The wonderful Lauren Neilsen and her daughter Frankie Irene (12 months). Lauren had a wonderful pregnancy and absolutely loved it. She had a bit of a rocky start with a lot of bleeding through her first and second trimesters. She had lots of ER visits and ultimately discovered she had a bicornuate uterus. They were told that Frankie would most likely be breech, could potentially arrive early and would probably need to be delivered via cesarean. Lauren was able to carry her daughter to her due date when she was born via elective cesarean. She says she didn't have a lot of information and may have attempted a vaginal breech delivery if she knew what she does now but doesn't regret her decision at the time. Her recovery was more challenging than expected, as was breastfeeding. Frankie lost a lot of weight and Lauren had a lot of stress around it. She had a lot of visits from health nurses and midwives to help her through struggles and was able to keep her daughter exclusively breastfed. Frankie decided she was done nursing the evening of her first birthday. Lauren says that she's always had a very difficult time with her own body image. She says that what we see in the media isn't reflective of reality and she doesn't want her daughter to struggle with the same issues she has. She wants her to love her self and be proud of who she is.
The beautiful Belle Verdiglione and daughter Isabella (3). Belle is also mum to son, Orlando (5). Belle was very excited about having a natural birth her first pregnancy and found a provider who she was happy with. She went to 42 weeks and then discovered he was breech. After taking the weekend to consider her choices they ended up having an elective cesarean birth. She was devastated after that. Belle was determined to have a VBAC with her second pregnancy and went to a VBAC clinic at the hospital. When it came time for her mandatory appointment with the doctor she said to her, "Wow, 4.3 kilos? I bet you're glad you didn't have to push him out!". It was then that Belle realized she couldn't deliver in hospital. She found an independent midwife and had an amazing experience at home. The birth was intense after a really long labor but she feels it healed her very much from her first birth. Belle has had a wonderful breastfeeding relationship with each of her children. She weaned Orlando around 12 months and this time had a goal of 2 years. She made her goal and has just gently come to the end of weaning her daughter. Belle is a talented photographer who works almost exclusively with women and new mothers. She wanted to participate because she often asks those women to be brave and vulnerable in front of the camera for her and thought it was time she found some of that bravery herself.
The gorgeous Melissa Gordon with her children Grace (6), Jack (5), Kate (23 months) and Nina (4 weeks). Melissa has had quite a variety of birth experiences. With her first, she was very scared of the pain of labor and knew going into it that she wanted an epidural, feel nothing and get the baby out vaginally. The epidural slowed everything down, and she had to have induction medication and almost a cesarean. They were able to use the vacuum to get her out safely which caused some pelvic floor damage for Melissa. She was ultimately very happy with how it all went. With Jack, she decided to approach birth a different way and used hypnobirthing to manage her fear and the pain. She had a beautiful drug free labor at home and only transferred to the hospital 30 minutes before Jack was born without complication. With Kate, she decided that her previous birth was such a success they wanted to have a water birth in a family birthing center rather than the hospital. She used hypnobirthing again, and her husband caught Kate, which was wonderful. However, Melissa couldn't get out of the bath after her birth, and it was determined she'd damaged her pubic symphysis quite severely. She couldn't walk for 5 months and was ultimately diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and Arthritis. They'd always wanted four children, but Melissa wasn't sure she could endure another pregnancy and delivery. They got pregnant by surprise and on the recommendation of 5 specialists and lots of research decided that rather than have a natural birth she'd have an elective cesarean. Nina was born by cesarean at 37 weeks bringing her birth experience completely full circle. Melissa says she would have loved to have a natural birth, but you can't always predict the outcome, and the outcome for her family has been perfect. She's had a difficult time recovering from her surgery due to her chronic pain but it's going well now, and she's starting to feel better. Melissa has been able to breastfeed all of her babies without issue. She chose to participate in the project to show her children that they don't need to aspire to be something that's impossible, who they are is perfect.
The amazing Shelley Ford with her mother Deborah and daughter Evelyn (7 months). Shelley is also mother to Charlie (4). Shelley (31) is the eldest of Deborah's children; she is also mum to Rhiannon (28), Ryan (19) and Peta (18).
