Amanda Schachtel (38 - she/her) and Spencer (15 months)
Oak Park, IL
Amanda shares -
“My first pregnancy was a partial molar pregnancy. At 9 weeks pregnant I felt really uncomfortable with not having had an ultrasound so I pushed my midwives to order one. At that ultrasound we only saw a gestational sac and yolk sac. We were given 2 (very long) weeks to allow for growth, and then had another ultrasound. The second ultrasound didn't show any changes and we were told that we'd had a missed miscarriage. We got a second opinion from a wonderful Obstetrician, who agreed that this was not a viable pregnancy.
I was a doula and had only considered working with midwives but at this point both my husband and I decided that we were much more comfortable transferring to an OB. A few days later I had a D&C. Physically the D&C was not a big deal but the emotional experience was really rough. I vividly remember having to sign pre-op papers and my signature went on the line that said mother. I really struggled to sign the papers because, in my mind, I was losing the chance to be a mother (for this time). The following few weeks were emotionally excruciating. I'm a maternal mental health therapist, and I'm very passionate about my career. I care deeply for my clients and wanted to continue to support them; however, going to work was painful, and at times impossible. I was focused on moving forward and I couldn't wait to be cleared to try to get pregnant again.
4 weeks after the D&C, my pregnancy hormone levels increased again, and a molar pregnancy was discussed as a possible cause of the increase. Molar cells are very stubborn and typically don't go away on their own. Molar pregnancies can turn cancerous, so I was sent to an Oncologist. This stands out as one of the most terrifying parts of this journey. Walking into the Cancer Center, I kept thinking, "All I wanted was a baby and I may have ended up with cancer instead". It was decided at that appointment that I needed another D&C. The second D&C was successful. I had weekly blood tests for the next several months to ensure that the molar pregnancy cells were no longer in my body. 5 months after the first D&C we were cleared to try to conceive again, and we moved forward with an abundance of anxiety and emotional caution. We were fortunate to get pregnant right away, although that pregnancy was filled with anxiety!
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
The journey into parenthood really made me question my body - between the molar pregnancy and then placenta previa that never resolved and required a cesarean, I spent a lot of time wondering why my body couldn't get things done quite right. Both of these conditions could have had devastating outcomes had it not bee for medical interventions. I worried about how my body would change after pregnancy and delivery. I've been pleasantly surprised by how easily I was able to physically feel like myself again once my cesarean pain was gone. The one hangup that has stayed with me is my cesarean scar. I don't mind the appearance but it's a daily reminder of the birth experience that I didn't want.
Since Spencer's birth, I've built a stronger appreciation for my body and what it has done. I grew a perfectly healthy baby and have breastfed him without any challenges for 15 months and counting. I'm grateful to my body for being healthy, strong, and physically able to keep up with a very active toddler! I've also been amazed by how much I can do on so little sleep.
What was your postpartum experience?
My postpartum experience has been a wild ride so far! We've had lots of highs and lows, the highs being the most amazing highs and the lows being unfamiliar and overwhelming feelings. Having spent years as a doula, early childhood educator, and babysitter, I assumed that I would be more relaxed and confident that I was (am). My anxiety about the baby was very intense at times, especially if I was away from him. I still don't like being away from him but my comfort level has grown now that he's older. I"m been surprised to have discovered my inner mama bear, which don't come out often but is far more assertive than my typical disposition. My physical recovery took a lot longer than I'd anticipated but once I was able to comfortably move around, I felt empowered and free. The first month or so was pretty peaceful and cozy. After that I enjoyed getting out and about with the baby and trying out new things with him, as I'd envisioned when I'd previously thought about having a baby. I've been fortunate to have a ton of support from my husband, family, and friends. I've also found a great network of other new mom friends, and those relationships have been invaluable. It took me over a year to really accept that I was actually (finally) a mom- it still feels weird to say sometimes but it has definitely become part of my identity.
What is your truth?
Trust yourself- there are so many opinions out there, and you'll hear plenty of them. You can find every possible outcome/answer/best/worst, etc if you search long enough. There are so many right ways. Ultimately you're the expert on your body and your baby, and you get to decide what's best for you and your family. If you need support in figuring things out that's ok, too!
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
One of my clients told me about this movement a few years ago. I couldn't wait to be a part of it. I strongly believe in the power of openly sharing our stories and normalizing both the physical and emotional journeys that parents experience.