ON HER DIFFICULT JOURNEY TO MOTHERHOOD
"My journey to motherhood has definitely been the biggest transition in my life. I think even preparing my heart to have children required a definite shift in who I thought I was. When we were thinking about starting a family, for the first time in my life, I had to put someone else’s needs 100% above my own. Adjusting your diet, your sleep habits, your mindset, and your overall lifestyle, requires dedication. Looking back, I now think that this initial shift in lifestyle was really where motherhood began for me.
When my husband and I first started trying for a baby, we were lucky enough to get pregnant, but we lost that first baby to miscarriage. After months of heartache, we were finally ready to try again. We were blessed to become pregnant a second time, but that pregnancy was riddled with complications. My water broke at 16 weeks, I was on hospitalized bedrest for over 40 days, we delivered my son prematurely via emergency C-section almost 2 months early, and then spent an additional 34 days in NICU with him before we were all able to come home for the first time as a family of three.
"NOT ONLY WAS I OVERCOME WITH ALL OF THE NEW FEELINGS OF SUDDENLY HAVING A NEWBORN, BUT I ALSO BECAME ACUTELY AWARE OF THE DIFFICULTIES SO MANY WOMEN FACE IN TRYING TO GET PREGNANT AND CARRY A BABY SAFELY TO TERM."
These experiences fundamentally changed me. Not only was I overcome with all of the new feelings of suddenly having a newborn, but I also became acutely aware of the difficulties so many women face in trying to get pregnant and carry a baby safely to term. I was not granted the ‘safe’ delivery and typical first month at home with a newborn, and had to reconcile those differences along with not having a normal pregnancy. It would have been really easy to have a pity-party for myself for all of the things I felt like I missed out on (and believe me, I definitely had my share of big, ugly cries), but I also felt like I needed space to move forward from these experiences and help support other women walking through similar situations. That’s why I founded The Noble Paperie, and I don’t think I’ll ever think of motherhood and pregnancy in the same light. I can’t imagine life without these experiences, despite how devastating they were at the time, and I can’t imagine not having the opportunity to love and support other mamas in the process."
HOW LIVING OUTSIDE OF HER COMFORT ZONE TAUGHT HER TO BE FLEXIBLE:
"Living in a hospital for 40+ days was definitely a period where I was completely out of my comfort zone. Not only did it turn my own world upside down, but it took the birth plan I had initially earmarked for my son, and completely threw it out the window.
I had wanted as close to a natural and unmedicated child birth as I could get. And I had the complete opposite: it was un-natural, complicated, and highly-medicated (and by medicated, I mean taking pharmaceuticals to stop contractions, at least every four hours, around the clock, for FORTY DAYS).
"I'VE LEARNED THAT I CAN GO AHEAD AND MAKE ALL THE PLANS AND PREPARATIONS MY LITTLE HEART DESIRES, BUT SOMETIMES LIFE IS GOING TO DEAL YOU A DIFFERENT DECK OF CARDS, AND YOU'LL HAVE TO FIGURE IT OUT ON THE FLY AND TRUST THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU TO HAVE YOUR BACK AND HELP YOU ALONG THE WAY."
Living out of my comfort zone physically and mentally, taught me how to be flexible. Actually, it forced me to be flexible, because truly there was no other option for me at the time. I’ve learned that I can go ahead and make all the plans and preparations my little heart desires, but sometimes life is going to deal you a different deck of cards, and you’ll have to figure it out on the fly and trust the people around you to have your back and help you along the way."
CREATING LIFE IS A VULNERABLE ACT:
"Having kids makes me feel vulnerable. When you open up your heart to become a mama, you unfortunately have to wear your heart on your sleeve a little bit. I think after you experience losing a child, you realize that nothing is set in stone— I know firsthand that just because you’re pregnant, it doesn’t guarantee a healthy baby at the end of that journey, and I think that realization fundamentally changes how you look at building a family. I remember finally realizing that I had no control whatsoever over our situation, and that changed my mindset completely about becoming a parent.
I know I am so much more appreciative of our son because of our miscarriage, and because of all the complications we had during the pregnancy with him. Creating life is a fragile, vulnerable act itself. One that we should all admire because so many things have to go exactly right for there to be a perfect, healthy baby at the end. And even the act of getting pregnant isn’t easy for everyone. Where the statistics are high for miscarriage (1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage) the stats are similarly difficult with infertility. 1 in 8 couples struggle to get pregnant at all, so there is definite vulnerability for all of us on the path to motherhood. Even if you haven’t experienced either of these situations yourself, it’s worth putting yourself in the shoes of the mother who is walking this path, and having some empathy for the journey she’s having to endure to bring her family into the world."
"I KNOW I AM SO MUCH MORE APPRECIATIVE OF OUR SON BECAUSE OF OUR MISCARRIAGE, AND BECAUSE OF ALL THE COMPLICATIONS WE HAD DURING THE PREGNANCY WITH HIM. CREATING LIFE IS A FRAGILE, VULNERABLE ACT ITSELF."
ON OVERCOMING A MISCARRIAGE & POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION:
"I’ve had a couple of tough emotional falls— and both were equally hard and debilitating. The insurmountable grief I experienced after our miscarriage was devastating. I didn’t know how to cope or handle life after losing our baby. My husband and I hid the secret away for a long time and buried it deep within our marriage. It took months for me to finally accept that I needed additional help and I eventually sought out a therapist to work through my grief and depression. Looking back, I wish I had gotten to this point sooner, but I also understand that there is no point rushing grief. Everyone is different, and everyone experiences loss and grief in their own timeframe, and it’s important not to hurry that process.
