The amazing Kristin Dietz, Deegan (6) and Jacob (2).
Kristin's motherhood journey, like so many other women, has been one with more unexpected twists and turns than she would have ever imagined. She met her partner 17.5 years ago and at the time, in their very early 20's; found it to be a time in which their careers and having fun were what mattered most but she always knew she wanted to be a mom. "Being a lesbian couple in the early 2000's, conceiving a baby seemed something that was so far out of reach financially and truthfully, my partner and I just weren't ready for that life; so, time marched on". In 2010, after selecting a donor and three IUI attempts, she became pregnant with their first son at the age of 31. "I remember feeling ecstatic by the positive pregnancy tests and relieved to know that my body "worked". Somewhere along the line while growing up, I had accepted the belief that something wasn't up to par with my body; my weight (too much), my height (too tall), my hair (not blonde enough, too short), my teeth (crooked)...these beliefs led me to hold a very strong belief that my body was not capable".
Kristin says that her pregnancy was beautiful. She had all day sickness, food aversions and was exhausted but it was one of the first times in her 31 years of life that she truly felt beautiful which made the struggles dim in comparison to how she felt emotionally. "The roundness of my belly, the softness of my thighs all had purpose and meaning as they symbolized the life I was carrying and growing inside and were not indicators of my failed body". Unfortunately, her OB appointments also started with conversations about her weight and how much weight she had gained as opposed to how she was actually feeling. Those numbers and the act of stepping on the scale became anxiety riddled events that only got worse the closer they got to her due date. September 2010, a week before her due date, Kristin had an OB appointment and at this point, had begun seeing a midwife within the practice as well. They were concerned that with Labor Day weekend approaching maybe it would be a "good idea" to induce her "just in case" her blood pressure went up over the holiday weekend. She had no idea to say no to this. So, she and her partner headed to the hospital.
Kristin was given Cervidal which after hours, had done nothing to soften nor open her cervix. Uncomfortable and hooked up to monitors, tethered to the bed, she decided to leave when her midwife came in at 2:30am to tell her that if she didn't make any progress in the next few hours, the next doctor coming on would send her home because she didn't believe in inducing before 39 weeks. They packed up her stuff that minute and left the hospital. During a non-stress test at 39 weeks 3 days, it was noted that her baby was having decels that weren't regulating themselves well. Kristin was sent to the hospital for further monitoring and an ultrasound. The OB on call and the maternal fetal medicine doctor came to see her and told her that they believed that the cord was around her son's neck and that she could labor but that it'd be hard on him and she'd probably end up with a c-section anyway.
Within an hour, she was in the OR having the spinal block placed and despite being scared, was smiling at the doctors and nurses like her life depended on it. "I remember the doctor and nurses talking over me about random topics and then hearing my son cry and then the doctor started counting...1,2,3,4,5,6,7. I demanded to know what they were counting and was my son alright. In the end, he had a nuchal cord times 7! Born on the 7th, at 7pm, weighing 7lbs with the cord wrapped around his neck 7 times. Deegan was our lucky baby."
"Then came the part that no one talked about...postpartum. Holding my son for the first time, I looked him, loved him and yet thought that he wasn't mine. Then day three came along with hospital discharge and lots and lots of tears. Why am I crying so much? I said to the nurse. "it's normal" is what they told me." Postpartum depression hit hard and long. Kristin cried all day long with a beautiful baby boy who also cried all day long, never slept, nursed nonstop and would vomit all over her all the time. Her partner would leave for work and return and she would be in the same clothes and sitting in the same spot. She sought out therapists who supposedly trained in the field of PPD/PPA but they admonished her for bringing her baby with her, as well as, for not doing infant massage. She never returned to those offices. "It was a rough year and a half. I mourned the loss of the birthing experience that I had just expected to happen for me, I mourned for the loss of my career identity and I mourned the inability to be able to truly communicate how and what I was feeling and in the time span, I had listened to the PPD voice inside that was shouting how i wasn't a good enough mother; I was a disaster." Through it all, they became a rockstar breastfeeding duo; he was a champ and she felt such gratification in feeling like she was doing something "right" for him. "For me, breastfeeding saved me because even though I felt like my body had failed me in birth, I knew I could breastfeed and redeem myself that way. My son nursed till right after his fourth birthday and after the birth of his little brother".
