Every pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding journey is unique, and we're so honored each time a mom shares her story with us. Since our mission is to bring comfort and community to moms, in our new blog series, we're asking BraveMoms to share their stories with you. We hope you'll be as amazed and touched by their honesty and bravery as we are!
My Birth Story
I'm Jen Fellows. I have a nine-and-a-half-year-old daughter named Nakoa and a three-and-a-half-year-old son named Kaleo. When I was pregnant with Nakoa, I envisioned having a completely natural water birth at home. … I actually was seeing a midwife in addition to my normal doctor, and throughout the beginning of my pregnancy, I loved being pregnant. I loved having a bump; I felt super cute. It was just a really exciting and cool time in my life.
Jen is looking gorgeous in our Bamboo Nursing Tank and Lounge Shorts.
Click the photos to check them out!
I had certain symptoms and things that started happening to me, and I didn't know exactly what they were. I talked to my doctor, I talked to my midwife, and they both reassured me that they were normal things. Turns out, unfortunately, they were not normal. I developed severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome that set on really fast. I got sick, super-fast.
As the kind of person who feels like I'm strong and I can always do everything, I didn't go to the doctor as soon as I should have, especially because I was like, “Oh, I don't want intervention.” I was only 30 weeks, and I knew lots of women who were pregnant at the same time and would complain about aches and pains. I thought, this is just part of being pregnant, and it's okay.
Finally, I went to the doctor. They said, "You need to have an emergency C-section." My heart completely dropped. I was so scared, so terrified for my little girl to be born so early. But they said that there really wasn't another option. (HELLP syndrome is a disease of pregnancy, so I was the one who was very sick. Luckily, my baby was healthy, even though she was tiny.)
So within about 20 minutes, we were doing an emergency C-section. I had to be sedated for it. My husband couldn't be in the operating room. It was a completely different scenario than I had envisioned. Up till then, I was thinking that I was going to be at home, and it was going to be this really beautiful, organic thing. And then there I was in the hospital having a C-section and all kinds of drugs, and my little girl was going into the NICU.
It was probably one of the most humbling experiences in my life. It was actually one of the best things, in a weird way, that could have happened to me because it made me appreciate so much – my surgeon and all of the nurses who took such amazing care of Nakoa, helped us through that, and saved our lives. It also gave me a broader view of the different things that can happen when you're pregnant – and not judging other women for their choices or different things that they have to go through, realizing that as long as you have a healthy child and you come out of it healthy, you're really blessed and lucky.
Afterward, breastfeeding was also very non-traditional because she was so tiny. She was on a feeding tube. I started pumping immediately because they told me that if you're able to produce milk, it's basically liquid gold for these babies. It can be the difference between life and death for them. So I was on an absolute mission to produce milk and to be able to feed my little girl.
Starting just as soon as I got off of these meds to keep me alive, 24 hours later, I was able to go into the NICU and hold her and be with her. They got me started pumping, and I was on a schedule, every two hours. I would wake up, and I would do it. The entire time that she was in the NICU and even afterward, I kept it up.
I was a walking zombie, but there was so much comfort for me knowing that I was doing this to give to her. It turned out that I produced a massive amount of milk. She was able to be exclusively fed with milk and then learn to breastfeed and come home early. We brought her home when she was four pounds. She was crazy tiny, but because I was producing so much milk and she was able to latch, they said it was okay because she was gaining weight.
The really cool thing too was I had this huge freezer, I think it was seven cubic feet, that I filled with milk, and I didn't need it all for her because I was still breastfeeding. So I was able to donate it to a milk bank that processes it and then gives it to other preemie babies.
Thank you so much, Jen, for sharing your BraveMom story with us.