The amazing Mori Anderson with her son Taurrean (5.5) and daughter Aubrey (10.5 months). Mori had a mostly uncomplicated pregnancy with her son. She really enjoyed it but began to have some difficulty near the end which they thought may be lupus so the choice was made to induce. She labored for over 24 hours before Taurrean was born and while it was a challenge says that it was a great experience. Mori's and her fiancee tried to conceive for 2-3 years before she was able to get pregnant with Aubrey and she says it's just when she put it behind her and stopped trying that she discovered she was expecting. This pregnancy was much more taxing for her due to a kidney disease that was diagnosed after her sons birth. At 19 weeks it was suggested she consider terminating her pregnancy due to concerns for her health but Mori decided it was worth the risks. She dealt with a lot of swelling and weight gain due to edema and went into labor a nearly 3 weeks early. Her labor however was just 5 hours and she says she felt like she could have sneezed and pushed her daughter out. Mori didn't breastfeed her son but knew that she wanted to try with her daughter. She was able to have her skin to skin for a couple hours after birth and when Aubrey was ready to nurse, had a perfect latch. Mori says that within her community there isn't always a lot of support for nursing but she loves it and hopes to continue at least until her daughters first birthday. Mori struggled a lot with the changes in her body following her most recent pregnancy and found herself comparing her body to other women and even her prebaby self while feeling poorly. She's now shifted her perspective and has grown to enjoy her tiger stripes and soft parts for all that they've given her and says that she now enjoys having a softer place for her children to lay their heads.
The amazing Alexa Bigwarfe with her son Braedan (8), and daughters Ella (5), and identical twins Charis (3) and Kathryn (photograph). Alexa had a wonderful first pregnancy. She was able to conceive without issue and was healthy throughout but went on to have a difficult delivery. Braedan was face up and had a nuchal cord they didn't know about. He had to be suctioned and pulled out and was born barely alive. He spent his first 8 hours of life in the NICU which interrupted the immediate bonding she'd hoped for. Alexa wasn't producing enough milk for him and the first 2 weeks were very difficult. She started supplementing with formula and pumping but at 4 months her milk dried up completely. Alexa's experience with Ella was exactly the opposite, she had a very difficult pregnancy with a lot of joint pain and swelling but an easy delivery. She was born vaginally after 45 minutes of pushing and Ella latched right away without issue. She did develop a milk soy protein allergy but Alexa was able to nurse and pump for her first year. Alexa was diagnosed with Lupus after Ella was born which shook things up for her quite a bit.
Soon after, she learned she was pregnant with her twins which came as quite a surprise. Just as they'd grown accustomed to the idea of having 4 children aged 4 and under they learned at 20 weeks that her girls had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) and they were already at Stage IV. Kathryn was baby A at the time and their recipient baby. She already had excess fluid building in her abdomen and around her heart. The doctor told her that both babies were going to die and she was admitted to labor and delivery. She had an amnioreduction and was able to stay pregnant for the next 10 weeks, 5 weeks of which were on full hospital bedrest with continuous monitoring. Alexa's girls were born at 30 weeks 5 days and Kathryn had to be resuscitated at birth but they were able to stabilize her. The fluid levels in her belly due to Hydrops were so built up that her lungs never had a chance to grow down to where they should be and she could not sustain life on her own. Kathryn lived for 48 hours before passing away. Alexa had hoped to have a good breastfeeding relationship this time but with all that had happened she was unable to pump for the first two days and then could barely get anything once she started. Charis was born growth restricted at only 1lb 10oz, however, and the doctors kept telling her that she needed her breastmilk, it was crucial medicine for her. Alexa kept at pumping 2 hours round the clock for weeks and was able to provide her daughter with the milk she needed. Charis spent 84 days in the NICU and has done very well. She had a difficult time coordinating her suck swallow breathe so Alexa was never able to breastfeed directly but was able to pump for a year. Charis needed a G-tube placed until she could learn to eat from a bottle but they were able to remove it at around 6 months. Other than a little speech delay, Charis is totally caught up. Alexa, like many twin loss moms, has struggled with how to grieve and also raise a child. With NICU life and the busyness of everyday, once they were home she didn't feel she got to grieve until almost a year after Kathryn had died. The bittersweet reality of having a surviving identical twin who she knows looks just like her daughter she lost has been both a blessing and a curse.
Alexa has struggled with her body image for some time and has felt that at a such an important time her body failed her. Still, she has been inspired by so many others and wants to send a positive message and spark a positive conversation with her children about their bodies strength and beauty.
Alexa has devoted much of her life to raising awareness of Twin To Twin Transfusion Syndrome, Prematurity and Loss. She has just recently published an amazing book, "Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for Grieving Mothers"
The beautiful Sara Ray Brooks with her son Atticus (1.5 years), also pictured - a photograph of Sara holding the hand of her son Hashim. Sara is also mother to Malachi (16), Justin and William (twins who passed away shortly after birth) and bonus/blended mom to 4 others. Sara's first pregnancy was when she was 17, she carried twin boys to 26 weeks when they were unexpectedly born and passed away just a few days later. Her pregnancy with Malachi was unremarkable and she was able to breastfeed for his first 10 weeks of life before she returned to work as active duty military and switched to formula after not having the support to continue. In the interim Sara divorced her first husband and later married her current husband. They tried for 10-11 years to conceive another child with no success. Sara has struggled with Lupus and other health issues and, in addition, was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Soon after her diagnosis she was able conceive Hashim, quite by surprise. Sadly, Sara went into labor again at 26 weeks and delivered at her local hospital soon after. The hospital was not set up to care for a baby so premature and he passed away after just a few hours of life. Sara lost her Grandmother who she was very close to within months of Hashim's death and slipped into a deep depression. She wanted another chance at motherhood. She and her husband saw a reproductive endocrinologist who was able to manage her care properly and she was able to conceive Atticus on their first IUI attempt with the help of Clomid. From there, Sara's pregnancy was closely managed, she saw both a high risk OB and MFM (Doctor of Maternal and Fetal Medicine) through which she received weekly progesterone shots and steroids as she neared term. At 23 weeks Sara had to have an emergency cerclage placed and undergo amniocentesis to check for infection. She carried Atticus to 35 weeks and while she had hoped for a VBAC with the help of a doula, ended up delivering via repeat cesarean. Atticus was taken to NICU which was scary for Sara but she had specifically chosen the hospital for their ability to provide Level 4 care. She surrounded herself with support after she and Atticus came home and has avoided postpartum depression which she says is nothing short of miraculous. Sara was able to breastfeed Atticus for his first 6 months when she had to wean to resume her Lupus medications. She is learning to accept who she is and wanted to take this opportunity to say to the world that she is happy and accepts herself and perhaps most importantly, she is still here.