I spent my whole adolescence surrounded by pregnancy and birth. My father is the eldest of 7 children in an Irish catholic family that began its growth in 1955, so the family values were pretty rich.
As a result I was constantly curious of the Anatomy of pregnancy and the process of birth. It wasn’t until I matured that my interests developed a social understanding of the obstetrics practices in the US, and my concern for sexual health in our modern society. These were some of the motivations for deciding to become a birth and postpartum doula.
Eventually I began practicing in January 2015. I supported clients through the many challenges of pregnancy, labor, and infant care. I dove deep into mental health awareness and earned a scholarship in which I learned not only a deeper understanding of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but also my own personal struggles with mental health.
Amidst my professional journey, my personal journey grew unstable. It forced me to stop and ask for help. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018. This gave me the strength to set boundaries for my health, my business, and my family. I mention this, because these were very clear stepping stones for me to be able to become a mother.
I held off the notion until I was 33. I really wanted to be mentally whole and confident in myself before making such a big move. I finally told my partner of 4 years, “let’s just go for it!” I knew there were no guarantees that we would conceive immediately and I was tired of setting it aside as if it wasn’t important to me.
It took us 2 years before my first pregnancy in September of 2020. We were elated! It was a challenging time for the world, but when isn’t? We were focused on our universe for the time being. After sharing with my parents and siblings we planned to share the news with my partner’s family on Christmas. I had my 12 week scan with a maternal fetal medicine doctor on my birthday December 22nd, where I found out that I was to have a miscarriage. With my partner on video chat, we saw a lifeless broken sack on screen together. I had a feeling it was happening, but I didn’t want to believe it. It was devastating. And to top it all off, I gave birth at home to our sweet first hope on Christmas day. 6-8 hours of contractions, blood, and tears. We were not ready for such an event. The next morning my baby passed, leaving me empty and riddled with sorrow.
Even though the level of this loss was big, we felt hopeful that we would have our sweet rainbow.
I continued to support my clients despite our loss and felt as though I could advocate differently for my them. I even felt as though I had experienced what they endure in their labors.
7 months after the loss of our sweet baby, I found out I was pregnant. This pregnancy was overseen by midwives in the beginning, but they kept flagging concerns with my belly measurements and our baby’s heart rate. I eventually was diagnosed with polyhydramnios (extra amniotic fluid levels) and was risked out to an OB. I was seeing a Maternal Fetal Medicine practice for the duration of my pregnancy and they were baffled by my symptoms, as there were no signs of concerns, other than an irregular heart beat every once in a while. We went to the OB and MFM every week both ensuring everything was fine. My 38th week I noticed my daughter’s heart rate was lower than it had been the entire pregnancy, but deemed in the normal range. I had feelings about it, but convinced myself she was good. I spent the next 3 days concerned. She wasn’t moving as much and I continued reassuring myself that everything was okay. By Sunday I was panicking waiting to see my OB the following day. I went in to get an ultrasound to see what was up, and she was gone. She had died in my womb, a once sweet healthy little baby now dead. I couldn’t believe this was my reality. We lost our girl and there was nothing we could do about it.
My husband was at work and I couldn’t go there to tell him and I couldn’t tell him over the phone. I was able to work in our community to get him home to deliver the absolute worse news in the world!
I realized he had pulled in the driveway and began putting the car seat in the car for our trip to the hospital, before I stopped him and pulled him inside, and dropped the most devastating news of our personal experience.
Both of us were in shock as we drove to the hospital where we waited 4 hours in a room (furthest from occupied labor and delivery rooms) before welcoming our sweet daughter to the world in a silent OR.
I still remember the warmth of her cheeks fresh out of my womb. I still hear my weeping and the words, “my sweet baby” repeated several times through sobs. My husband collected himself enough to hold her one time as he sobbed. I was told later that there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
The following days still stand as the absolutely worst days of our lives. The quiet haunted me as I recovered from major surgery. My husband turned his concerns into getting me back on my feet physically. People left food for us at our doorstep and our parents made plans to visit in support of our loss.
It was months before I could fathom working again. Doula work was no longer safe for me, and my ability to put on a professional face was incredibly difficult. I took a part time gig with a small grocery store in the neighborhood, but the exposure to babies and family became too much. I was furious that I was working a whatever job to pay the bills, when I should have been nursing my baby and caring for her every need. The silence continued to haunt me.
Amongst all the grief and adjustments back to “normalcy,” I gained a friend in a pottery studio owner. I was hired on to work in their gallery, and soon took on administrative tasks proving my value in a community that helped me sow new seeds for myself. I began working with ceramics and finding it the most therapeutic. I also continued therapy and such, but it was the lightning of my creative spark that filled my sales.
I now find myself surrounded by family in our sweet playhouse of Clay and welcoming our 3rd baby Sean Casey. I am now 33 weeks and just loaded with anticipation to see our baby’s eyes, hear his cries, and snuggle him up.
It’s all so unreal as we were told the same reassurances with Claire Fallon and she died. I am filled with joy and sadness all in one and I am coming to understand what it means to mother my children.
While Sean is sure to be the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow. The growth of my community is also a major piece of finding my rainbow.
Photos taken by Lacy Shelby.
Find out more about Project Finding Your Rainbow.
Pin and help spread the project!