The amazing Courtney Hexter, Evan (13), Christopher (10), and Nicholas (5)
When Courtney and her now husband discovered they were expecting during their 18 month long engagement, some members of her family were not happy with the order in which their life events were happening. She was 26 and her husband was 29 at the time. They had been engaged for 8 months and this was going to be both of their families' first grandchild. It was a very difficult time; one that left emotional wounds with scars that 13 years later are still fading and hurt every once in a while.
Evan arrived a month premature after 48 hours of labor. The day she went into labor was supposed to be her surprise baby shower and a lot of friends were in town to visit. She contracted over the weekend but wasn't dilating so they sent her home Monday morning. That evening she returned to the ER and continued to labor after admission. They eventually broke her water and she was given an epidural and around 3am her son was born after about 45 minutes of pushing.
She began to breastfeed and though it was going well they were told to supplement with formula due to Evan's prematurity. By time she got married and went on their honey moon 5 months later they'd switched to formula. "I wish we'd been able to continue that bond - we really needed it. In between Evan's birth and our wedding day, I was trying to balance being a new mom to a premature/colicky baby and a bride to be all at the same time, it was a lot. My original instincts had been to focus on the motherhood part and let the wedding stuff wait. Others wanted the opposite of that so we agreed to proceed as planned. I know now that my initial instincts were good and I needed to take one thing at a time. I also know now that I was struggling with postpartum anxiety and depression. I thought it was just that I had too much going on in my life all at once and I did but it was more than that though & the first year was incredibly difficult".
They struggled as a family in those early years and Evan began to have some issues with growth. He was exhibiting some delays and began speech therapy in their second year. A new job brought them to North Carolina away from their families and she says, "It took us too many years to fully realize that not only does raising children take a village but that sometimes, it's not the village you already have..."
Christopher was born when Evan was three and she feels lucky to have had everything go as planned. They anticipated another early bird but her due date came and went. Her water broke independently and he was born swiftly just a couple of hours later. Everything happened so fast, there was no time for an epidural and he was out in just a few pushes. Recovery went really well and he nursed like a champ but Courtney was homesick and fell back into a postpartum depression in his early months.
The next few years Courtney navigated motherhood and her identity and realized that stay at home parenting was far too isolating and lonely for her. She wondered if she'd have more children and nearly 3.5 years later, Nicholas was in her arms. Twice while they were trying to get pregnant she had late, very difficult periods. After the second one, she went to the doctor and he confirmed that she had likely miscarried and also diagnosed her with endometriosis.
Courtney found a new care provider during this pregnancy and things went well. She was consider higher risk due to her age but remained healthy. Her labor began again with her water breaking and things progressed quickly. She opted for an epidural at 5cms but they were having difficulty getting it placed. They finally got it in and almost immediately she needed to push, she got him out quickly, on his due date, and the epidural kicked in just after he was born.
She felt like a veteran mom this time but began to struggle emotionally postpartum. She eventually spoke with her doctor and asked for a referral to a therapist but he gave her a prescription instead. She didn't want to take anything while nursing and only took one dose before realizing it was too much for her. "Ultimately, with the support of my husband, friends and family, lower expectations, more sleep, fresh air and exercise I was able to get through it. But the postpartum issues are a part of the reasons we decided not to try for a fourth child. Education about postpartum, anxiety, and depression, going to therapy, setting boundaries, practicing self-care, mindfulness, yoga & returning to part-time working/coaching have helped & continue to do so. Over the years we have also faced multiple mental health diagnoses in our children. Anxiety, ADHD, OCD, Depression, ODD, Sensory Processing Disorder & Tics/Tourette's have become things I sometimes wish I knew nothing about instead of all that I do now. We have had to really work hard on how we go about our lives and who our village is. We are still in the trenches of this part of our parenting everyday but focusing on this without the needs of a newborn and the postpartum impact has been a little bit easier."
"My beautiful mother saw herself differently than I did. She would comment negatively on her weight and it impacted my sister and I. I've always been short and curvy and I'm ok with that but I did feel very self conscious as I developed in my teenage years. As an adult I was able to accept my curves and was grateful to my younger self for having the foresight not to succumb to the insecurities of my teenage years. I've seen too many people I love develop eating disorders. I want us all to learn to love ourselves-especially our amazing bodies. I'm raising three boys who I want to see women of all shapes and sizes as beautiful, capable human beings. I will never forget a wonderfully wise friend and neighbor of mine telling me she was grateful for her body and what it had done. I'm 40 now and I am so grateful and proud of what my body has done and given me too! I want all of us to understand what real looks like and that real is messy sometimes. I truly feel that a perfect world, is one in which everyone is accepting of their own imperfections & brave enough to show it!"