The lovely Lacey Schmidt, Miles (4.5) and Jack (almost 3).
Lacey is a solo parent of two beautiful, amazing boys. She had a difficult first pregnancy that was not planned and was very scary for her. Miles arrived weeks late and presented in a posterior position. She had planned to birth at home, but after hours of pushing had to transfer to the hospital where she ultimately delivered via cesarean. "It was my worst nightmare and I was ill prepared how to recover from it especially on my own. I remember it used to take me up to ten or fifteen minutes to rollover in the middle of the night to nurse my baby and for awhile I was so crazed I stopped taking my pain meds and ended up in the ER. I thought something was wrong but I was really in so much pain I was half out of my mind".
Miles was a high needs baby which became increasingly difficult for Lacey to cope with. And her body image was a constant struggle. She gained a lot of weigt during pregnancy and it didn't come of easily. "I was appalled by my body, even as it nourished my baby. I was overwhelmed, exhausted - and I realize now, seriously depressed. I told almost no one. I used to take him outside to play because it was the only place I knew we were safe, and I wouldn't cry because the neighbors were all around us and would often stop by or acknowledge us with a wave. He never took a bottle. He slept poorly. I was back at work part time at 6 weeks and full time at 10. His dad came maybe 2 or 3 weekends a month. I thought every day we might die".
Lacey conceived again unexpectedly just after Miles' first birthday. Her children's dad was thrilled but she was devastated. Lacey had started physical therapy just prior to conceiving again in hopes of understanding her birth and her body. She was finally willing to touch her c-section scar. "When asked about my birth, I would say - and still do - that my baby was cut out of my body. And now, I was pregnant again". She focused on eliminating most of the carbs from her diet in hopes of gaining less weight as her providers thought she may have had undiagnosed gestational diabetes in her first pregnancy. She hoped that in growing a smaller baby she could have a successful VBAC, which she was approved to pursue through her midwife group.
"I went into PT, I went to ICAN and birth circle meetings. I did Hypnobabies. I prepared my birth space, grew my community of mama's. I prepared to do this on my own, and everything hinged on a VBAC". She carried three days post dates and was in dial that she was laboring. Her body took over and by time her midwife arrived it was clear to everyone but her that she was ready to push. He was also malpositioned and she pushed hard for hours. Her vulva began to swell and she transferred to the hospital. The pain was intense and they called in a team recommending a repeat cesarean, citing that the baby wasn't descending as far as her midwife had thought. She spoke up for herself and ultimately decided to push with vacuum assistance. "I ended up pushing for almost 20 minutes, while my entire birth team - midwife, doula, birth photographer, mom - cheered for me like I was in the biggest event of my life. I was so tired and remember thinking as he crowned forever - "can they still section him and pulled him out if i just quit?" I didn't. He came out calm and perfect".
This birth was difficult on her low abs and pelvic floor and she's still healing today. Lacey went through serious PPD but this time, knew to get help. "I still don't know how we made it, that first year". She returned to work quickly and while it was a struggle is so grateful to have such great support from her extended family. She eventually took a new job and moved across the country away from her friends and family but has been making it work.
"Motherhood hasn't come easy to me - it's been a lot of hard work, and our circumstances have made it seem almost impossible most of the time to do anything but my career and mother my children. I know I need me in there too and we are finally getting to the point where I feel like I can care for myself better - so I'm doing more yoga, physical therapy so I can run again without feeling like my uterus is falling out, and doing some things i enjoy, like reading and traveling. The boys are always by my side and I've learned it's about integration, not balance, or sacrifice. What's happened has made me question so much about gender and perception of working women and my own ability and power. Dating after some of the comments that were made to me, and after two children so close and are still so young has also been really hard. I'm still nursing my youngest. My body still isn't mine. All that I thought this would be like...it hasn't been. At the same time it's all been better and bigger and I've grown so much as a person and as a woman than I ever thought possible. I'm so grateful to my boys for providing that".
"I wanted the opportunity to define my story, and come to some terms about how I have transformed -including physically. I'm so proud of what my body has and continues to do to care for my little family. It's such a different body than what it was - and so much better. My life is like that too. I feel so compelled to also start to share my story - and be proud of who I am, what we've become and continue to grow to be. Solo parenting is no joke; it's the hardest, sometimes crushing and always absolutely amazing and exhilarating work I've ever done. I want other women to also know and see what's possible. If your partner disappears that's ok. Your baby doesn't take a bottle? It's ok. You lose the weight, gain the weight, things tighten back up or you don't have time for that - it's all okay. Better than ok. I'd rather be out in this world with this body and these little men than to go back to the tight abs and perky breasts I used to have. Someday, I hope they see our participation here - and really in the world at large - and I hope they are super proud of me, and of themselves, and their role in transforming me, and maybe even helping transform someone else in this world. Women are so often belittled and diminished and made to feel like what we have to say, what we have to do, and what we look like isn't enough. In fact, we have all the power in the world. We are more than enough. We just have to be the ones who acknowledge that and put that forth in the world. Participating in this project is part of mine."