Updated: May 22, 2020
Today's episode features the very first badass mom on the podcast - Kirstie Fox. Kirstie is a photographer as well as a wife to Lucas and mother to 5 month old Bianca.
In this episode, we dive into miscarriages, being diagnosed with severe morning sickness, hypnobirthing, and the use of essential and CBD oils during pregnancy.
This episode is full of tear-jerker moments, highlights the realities of pregnancy after miscarriage, and what it's like having "morning" sickness so severe that you're bedridden.
As I said above, this badass mom is a photographer. If you have any photography needs, please check out her websites links below to see her work & otherwise head over to her Instagram to connect to another badass mom just like you!
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Kirstie grew up on a farm in the small town of York, Ontario. She obtained her B.A in Photography at Sheridan College at Oakfield. It was here at Oakfield where she met her partner, Lucas. They moved in together in Kirstie’s fourth year of school, but later moved to Toronto where Kirstie did photography and retouching at a food agency. In time, she started freelancing full time doing eCommerce, fashion and food photography. She also did a lot of retouching work for overseas clients.
This was before the birth of her daughter Bianca, who is now 5 months old.
For 3 months after Bianca’s birth, Kirstie did some retouching work on the side, while sharing equal parenting responsibilities with Lucas, who took parental leave from his job.
But because of COVID19, they decided to make the move back to the farm with Kirstie’s parents. Living in 485 square feet in downtown Toronto with 2 big dogs and a baby wasn’t very ideal for them, and they are grateful they made the decision to be out in the country with family during this time.
Kirstie’s Journey to Motherhood
Kirstie has a very different journey into motherhood, mentioning things that many mothers may not have heard of before.
While Kirstie’s story is unique to her, it is not an uncommon circumstance. The issue is that so few people talk about it. Kirstie struggled to find other mothers who had experienced a story similar to her own. She felt like the only one going through this experience and it was a very lonely time for her in many ways.
In October of 2018, Kirstie and Lucas found out they were expecting. It was a surprise, but not an unwanted one. Kirstie set up her first doctor’s appointment shortly after the positive home pregnancy test in order to gain confirmation that she was indeed pregnant. She thought this was the next logical step, but her appointment with her doctor was weird and left her feeling as though it wasn’t a normal thing to confirm with a doctor.
Kirstie booked an ultrasound for a week or two later, which just happened to coincide with Lucas’s birthday. Kirstie googled what ultrasounds are supposed to look like and what she could expect at 7-8 weeks. She went in expecting to see a tiny little jellybean and was really excited for her appointment. Afterward, the plans were to go attend a birthday celebration with Lucas and his family, and announce the news that they were expecting.
Tiny Little Jellybean
During their Saturday appointment, an over-the-stomach ultrasound and vaginal ultrasound were both performed, but all that could be seen was a black blob on the screen. Kirstie couldn’t see the little jellybean and knew right then that something was wrong.
The tech wasn’t allowed to tell her or Lucas anything. She informed them that within a few days they would receive a call from the doctor with the results of the ultrasound.
Needless to say, their weekend plans changed and they stayed home. Kirstie cried all weekend thinking about the results and what they might be.
When Kirstie received the results she learned that she had a blighted ovum pregnancy. Essentially, the sack was forming but there was no actual fetus or embryo developing in Kirstie’s body.
In a sense, this news was kind of reassuring, but at the same time it wasn’t. Because in Kirstie’s mind she was growing a baby inside of her and she was preparing for that. People told her that it should be easier because she doesn’t have to worry about losing an actual baby. But to Kirstie it felt like a real baby and this time was difficult for her. It wasn’t easy having to explain that she lost what she envisioned to be her child, but there was nothing there.
A Missed Miscarriage
Kirstie also had what is known as a missed miscarriage, where the sack was forming until about 7 weeks and should have come out on its own, but it didn’t.
During this experience, Kirstie’s grandfather was coming to the end of his life. Because she was one of his primary care providers at the time, Kirstie made the decision to have a D&C medical procedure at the hospital, where she was placed under anesthetic and the contents of the sack were removed. She wanted to focus on helping her grandfather and didn’t want to worry about the process of miscarriage on its own. Mentally dealing with that while also trying to take care of someone else was too much.
