The stunning Kate Suddes, mother to June (6.5), Paul Thomas (stillborn - would be 3.5), and Diana (11 months). Kate also had two miscarriages between Paul and Diana.
Kate has always been fascinated by pregnancy and motherhood. She nannied in college and after. She has a BFA in printmaking and photography and did her thesis on pregnancy, always knowing it was something she wanted to experience. She got pregnant quickly after she and her husband were married and very sick to 25-26 weeks with horrible migraines, vomiting, and acne. She found the experience incredibly isolating and remembers thinking that this wasn't how she'd imagined it to be. Kate got the home birth bug and began looking for midwives. Her husband is an anesthesia nurse and it took some time for him to come around but they ultimately found an amazing team they were both excited to work with.
It wasn't until later that Kate realized how perfect the experience truly was. June arrived four days past her due date, at home in the tub. She had begun having contractions the previous evening around 8 or 9pm and June was born at 6:16 in the morning. She latched and nursed without any complications and it was so amazing to meet this beautiful human she'd been imagining for so long.
When June was about 18 months they started trying to get pregnant again, and continued trying to conceive for another 18 months. They had spoke to their midwife and were on their last month of trying before looking into other options. Kate had a feeling she was pregnant but a blood test came back negative. On April Fool's Day she took an at home test just in case and saw a faint second line, so she took another test that was positive. Paul's pregnancy brought less sickness than June's had and they decided to find out the sex of their baby this time. In July, they learned that they were having a boy and got June an anatomical doll named Paul. They started asking her where her baby Paul doll was and the name stuck. When their Paul was born, they didn't have names decided yet but this felt so fitting. His middle name, Thomas, is after Kate's brother whose birthday is just days from Paul's due date.
Kate was 36 weeks along when she realized that her baby wasn't moving. Paul was normally very active in the morning but he wasn't on this day. She pushed against her stomach and felt a limb and pushed it over but wasn't met with any resistance. She had been planning a second home birth and called her midwife who tried to reassure her. She told her to drink some tea and eat some sugar and call her back soon after. One part of Kate's mind tried to reassure her that everything would be okay and in another she just knew that he was already gone. Her husband came over and talked to her belly and asked him to move. Kate called her midwife back and she agreed they needed to go into the hospital.
The nurse was looking for a heartbeat but kept finding Kate's instead. She remembers asking the nurse to please just tell her but was told that she couldn't confirm anything until the doctor arrived. Minutes later the doctor came in with an ultrasound machine and was able to confirm that Paul did not have a heartbeat. Kate remember sobbing and looking at her husband. It began to hit her what they had to go through. She was on the edge of this incredibly long journey with some understanding of what needed to happen but no real idea of what was coming. The doctors told her she could go home to take some time and wait to see what happened or she could be induced. She kept forgetting that there was no emergency. There was no rush, he was already gone but time felt like an eternity and she wanted to start the process.
They went home to shower and pack and went to a different hospital where her husband works. Kate thought things would move quickly with this birth, as they had with June, but Paul's birth was so different. She wasn't ready and neither was he. It took 36 hours for her to progress with him. Paul was born on Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 10:56 weighing 6lbs, 2oz and he was perfect. Kate has some fear as to what Paul would look like when he was born but he was so beautiful. She had that birth high that erased all the pain and allowed her to forget for a minute that he was gone. She looked up to the end of the bed and saw her husband and midwives crying and it hit her all over again that he wasn't alive.
They spent time with Paul and took pictures with him. He stayed with them for two hours before it started to feel like time. Kate has some regrets about not spending more time or taking more pictures. She wishes she'd unwrapped him and inspected his body. Saying goodbye to Paul and knowing that he was going to be alone in the morgue was one of the most difficult parts of this journey. Sitting in the hospital, postpartum, talking about death felt so foreign. Kate kept asking when everything was going to happen and thinking that she could just go stay with him and hold his hand so he wasn't by himself. It was haunting to be away from him and know that he was there.
Kate remember checking her email religiously the next two weeks just waiting for his ashes to come back. She realized how relative it all is when you find joy in searching for baby urns because that's how you get to keep your baby alive. They keep an alter in their home with Paul's ashes, pictures and things, their place to be able to see and visit with him.
On Paul's first birthday, Kate published an essay that ran with her story and an interview. It was an incredible way to celebrate his birthday and brought a lot of community and support. The dark side of that however, was that Kate was miscarrying. She had been so focused on getting pregnant again, she needed to right the ship, and then lost the pregnancy at 11 weeks as she was preparing to mark the day she had lost him.
They continued to try and saw an infertility specialist, who diagnosed them with undiagnosed infertility because there was no reason why. Kate got pregnant again in March, which was when she had conceived Paul. She found ways to make connections and hold it all but the same thing happened. At nine weeks she lost the pregnancy and had to have her miscarriage induced. They knew that they couldn't keep doing this and saw another fertility specialist who suggested they try IVF.
Diana was conceived via IVF which was a new undertaking in itself. Kate and her husband felt hugely conflicted about the money because they didn't have it but knew it was the right thing for them. Kate says it was always clear to her that the baby after Paul would be a girl and she was. This pregnancy was so much different than her others and Kate felt permission to put so many things on hold. She had some anxiety but really tried to pack it away and enjoy each day. Time changed for her and she felt it's passing so differently. It was liberating to know that at any point anything could go wrong and found that it wasn't just about having a healthy baby anymore, but enjoying the moments as they came. Feeling Diana move was reassuring but her stillness could be startling. They chose to give birth in a hospital with an OB her midwife referred her too. She was having monthly ultrasounds and non-stress tests which increased near the end. There were a couple of scares but Diana was okay and Kate could just sense that she was solid.
Kate feels like she knows her children and who they are early on and Diana was no exception. She was a firecracker but also so solid and Kate could tell that Diana herself wasn't caught up in her story with Paul. Diana had her own story. She arrived at 39 weeks and 3 days, following induction in just four hours. She was very quiet when she was born and Kate remembers asking if she was okay then realizing she was just doing her own thing.
The unexpected heartache for Kate then came with their breastfeeding experience. She had nursed June for over two years and they both loved it. She remembers thinking with June, "Who needs Lactation Consultants? This is easy". The answer was that she needs them! Diana couldn't latch and wasn't drinking. She had a missed tongue tie that required laser surgery and mouth therapy. They saw massage therapists, cranial sacral therapists and were so determined to make things work. She had known for sure that she would breastfeed and was thrown that this was so difficult. She realized that this wasn't about her and her desires but Diana and her story. Diana kept trying to tell her that she was fine with formula and the bottle and Kate needed to undo all the judgment she had.
"We've built these illusions around motherhood that there is so much we can control but we can't. People have babies every day but it's a miracle every time. Every story is beautiful, powerful - stories save people's lives." After Paul died, Kate read everything she could to help with the darkness and isolation. Knowing someone else came before her helped her get through. "Motherhood is important work but doesn't get talked about enough in our culture. There's a push to hide it, to bounce back. Facilitating healthy body image, accepting and loving our bodies is so needed. Part of achieving that is seeing what they actually look like".