Sophia is one tough mama! Resilient is just one of many words to describe her. You can also label her kind, compassionate, brave, hopeful and definitely caring.
Her biggest victories as a mom are getting both kids down for a nap at the same time after struggling with nursing her son, winning the battle and successfully nursing her daughter.
She struggles daily with nap time and readjusting her parenting plan based on her children's needs.
Sophia's best piece of advice she would give to her younger self is to not assume anything.
"You see a mom bottle feeding their baby at the park? You immediately assume she didn't try hard enough to nurse or didn't have the support she needed. How do you know that baby isnt have severe food allergies and needs special formula? How do you know that mom didn't face huge breastfeeding struggles with bleeding nipples caused by tongue ties that just kept reattaching after being revised? How do you know she's not crushed about not breastfeeding or isn't sitting on that bench nervous about what others are thinking because she just couldn't keep her supply up long enough? Or what if she just decided she didn't want to nurse? Would you judge her after all the struggles you faced? Constant night screaming because there's no milk in her breasts and her baby is hungry. There is ZERO room for judging. You squash those thoughts and you get to know that mom. You hug her and tell her she's doing a great job. Make her feel like the bad ass she is because she carried and grew and gave birth to a human and that, my friend, is bad ass."
Read Sophia's story below.
My name is Sophia. I'm a home birth midwife and professionally published photographer. I live in the forest with my fiancé Spencer, our 2-year old son Benjamin, 9-month young daughter Gracie, boxer Cali, and fluffy black kitty Onyx. We planned a home birth for our first pregnancy (of course) and it went smoothly. He was born in our bedroom in the birth tub. I caught him and it's still the most empowering experience of my life.
We transported to have my placenta removed after trying many tricks at home first. We went by ambulance since my bleeding would increase each time I stood up. That went smoothly and our baby, a son, was doing great. We delayed his newborn exam until we arrived back at my home. Once unwrapped, we noticed his chest had started retracting and he looked like he was working harder at breathing. We decided to go back to the hospital. I figured he just needed a good suction, a little help clearing his lungs. He was pretty blue by the time we got there but quickly stabilized with oxygen. The nurses started a newborn exam. When they went to check his temperature rectally, it wouldn't go in.
They realized he had an imperforate anus (no anal opening). On top of that, he had a tiny bit of meconium coming out the tip of his penis. I hardly remember the rest of what happened. I sat down, still exhausted from giving birth 11 hours earlier. I just wanted to be home in bed with my baby but by then, he was on an ambulance heading to UCSF in San Francisco. I was not able to go with him since I was less than 24 hours postpartum. They couldn't risk something happening to me in the ambulance on the way and they were not fully equipped to handle that.
The rest of his first year is a long story but I'll make it short. Ben was diagnosed with VACTERL association which is an acronym for all the areas of the body that might have birth defects. We spent the next 9 months slowly discovering them all.
Vertebrae - tethered spinal cord (spinal cord connected to the base of his spinal column - surgery at 11 months)
Anal - imperforate anus with rectal urethral fistula (no anal opening and rectum connected to urethra - colostomy surgery at 36 hours young, created opening and separated fistula at 4 months, revision at 8 months, colostomy take down at just over a year)
Cardiac - Tetrology of Fallot with vascular ring (repaired at 6 months) will need another surgery in the future
Trachea - lung hypoplasia and tracheal stenosis (born with two left lungs, stenosis healed on its own)
Esophagus - Subglottic stenosis (healed on its own)
Renal - renal reflux (healed after spine surgery)
Limbs - HEALTHY!
I found out I was pregnant when Ben was 8 months young. Surprise! We were terrified and excited. We had originally pictured a big family but thought we would be too nervous to have another after our experience with Ben. I started preterm labor around 30 weeks but was able to keep the baby inside until almost 36 weeks. We transported to the hospital because you must be 37 weeks to have a home birth in California.
The baby was not only coming early but both feet were down (double footling breech). The doctors wanted to do a cesarean but I wasn't ready for that. I felt comfortable giving birth to a breech baby and wanted the opportunity to encourage the baby to turn. This baby had plenty of room to move! During every contraction, the baby was spinning and spinning. That was the most uncomfortable part. Trying to relax during that was difficult. The doctors would check position with an ultrasound after each contraction and the baby would be in a different position. Feet down, sideways, head down, sideways, etc. After 8+ hours of visualizing positions and using gravity to encourage baby to go head down, baby went head down but the umbilical cord was in my vagina in front of its head. Everyone knew that if my water broke, the cord would come out and it would be an emergency to get the baby out.
I decided then that I was ready for the cesarean. I believe with all my heart that this is the reason I had a positive birth experience. The cesarean was MY choice. I wasn't in charge of what happened during my labor but I was in charge of the decision making. I felt heard by the doctors and my decisions were respected. I was valued not just as the mother but as the one responsible for my family's well-being.
We headed into surgery. It took them a long time to get the baby out. The doctor had to make a "J" incision to reach the baby. It's a GIRL! Besides needing a little bit of oxygen, she's doing great. Low APGAR (2) but she's pinking up and looking good. She's barely premature and a good size (5lb 10oz) so she will most likely do great.
Blissed out, we began to relax and enjoy our baby through the windows of the NICU incubator. I got to hold her for the first time at 36 hours old which is the same age I had sent my first born away for his first surgery. So many emotions were flying around the room in that moment. I just kept glancing up at Spencer and even through the tears in my eyes, I could see the tears in his. We were both beaming!
That night, she crashed. She crashed again and again. They warned us that she was too sick to be at this hospital but too sick to transport. She was sedated and intubated and there was nothing more they could do. She was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. We were told she might not make it. We had heard this before. The night after her brother's first surgery, his vitals were unstable. The doctors thought he might have a blood clot. I don't remember what made me reach out to her but I messaged our family chiropractor Julie. She got in her car and drove over an hour to get to us. We asked the doctors to step out so we could pray with our friend. She cradled him in her hands the best she could with all the equipment on him. He had also been sedated and intubated. She did a simple gentle adjustment. By the next morning, he was on the mend!
So with this in my mind, we called upon Julie once again but for our baby girl this time. We asked the doctors to step out so we could pray for our baby with our friend. They were reluctant to leave her side but did. Again, Julie cradled our baby the best she could and did an adjustment. The next day, she was awake and off her breathing machine! This woman and chiropractic care literally saved both my children's lives. Today, Gracie is thriving and has never had any delays in development.
Our typical day is spent at home, playing, eating, hiding liquid chlorophyll in Ben's bottle, practicing good hygiene, cleaning house...basically trying to raise decent human beings. If we aren't home, we are usually with my sister mom. What's a sister mom?! She's a mom like me. We get together and we...mom together. We lack a village in our modern world so we have created our own. Its so much easier with a sister mom!
Photography in this post by Tifani Beecher.