A Story of Loss and Strength
Jessica shares the story of her miscarriage at home, and her experience coming to terms with that unexpected loss of a child. She also shares her subsequent pregnancy and birth stories including the anxiety that often accompanies a pregnancy after loss, as well as the indescribable joy that came with welcoming her rainbow baby.
Dr. Jessica Zucker Bio
Jessica Zucker, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles. She specializes in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. Dr. Zucker is the creator of the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign, and a line of pregnancy loss cards. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, anthologies, and elsewhere. Jessica has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN, and NPR. Connect with Jessica on her website where she sells cards to send to women who have suffered a loss as well as her new rainbow mama and babe tees. Instagram: @ihadamiscarriage.
Rainbow Mama and Babe Tees
photo by Vaughn Danny
“Rainbow babies” are babies born after loss. Approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies result in loss and therefore there are lots of rainbow babies out there. I recently found out that I myself am a rainbow baby—my mom had a miscarriage between my older brother’s birth and me.
With the rainbow tees, Dr. Jessica Zucker aims to break the silence and shatter taboos around this very poignant and ubiquitous experience, honor our losses, and connect women who have experienced loss.
Buy a Rainbow Tee
These tees work against the shame and guilt that often surround loss and instead show a sense of pride for our histories/journeys and allow women to say “I had a miscarriage/pregnancy loss(es) and I stand with and support all the other women who have been there or are currently going through this.” All proceeds from the sale of these tees are being generously donated to The Birth Hour as we work together to destigmatize pregnancy and infant loss.
I Had a Miscarriage from Jaki Covington on Vimeo. Video by Jaki Covington
Amelia Barnes’ Pregnancy and Birth Stories
Today’s guest is Amelia Barnes. Amelia is going to share the stories of her two children’s births. Her son Landon was born in July of 2014 and lived for just four days. I don’t want to tell much of her story for her because she tells it so beautifully but I do want to say how thankful I am for this mama. She began sharing Landon’s story on Instagram during his pregnancy and continued after he was born and was so unbelievably honest and raw about all of her experiences and emotions that she quickly found herself surrounded by a virtual support system of women who had also experienced a loss.
Amelia’s story is especially close to my heart because it helped me navigate the unbelievably hard journey of supporting my best friend through the loss of her son around the same time. Amelia shared her most private thoughts of grief, jealousy, anger and healing in ways that not every mother who’s experienced a loss is able to express but most are feeling. It was so helpful to me to read her posts and know some of the things my friend was struggling with and be able to offer support in the right ways. She’s since created a retreat in Canada for women who’ve experienced the loss of a child to attend called Landon’s Legacy. Amelia gave birth to her daughter Lily very recently and will also be sharing the story of her pregnancy and birth which ended up bringing some answers as to what may have caused Landon’s death. Both stories are beautiful and emotional and so worth the listen.
Amelia Barnes’ Bio
Amelia is a mother, yoga teacher, retreat facilitator, and writer from Winnipeg, Canada. She is also the creator of PranaVidaStyle.com , a unique line of inspired and custom-designed yoga apparel made in Canada.
Landon’s Birth Story
Amelia’s life took an unexpected turn in July 2014, when her first-born baby Landon passed away at just 4 days old, due to brain damage sustained when his hearth suddenly stopped beating during his birth. Her and her husband were given no answers as to what happened, no reason as to why their perfectly healthy baby boy died. Thrown into an intensity of pain beyond what she’d ever imagined possible, she started sharing her feelings and experiences on social media to help her heal and create something beautiful of Landon’s short life. Within less than a year, her community of Instagram followers @ameliakyoga grew from 10,000 to over 100,000.
Lily’s Pregnancy and Birth Story
In November 2015, at 37 weeks pregnant with her daughter Lily, Amelia discovered that she had Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) and that this had most likely been what cause Landon’s death. This was an terrifying and stressful time, but ultimately lead to a very beautiful healing c-section birth of a healthy, adorable baby girl (read Lily’s birth story here).
Her journey of loss, grief and healing is compiled in her book Landon’s Legacy, soon to be available in Spring/Summer 2016. She is also a guide at the online yoga and healing community www.oneOeight.tv and hosts Landon’s Legacy Retreat, an annual holistic healing yoga retreat for bereaved moms. You can make donations to help mothers attend Landon’s Legacy Retreat and support them in their grief by going here. My best friend attended the 2015 retreat and it was such a healing experience for her.
Ashlee Wells Jackson’s Birth Stories
Ashlee is a photographer, feminist and storyteller currently living in Chicago. Mother to Xavier (10) and surviving identical twin daughter Nova Emery (3) and Aurora Eisley (stillborn due to complications from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome). Since mid 2012 she has been focused, along with business partner, Laura Weetzie Wilson, on 4th Trimester Bodies Project an international movement, photo-documentary and book series celebrating the uncensored beauty in motherhood. You can connect with Ashlee on Instagram @ashleewellsjxn or @4thTriBodies as well as Twitter and Facebook.
