The magnificent Marissa McArther with her son Zane (11 months). Marissa is also mum to daughters Talia (5) and Hayley (3). Marissa had healthy pregnancies with each of her children. Her first two were born in the hospital. Talia was born with shoulder dystocia and also swallowed meconium. Marissa had hoped to initiate breastfeeding immediately, but with Talia separated from her for the better part of 3 days, things got off to a rocky start. She had a couple successful breastfeeds but for the most part, she exclusively pumped for 11 months. Her pregnancy with Hayley was without complication; she had another natural hospital birth without issue, and she was able to initiate breastfeeding straight away. Hayley nursed until she was three and declared she was done just days before Zane was born. Marissa chose to have a homebirth with Zane and while she was surprised by the length of her labor, particularly the long pushing phase, it was a beautiful experience. She's been able to have a lovely breastfeeding relationship this time around as well. Knowing she won't have any more children Marissa was excited to document this chapter of life with her last baby.
The lovely Sally Matthews with her daughters Sarah-Jane Hinton and Jessica Harbron and grandsons Beau (3), Harrison (2) and Miller (9 months).
Sally is mother to eight. Sarah Jane (29), Jessica (26), Joshua (24), Samantha (18), Jazmine (17), Emily (14), Ezekiel (12) and Cody (7). Sally has had healthy pregnancies with all of her children, and her first 7 babies were born in the hospital. She's had very healthy babies with the exception of Joshua, who still struggles with his health today. Sarah had very fast labors, her first and longest lasting only three hours. Her youngest, Cody, was born at home unexpectedly in minutes. She was able to successfully breastfeed all 8 as well.
Sarah-Jane is mother to Harrison and Miller. Her boys are exactly two years and two days apart. Her pregnancy with Harrison was straightforward. She progressed very quickly, and they had to put a monitor on his head to keep track of his distress. They thought she'd need vacuum assistance, but Sarah was able to push him out on her own. She had a small postpartum hemorrhage but recovered without issue. Miller was born very quickly within an hour and a half, and Sarah had a fully natural delivery. Miller swallowed mucus and had to spend 6 days in NICU. She has been able to breastfeed both boys without complication.
Jessica is mother to Beau. She was in the hospital a few times during her pregnancy with high blood pressure and concerns for premature delivery. They decided to induce on her due date because of blood pressure concerns. She progressed very quickly as well but was able to have a natural delivery without complication and found the process much easier than she expected. Beau nursed until 4 months when Jessica weaned due to colic.
The joyful Joanna Taylor with daughters Paige (4) and Maya (3). She also has two step-children aged 21 and 17. Joanna's partner had a vasectomy reversal to conceive, and they were able to get pregnant very soon after. She had healthy pregnancies with each of her daughters. She was disappointed with the birthing process with Paige. She didn't dilate and ended up getting an epidural later on after laboring 21 hours, which she hadn't expected. In hindsight, she felt that she could have been better prepared than she actually was. She was able to have a great natural birth the second time around and had great support from her midwife throughout the birthing process. She was able to breastfeed both of her girls, for a shorter time with Maya, but feels again that she may not have utilized all of the resources she had available to herself. Joanna initially chose to participate to support a friend, almost backed out and then fully embraced the process.
The amazing Aja Whelan-Schrapel and daughter Autumn Claire (5 months). Aja is a former preemie, visually impaired and spent a lot of their school life playing catch-up and trying to respect themself and their body regardless of their confusion and "short-comings". Aja identifies as agender and has spent the past two years coming to terms with the label they've been searching for, for so long and coming out to family and friends. Aja, and Aja's husband approached pregnancy as something that could happen, and they'd figure things out and decide what to do if and when it happened. The pregnancy went medically well, but Aja had moments of loving it and feeling poorly about their body taking on such a feminine form. Labor started slowly with some tiredness and back ache, and it wasn't until things got moving along that Aja felt it was time to head to the birth center. Upon arrival, things were moving along quickly, and Aja felt both waves of support and lack of control. The midwives and staff did a good job of utilizing the pronouns that Aja feels comfortable with, which was nice, but also felt moments of needing to have permission to do what their body needed to do. Aja was told that they'd be allowed one more push before an episiotomy and it was then that Autumn was born. Aja tore three ways and needed to be stitched up, a process that stirred up some past childhood trauma. After birth it was important for Aja to get outdoors with Autumn on her first day of life, they were able to spend a few minutes in the birth center courtyard to regroup. Breastfeeding has gone well for Aja other than some initial pain. At 5 months in, Autumn is starting to become interested in food and play rather than just Aja's breast, which is allowing them to come into a different space as a parent. Being a Zaza (Aja's preferred parental moniker) has been terrifying and raw and humbling and inspiring and confirming.
