So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

In 2016, I gave birth to my son after a challenging and stressful pregnancy. From the first month of my pregnancy, I suffered from a complication called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition that causes severe, unrelenting nausea and vomiting. HG causes women to experience severe dehydration, malnutrition, and related conditions, nevermind a serious drop in quality of life. Until the development of intravenous hydration in the 1950s, HG was the leading cause of maternal death. Even today, it can lead to the deaths of unborn children and serious health impacts on mothers.

When I was five months pregnant, I had surgery to remove a large tumor (the size of a softball) from my ovary, which ended in the removal of the tumor, an ovary, and fallopian tube. My son had a 50% chance of dying during the operation, but those were better odds than not having the procedure done at all. I was on bed rest afterward as the surgery site healed, all the while feeling pressure to get back to work as soon as possible to keep our health insurance.

As if this was not enough, I went into labor early, had irregular labor, and experienced medical trauma during the C-section that brought my son, unbreathing and blue, into this world. He survived, and as I watched him and my husband head toward the NICU, I was relieved that he had made it.

And then I felt nothing.

I knew something was wrong, but there were no words for it, yet.

In the months that followed, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the medical trauma and negligence I experienced during my son’s birth. I also finally admitted to myself that my pregnancy had been a nightmare. Looking back, I have realized the depths of my anguish and physical suffering during those eight months. In the middle of it all, I was determined to keep our son alive and do whatever it took to bring him into this world. That sort of determination broke down my interest in or ability to talk about the depth of difficulties I was experiencing.

Even after he was born, I was so worried that someone, even those who are closest to me, would doubt my love for my son, or my gratitude for his birth. I loved him fiercely, more than any emotion I had ever felt, and he was too good, too perfect, too lovely, for me to diminish with my own negative experiences.

Traumatic pregnancy and birth do that to you. They place you in a position where your heart is so joyful, so grateful, so overwhelmed by the goodness and beauty of your child, yet your mind is consumed by pain, heartbreak, grief, and suffering.

You lift your head in the delivery room to see your living, breathing child and rejoice, while tears of agony flood down your face from the brutal experience you just survived. The dichotomy is disturbing and heartrending.

My husband and I had wanted a large family. The more kids the better, especially after we fell in love with parenting our son. Yet the heavy specter of “what happened” hung over us every time we talked about our family. Instead of questions like, “Do you want to have another baby?” we asked questions like, “Can we handle another life-threatening pregnancy or birth?” We wondered if I could parent my son while clinging to the toilet as I vomited blood from a raw esophagus. We wondered how much help we would need from our friends and family, and whether or not it was fair to expect it or ask for it. We wondered if the scar tissue from my operation and subsequent nightmarish C-section would interfere with my ability to carry another child. We switched doctors, explored options, talked and prayed and prayed some more. We made our choices, choices I hope to write about someday. But more important than what we chose is the fact that these choices exist for couples like us.

And this is what I want you to know, as you try to decide what to do:

To the mama who is trying to decide what to do after a traumatic pregnancy or birth, you are not alone.

Even as your friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances announce pregnancies or introduce new babies, or celebrate a beautiful and empowering birth experience, I am over here reaching out to hold your hand as you remember yours.

I know what it feels like to lose freedom over your choices, to have constraints of physical and emotional pain burden your mind and heart as you imagine a future for your family.

I know what it is like to ask painful questions of doctors when you know the answers already.

I know what it is like to tell a loved one you are pregnant again and to see the instant concern in their face.

I know how tremendously isolating this experience is and how many judgments, questions, or opinions you have faced and will face.

I know what it is like to want that positive test so badly, but at the same time, to worry.

I know what it is like to count down the days until the scary things start again, while also praying your baby makes it.

I know what it is like to need doctors but to also distrust them.

I know what it is like to suffer again.

I know what it is like to say, “Never again,” but I also know what it is like to say, “I choose bravery,” to do it again, and then again.

I also know what it is like to lose children and wonder if you should have even tried.

I know the deep, deep mourning you have experienced.

