Do you ever feel like you met someone for a reason? This next mama is my friend Stephanie, and I swear I feel like we were just meant to cross each others paths. We met almost two years ago when I was maybe 12 weeks pregnant. She was pregnant too, but they weren’t telling anyone yet. Sean and I were on a date, walking around and ended up in a photography/art store, and there was Stephanie and her husband, Brian. Little did I know, they both knew Sean from years ago. We chatted a bit and said we should hang out sometime, but that never happened. Fast forward March 17th, 2014, at CMH hospital and I had just given birth. Sean went out of our hospital room to get something to drink, when he ran into Stephanie’s brother in law. They both asked what each were doing there, and we then found out Stephanie had just had a baby boy hours before me. So we now both have one-year-olds that are hours apart and born in the same hospital. Through play dates, happy hour meet-ups, and text messages I have grown to love Stephanie. Let me tell you her mommy story.
She met her husband Brian, according to her a “million years ago” in high school. She was working at a frozen yogurt store her senior year in high school, and he would come in and flirt with her. That was their first meeting, but nothing happened. Brian moved up to Chico State University after high school where he ended up meeting Stephanie’s best friend, Maureen. Brian ended up setting up Maureen with one his good friends (who are now married with 2 kids) This put them in the same circle of friends after 10 years, they finally went on their first date. They ended up breaking up and dating a couple of times. Then they reconnected at the Ventura County Fair a year after their last break up, and they soon figured out something kept bringing them together. After one year Stephanie moved in with Brian, ten months later they were engaged, and nine months later they were married.
They then decided to have children, and they welcomed Taylor Jane into their family on May 10, 2011. I asked Stephanie how she found out she was pregnant with Cody, and here’s what she had to say; “ I found out I was pregnant with Cody the beginning of August 2013. This time it was a little different. Brian and I had gone back and forth on whether or not to have a second baby for months. I suffered pretty intense postpartum depression after Taylor and struggled with it for quite some time. That, coupled with Brian’s crazy work schedule (gone at least half the month), I wasn’t sure that I wanted to chance having to go through the “shit” again. I wasn’t sure I could handle it. I had also gotten to a place where I was working again part-time and enjoying some independence again now that Tay was at an easier age….not to mention I had just gotten down to my goal weight of what I was when we got married. So I spent the first trimester in denial and a little depressed…..and guilty for both of those feelings”. Hear her journey with Cody and the shocking news they found out.
“As my pregnancy progressed, and we found out it was a boy, I started to snap out of my funk and accept things as they were. There was no turning back now! We had a routine ultrasound appointment when I was 30 weeks, and I remember walking in there excited to see his face so I could compare it to Taylor’s ultrasound pics. What happened next was not something either of us was prepared for and not something I knew how to handle. The room got quiet that is never a good thing. The tech wouldn’t share anything with us and instead went to get the doctor. Our son measured extremely small and they we concerned because they were unable to see his stomach. I was put on partial bed rest and told to eat a ton of protein, very little carbs and “take it easy” (with a two and a half-year-old…..haha!). Two weeks later we went back, and we’re excited to learn that he had gained two pounds and felt like things were looking up. The tech again couldn’t find his stomach though, and when the doctor came in to try, he stopped at a side view of Cody’s throat. He had found what’s called a tracheo-esophageal fistula. Cody’s esophagus was attached to his trachea rather than his stomach. The room went dark for me. I felt like I was underwater or in some sort of nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. As we listened to the steps that were needed, I felt more and more sick to my stomach. Was this my fault? Was it something I did? Did I not take care of myself properly? Was this God punishing me for not accepting and being excited about this pregnancy at first?
This was a condition that happened to one in every 5,000 children. Why us??? I had an emergency c-section with Taylor and was separated from her for over an hour after she was born…..had major trouble with breastfeeding and sleep….and my depression. I was determined to make this a better birthing experience and better overall start to this new life and in an instant; that was all taken away. Cody was to be taken at birth straight to the NICU, and my hopes of normalcy were crushed. They planned on him having reparative surgery within days of birth. I was worried about my son and scared for what was to come. I don’t know what I would have done without the love, support and strength that Brian and my mom gave me. I had a scheduled c-section for March 25, and we were all hoping that he would stay in here at least that long so that he would get big enough to withstand the impending surgery. Cody had a different plan, and I went into labor March 16th. It was nerve-racking and scary….I just remember staring at Brian and waiting to hear Cody scream. It took a minute, but then we heard him gurgle and whimper…..and got in one good snuggle before they took him away.”
