The lovely Leslie Erb, mother to Jadyn (15), Taryn (13), Brennan (10), Karis (8), Ryanne (6) and Greyson (3). Leslie has had healthy, vaginal births with all of her children. She was in a roll over car accident at 38 weeks pregnant with her first daughter. Thankfully they were both okay and her daughter ended up arriving 11 days late. Leslie jokes that after the scare of the accident her daughter just wanted to hold on and stay inside. Her second pregnancy was relatively easy and resulted in her smallest baby at 7lbs, 7 oz. Her third pregnancy, her first son, was very easy. She had hyperthyroidism and had to be very vigilant with medication and frequent ultrasounds to make sure that he was developing appropriately. With her third daughter she developed Bell's Palsy at 39 weeks that lasted for about 4 months, but her pregnancy was otherwise uneventful. Leslie experienced gestational diabetes with her fifth pregnancy and had to give herself daily insulin shots. She says she wouldn't wish it on anyone but was able to stick with her insulin schedule and diet with ease because she was doing it for her daughter. Her sixth pregnancy was also healthy but took every bit of energy out of her. She jokes that it was in preparation for how much energy her son would take at one, two and three. Leslie says that she absolutely loved being pregnant and almost dreaded giving birth because it meant that she'd then have to share her babies with the rest of the world. She loves every bit of motherhood even though there are days she wants to pull out her hair, she wouldn't trade it for anything. Leslie wanted to participate in the project to embrace her newfound confidence she's developed over the past few years.
The wonderful Heidi Van Ven Rooy and her children Raffi (5), Winter (2.5) and Harlan (8 months). Heidi's first pregnancy was lost to miscarriage at 12 weeks due to a blighted ovum. She decided to stop trying after her loss and became pregnant with Raffi soon after. She was very ill throughout her pregnancy with sickness lasting all day, every day. Her waters spontaneously broke at 37 weeks, and she had a great labor lasting about 8 hours. She was able to have a natural delivery in which she felt very much supported. Heidi felt great after delivery and told her husband she could go through labor a million times over, but didn't wish to go through such a difficult pregnancy again. She fell into motherhood quite easily and very much enjoyed it. Heidi decided to try for another baby quickly but it took quite some time to conceive. She struggled with sickness again this time but did what she needed to to get through it with her toddler. At 36 weeks, Winter stopped growing and at 39 weeks they decided to induce. This labor was much more challenging, but only lasted just over an hour, which threw her into quite a bit of shock. She was shaking and felt disconnected from her daughter at first. She was worried she would drop her or hurt her that first night, and Winter screamed, likely in shock herself. Heidi had planned to have more children eventually but was surprised by her pregnancy with Harlan when Winter was about 13 months old. She struggled again with illness and accepting that she was pregnant again before she was ready. Heidi's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant and helping her mom get to treatment and deal with the stress of such an illness made her pregnancy that much harder. The stress affected her in many ways, she developed Bell's Palsy at 16 weeks, got pelvic instability and felt that every time she went to the doctor there was another issue that came up. Her iron got too low, and she had to have an infusion but developed an allergic reaction. Just after, she had her 20-week scan and was sent to a specialist who determined that there was something wrong, but they couldn't determine what. At 39 weeks Heidi had a massive bleed. Doctors thought at first it was just the start of labor, but it was determined that her placenta had actually detached from her uterine wall. She had to have an emergency induction but wasn't told at the time how extreme it was. Her labor was only about 2 hours and 15 minutes this time, but she didn't go into shock and was able to bond with Harlan right away. It wasn't until after he was out that Heidi learned her placenta had started to die, and they only had about 4 hours before Harlan would have been in serious trouble. Harlan wasn't breathing properly and needed some monitoring when he was born. He was also Coombs positive and had to have blood tests every day. At this same time, Heidi was still taking her mum to her doctors and chemo appointments. Every appointment with Harlan they learned something new was wrong, he has two holes in his heart and his neutrophils (white blood count) is low. Harlan has required monitoring but is currently in good health. Heidi's mother has had to have a full mastectomy but is currently cancer free. Heidi feels that children should be taught to see our bodies for what they really are and wants to show her children that it's okay to be proud of your body.
The amazing Katie Tessitore with her daughter Ava (14 months). Katie had a wonderful pregnancy and enjoyed her body throughout. When she began to feel her daughter move, she loved it even more. At around 35 weeks, Katie developed Bell's Palsy on her face, and it very much changed her outlook and experience. No doctor could explain what was happening or why. She suddenly felt like a monster and isolated herself. She said she felt like there was suddenly a dark shadow over her perfect pregnancy. Her labor and delivery was about 66 hours total. She labored naturally for 50+ hours before getting an epidural which wasn't part of her plan. She had planned to breastfeed but was very much struggling emotionally during her postpartum period and something needed to go. After 3 weeks, she decided to stop breastfeeding directly and instead pumped exclusively for her daughter's first 11 months. Katie ultimately sought the help of a therapist to help determine that in trying to avoid her pain, she was also numbing her joy. A few weeks after Ava was born, Katie's Bell's Palsy started to get better, and she's worked to find her joy and happiness again.