The stunning Sara Slagle, Elisa (2), and Hadley (3 months).
Sara was pregnant twice in her younger years and chose to terminate the pregnancies because it was not the right time or with the right partners and she doesn't regret that choice. When she met her now husband they conceived just before they had planned to elope and they were thrilled. Unfortunately, she miscarried 7 days after her wedding at 13 weeks along and the process was incredibly painful. "There is no history of miscarriages in my family and I didn't know how common they were which left me feeling like a shell and alone". Sara's husband is in the coast guard and was not able to go to the hospital with her for her emergency D&C, so her mother was there but she still felt so alone. "Since there was no explanation for the miscarriage I blamed myself".
After trying for over a year to get pregnant again, Sara had an early miscarraige around 8 weeks. When she learned she was pregnant she just had a gut feeling it wasn't going to last and soon after she miscarried at home. There wasn't any explanation again and her doctor at the time told her she'd have to have two more losses before they would do any testing to look into the cause. In the meantime, Sara's twin sister announced her pregnancy, which added to Sara's emotional struggle.
During this time, Sara learned they were being transferred to California in a few months and she took comfort in knowing that she could find new care providers once she got there. Once they got settled she looked for an OB within her insurance, that would also provide fertility treatments. Thankfully, she found an amazing doctor who listened and let her rage. "When I was done he just said, "Sara, I will help you get pregnant. You will have that baby". I cried. A lot. He did all the tests that my insurance allowed and started me on Clomid and hormones. Still nothing. After several rounds of Clomid I needed a break. I felt completely defeated. My relationship with my husband suffered to say the least. After a failed suicide attempt and constant fighting we decided to get divorced. When we were filling out the paperwork to get the divorce process started I found out I was pregnant. We agreed to stay together to see if this pregnancy was viable. When there was a heartbeat I quit my job and we decided to work on our marriage and see this pregnancy through."
Pregnancy with Elisa went well, other than the fear that she was going to miscarry at any moment. She quit her job and stayed at home to focus on her pregnancy. Sara went into spontaneous labor at 38.2 weeks and after over 30 hours of labor, and three failed epidurals, Elisa was born without complication. "They immediately put her on my chest for skin to skin contact and it felt like I got the part of me that was missing back. Immediately all the pain from the losses didn't feel so heavy and intense". Sara says that everything was easy with Elisa. Nursing went well and they continued until she self weaned at 17 months.
Sara has bipolar/depression and began seeing a therapist who specializes in postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD/PPA) as a precaution in the event that she was experiencing symptoms. They were living on a military base without any friends or family around and the isolation contributed to it's quick onset. She was terrified to leave the house or do much of anything and continued treatment for over 2 years until they were transferred back home to Boston.
Hadley's pregnancy was rough on Sara. "My breasts went from a DD to a G almost overnight. My back pain was intense at all times. Every time I went to the doctor they always had a hard time finding her heartbeat with a Doppler and had to have constant ultrasounds." Shortly after finding out she was pregnant she learned they were transferring to Boston and that her husband was going to be on a boat that was deploying for over 260 days a year. "It was the best worst case scenario because I would be home with my family but my husband would be gone all the time. That added stress to the pregnancy". Sara also experience rapid weight gain despite eating healthy and exercising and she experienced numbness in her limbs due to compressed nerves in her spine.
At 28 weeks, she moved in with her mother and toddler so she could house hunt while her husband remained in California. She went back to the OB she'd seen with her previous miscarraiges and says that, "They were awful but I didn't know where we were going to be living and they delivered at the hospital that my mother worked at for 20 years as an L&D nurse so she could have privileges when it was time to deliver. It was very important to me that both my mother and husband were present for the delivery". Sara requested to be induced at 41 weeks because her husband was being deployed and she was thrilled to go into spontaneous labor hours before. Her epidural worked this time which was amazing but as she started to push the baby got stuck.
The doctor insisted she try pushing with the epidural off, which was agonizing and they finally moved her to the operating room. The room wasn't set and everyone began arguing as they tried to get things prepped. "My mother told me after the baby was born that nothing was ready and they almost forgot to get my husband. Thank god my mom was there and that she got my husband". When Hadley arrived she came out screaming and didn't stop crying for over two months.
Sara was shaking so bad following her delivery she struggled to hold her baby and she dealt with numbness in her arms for a months afterwards. To make maters worse, the anesthesia began wearing off while they were stitching her up and she began to feel everything. "It was awful. The whole thing was awful. I felt like I wasn't in charge of my body or that delivery. I felt like I let my mother down because I wasn't able to have a vaginal delivery. I felt so much guilt and shame after that delivery. I couldn't feel my baby in my arms and I didn't feel that instant connection with her as I did Elisa. She was a beautiful little girl and I felt nothing towards her. I hated myself for that. I wasn't prepared for the amount of pain I was going to be in and that I was going to be in the hospital for 4 days. I've never spent more than a few hours away from Elisa before and here I was at a hospital for days with this baby who cried all the time. There were times I just had to put her down and walk away so I didn't hurt her. i didn't want to hurt her or for anyone else to but she just screamed constantly. It was crazy how polar opposite they were. It wasn't until she was 8-9 weeks old that we started bonding. She started smiling and laughing early and it started to finally get easier. I think that what really helped was baby wearing. That helped me feel more connected to her when she was on me and helped keep the depression and anxiety at bay."
I think that the project is important and needs to be done especially with all this "get your body back" bullshit after having a baby. I met my husband when I was 115lbs and after two kids I'm hovering at 170lbs. Stretched out and dimpled with stretch marks and I have two beautiful girls to show for it. I struggle with self love and I want to show my girls that they don't have to struggle. My body made them from scratch and I can't resent my body anymore. After struggling for years trying to get the girls earth side I wanted to be a part of this project that shows that women are strong and beautiful and I was not alone."