Deborah has had wonderful pregnancies, with big healthy babies and very fast natural delivery deliveries, her first lasting about 5 hours and her last a rush to get to the hospital. She breastfed her first three without complication until about 6 months and her last to 16 months, getting a bit more relaxed as she went along. Deborah has quite enjoyed her journey through motherhood and especially loves being a grandmother. She said that seeing her child, have her own children is an amazing transition, and she's quite proud of her.
Shelley has had two very different pregnancies and births. She grew up expecting pregnancy and birth to be the way her mum did it, without issue. She didn't necessarily enjoy her first pregnancy having just got married but had planned a beautiful, natural birth with her son. Charlie flipped breech, and she ultimately delivered via elective cesarean. She said that Charlie was (and is) a very spirited child and his first two years were among the most challenging she's had. For her second birth, she was happy to be pregnant and enjoyed it a lot more than the first. She had a joyful pregnancy and went to 42 weeks. This time around, she chose midwifery care, and says that it was a life-changing experience. She looked forward to every appointment, and she got her natural VBAC delivery. Shelley says she is still on high 7 months later. Shelley wanted to embrace the spiritual and emotional side of her journey's through motherhood thus far and embrace this stage of life with her daughter and mother so she'll find pride in her own body someday.
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 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.
The wonderful Charmaine Cohen with her daughter Ariel (4) and son Charlie (3). Charmaine was pregnant for the first time at 17, but her parents forced her to terminate her pregnancy. She didn't meet her husband or start her family until later in life and was always a bit regretful. Charmaine has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) but didn't have any issues conceiving. She was diagnosed with gestational diabetes while pregnant with Ariel, but they didn't catch it until she was already quite ill and needed insulin 3 times a day. They decided to induce her one week early, but her cervix never softened. Her doctor gave her the choice of having a cesarean or likely breaking her pelvis and Ariel's arm to deliver vaginally. They chose to deliver via cesarean. While not what she expected, things went well, and she was able to breastfeed until Ariel was about 6 months old. She developed gestational diabetes again with Charlie, but they were able to identify it earlier this time. She still needed insulin and had to take one type during the day and another injection in the evening. She planned to have a cesarean this time and things were much easier. Charlie took to breastfeeding like a champ and nursed until 16 months. Charmaine feels it's important to teach her children that while they want for nothing, there is so much more to life and why we're here and how we feel about ourselves and those around us. Her participation in the project was a bit of that in practice for her family.
The magnificent Jonna Thomas with her son Liam (3) and daughter Rowan (4 months). Jonna had never desired to have children so, getting pregnant with Liam was a big surprise. She had a very healthy pregnancy without any complications and said that if it hadn't been for her baby bump, she wouldn't have known she was pregnant. Her water broke at home just before term but ultimately it was determined that Liam's head wouldn't fit through her pelvis, and she had to deliver via cesarean. Liam had colic, and Jonna said that it wasn't until she went back to work when he was three months old that she finally started to feel connected to him. They planned to conceive Rowan and this time, Jonna chose to have an elective cesarean. Her water broke 15 days before her due date, and she was able to go in and deliver without complication. Each of her recoveries went well and she's been able to breastfeed both of her babies even though she's had difficulty responding to pumping.
The amazing Kelly O'Hara with her daughter Luna (6 months). Kelly expected that pregnancy would be easy for her but struggled with sickness the first few months. Around 5.5 months, she stared feeling much better and felt like she could take on the world. She was told that she had a small pelvis and would be unable to deliver a baby larger than 6 pounds so Kelly opted for an elective cesarean. The surgery went well and at first, her recovery did as well but she soon started to have some urinary complications as well as pain in her legs that made her unable to walk up stairs. She has been trying to find answers and doctors think it may be something to do with the femoral arteries in her legs and has finally found a medication which helps with the pain. After her complications, Kelly has wondered if she should have tried for a vaginal birth and with future children says she will have to really consider which choice is best for her. She had also assumed that breastfeeding would be easy for her and she prepared as much as possible but she struggled with supply. After making it to 3 months of nursing exclusively she started to introduce formula and by 4.5 months Luna had weaned. Luna is thriving and Kelly knows she did the best for her baby girl.