The radiant Rachel Rodrigues and Theo (22 months).
"I knew I wanted to be a mother since before I was 8. I remember this because I was desperately wishing for a baby sibling, which came true when I was 8".
Rachel and her husband married in 2010 while in graduate school - she was in Madison, WI and he was working in Chicago. They moved into a single apartment in Boston in 2013, and she immediately found an OB. Rachel had been experienced unexplained amenorrhea since she was 18 and was referred to a fertility clinic immediately. "I knew the journey to parenthood could be very long and uncertain for couples on this path. I was nervous about all the unknowns and didn’t want to waste time. In the end, we spent relatively little time with the clinic. After trying two rounds of Letrozole, which failed to induce ovulation, the doctor moved me to injectable hormones, and I was pregnant within 6 months of our first appointment".
She transferred care to an OB she trusted and had an uneventful and healthy pregnancy beyond the general discomforts and complaints. Her water broke the evening of her 37 week appointment. "I hadn’t been feeling well all day, but I was barely dilated and figured I had several weeks left to go. I went to an evening prenatal yoga class to try to relax a little and relieve a festering headache. Towards the end of class, we were doing some lunges when I thought my bladder was leaking but quickly realized my water had broken". Rachel's husband met her and the OB on call told them to come in when she was having 1-2 minute contractions, 5 minutes apart or by the next morning if labor hadn’t started. Contractions started by 8 pm, and they tried to watch a TV show to pass the time. She found that she was having a difficult time following the plot because the contractions had quickly become incredibly intense, and while each of them was shorter than a minute, they were happening in fast succession. Her husband encouraged her to call the OB again who said she could come in for them to check her progression.
When they arrived at the hospital, less than 3 hours after her water broke, she was 5 cm dilated and was immediately shown into a delivery room. During pregnancy, Rachel had envisioned an intervention free delivery, but the contractions were so painful and she was not getting enough time in between contractions to relax so she went ahead and requested one. She was able to rest and was ready to push in the early morning hours and Theo was born an hour later.
Other than some early frustrating challenges with infant reflux, breastfeeding came easily for them. Rachel's goal was to continue until he turned 2 or self-weaned; but as he nears his 2nd birthday, he is still very attached to nursing and she's hesitant to take that away from him even if she doesn't always enjoy it.
"The biggest struggle for me, and the hardest thing to talk about, has been my mental health. I struggled with depression and anorexia in college, and anxiety and poor body image has been constant for me as an adult. I began working with a therapist while pregnant because I was experiencing near constant anxiety, frequent panic attacks, and very low self-worth. Several care providers encouraged me to think about taking medications to help with the anxiety, but I was not comfortable with that option while pregnant. After the frequent visits to first the fertility clinic and then my OB, the absence of care past the 6 week postpartum checkup felt like being abandoned when I was feeling my worst. I started taking medication for the depression the following week when the symptoms became too intense to cope with alone and I felt unable to enjoy anything including my baby. It took several months to find a treatment regimen that helped without too many side effects, but I feel like the most significant improvement started to happen around 13 months when I spontaneously started cycling monthly. I’ve since stopped taking medication, and while my mood and anxiety are still a struggle, I am trying to learn to practice more self-compassion and emotional resiliency with the help of my therapist. It’s hard for me to let go of doing and being everything. I struggle to find the energy and time to fit work, childcare, exercise, chores, and self-care into each day and feel like if I just tried harder I could make it all happen. But since perfection is hardly a realistic goal, I envision reaching a place where I’ve learned to accept the imperfection of each day with kindness and grace".