Kristin knew that if she became pregnant again, she would do things differently. She conceived Jacob in January of 2014 and immediately, left the OB/Gyn practice she had been with and began interviewing midwifery groups. She found one with great stats related to VBAC's and a reputation of treating pregnancy as a naturally occurring phenomenom as opposed to a medical event. The treatment she received from them was a night and day difference. Kristin was cleared for a VBAC and interviewed and hired a doula who she thought would really be able to help her fight for the VBAC she wanted. She hired a friend to encapsulate her placenta and read as many positive birthing stories as possible. "I had a great pregnancy as well and I felt beautiful and goddess-like every day of it".
Week 40 came along and during her appointment with the midwives, it was determined that her blood pressure reading was elevated and that she needed to go to the hospital to be induced. "It brought back flashbacks from my first pregnancy and failed induction and I was reduced to angry, hot tears (and some curse words!) but I headed over to the hospital to be monitored anyways. I was scared. I was scared of having a failed induction and having to go into a c-section exhausted or in a possible emergency situation. Then, I was faced with an OB I had never met before. An OB who decided the best way to determine my fate was to take my weight, number of successful vaginal births (0) and plug that data into a computer program to show me my chances of having a successful VBAC. It was heart wrenching. I've never been so angry with someone and he was so cold and callous about the whole situation".
Kristin scheduled a repeat cesarean for the following morning and went home that night to say goodbye to life as a mother of one. Her birth was as beautiful as they come. All of the doctors and nurses were very excited and happy to help them welcome their son into the world. The curtain was lowered and she was lifted up so I could watch, Jacob, enter this world. "He was a big boy at 9 lbs 15 ozs and everyone cheered when he was born. He was weighed and then never left my chest even while being stitched back up". Recovery from a cesarean is never easy but overall, she was feeling great, breastfeeding was going well and she was happy that her wishes were respected by all of the medical staff. While Kristin went home mourning the changing of her relationship with her oldest, she knew that her emotions were normal for the postpartum period.
"I really thought I was going to skip PPD. Then my 9 week old son ended up in the ER with a high fever and he wasn't nursing well. When I requested that nurses not retract his foreskin when inserting a catheter, they chastised me and asked me if I could "handle" watching the catheterization or if I needed to leave the room. I stayed. It was traumatizing. Their lab tests found nothing. But Jacob's fussiness at the breast continued and intensified; so much so that I found myself at a lactation consultant's office trying to figure out what was wrong. No one knew. I started to feel like the "crazy mom" especially when no pediatrician or LC could understand what was going on. But I was persistent and kept on going back over and over until one visit with the LC gave me the suspected diagnosis of a lip tie and posterior tongue tie. I was happy for answers and the name of a world renowned specialist in New York to call and set an appointment but by this point, PPD and PPA had struck bigger than before and just seemed to grow in intensity as Jacob continued to refuse to nurse and his weight gain began to slow and eventually stop. The one things I was so confident in the ability of my body to do, breastfeeding, was failing me."
Kristin's relationships with her partner, oldest son, family and friends suffered because she was too terrified to leave the house because she had no way to feed her baby who couldn't take a bottle and could only nurse when laying down; she had never been so isolated. Jacob's ties were revised and through lots of work with an OT and at home, things got better and he's still nursing at 2.
Kristin says that she has always envisioned having three children but doesn't know if she can physically, mentally and emotionally withstand it again. "My inability to do so could end up being one of my biggest heartbreaks despite it being the best decision for me and my family."
"Throughout the last few years, I have read every story of every woman that has been displayed by the 4th Trimester Bodies Project and with every picture and story I have learned something. With some pictures I have found grace and peace in knowing that I wasn't the only one walking a difficult path. I learned that despite the isolation I was feeling, I really wasn't alone. I also saw women who were strong and beautiful and great moms no matter their size, shape, color and stage of life. Love exuded from them; even from the moms with the toughest stories. So, I decided I wanted to share my story to not only help myself heal but to maybe let another mom out there know that I've walked that path that she has just embarked on and that it's going to be ok. Years from now, I want to look back on this experience and see a strong and beautiful mom, with her two boys whom she loves deeply, who made it through the roughest of seas and came out on the other side ok and possibly stronger than she was before. "