"I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO COPE OR HANDLE LIFE AFTER LOSING OUR BABY... IT TOOK MONTHS FOR ME TO FINALLY ACCEPT THAT I NEEDED ADDITIONAL HELP AND I EVENTUALLY SOUGHT OUT A THERAPIST TO WORK THROUGH MY GRIEF AND DEPRESSION."
My other emotional fall was after I gave birth to my son. Post-partum depression was no joke, and I’m sure mine was compounded with the fact that I had been bedridden for 40 days previously, suddenly had a baby and yet wasn’t prepared in any way, shape or form for him to be here… and ALSO simultaneously knowing that he was fighting for his life in the NICU. My thoughts were not rational during that time. I cried uncontrollably over the smallest thing and couldn’t get my mind straight. I know I had been through a lot, but it was incredibly difficult to take myself out of the situation and try and heal.
"I ALSO IMPLORE WOMEN TO UNDERSTAND AND REMEMBER THAT IT'S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP AND TO REACH OUT WHEN YOU THINK YOU'RE DROWNING."
I’ve learned from both of these experiences that getting to the point of breaking isn’t helpful for anyone, especially myself. I’m slowly understanding that it’s completely okay to be broken because there is so much beauty in healing and becoming someone new in the process. I also implore women to understand and remember that it’s okay to ask for help, and to reach out when you think you’re drowning. There is more strength in admitting you need support, than there is in trying to shoulder the burden of your emotions on your own."
THERE IS MORE STRENGTH IN ADMITTING YOU NEED SUPPORT, THAN THERE IS IN TRYING TO SHOULDER THE BURDEN OF YOUR EMOTIONS ON YOUR OWN."
ON THE NEVER-ENDING STRUGGLE TO BE BRAVE:
"I struggle with being brave ALL the time. I always get a similar response from people after I share about our experience in the hospital and what we had to endure to bring our son home: “I could have NEVER done that. How did you do it?!” and my response is always the same: because I had to. There wasn’t any other option. Did I have bad days where I was a wreck, balled my eyes out, and didn’t think I could go on? Absolutely. But I was lucky enough to have a really strong support group to help me through all of the ups and downs we experienced during that time. Between my friends and family, our physicians and nursing staff, and the additional healthcare workers I met along the way, it was definitely a group effort between all parties involved to help me to make it through that situation. And even now, years after we went through that harrowing experience, I still struggle with being brave! I’ll have a really difficult day and say things to my husband like, “I can’t do this”, and he gently reminds me that I can."
ON GROWING AND LEARNING PATIENCE:
"Patience. I wish I had learned patience sooner. And to be fair, I still don’t know if I have this whole patience thing figured out yet! It’s a continual process of growth and learning to be patient in each situation you’re given.
"I'VE ALWAYS BEEN THE MOST IMPATIENT HUMAN BEING ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH, AND EVEN NOW, DESPITE ALL THAT WE'VE BEEN THROUGH... I STILL STRUGGLE WITH PATIENCE."
I’ve always been the most impatient human being on the face of the earth, and even now, despite all that we’ve been through and all the waiting we’ve done in the last few years, I still struggle with it. When you’re in a season of waiting for a baby, you need to be patient. When you’re in the NICU and all you want to do is bring your child home, you need heaps and heaps of patience. And oh sweet baby Jesus, having a toddler, I think, may be why the word patience was invented… if I have to say “don’t wipe your food on the floor” one more time, I might lose my mind. So, clearly I haven’t quite figured out what patience is; it’s ever changing and something I’m still struggling with and working on."
ON THE FEAR OF GETTING PREGNANT AGAIN:
"Having another baby scares me more than anything right now. Having to open myself and my heart up to all of the experiences that come along with trying to get pregnant is completely terrifying.
"GIVEN WHAT WE WENT THROUGH, IT MAKES SENSE THAT I'M SCARED AND I'M TRYING TO BE GENTLE WITH MYSELF AS I WORK THROUGH THESE FEARS."
I’m not sure I’m ready for the possibility of being broken again, both from another miscarriage, or from an additional difficult pregnancy. And if I’m honest with myself, I don’t know if I’ll ever be “ready” for it. I think it’s about accepting a new normal and walking through a pregnancy with the understanding that nothing is certain. I’ll have to try to get through each day as it comes. Given what we went through, it makes sense that I’m scared and I’m trying to be gentle with myself as I work through these fears."
A MANTRA FOR THE 'LOSS MAMA' AND THE 'MAMA IN WAITING':
"I have a greeting card with this saying because it’s something my husband and I would say to each other every day when I was on bedrest in the hospital: “One day at a time. You can do this.” I remember the nurses telling me that each day our sweet babe was in utero, somehow equaled to three days less in NICU. Not quite sure how they figured out that algorithm, but I trusted our team and every day I repeated that mantra to myself and my husband and I repeated it to each other every single day. And even now, when I’m having a particularly rough day, I’ll say it again to myself and remember that I’ve been through far harder things. It gives me hope and puts things in perspective: I need to take one minute, one hour, one day at a time. Small steps. You can do this."