Jesse Ziegelbauer (34), Caleb (9), Kamden (6), Addison (4), and Skylar (2)
NY | Miami, FL
Jesse shares -
“My second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and if you ask my rainbow baby he will always tell people I have 5 babies, and that baby bean lives in the stars.
All my life I struggled with my body image. As a middle schooler my mom started me on appetite suppressants and because of my family's skewed view of the perfect body, it left me in a constant struggle. Since becoming a mother I am constantly trying to see myself as my children see me - perfect the way I am. I know I have little eyes watching everything I do and I make it a point to never speak negatively in front of them so as to stop the cycle.
Before my first was born I was working as a high risk OB nurse and taking care of pregnant and new moms. I thought I knew how it would all turn out and what I wanted. So when I became pregnant with my first born, I started with a doctor I worked with. After the first 22 weeks of seeing a different doctor and being told different things, I sought out the care of a midwife. We drove around and found a birthing center and called for a tour. The second we stepped foot inside the birthing center we immediately felt a sense of relief. This was the care we wanted. And we had the absolute best care.
At my 40 week appointment, I asked to be checked and my baby was so high that they couldn't confirm position. They asked me to travel to another birthing center for an ultrasound to confirm head down, but my nursing brain kicked in and instead I went to the hospital where I worked. After they confirmed he was head down, they then told me I was going to have a cesarean. They said he was measuring 11lb 2oz on sonogram and even when I begged to at least induce they told me the ACOG did not recommend an induction for any baby over 4500g (about 9lb 8oz). This was far from what I had planned. And I cried. A lot.
At first I refused, knowing our hospital policy at that time was mom went to recovery and baby went to newborn nursery on a different floor. I refused to be separated from this baby that they told me was so big, I knew he would need milk and I would be devastated if not only my birth went wrong, but now my nursing. At 5am the doctor attending made rounds and deemed me in active labor and called an emergency cesarean. I sobbed the whole way to the OR, devastated knowing all my research and work to achieve an out of hospital birth was being ripped from my hands.
My big, beautiful baby was born and nursed beautifully in the recovery room. I ended up having my incision open and it kept us in the hospital for an extra 5 days. The pediatrician seeing us was not the ped I picked, and every day insisted I supplement. I didn't. On the 5th day they checked his bilirubin and compared to a newborn it was high. They insisted he be transferred to the nursery for a bili blanket and double photo therapy. Again, I cried. Sobbed. Refused. And then the threat of social services for impeding my child's health. So we transferred him, and there were orders for formula. And I refused and pumped. Even with the bili blanket they told me he couldn't come out- even though the pedi told me he could. I felt so lied to, taken advantage of, and like I had no control on my own baby. 12 long hours later he was back in my arms and we had discharge papers. It was Christmas morning, and I left with instructions to return in the morning for repeat blood work. I left, hopped in the car, and drove across the state 3 hours away to be with my family.
Becoming a mother was nothing like I envisioned. I spent a few days with my new family sleeping on my parents daybed in the living room, while having an allergic reaction from the antibiotics I was given for my incision. After a few days my husband and I returned home to a town where we had no family. It was tough. And for a very, very long time I mourned the birth I didn't have. After getting home from my family of 3, it was quiet, and my husband was able to stay home for a while to help me. I spent day and night on my couch, topless, with my naked baby on my chest. Nursing was my saving grace. After my surgical delivery, and never feeling a contraction regardless of being 4cm and considered "active labor", I felt like my body betrayed me. Like I was broken. But nursing, watching my baby satisfied from the milk of my body, it kept me going.
My midwife invited my to a weekly get together for new moms and it was wonderful. I was able to share in a safe place about how I felt everything went wrong with my delivery and newborn period. It was also a place I met some amazing moms that helped me not feel so lonely. When my son was 3 months old, I went back to work. It was hard, going back where I had my cesarean and not having anyone there validate my feelings. Their thoughts were that I had a healthy baby and that is all that matters. I even had a nurse tell me I should be grateful to not have "ruined my vagina" by pushing out an 11lb baby.