As you can imagine, Stephanie has been through so much this last year. I saw her in the hospital the day after Cody was born, and she was so strong. She may not have known she was strong, but I could see that someone was helping her hold it all together. She seemed so happy for me, but I know deep down inside she was feeling a million different feelings. Cody today, is the happiest, and cutest baby. I swear he melts your heart when you meet him, and you would never know he has been through so much. Being a mother is such a hard job, but when you throw in the doctor appointments, the worry, the what if’s, and any other rock that is thrown into her path it calls for some good and bad days. I know, and I hope she knows this that she is a rock star mom, and she is so brave to be speaking about this today. Check out her interview below.
1. So many women go through postpartum depression, how did you know you were going through this? And what were your symptoms?
Ahhhhh…..postpartum depression. My arch-nemesis. It honestly took me SO long to realize this is what was going on. I had an emergency c-section with Taylor – she was halfway between sunnyside up and the typical face down position with the cord wrapped around her neck three times. She just wasn’t coming out. It was not exactly what I had planned, nor was the recovery. It was hard!!! And I was blessed with breastmilk over-supply. I say that halfway in jest. I had NO idea how to manage it….Taylor would choke, I would spray all over her face, she would fill up on foremilk and get really gassy. It was a mess! And she CRIED. For like, three months. Up all night on and off, throughout the day. It was unnerving. I saw my doctor for my 6 week follow up and we discussed the possibility of me having PPD, but pretty much figured out that since I didn’t physically want to hurt Taylor or myself I was probably just suffering from the “baby blues”. I was able to keep it together until Brian went back to work and that’s when shit just hit the fan. I would stand at the front door crying in the morning when he was leaving for work…..my mom would call and before I could even pick up the phone, I would start crying….I didn’t want to leave the house because just thinking about her going into one of her crying fits gave me total anxiety. I didn’t go really anywhere for about 4 months. I sat in my house and wondered what the hell I had done to my life. Brian and our families were worried about me because I was just miserable…..all the time. Finally one day when Taylor was 7 months old, I was trying to get her to eat and she didn’t like what I had made. I got so frustrated i threw the bowl of food in the sink(it was plastic) and just LOST it. Started crying and saying that I hated my life over and over. It scared her and made me feel like a complete crazy person. It was my wake up call that this wasn’t normal and that I needed help. I was so afraid to get on meds because I didn’t want to be one of “those chicks”…..I didn’t want them to be something I relied on to be who I wanted to be….didn’t want to have the stigma of being medicated. After my outburst though, I was willing to do anything to be a better mom to my daughter. It was one of the BEST decisions I’ve ever made. It quelled my anxiety and mellowed my anger. My personality didn’t change, I was actually able to “be myself” again and finally begin enjoying life on a daily basis. It is a nasty thing when left undiagnosed and unfortunately something that not a lot of people are willing to talk about.
2. How has life changed from one kid to two kids?
I will never forget when we told our families we were pregnant again, my brother-in-law said, “Having two kids is not twice as hard, it’s more like 10 times….”. I laughed at the time, but honestly, he was was 100% correct. Holy shit. My daughter was our only child for almost three years, the only grandchild for my parents and the only granddaughter following 4 grandsons on Brian’s side. To say she was the center of the universe is an understatement. I’m not even sure I can put into words what life became after Cody was born. We didn’t have normal circumstances so I like to think that had a little bit to do with the crazy. He spent 23 days in the NICU at CMH. 23 days that I was pumping around the clock to keep my milk supply going, 23 days that I had to figure out how to spend as much time at the hospital with him while also spending as much time as possible with Taylor. I thought that him coming home would make things so much easier, but it was a whole other adjustment period. I don’t think we could have warned Taylor how much Cody was going to need me. How much time it was going to take from her. She had a REALLY hard time….which made me have a really hard time. Both of your kids need you in two different ways, but at the same time. What do you do? There were plenty of days that all three of us would end up in tears….end up retreating to my mom’s house….end up calling my brother and begging him to hang out with us so that I could not feel like a jerk mom for a couple hours. Then as quickly as it got difficult, it started to get a little more routine. I got bath & bedtime down…I got mornings organized to get Taylor to school on time. Taylor FINALLY started to understand that I love her the same as before and started to play with her brother. It is no easy feat, but it is worth it at the end of the day. Two kids is 10 times as hard, the house is 10 times messier, I’m 10 times more tired, but the love is also infinitely stronger and more amazing.