In today’s episode Ashlee shares the stories of her three children’s births. Her son Xavier was born when she was 23 years old and she and her husband did lots of research and were planning for a peaceful home water birth. Ashlee had trained to be a doula while she was pregnant and her midwife joked that she was the picture of a textbook perfect pregnancy, measuring right on track, healthy, and active.
28 Week Premature Birth
Ashlee went into the late stages of labor unexpectedly at 28 weeks, arrived at the hospital within an hour of realizing what was happening to find out she was fully dilated with bulging waters. She had a traumatic birth with the hospital staff screaming at her not to push and to lay on her back when she knew she needed to be in a different position. Ashlee was able to briefly see Xavier before he was taken to the NICU and even though he was 12 weeks early he was healthier than expected and spent a total of 46 days in NICU, improving each day. Ashlee struggled with feeling of empowerment and being on a high from giving birth while facing the fear of her son’s health.
When Ashlee found out she was pregnant again she and her almost husband met with a team of midwives and planned on having the homebirth she’d missed out on the first time. Again, Ashlee was the picture of healthy but was measuring a bit ahead of dates so her midwife asked her to have an ultrasound which she and her fiance had on the morning of their wedding day when they found out they were having twin girls! They were overjoyed and named both girls while on their honeymoon.
Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome
When they returned home they had a follow up ultrasound and 2nd Trimester screen and were told they had a stuck twin and that their daughter’s were suffering from TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome). They were referred to an MFM (maternal fetal medicine doctor) where they were told the girls were stage 4 of 5 of TTTS (5 meaning they had both already passed) and were given three options – terminate the entire pregnancy, selectively abort one of their girls in hopes the other would do better or immediately travel from Chicago to St. Louis for a laser surgery that was our only chance to save them both by separating their placental vessel connections. The surgery was the only option they could accept so they drove to St. Louis and 72 hours later were in the operating room.
The surgery was deemed successful; they severed the girls’ vessel connections and drained 3+ Liters of excess amniotic fluid. Ashlee rested around hourly ultrasounds and felt at peace and relieved that they were going to be OK.
In the morning they had one final ultrasound before being discharged and within seconds of the wand hitting her belly, Ashlee knew something was wrong. The doctor who had performed the surgery grabbed her hand and told her that Aurora had no heartbeat. After having been told the surgery was a success, it was such a shock to learn they’d lost one of their baby girls.
Ashlee was left to deal with the process of grieving the loss of one daughter while growing her other daughter. She was told that Nova was doing well and that there was no reason she wouldn’t make it to full term. She had long ultrasounds each week to check on both girls, Nova’s growth and Aurora’s body. Her fluid levels were still very high (polyhydramino’s is a side effect of TTTS) but everything else was stable until she woke up at 3am during her 24th week in labor and felt the same way she had when she went into labor with Xavier.
24 Week Premature Birth
She rushed to the hospital but despite all of the medications they gave her, nothing would slow down her contractions. They removed her cerclage and her MFM, knowing how important natural birth was to her, encouraged her to push but Ashlee had been given a spinal block rather than an epidural and couldn’t control her body well enough to push effectively. Nova’s heart beat dipped, and Ashlee was soon in the OR being prepped for a crash cesarean and at 11:11am Nova was born, with Aurora following a minute later.
Nova was taken to the NICU and Ashlee, who had been put under completely for the surgery woke up alone. Ashlee was concerned for Nova and didn’t know where Aurora was. Aurora was brought to Ashlee and they were able to spend some time together while Nova was being stabilized.
It was determined that the girls came so quickly due to a rampant E-coli infection that must have happened during the initial surgery performed to separate them.
After Nova suffered from a brain bleed, they were told that Nova would likely never talk or walk but they sought second opinions and took her to a neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital in Chicago when she was 5 weeks old where she had a surgery to help her brain. Nova spent 100 days in the NICU, developed hydrocephalus and eventually came home with a VP shunt and an NG tube. They fought hard to exclusively breastfeed and are still going strong at 3 years old. Nova is now exceeding all expectations – beautifully healthy and extraordinarily happy today.
Since giving birth, Ashlee struggled with feeling like a failure and hating her body for not doing what it was supposed to do. Being able to breastfeed was a healing process and a way for her to connect with her body and her children as she navigated her new role as a mother. She took the first picture of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project as a self portrait and has since photographed over 1500 women and heard their stories. You can read more about my experience participating in the project here.
Still Birth Day
4th Trimester Bodies Project
Two Homebirth Birth Stories with Kacie Case
For this episode, I got to record my first in person birth story interview with the beautiful, talented and sweet Kacie Case. Kacie is a mama to two boys named Eddy and Rocky and lives with her husband and kiddos in Austin, TX (hey that’s where I live too!). Kacie is also a small business owner and makes adorable printed tees for babies, toddlers and kids at mamacase prints. Connect with Kacie on Instagram @mamacaseprints.
Kacie and I poured some wine and got right down to talking about her two beautiful and empowering homebirths. I love that Kacie attended her two brother’s homebirths when she was growing up and had the honor of cutting their umbilical cords. Pretty much from that moment, Kacie was destined to have some kickass homebirths of her own.