I know the grief that shakes you to your core.

I know the reason you smile at newborn babies even as your heart starts to race.

I know why you may want your arms filled by a baby again.

But I also know why you may never want to hold another infant again.

I know why you are considering this all over again.

It is because the love you have for your child is so tremendous, so awe-inspiring, so beautiful, so powerful, that of course you would consider this again. You remember and know and hold on to the beauty found in those early weeks with your baby, the moments that sustained you as your body healed and your heart was mended. The moments when you looked at your child and it hit you: we did it. We are both still here.

It is because you are a mother, and because you fought for your baby, and because your story was forged with courage.

Your story, with its pain and grief and ugliness, may not end up in a light and airy social media post about an all-natural, candle-lit birth, but let me say this loud and clear: you are a warrior, mama.

You already sacrificed your body, your heart, and parts of you that you will never get back. You fought, hard, for your baby or babies, and you have fought hard to come back from that. Your story is filled with bravery and sacrifice, and you deserve to hear that.

So, as you decide what to do next, whether it is having another baby, becoming a one-child family, or changing doctors to see what they have to say, remember that you are already a warrior-mama. You have nothing to prove. If you decide that what happened was enough for you, make peace with that. If you decide to try again, make peace with that, whatever the outcome. Make the decision that is best for you and your family. Know that whatever you decide, it is your decision to make.

To the mama who Googled for, clicked on, or was forwarded this, I cannot know why this specifically matters to you. But what I hope is that you feel less alone and more encouraged. Never doubt the strength that brought you this far; it is powered by a love greater than words could ever describe.

You may also like:

Dear C-Section Mom, You Are a Warrior

I’m Allowed to be Disappointed in my Birth Story

Darkness Can Linger Following a Traumatic Birth

Taraneh Kerley

Mama to Beren and my angels, Aspen and Elanor. Wife to Justin. Believer. I read books, drink coffee, scratch cook, & save animals, among other things.

I Would Relive Every Moment of Sorrow Just To Hold You

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding infant, black-and-white photo

As I sat there rocking my child to sleep, I caught my mind wandering to the past. Not my recent past but my before . . . Before my son was born. Before my stressful pregnancy. Before my positive pregnancy test. Before . . . when I was praying every day for a miracle—six years back. Infertility is a messy journey that few (and many at the same time) are chosen to take. It’s lonely and heartbreaking and dark and will make you hate yourself at times. You feel helplessness and anger and despair. RELATED: This is Infertility Your relationships...

Keep Reading

When a Rainbow Baby Meets Mama

In: Baby, Loss, Motherhood
newborn baby on mother's chest

This week, one year ago, was one of the most difficult weeks of my life. Fast forward to exactly one year later, and here I am cuddling you, my sweet boy. I never truly understood what “rainbow baby” was all about, but I get it now. Sure, I knew what it meant and what it represented. I had read the articles and heard the stories. I had seen the meaningful images and understood the definition. But I never truly and deeply knew what happens when a rainbow baby meets their mama . . . until you. When a rainbow baby...

Keep Reading

How Do You Know it’s Really the Last Baby?

In: Baby, Motherhood
Selfie of pregnant woman standing next to child, color photo

I love being pregnant. I love everything about it. I am, however, one of the lucky ones who has been blessed with stress-free pregnancies. I get the typical morning sickness in the first trimester and the utter exhaustion in the third trimester, but other than that, it’s just pure enjoyment. I know not everyone has that experience, some have horrific pregnancies, but for me they have all been relatively easy. Trust me, I do know how fortunate I am. I’m currently pregnant with my fourth child. The little man is due this summer. From the very beginning when I first...

Keep Reading

It’s Hard on a Mother’s Heart To Watch Her Last Baby Grow Up

In: Baby, Motherhood
Child walking away in grass

My youngest son turned two a few months ago and still has a binky. He actually calls it his “mimi,” and he loves it so much. This morning I  looked at him with a mimi in his mouth and a mimi in his hand before I walked him into daycare and realized something. I am not ready to let go of the baby stage.  Getting rid of the binky would be the last step of the baby stage. He is already in a big boy bed. He doesn’t want to sit in a high chair for meals. He tries to...