3. Is there anything different about your day, with Cody’s condition?
Definitely. Cody is a busy, busy little boy. He is all over the place, all of the time. And EVERYTHING goes in his mouth. Normally this wouldn’t bother me much, but he is a special case. His esophagus, rather than a straight tube, is shaped like an hourglass. The site of his surgery is about halfway down and is more narrow than the rest. It is something that will grow as he grows, but we aren’t quite there yet. Also, his throat muscles never had the chance to develop properly in utero because he was unable to swallow the amniotic fluid that babies swallow daily (resulting in me having twice the amount of amniotic fluid) consequently why they couldn’t see his stomach….it was empty. In experimenting with solids, we realized that it was more narrow than we even thought it would be. Something simple like a little skin leftover in a blueberry puree would get stuck. He’d keep eating, but eventually would end up throwing everything up because it wouldn’t pass through the narrow hole that had been blocked. It is SO sad helping a baby throw up. He is such an independent little guy – he just wants to do everything on his own so having to feed him purees is frustrating for him. It’s trial and error – we experiment with the smallest pieces of food. Some work, some end up coming back up. Unfortunately we don’t know until we try. Taylor decided recently to share a piece of her chicken with him and it landed us in the ER. Poor Cody had to be put under so the doctor could go in and get it out. SO basically, he has to be in our sight at all times. We have to watch and make sure he puts nothing in his mouth and if he does, we have to do a quick sweep and get it out. For as non-stop as he is, this gets exhausting…..
4. Has this journey brought you and Brian closer? And how?
This journey has absolutely brought us closer. It is easy to get along and have things cruise along in life when things are going smoothly. I feel that you can really judge a relationship in life by how it goes when things are tough. Brian was 110% what I needed him to be during everything. From the first moment we found out that something was wrong, to the incredibly stressful delivery, to the 23 loooooong days that Cody was in the hospital. It was an emotional roller coaster. He remained calm and focused, strong for me, yet sensitive to the difficulties I would have. He was there for me without any fail through what has by far been the most difficult time in my life. My heart ached every second that Cody was away from me and he and Taylor did everything possible to dull that ache as much as possible. I know without a shadow of a doubt that my husband has my back no matter what. It showed me a side of him that I had not really seen before. I have always prided myself on being a strong woman, but because of Brian’s unconditional love and support, I was able to not be so strong and know that it was ok. If that makes sense.
5. If you could run away tomorrow, where would you book your plane ticket? And why?
If I could run away tomorrow, I would book my plane ticket for Costa Rica. We vacationed there twice before getting married and I honestly feel like that’s what heaven is like. The tropical weather, the incredible lush foliage on one side of the highway while the amazing beaches run along the other side, the food, the coffee, the slow pace, the sweet people. It’s heaven on earth, I swear. Visiting there was the most relaxed I have ever been. I am usually always ready to come home from a vacation and I was depressed leaving there. After the stress of the last year, I would love for us to all just go and be. Be mellow, be adventurous, be together and have fun.
Now that you have told the Mother Effin Truth, who do you want to nominate to tell their story as a mother? And why?
I would love to nominate my friend Stephanie Devericks. She was the friend to finally drag me out of the house when Taylor was about 4 months old and proceeded to introduce me to an incredible network of amazing moms. Her daughter Lucille is a few months older than Taylor and they are similar in their sweet demeanors whereas her and I are pretty similar with our anxiety & A type personalities. We went on a girls trip to Catalina almost three years ago and she told us she was pregnant – only to later find out it was twin…..girls. TWIN GIRLS. OMG! She’s that friend that you can tell anything to and we have had many laughs at each other’s craziness over the years. She is raw and funny and really leans on her faith in God to get her through the challenging times. If anyone has a great story to tell, it’s her.