If she hadn’t been taking care of her grandfather at the time, Kirstie felt she would have allowed nature to take its course. By focusing on her grandfather and using that as an outlet, she wound up suppressing her emotions about the miscarriage. Kirstie didn’t grieve in the ways that she probably should have initially.
After Kirstie’s grandfather passed away, the grief from her miscarriage hit full force. Kirstie cried a great deal and was unable to be intimate with her partner. It took time and communication between the couple to get through the next few weeks.
Even though research showed that Kirstie did nothing to cause her miscarriage, she often felt like she did something wrong.
What did I do? What didn’t I do? Why is my body failing me? Why can’t my body house this baby?
I’m Pregnant. Can I Be Excited About It?
A few weeks passed and Kirstie decided that she was ready to be intimate again and potentially try for another baby.
Two months after her D&C procedure, Kirstie had a feeling that she was pregnant. She hadn’t gotten her period, which wasn’t uncommon after D&C procedures and hormone imbalances from pregnancy. But in her gut, she simply felt like she might be pregnant, and she wasn’t sure if she was ready to find out.
But a friend convinced her to take a pregnancy test, which she took in her bathroom with Lucas. The test came up positive and Kirstie immediately started to cry. She was excited but also concerned she would have to go through the disappointment of the pregnancy potentially not working out again.
Kirstie had anxiety around having another miscarriage, even though the D&C procedure showed there was nothing hindering her from getting pregnant again naturally. There were no complications and that was reassuring, but at the same time she didn’t want to get excited in case something bad happened. In a way, she was protecting herself just in case another miscarriage occurred. The couple decided not to tell family until closer to the 3-month mark of pregnancy.
This time they did not go to the doctor right away after their at-home pregnancy test came back positive. Around the 8 week mark of pregnancy, they booked an ultrasound appointment once again.
Kristie had been really sick around week 8 with intense morning sickness. Anything she ate made her throw up or made her feel nauseous. And yet, she felt reassured in a way because this time she was having actual pregnancy symptoms. This made Kirstie feel excited.
For a whole week, Kirstie was unable to eat or drink anything. She couldn’t even keep water down and was becoming very dehydrated. Lucas took Kirstie to the ER where she was hooked up to an IV. An ultrasound was done that night in the ER to check on the health of the baby and also because Kirstie’s hormone levels were really high, but they were told they most likely wouldn’t see anything because it was only 6-7 weeks at that time.
And there it was – the tiny little jellybean! Kirstie was further along in her pregnancy than she originally calculated but everything looked good. She was sent home and told to drink Gatorade, eat cucumbers due to their high-water content and continue life as normal.
Eventually, the actual dating ultrasound took place and the little jelly bean now looked like a little chicken with wings!
From there, things progressed well. The baby was measuring properly and had a healthy heart rate. But Kristie continued to feel like shit all the time.
During the first trimester, Kirstie hired a midwife. She could hardly eat anything and continued to throw up afterward. There were odd days where she would be able to get some water and food down, but most of the time she was in the washroom throwing up.
All the things that people suggested Kirstie try didn’t work, and she tried them all! There was no relief and Kirstie spend most of her time bedridden in the dark. Sunlight and bright lights triggered her nausea and she often felt dizzy. Kirstie also had an extremely heightened sense of smell and couldn’t even stand the smell of Lucas! No matter what Lucas tried to do, Kirstie found he smelled disgusting.
Kirstie then started to lose weight. She lost 30 pounds, looked sickly and barely left the house. She isolated herself for the first 3-4 months of her pregnancy. She had a healthy and nourished growing baby inside her, but she felt ill all the time.
A couple weeks into Kirstie’s second trimester she was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). HG is essentially morning sickness x 100! Symptoms of HG often include high hormone levels, intense sickness, and sensitivity to light and smells. Kirstie was given 2 different prescriptions that are often used for patients undergoing chemotherapy that help with nausea symptoms. She was pretty hesitant to take them at first, but after she did, she experienced instant relief and could drink and eat without feeling like she had to throw up. It was only closer to the third trimester of pregnancy that something seemed to balance out a bit and Kirstie started to feel less sick, no longer needing the medication as often.