Aja's reasons for participating are best said themself, "I imagine, years away, showing my children a copy of your book and teaching them that there is no defining normal, teaching my daughter that however she looks, she is beautiful, powerful and free. And there, on the next impatient page turn from her, we see us. I see myself as everything I hoped for because it's true."
The gorgeous Jody Newton with her children Ellie (4), Zach (2) and Thomas (5 months). As a first time mom, Jody had a learning curve through her first pregnancy. She was healthy throughout and even though she was initially terrified of labor, she got less afraid as her pregnancy progressed and ultimately, had a beautiful delivery. She was able to birth naturally and found it to be an exhilarating experience. Breastfeeding was quite challenging at first, but she made it through to 7 months. Jody had a much tougher pregnancy with Zach after developing Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). It resulted in her deciding to have an elective cesarean due to her inability to move around. She found the birth quite nice and enjoyed knowing just when her son would arrive. With Thomas, she had hoped for a VBAC, and while she developed SPD again this time, it was much less severe and eased up as her pregnancy progressed. This birth, however, didn't go as planned. She felt she was in the wrong place for it, went to the hospital too early and wasn't able to leave the bed. She never progressed past 3 cm, which is where she was when she arrived at the hospital. Ultimately, Thomas was also born via repeat cesarean. She was disappointed at not achieving her VBAC but has found it to get easier the farther she gets from his birth. Jody was able to breastfeed Zach until she got pregnant with Thomas. Thomas is still going strong, and she doesn't plan to wean before he's ready. Jody had some postnatal depression during Ellie's first few months, in part due to her struggles with leaving her profession. She has found that with each pregnancy, she's had more joy and attachment. Jody has struggled with her self-image and body shape but wanted to do this for herself and her children so that they know that your body changing shape is normal. She was incredibly proud (nervous! but proud!) to participate.
The lovely Emily Mayo and her daughter Billy (10 weeks). Emily is also a bonus mum to her husband's daughter LJ (14). She is a feminist and an activist and is blown away by what women and mothers can do. She had a great pregnancy but was a bit over it at the end when Billy went overdue, and she was sore, simply ready for her to come earthside. Emily chose to deliver in a labor ward where she'd have access to drugs if she needed them. However, the day Billy decided to come, so did a lot of other babies! The labor ward was full, and Billy was coming quickly, so Emily was sent to the birthing center to deliver naturally. Billy was born about 4.5 hours later, an experience that Emily describes as tremendous, difficult and amazing. Emily had a small episiotomy and a bit of gas but was otherwise able to delivery naturally. Almost immediately, Billy found her way to the breast and started nursing and other than a couple of painful days, things are going very well. Emily wants to break down the barriers women feel and is happy and proud to feed Billy as publicly as possible. She is upset that structural inequality exists and affects women in the ways that it does. She is a firm believer that it takes strong women to stand up and change those things and was happy to participate to help be part of that.
The beautiful Melissa Beeton with her daughters Sarie (4) and Emilia (6 months). Melissa got pregnant with Sarie when she was just 18. She was 6 weeks pregnant with her at her senior formal and delivered just after turning 19. She had a pretty rough pregnancy due to symphysis pubis dysfunction and couldn't walk very well throughout her last trimester. It also made it very hard to give birth. She ended up having to be induced and then endured a cascade of interventions. Sarie was born on her due date at 40 weeks. She was able to initiate breastfeeding without issue and breastfed for 15 months. Melissa had bad postnatal depression for her first six months of motherhood. She attributed it in part to having to leave school and her friend group so early and not knowing anyone else who had entered motherhood yet. She eventually joined a mothers group and found the support she needed. She had a wonderful second pregnancy with no complications at all. She went 4 days overdue and had a vaginal delivery. Emilia was born with shoulder dystocia, likely because she was born at 11 lbs. While that was difficult, she was able to breastfeed right away and hasn't experienced any postnatal depression this time around. Melissa has struggled with her body but is finally settling into the body she has and learning to be proud of it for herself and her daughters.