It was after his birth I put together a new folder in my house- called "future pregnancy and delivery" where any piece of research went. It had statistics of VBACs and hourly bilirubin levels in a newborn. When we decided to have another baby we got pregnant right away, but I knew something was amiss. I had a feeling that you can't deny. I took about 20 pregnancy tests waiting for the lines to disappear, and a week later came the cramps, then the blood, and then the loss of the second line. I was crushed. It was December, the one year anniversary of my little brother's death and I was hoping for December to be better, but it wasn't.
A month later I was pregnant again, and this time with my rainbow. His pregnancy progressed well, and I knew I wanted a VBAC. I also knew it was going to be a fight. And not just with my medical team, but also my family. My husband was supportive, and he encouraged me when we switched providers three times. My family saw my struggle and thought that it was best I listen to the doctors, and if they didn't think a VBAC was safe, then they were right. Except I wasn't giving in. Starting at my 36 week appointment I provided my doctor with my birthing plan and every appointment from that point I would review with him; no interventions. When the moment came and my body finally did was it never did, I was ecstatic!
We got to the hospital and I was progressing well. None of the nursing staff wanted to touch me and the doctor on call refused to write orders- for a VBAC. So when my doctor came on at 6am and saw me, he insisted on breaking my water. I reminded him of the birthing plan we went over several times and he told me "if you want your VBAC we are doing it my way" and then proceeded to break my water. Again I found myself crying in labor, and not from any physical pain. I saw the cascade of interventions in my head. My water was meconium stained and I thought he was going to call it. Luckily, the nurse was on my side and got me up to the shower as soon as he left. I was doing great and at 7cm the doctor returned to tell me I needed an epidural, because "when this becomes an emergency, if you don't have the epidural I will be knocking you out". So at 7cm I got the epidural and shortly after I was pushing. During my pushing my IV fell out and the doctor insisted they restart it. I heard him yelling at a Jessica and then quickly realized he was yelling at me, with the wrong name. My epidural never really took and as he was stitching me up for a repair I felt every poke and cried, yet again. He didn't believe me so he took the needle and poked all over my labia saying, "do you feel this?" The next day I was relieved when he discharged me from the door frame, never stepping foot in my room. I never saw that doctor again, not even for my 6 week follow up.
Adjusting to life with two was much easier than I imagined. I feared my entire pregnancy I was ruining this beautiful relationship I had with my first born, yet the second big brother came to meet his little brother I realized that I gave him a best friend for life. My third baby I found myself in the care of a beloved doctor, someone I found for my 6 week follow up from my second baby. Someone who trusted my choices and respected everything I chose. I had the most amazing, non medicated hospital birth of a 10lb 9.2oz baby. She was my healing birth.
My final chapter was 2 years ago. This time I had gained confidence as a birthing mom and ignored the naysayers and had the most amazing home birth. I was in the comfort of my home, in a children's swimming pool, with my mom and one of my sister's and nephew by my side. A trusted friend was also one of my midwives as well as another very special friend who was my birthing assistant. I was beautiful and magical and even though my mom and sister would tell a different tale of how I hemorrhaged and passed out multiple times, I can only recount how safe I felt and how strong I was. All of my births changed who I am. And all of their postpartum periods differed so much.
I wish I could love myself the way I tell others to love themselves, unconditionally, just the way they are. I would tell a new parent that motherhood is the single most isolating thing that you can experience, until you find your tribe. They are out there, just as lost and isolated and wandering the aisles of target.
My sister brought me here. I have shared in the journey of motherhood with her as my 3rd and 4th babies are months apart from her two babies. I have followed the 4th Trimester Bodies Project for a while, in awe of all the mothers feeling so comfortable in their skin. And while I am terrified of my body and seeing it on film, I am trying to learn to love and embrace it as much as possible. This body has carried four babies earthside. This body has birthed- in different ways- four times. And this body has been nursing, non stop for the last 9 years and 8 months with no end in sight. How can I not love me?”