The gorgeous Michaela Gasseling, Atlee (3) and Thomas James "TJ" (15 months). Michaela had a wonderful pregnancy with Atlee, so much so that she forgot she was pregnant at times. She read a lot during her pregnancy knowing that she wanted to approach things naturally without much intervention. They offered to schedule induction at 39 weeks which she declined and found herself laboring at home soon after. Michaela had contractions 7 to 10 minutes apart, around the clock for two full days before finally going to in to her doctor. Once there, she learned that she was definitely in labor but Atlee was having some heart decells so they wanted her to head right to the hospital. She had hoped to go home first as she was only 4 cms dilated but conceded. She walked the halls all day long and around 5pm learned she had progressed to 5cms. The doctor broke her water and because her daughter was sunny side up she had a couple more hours of intense back labor before it was time to push. Michaela never felt the urge to push but was able to be coached through it. She pushed for nearly 6 hours and while pushing Atlee's heart began to decelerate quite drastically. They tried vacuum extraction a couple of times unsuccessfully and eventually, Michaela's mom became concerned that Atlee's heart rate was dropping so dangerously and Michaela was so exhausted. She asked what would happen if the baby truly was stuck and the doctor responded she'd have to be taken for a cesarean.
Michaela looked at her husband and said no. She mustered everything she could and was able to push her baby out. Atlee was born with a nuchal cord and was blue. She had to be taken away for a few minutes so they could help her breathe but she was able to latch right away when she returned and has been very healthy since. Michaela says that while everything has gone well she still finds herself thinking about her about seeing Atlee so blue and hearing her heart rate drop and drop. While she tries to focus on the positive she often finds the fear creeping in. She was able to take 12 weeks of to bond with with her daughter and was grateful she nursed very well.
When she got pregnant again, a friend at work told her that she had hired a doula and it was the best decision she had ever made. Michaela called the doula right away and she is one of her close friends now. Her second pregnancy went very well and while she carried post dates but had a much shorter, straight forward labor and delivery. While she was hesitant to frame it as healing due to the feels she still has about Atlee's arrival it was a wonderful experience that she very much needed. Having someone supporting and encouraging her made so much difference. She chose not to be on the monitor this time knowing the sound of her baby's heartbeat would be too much for her. Having a doula was exactly what she needed.
When TJ was three weeks old her family sold their house and moved, staying with her in-laws while their new house was renovated. Michaela's doula had educated her about postpartum depression and pointed out that she had quite a few triggers happening and while she doesn't know that she ever had PPD, she did go through some dark times and found transitioning from one to two quite difficult but is grateful that she had such great support from her husband and in-laws.
When you're pregnant there is so much joy and focus on a mother and then when a baby is born all of the focus shifts and a mother is often left in the shadows. Michaela is now the friend who offers to clean friends houses when they have a baby, or bring meals, and makes a point to acknowledge and ask how they are doing in what can be such a vulnerable and isolating time. "What moms need is to feel support and connection."
Michaela's breastfeeding relationships have been so important to her as has been being able to support other women. Since having her children she has both become a fitness instructor supporting women in health and a La Leche League leader allowing her to offer support to several communities of women who need it.
In college, Michaela struggled with an eating disorder and wondered if pregnancy would draw that out again. She was instead able to see herself as beautiful and okay. Your body and your being become so different once you become a mother, she says. It's important to find that comfort in who we are and set a positive example for a children in the dialogue we have about our bodies in their presence. Once we can see that we begin to understand both how beautiful and how strong women are.