“There are so many but the first memory that came to mind was when I was medivaced to Anchorage and in very early preterm labor with my daughter. We were only 23 weeks along and she decided it was time to make her appearance. The amazing medical staff was able to keep her in for 3 more weeks but I will never forget the conversations my husband and I were apart of with the NICU doctors. We were warned about grave decisions that we might need to face and life altering challenges that lye ahead. Doctors told us our baby was barely "viable" and could face an infinite list of medical issues. These conversations were terrifying but they revealed the raw strength and commitment between my self and my husband. We knew our choices and we knew our answers to these unbelievable questions about a tiny human we haven't even met yet. We knew the answers to these questions by simply just looking at eachother, we didn't even need to talk.
In the end, we had a healthy, happy, tiny 26 weeker that spent just shy of 90 days in the NICU. Our tiny girl is now almost 3 and has an attitude that more than makes up for her size. That attitude and tenacity is what kept us from ever having to answer those terrifying questions or consider those unimaginable "options" given to us by the NICU doctors.
These memories were never what I would have considered being a part of motherhood but its a big part of my motherhood story."
“I visited a thrift store with my two children and my parents in small town Mississippi today. My mother talks to everyone and makes friends out of strangers so it was of no surprise that she announced that her daughter and grandchildren were visiting from Alaska to the small staff. One gentleman who worked there, particularly intrigued about life in Alaska, struck up a conversation with me. He was maybe in his sixties, thick southern accent and was sweeping the floor when we locked eyes and he confessed “he never missed an episode of Ice Road Truckers.” And after awhile, spotting me later weaving in and out of isles with my kids, he nodded and said, “those babies will always be your babies. Yeah, my daughter is grown but she’s still my baby, you know? I still see her that way.” And then, “there’s nothing like a mothers love. I understand how lucky I am, how blessed I am, bc I know a mothers love. Sometimes I get down and feel sad that my mom has died but I snap out of it and turn that around when I remember that I know a mothers love and that is special. Not everyone knows that kind of love.”
“My second baby developed an all-encompassing, blistering rash on her fresh, little bottom, in the first few weeks of her life. My first baby never slept, so when the second baby was happy to sleep for 4-5 hours at a time, it felt like a dream. My midwives told me to do my best to keep her dry- "Try going diaperless." But, as we all know, newborns pee constantly, so I imagine, in my obsession with keeping her dry and diaperless, I ended up chapping her whole bottom and likely making it worse. I'd lay there awake while she slept, waiting for her to be so I could quickly dry her. I did this for days, weeks, probably just making it worse now that I think back. Desitin, butt cream, arbonne, calendula cream, none helped her, in fact they seemed to make it worse and more painful. The pain-induced cry of a newborn, is unmistakable- It's different than the "I'm hungry, or "I want Mom" cry. It was the cry she made when she got a shot- any time I tried to do something. I was sending pictures to my midwives throughout the entire day, along with all my notes. She was napping with her bare bottom up, on a pee pad, and I laid next to her with a hairdryer, waiting for her to pee, so I could pat her dry and blow her dry. I managed a prescription cream for her (over the phone, because covid had just shut everything down), and I'll never forget how bad I knew that cream stung her. I was absolutely frantic. I was dripping with breastmilk from the cries, covered in pee and poop from the diaperless baby, and my own tears. I became obsessed that something I was eating was causing the rash. I had to be the cause, some how. My husband was at work all day. It was March and I remember the returning Alaskan sun forcing itself on me. I remember one morning my husband bent down to kiss us goodbye, and he acknowledged the sight before his eyes, not in a mean or shameful way, but he saw my desperation and I think he felt worried about leaving for the day.
I finally called my primary care provider and asked to speak with the nurse on call. As I was connected, the colossal feelings of shame rushed over me, and I just began sobbing to this stranger. Sobbing because I felt embarrassed and manic. I was worried the nurse would think I was neglectful, a mother who didn't change her new born baby's diaper as often as she should have known to do. I honestly envisioned her making a note to make sure the child is in safe care. Deep down, I wondered if they might take my baby away from neglect. The nurse listened. And she said “I’m sorry you’ve going through this” and she listened some more. She knew thats all I really needed at that moment. After I was done and I apologized for loosing it over the phone, she told me it was okay. She suggested I put vaseline on her bottom- I have no idea how I didn't try that. It looked 80% better in a batter of hours.
I know now how crazy that was. I also know how much I needed a different kind of help-- at the very least a closer look at my own mental health. Later that day my midwives called me with a witchy combination of benonite clay, golden deal and myrrh powder in a small plastic ramiken. I still guard it and check on it nearly four years later in the medicine cabinet. I've never had to use it again- but keeping it makes me feel safe in some way, and like a time capsule to one of the lowest, saddest moments I've ever felt.”
“I can't think of anything super specific but I remember when I was pregnant, I was talking with my OB about making some decision in my pregnancy and how I was nervous about making the wrong choice for my baby. She replied saying that the choices and decision making never ends, you just have to choose a path and see how it works out. I guess what I got from that is that we will always want what is best for our child and ultimately, we just have to believe that we are making the best choice in that moment for them.”
“I regularly recall going to appointments when I was pregnant with my second child feeling very judged. With their looks and questions, the clinic staff gave off the vibe that I was just another young, shell-shocked woman pregnant again with an unplanned or unwanted child soon after the first and that I couldn’t make decisions about my body on my own. They felt the need to strongly encourage me on multiple visits to get my tubes tied during an upcoming planned c-section. My husband was at many of those visits and he never got the same sterilization talks, although he later had a vasectomy after he and I decided I had done my fair share of physical giving for our family.
The whole experience was so contrary to the reproductive justice values I hold dear. I felt bad going to the clinic and overwhelmed being pregnant with a toddler at home. I WAS actually shell-shocked. I felt disassociated from my body, was probably experiencing undiagnosed postpartum depression after the first birth, was managing a new job, was married to a (very loving) partner working at sea for extended periods and had a very small support system. Memories of sexual trauma as a child were clouding my relationship with my body and the child I was growing in my womb. I absolutely love and loved being a parent, but it was a tough time.
I needed someone to ask me “what do you need?” I needed the medical providers to ask me if I had experienced any trauma and then care for me with that understanding in mind. I needed to feel in control of my body and pressure to undergo sterilization felt very paternalistic.”