Kylea Laina Liese (38 - 33 weeks pregnant) and Kaethe Oleida (21 months old). Kylea has also had three losses.
Oak Park, IL
Kylea shares -
“My partner and I had only been dating two months when I got pregnant. I was a new midwife, working at a hospital in Anchorage that served Alaskan Native women and their families. I had always known I wanted to be a mother more than anything, and tried to have a baby on my own before I met Anton, so although it was unplanned, unexpected and scary, I was secretly thrilled to be pregnant. But I lost that pregnancy a few months later. One of the OBs I worked with was scanning me with the ultrasound while we were in the call room and told me that there was no heartbeat. A moment later, I was paged and had to hurry to catch a patient's baby.
Months later, I was pregnant again and I made it through the first trimester. We were on vacation celebrating Anton's 40th birthday when we got a call that the genetic screening test was abnormal. Eventually, we found out our baby, Patch, had a full extra set of chromosomes. She would not likely survive to term, and if she did, she would almost certainly die shortly after. I could not imagine going to work everyday as a midwife, attending to the pregnancies of my patients, and always wondering if that was the day that my baby would die inside me. I decided to terminate, though it was a challenge in Alaska because I was already 17 weeks. Presumably, I would need to fly to Seattle and stay in a hotel to have an abortion. Luckily, I had connections to a physician who was willing to induce me. I caught my own baby in the shower at the hospital after 12 hours of mild labor.
10 months later, Anton and I were married and moved to Chicago. Despite our ease at getting pregnant previously, we were unable to conceive for a year. We went to a fertility clinic and had four IUIs and another miscarriage before moving to IVF. Two rounds later, with the aid of embryonic genetic testing, I finally held had a healthy, genetically normal pregnancy. Until she was actually in my arms, I didn't believe I would ever hold my child.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
Recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility bred a lot of self hate and anger directed at my body. I watched and felt grief as my friends swelled with pregnancy and birth. I am a midwife and yet I was powerless to become a mother myself. Maybe that history is partly why I absolutely love my pregnant body. I missed it terribly once I was postpartum and wanted the feeling back. I felt so strong and beautiful while pregnant -- purposeful. Nursing brings me a similar sense of self-love and connection. It is a part of the reason that I have no strong desire to wean, even though it's hard. I'm afraid for this time to pass and for this to be my last chance at feeling so physically connected to another being.
What was your postpartum experience?
As a midwife, I was well informed about postpartum depression but had no idea that postpartum anxiety was just as debilitating. After so much struggle to have my daughter, my brain would create the worst, most terrifying imagines of losing her or of her being hurt. Being tired triggers more of these intrusive thoughts, but my daughter only slept for 40 minute intervals for the first 10 months, so I was always tired. My whole body panics when the thoughts come. For a while, I was so ashamed to talk about them. Then I found others who have had the same experiences. I read about perinatal anxiety and OCD. I tried meds and they helped. I decided to go off the meds when I was trying to conceive this pregnancy and the thoughts are worse, but I plan to restart immediately after birth. In the meantime, I have cognitive strategies to get me through. The next postpartum period is going to be hard, likely harder than the last. I'm scared but I'm also a little more prepared for whats to come.
What is your truth?
Feeling a child move inside my body, and knowing that child is safe, is the most cherished sensation I could have never imagined. Once they are born, we are so vulnerable it is terrifying. But I would stay pregnant forever, if I could.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
As a midwife, I serve people in pregnancy, in birth and in the postpartum. I'm also an anthropologist who conducts research on reproduction and risk among women in resource-poor countries. But those are my jobs. In both those roles, I am intentionally separate from the experience, processes and truths of pregnancy, birth, loss, infertility, abortion and parenthood. I meet women where they, and my intention is to use my privilege to make things better and safer but the story is not about me. This movement allows me to share my story -- my pregnancy loss, my infertility, my second trimester abortion, my surgical birth, my IVF, my perinatal anxiety, my joy of pregnancy, my adoration of motherhood, my love of nursing -- let my story be my contribution.