Hypnobirthing, Essential Oils & CBD
Along with Kirstie hiring a midwife, she also signed up for birth classes that she attended with Lucas. They took away a great deal from the classes. But even though they provided Kirstie with a lot of knowledge, she was uncertain if she could do this. These thoughts sparked a lot of anxieties that are common around giving birth. It was around this time that Kirstie decided to look into hypnobirthing and deep meditation. She never made a birth plan, but did know that she wanted to have an unmedicated waterbirth at the Toronto Birth Center. Because the baby was still thriving, giving birth at the birth center wasn’t a concern. Thankfully, Kirstie wasn’t on the list for having an at-risk pregnancy or birth.
Kirstie had always practiced meditation and therefore felt hypnobirthing was the best route. She found videos on YouTube about guided deep mediation and two weeks before her due date she started to watch videos each day about deep breathing and hypnobirthing techniques.
About 3 weeks before Kirstie’s due date she researched other options that may help her prepare for labour and delivery. She began using lavender and clary sage essential oils, as well as CBD oil for pain and muscle relaxation. She found CBD helped mentally for relaxation and to focus on her breath as well. Kirstie used CBD oil twice leading up to her due date in small doses.
The Day Before
The day before Kirstie’s due date she started having severe period-style cramps. She could just tell that things were happening. That night while cleaning her bathroom she had heavier contractions or cramping and would simply breathe through those. A few times she had to pace around the kitchen due to discomfort. At 1am she decided to have a hot shower in the dark with some candles and essential oils. She massaged her belly and focused on relaxation.
The next morning Kirstie decided to call her midwife to let her know what was happening. Her midwife asked to come over around noon so Kirstie could meet a midwife student who would be shadowing and attending the birth. Before they left, the midwife offered to check Kirstie to see if she was dilated, even though she didn’t believe Kirstie would be. Kirstie agreed to the check up and found out she was 5cm dilated. Her water broke in the toilet shortly before she was planning to leave for the Birth Center.
The Birth of Bianca
The birth of baby Bianca was a blur for Kirstie. She remembers going into the room where the midwife was trying to get everything set up and get the tub filled with warm water. Her contractions were pretty frequent and she remembers feeling paralyzed on the bed and feeling like she couldn’t possibly move to the tub.
Kirstie’s labor took place on the bed and lasted for about an hour or two. She kept her eyes closed the entire time. The best way Kirstie can describe labor is being in a trance. However, she does remember using some of her hypnotherapy techniques to help her breathe. Kirstie doesn’t know if all of her preparations were helpful in her having a quick and successful birth, but her midwife was incredibly happy with the delivery process.
Kirstie didn’t tell anyone the gender of her baby until 30 weeks into her pregnancy, even though they found out they were having a girl at the 20-week ultrasound. Kirstie wanted a boy and she felt a boy would fit best with her family at the time. Upon hearing that she was going to have a girl she was excited, but also disappointed.
She didn’t want to tell anyone that she was having a girl because she felt she needed some control over the pregnancy. Kirstie didn’t want to think about a baby girl inside of her in case the pregnancy was not successful. In a way, she didn’t want to be excited due to her miscarriage and feeling so sick. She wasn’t overly excited throughout her pregnancy and mostly felt miserable. This brought up feelings of guilt for Kirsty.
Flash forward to today: Kirstie is very happy to have her daughter and she isn’t upset that Bianca isn’t a boy. She isn’t upset that Bianca is a girl, because she is a great baby and she is excited to see who Bianca becomes over time.
A Message From Kirstie
Kirstie wants all women to follow their gut during their personal journey through pregnancy.
If you are experiencing anything that you find more severe or different than what people say is typical or “normal”, reach out. Get the help you need and bring it up to your doctor. Don’t feel crazy if all the techniques and suggestions people offer aren’t working for you. Feeling like something is wrong with you is common, and you are not alone. Do your best and try things out to see what works for you. You have to do what is best for you during this time.
It isn’t easy to tell your story. There were hardships and sadness in Kirstie’s story, but there was also a lot of joy and a light at the end of the tunnel. Miscarriage is a real thing, and it will be with Kirstie for life. But she is a stronger person because of it. And I am so grateful to her for sharing it.
It isn’t easy to come out and talk about it, but this story will resonate with so many other women. Kirstie’s story will help other mothers understand that they are not alone in their journey and they too can talk about their troubles.