The stunning Dimity Spencer with her boys Wyatt (2) and River (13 weeks). It took quite awhile to get pregnant with Wyatt. Her pregnancy was great, and she very much enjoyed it. However, she found the birthing process to be quite scary, and she was not quite ready for it. Everything went well, and he was fine. She prepared a lot more for River's birth, read lots of books and chose to have a doula present for the entire process. Everything was very calm and went smoothly. Her husband was able to assist and caught River. Breastfeeding has been the hardest part of being a mother for Dimity. She was able to breastfeed Wyatt for 15 months, and River is currently nursing. Both boys started out having a difficult time; she had severely cracked nipples, mastitis and thrush each time. She's settled in fine but found the first few weeks very difficult. Dimity had a hard time following Wyatt's birth and went to a week-long treatment center when he was about 4 months old after which things improved. She was never officially diagnosed with Postpartum Depression but definitely felt the pull. However, things have gone well after River's birth. Dimity chose to participate in the project to give herself a beautiful gift, something she doesn't do often enough.
The amazing Alana Partridge with her daughters Phoebe (4) and Florence (18 months). Alana had very typical pregnancies with natural deliveries lasting 3 hours long each. During her delivery with Phoebe, she snapped her tail bone, which led to a painful recovery. With Florence, she had another easy labor and felt a bit more in control. She chose to deliver in a different position and was able to avoid re-injuring her tailbone. Florence was born with hip dysplasia and had to spend her first 16 weeks in an aluminum brace. Alana was not allowed to take her brace off and had to take her to the hospital once a week for bathing. It was rather difficult not being able to cuddle her or have her naked. Alana thinks it affected her breastfeeding relationship as well. She was able to breastfeed Phoebe until she was 7 months old and Alana had to return to work but decided to stop at 2 weeks with Florence considering how difficult it was to get her positioned correctly. Alana had a close friend participate in the project on the other side of the world and decided she would like to share her journey as well.
The amazing Amanda Justice with her daughter Lily (4) and Hamish (15 months). Amanda's first pregnancy was lost to miscarriage. Soon after, she conceived Lily and had a pretty healthy pregnancy. She developed Pubic symphysis about half-way through her pregnancy, which got very painful towards the end. She planned for a natural birth and had developed a bit of a hybrid care model between a birth center and an Obstetrician. She was in prelabor for the better part of a week before active labor started. She went into the birth center, but they were closed, so she had to go into the hospital labor ward. She was very well supported during the process. She got to 8cms and had lots of involuntary pushing; they kept asking her to stop, but she couldn't and ended up consenting to an epidural before a large episiotomy and forceps delivery. Lily had gotten stuck and ended up with shoulder dystocia herself. It was about three months before Amanda was able to sit comfortable and the better part of a year before her pubic symphysis had improved enough to walk normally without pain. Breastfeeding was a bit problematic in the beginning. Amanda is a nutritionist and felt a lot of passion but also pressure to breastfeed. Lily lost more than 10% of her body weight in the hospital, and Amanda was required to give her formula, which was devastating. Once home, she continued to breastfeed but had chronic low supply, so she ended up taking Motilium (Domperidone) for 9 months to increase supply and expressed milk after most feeds around the clock to stimulate supply. Things worked out though, and Lily is still breastfeeding occasionally now. Amanda was able to work through her issues in large part due to the support of the Australian Breast Feeding Association and her husband. Amanda was able to conceive Hamish on the first try, and she chose the same model of care and providers this time around. Her pregnancy was incredibly painful, and she ended up with a walking stick and nearly in a wheel chair towards the end of her pregnancy. 4 weeks before her due date, she got very large very quickly and ultrasound revealed that her son had gotten very large. Because of her history of shoulder dystocia the doctors decided that at that point, she was no longer a candidate for a natural delivery, and she opted for an elective cesarean. She was very upset at first, especially since she'd worked with a counselor and lactation consultant to heal the trauma from her first birth but it simply wasn't safe for her or her daughter. She was able to have a beautiful cesarean with a midwife present who understood her desires. She had immediate skin to skin contact and was able to express and put Hamish to the breast immediately. Amanda had expressed a lot of milk before delivery and brought frozen milk to the hospital hoping to avoid having to give her son formula. He ended up losing 11% of his body weight, so she needed to use it but just three weeks later, she found he was actually getting too much milk and is still nursing without issue today. Amanda's recovery from her cesarean was more painful in her first 24 hours but all around, much easier than her first vaginal birth. Amanda feels women are a lot healthier when they're more comfortable in their skin, and this is part of that process for her.