The marvelous Jessica Murray, Connor (5), Callie (4), and Caitlin (2)
Jessica conceived Connor when she was 21 years old, and struggled with severe "morning sickness" all day throughout her pregnancy. At 30 weeks, she had a 3D ultrasound, and learned that alarmingly Connor was only in the 4th percentile for growth and didn't appear to be growing as he should be. They were referred to a specialist for a more in-depth ultrasound which confirmed IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) and Jessica was put on bedrest for the following two weeks. During those two weeks she had several non-stress tests and office visits with her OB.
At 34 weeks 3 days pregnant, the specialist confirmed their worst fears that Connor had not grown at all in the two weeks since their last visit. Jessica was sent for induction the following day and says that she felt all of her dreams for her pregnancy and birth crashing away. When her doctor told her, "At this point, your baby will do better outside of the womb than in it.", she felt utterly incompetent and as if she had already failed as a mother. After 16.5 hours of Pitocin induced labor, in which Jessica was throwing up and managing bloody noses, she couldn't fight through it any longer and requested an epidural and Zofran. Two hours later, nurses rushed in, threw an oxygen mask on her face and she had no idea what was happening. Connor's heart rate had dropped dangerously low and she was ready to go. Two pushes later, Connor arrived and was rushed to NICU.
While Connor had some issues with feeding and his low birth weight he only had to spend five days in NICU before coming home. Jessica and her husband moved to a new state when he was a month old and she struggled mentally and emotionally. She felt disconnected after being separated from him and though she had hoped to breastfeed could never get a good latch. After pumping exclusively for four months, Jessica switched to formula. Jessica's postpartum anxiety and depression went undiagnosed and she didn't feel like herself. When her son was 7 months old she learned she was pregnant with Callie and cried for days.
Early in this pregnancy, Jessica began to see a counselor which helped greatly in addressing her anxiety. She continued to be sick throughout this pregnancy and had to go to the ER several times for weakness and dehydration before she was eventually diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. At 34 weeks, Jessica began to panic that Callie wasn't growing but she was doing great. At 40 weeks 2 days, Callie's OB mentioned that she had some "red flags" and wanted to induce but she still doesn't know what the issue was. She was terrified to be induced but labor had already began on its own and she hoped to allow labor to continue but her doctors wanted to push Pitocin. Looking back, Jessica wishes she had been a bigger advocate for herself. Less than 3 hours after first arriving at the hospital, Callie was born without complication and was able to stay with Jessica. Jessica struggled to nurse through latching issues due to a lip tie but after about 7 weeks something clicked and things went well. A nursing strike at 8 months ended their breastfeeding relationship which was difficult, but Jessica felt lucky to not struggle with depression and/or anxiety this time.
Jessica's third pregnancy brought on even stronger Hyperemesis Gravidarum and she carried to 40 weeks, 2 days when contractions began at home. They transferred to the hospital quickly and Caitlin was born 2 hours later without induction this time. Jessica was Group B Strep positive and was given Penicillin during labor without knowing she was allergic to it. She developed hives all of her body which lasted for months and made her extremely uncomfortable. Jessica was able to nurse for 13 months which felt amazing but also struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety and decided to take medication.
"I felt lost. I had completely immersed myself in motherhood, and I felt like I was drowning. I've been a stay at home mom since Connor's birth, so I've felt isolated off and on, but I have a great group of support both in my family and friends as well as online." I have recently been diagnosed with Hashimotos and hypothyroidism, so that has been a separate battle in itself. I'm currently taking back my identity by going back to school. Being a full time mom and full time student is for the birds, but it's not only making me a better person...it's making me a better mom to my kids. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart.
Jessica chose to participate in this movement out of a desire to empower women. "We need to start supporting each other instead of judging and shaming. Motherhood/womanhood is hard. I also want to help normalize breast feeding and the postpartum body. I am still working being comfortable in the body I have but that is hard. I still struggle with anxiety and depression and hope that this movement will help women get help and speak up about their feelings. Looking back I had major postpartum anxiety with Connor that was never addressed. It still affects me today but I am working on this. I want women to support each other unconditionally, regardless of their choices".