Keep Reading

Some Babies Are Held Only in a Mother’s Heart

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Ultrasound of baby

“Whatever may come and whatever may pass, we have faith that our God will bring us to it and through it.” That’s what I wrote in a post after we announced our third pregnancy. It was the first pregnancy we went public with, but it was the third time we had two positive lines on a pregnancy test. You see, we had miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. We went from surprised optimism to guarded yearning and finally stolen joy. The first baby was nothing more than a what-if before that test. It was a surprise to two people who loved...

Keep Reading

Because There Were Two

In: Baby, Motherhood
Sonogram image of two babies, black-and-white photo

Because there were two, there were gasps and tears and disbelief. There were spreadsheets developed before you even got home from the initial ultrasound appointment and fears and relentless morning sickness and books to read and endless worries and what-ifs. There were extra ultrasounds and extra fears, extra heartburn and floor plans for extra bedrooms, extra back pain and extra cribs, extra strollers and extra car seats. Because there were two, you will always be outnumbered. There are 20 fingers and 20 toes, too much laundry, and never enough hours. There were missing socks and missing pacifiers, dirty bottles and...

Keep Reading

Finding Wonder in the Waiting of Secondary Infertility

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother holding toddler son, color photo

Secondary infertility is hard. It’s an all-encompassing phenomenon that hyper focuses your brain on a single goal: another baby. The perplexity of secondary infertility is that you’ve done this before. You fertilized an embryo, carried the growing child within your womb, and delivered your bundle. It was the most challenging and yet seemingly effortless event of your life. Looking back, you wonder how you achieved such an amazing feat without assistance. Now, with Clearblue ovulation tests pouring from your pantry, period trackers abounding, basal body flow charts, and the pineapple (so much pineapple) you are unable to do the one...

Keep Reading

What I Wish Someone Would’ve Told Me About Gender Disappointment

In: Baby, Motherhood
Pregnant couple holding boy or girl sign

I was in the corner of my closet hiding behind my wedding dress and every formal I’ve ever owned. It was dark, stuffy, and felt like a good place to hide. I’d just found out I was having a boy, and I was devastated in ways I didn’t think possible and was trying to hide what I was feeling from the world around me.  What kind of mother isn’t completely enamored with her baby-to-be? Did this make me a monster? I should have been happy. After all, I was having a healthy baby. That’s like winning the lottery. Instead, I...

Keep Reading

The Conversation We’re Forgetting To Have About Birth

In: Baby, Marriage, Motherhood
Woman having a baby man holding her hand

My husband lay sleeping, his head resting on a fluffy, down-stuffed pillow in our hotel room. His bag was packed neatly, ESPN was playing quietly in the background, and he had unopened snacks at his disposal on the end table. Our hotel phone rang, and my husband groggily answered, ”Yes? Oh, sorry. Yeah, we’ll keep it down. Sorry.” He hung up and found me miserable and shaky in the shower, the thin shower curtain clinging to my legs.  “Steph, we got a noise complaint. You have to keep it down!” he whispered. This is not how I expected labor to...

Keep Reading

Bathtime Washes Away the Struggles of the Day

In: Baby, Motherhood, Toddler

It’s 7 p.m., which means bathtime at our house. I close the drain and fill the tub with warm water. I pump Johnson’s baby soap—the water and soap swirl together and form bubbles. The bubbles dance on top of the water, just waiting to cleanse my baby boy. I toss in your foam alphabet letters, Mr. Shark, and Mr. Penguin.  I place you in the bath and lather baby soap in my hands and give you a soapy mohawk. You are barely one and still my baby, but your four fat teeth make you look older. You chew on the...

Keep Reading

5 Secrets to the

BEST Summer Ever!

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Creating simple summer memories

with your kids that will  last a lifetime

Mother Holding Baby

5 Secrets

for New Moms

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Encouragement for the newborn stage