Sarah Johnston (32), Liam James (almost 5) and Ruby Jeanne (14 months)
San Diego, CA
Sarah shares -
"I've always struggled with body image and have gone up and down in weight since my teens. While pregnancy did bring swollen ankles and stretch marks, it was strangely also the time that I felt most radiant. I loved my firm, round belly and feeling those kicks from the inside so much. Postpartum has been more difficult for me, seeing things loose and saggy that were once firm and tight, but I am proud to have grown two healthy babies and breastfed 37 combined months and counting!
Liam was born in under 3 hours at 41w5d, and I was so proud to have achieved my goal of an unmedicated birth. Everything seemed wonderful at first, until at 24 hours of life he was taken to the NICU for concerns regarding his oxygen levels. It was there that they discovered Liam's heart had been injured in utero, and it was nearly double the size it should be. He was diagnosed with right ventricular hypertrophy and was unable to oxygenate his blood properly, so they moved him to an oxygen tent where we were unable to hold him and could only watch as they took blood samples, placed IV's, and tried to figure out why this had happened.
I started pumping at this point, and my goals of exclusively nursing at the breast, and avoiding a pacifier went out the window. Liam was in the NICU for 11 days until his heart had recovered enough that he could maintain consistent oxygen levels. We maintained care with a pediatric cardiologist at this point. This entire experience threw my Type-A self for a loop, and nothing seemed to go to plan. I felt so robbed of that blissful postpartum period of laying around skin-to-skin with my new baby and just getting to know each other. Instead first two weeks of his life were spent agonizing over beeping monitors, untangling tubes and wires, and never getting the opportunity to physically heal or self-care because I was too worried about my baby. I also developed a huge oversupply due to my being forced to pump instead of feeding on demand, which led to mastitis and other complications.
Today Liam is a healthy almost-5 year old, and for that I am SO THANKFUL. But the postpartum experience was traumatic for me and I longed to experience the blissful birth of a healthy baby.
When I got pregnant with Ruby, I felt a little nervous about potential complications, but decided to hire a private midwife and plan for a home birth. My care was incredible and I felt so supported and loved throughout the entire pregnancy. We were thrilled to find out we were having a girl this time, and that she appeared totally healthy. I went into labor at 38w5d and had another whirlwind precipitous birth! Ruby was born on my bed (the tub was only an inch deep) and was healthy and beautiful. I felt on top of the world and was so happy to be in my own home this time.
The next few days after her birth I stayed in my room and snuggled my baby, breastfeeding on demand and just enjoying her. My midwives visited us at home and confirmed she was gaining weight quickly and was oxygenating just fine. We continued "lying-in" for a full 2 weeks and it was incredible. The postpartum experience with her was such a redemption after Liam's rough start, and I felt finally healed from that whole ordeal. I finally got my blissful postpartum, and my only wish is that every mother get to experience something like this with their babies!
YOU CAN DO THIS. Applicable to unmedicated birth, to unforeseen complications, to breastfeeding difficulties, and all those times that your children test your patience and sanity. I doubted myself so many times, and I just wish I could say to myself, you can do this. Your body can do this. You are strong enough to do this. You know what's best for your baby! Because I did it, I'm doing it, I am strong, and I do know what's best.
I have followed your work for years and I love reading all the stories and looking at these beautiful families, some who have been through the unthinkable. While my journey has had its ups and downs, I am humbled by the stories of infertility and loss, and am so grateful for my two healthy children. I am honored to be a part of this project and be in the company of such strong women! And selfishly, I wanted to capture this moment in time where my children are little and we are in the thick of it all."