From time to time I’ll share pregnancy and birth stories from real parents. While I won’t skip over the hard parts, my promise to you is that they’ll be written in an affirmative way, speaking to the power, strength, and courage of the birthing person. If any story contains trauma, I’ll be sure to let you know in advance so that you can choose whether to read further. To kick things off, I’m sharing my personal pregnancy and birth story with you because it’s a driving force behind why Bold & Mighty Birth exists today. Without further ado…
My pregnancy and birth stories are very personal… and very political.
When I found out I was pregnant in April 2018, I was ecstatic and terrified in all the ways people are when they realize they’re responsible for a tiny human. But I trusted myself and my husband, Jack, to figure it out together because we have an amazing support system and access to plenty of resources. We also made (and still make!) a pretty great team.
After the initial shock wore off, I realized a much more daunting issue. I was finishing up my second year of AmeriCorps, a national service program where I worked in college access and success for two years. In June, my contract would end (as I always knew it would), but that would leave me navigating a change in health insurance. While I was grateful for the ability to jump on Jack’s insurance, I wasn’t sure how that would change accessible providers or where I could give birth.
Beyond that, federal FMLA laws (family leave laws, often called maternity or paternity leave) only guaranteed time off if I worked somewhere for over 1 year.
The bottom line: Even if I could navigate the typical soul-sucking struggles of job-seeking, I’d have to deal with the awkward song and dance of disclosing my pregnancy at the “right” time in the interview process. And no law would guarantee time after birth to bond with my baby, establish a breastfeeding relationship, or allow me to physically recover.
This was a shock to me, but 1 in 4 pregnant people across America will go back to work within 10 days of giving birth. In this country, time off to have a baby or care for a sick loved one is seen as a luxury benefit rather than a human right for all. Let’s change that, ok?
On a personal level, the pregnancy was also off to a rocky start. During one of the busiest weeks at work (have you ever dealt with high school seniors during May?) my brother was having a tough time and landed on my couch struggling and depressed. I’ve always felt unnecessarily responsible for his happiness and wellbeing, so even though it ended up being very temporary, it was a lot for me to take on. Nobody knew that on top of work and family stress, I was pregnant, nauseous, and exhausted. And then I started bleeding….
Thinking back to that week still puts knots in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I want to go back in time and hold myself while past me curls up in a ball and cries. I was already doing everything I could to hold it together, and then I thought I was miscarrying.
I called my midwives. Long before I got pregnant, I decided a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) group at a freestanding birth center was going to be my care provider. I appreciated the medical education and access they had while still adhering to the Midwifery Model. I’m pretty sure the exact words out of my mouth when I met them were “I picked you because I have a lot of feelings, and I need someone who can deal with that.” I hadn’t been to my initial appointment yet, but they had me to come in the next day.
The ultrasound showed the very beginning stages of pregnancy, but it was still too early to see a heartbeat, so they couldn’t give me a definitive answer. I was definitely pregnant, but either I was going to miscarry or I wasn’t – I had to wait and see.
I’m sure there are often medical answers, but on an existential or spiritual level, I don’t know why some pregnancies happen easily and some don’t. Or why some carry to term and others are cut short. Why most babies are born strong and healthy, but not all. I just don’t know. But, whatever was happening in my body on that day, I’m very grateful it wasn’t a miscarriage.
Even though everything progressed normally, that fear stuck with me. It’s a common emotional reaction, and different people have different ways to cope with the thought of losing a pregnancy in the first trimester. Some avoid attaching to it altogether. I tried to deal with the fear by controlling it. I was determined to learn everything I could about pregnancy and birth. If the first part of pregnancy was so tumultuous, you better believe I was going to be the most prepared client my midwives had ever met when it came to birth. I was even going to train as a doula while I was pregnant… gold star, please!
The next few months were smooth sailing. I started working as an organizer for a Minnesota Governor campaign, and I worked 60 hours a week. But second trimester hormones worked in my favor, and I had the energy and drive to take on anything. I also deeply believed in the candidate I was working for. Our philosophy was #politicsofjoy, and it was a movement that advocated to solve many of the political issues I was up against.
Unfortunately, the beginning of third trimester hit me like a ton of bricks. Despite the incredible momentum and hope built from our campaign, we lost in the primary election. I went from working 60 hours a week to 0 hours a week overnight, and anxiety and depression set in. I was trying to manage grief from losing the election alongside pregnancy hormones, and on top of that, I had waaayyyyy too much time on my hands.
People with good intentions told me to “enjoy” the time to rest, but it only allowed me to dwell on my fears. Those same thoughts from early in pregnancy popped back up. Did I make a mistake by not waiting until I had a more stable job situation figured out before starting a family? How would my identity as a driven changemaker meld with my new identity as a parent? I didn’t want to lose myself in the title of “mommy,” and I didn’t want to be a bad mom by focusing on my other aspirations.
Then it got bad. Even though I still had responsibilities, I didn’t open my email for three weeks. My house got so messy that mold started growing in my shower (ew). And it felt like I never stopped crying. I felt helpless and scared because everyone talked about postpartum depression or anxiety, and if this was me before the baby came, how would I handle anything postpartum?
I spent hours looking through health insurance information, hoping I could find some kind of group or therapist, but I was coming up empty. I felt full of rage that our system was so hard to navigate, even when I had every advantage in the world. Finally, I got to my midwife appointment, and I fell apart.
I’m grateful for my Midwives for so many reasons. I’m grateful that they viewed pregnancy and birth as a normal and natural process rather than a medical problem. I’m grateful that they focused on my nutrition, activity, and social health first. And I’m grateful that on that day they suggested I start antidepressant medication without asking for justification.
I got better. My brain switched on, and I could process basic information. I designed the most beautiful nursery in the history of the world (objectively speaking, of course), and I started speaking up about my dreams. I told Jack I wanted to start a business. I wanted to be a doula and a coach, and I started taking action to attend training programs. One week before I gave birth, I was hired to manage a 2019 City Council campaign (more on that later).
I felt everything come together, and I could envision the new life I was building for myself and my family. And then, my (hard. beautiful. empowering.) birth went nothing like what I had planned on paper… Read My Birth Story Part 2; “No More Feelings Allowed”