I still tear up when I tell his story, I still have moments of anger at what was stolen from him, from me, and mostly from my daughters who will never know him except through my words and memories of him.
I also lost a baby in the second trimester of pregnancy back in 2007. I knew from the moment I found out I was carrying this soul that something was not right. Physically, I felt as I usually do in pregnancy, exhausted and nauseous constantly but something always felt like this baby was not ready to be here. No surprise really, as I was in a very rocky marriage, with a man who was far less than supportive. I woke up on Christmas Eve to some light bleeding. I hoped against hope that it would all be ok until I saw the still baby on ultrasound. I was surprised by the strength of this grief. I had lost Kaleb after fighting for months to keep him alive, I did not think losing a baby in pregnancy would match that pain, and I did not allow myself to really grieve this loss for many years.
Each of my postpartum experiences were vastly different. My most challenging was after Frankie's birth. I had such severe depression and every struggle possible to breastfeed her. At about 2.5 months old I switched to formula to try and save my sanity. I had no idea that milk sharing was even a thing back then. The switch to formula made me feel like a complete and utter failure. My depression deepened and I became unrecognizable to myself. I look back now and see how clearly in distress I was and how it scared everyone around me yet they all essentially said "shut up".
New moms shouldn't be saying the things I was saying or feeling the way I was feeling. So everyone ignores it and me and my girl suffered the consequences for many years. When I talk about my PPD now lots of people ask when I "got over it"...I don't think I ever truly did. The depression itself has slipped away with lots of therapy and some meds at times (which felt like a failure yet again) but I am not the person I was before that. And my relationships with Frankie has taken a lot more work and attention and effort than with my other babies and I know the depression played an enormous role.
Interestingly, Frankie is actually the kid that is most tuned into me ... I can't hide any emotion from Frankie she just knows when something's going on. And she is like that with strangers even. She has such a tender heart and cares so deeply for those around her. It's pretty incredible to watch. My experience will play a huge role in how my postpartum care is arranged in my Midwifery practice. Our society sucks at being there for growing families and families going through loss and I am looking forward to being able to be a part of better support for my community.
I have a vastly different body than I did pre-pregnancies. I carry 50lbs more than I used to, along with the stretch marks that are EVERYWHERE, the large, saggy breasts ...what isn't somehow touched and changed by pregnancy? I am absolutely still trying to find peace with my body though it is no longer a daily struggle I still have more days of negative self talk than not. It is so sad to me how we see ourselves in the harshest of light.
I work with women (as a midwife) on a daily basis on their pregnancy, birth, and parenting journeys- women of all shapes and sizes, who carry incredible beauty and strength and often they don't see it themselves. On my hard days I try to see myself through someone else's eyes, and when I am able to I can see and acknowledge that beauty in me. How sad that I can't see it with my own eyes.
We live in a culture that tells women, from day one, not to take up too much space. The smaller we can make ourselves (body, voice, spirit) the more desirable we are. Fuck that. Women are the fiercest creatures on this planet. We give ourselves over to the creation of another being! We grow, carry, birth, and then spend our days and all of our energy bringing these beings up to create a better world...we are not only allowed to take up some space and be loud and be fierce, it's our birthright.
I want to tell myself, and other women to trust yourself. You are the expert on yourself and your baby. And Talk talk talk about what you are experiencing. As scary as it can be sometimes I promise there is gonna be someone who says holy shit! Me too! And now you, and that person, are less alone in this journey that can be very isolating.
This is another step in my journey to loving this body I am in. Doing this terrifies me a bit. And showing my 3 daughters that there is nothing to hide...this world is telling them constantly that they are not good enough and any little action I can take to combat that message and replace it with "Yes, you are good enough and there is no shame!" - will hopefully add up to women who are a bit less harmed by this culture than I was.