My open letter to pregnant women everywhere.

Many women experience infertility, a premature birth, or infant loss, but we don’t talk about it much.

Pregnancy is no walk in the park, and I know this all too well.

With a tiny human slowly growing inside of you for more than nine months, you are bound to be uncomfortable. But, while pregnancy challenges both your mind and body, I have a request: I want to ask expectant mothers to embrace the bump.

Let me explain: I’m a statistic, one of the millions of women out there who didn’t experience the perfect pregnancy and would give anything to reach full term with a child.


I guess you can say I’m the trifecta of mishaps. I spent years dreaming of having a child, only to face infertility. After my husband and I found out we were expecting triplets, a series of medical setbacks caused me to go into labor at 22 weeks. And while we have one beautiful survivor now, two of my triplets eventually passed away because of their extreme prematurity. That’s why my heart sinks when I see expectant mothers publicly post about how "over it" they are when it comes to their third trimester.

I remember spending several weeks on bed rest in the hospital, constantly praying for my triplets to sit tight for just a few more weeks.

Even a few days could have made a difference. By 20 weeks gestation, I was almost the size of a full-term pregnancy and I could barely turn from one side of the bed to the other.

All photos here by Stacey Skrysak, used with permission.

I had three babies using my bladder as a boxing bag, yet I was only allowed to get up a few times a day due to my health. On the day I went into labor, it felt like I had been punched in the gut. The pain from contractions was tough, and the attempts to stop the labor were even more difficult.

But, even worse than all of that pain combined was the emotional, unbearable pain of knowing that my children would most likely die. In that instant, as the doctor told me I had to deliver, I wanted to go back in time. I longed to feel my babies kick and remember the carefree days when my pregnancy was easy.

Many women experience infertility, a premature birth, or infant loss, but we don’t talk about it much.

For those women, like me, pregnancy can be a painful memory. I was robbed of my pregnancy and never got that magical delivery room experience; there was no picture-perfect moment of me happily holding my children.

Instead, I delivered my first triplet and held her in my arms as she passed away shortly after birth. The chaos, fear, and heartache is what I remember, not the beauty of bringing a new child into the world.

So here’s what I want you to know: I’m not asking you to stop complaining.

I'm not asking you to censor your experience either or to walk on eggshells when you feel the physically and emotionally draining side effects of pregnancy. Pregnancy is hard. And even three years later, I still make fun of my squishy belly, a post-pregnancy problem that I’m stuck with for good, much like those pesky chin hairs that forgot to go away after my children were born.

Instead, I’m simply passing along an observation from someone who’s had another kind of experience, and I’d like to encourage you to be empathetic to moms like me. As you stare at your swollen feet and clench your chest with heartburn, please think of your friends and social media acquaintances who might be silently struggling.

Until I shared my journey of infertility, I didn’t realize how many women also secretly struggled with it. I had no idea how many families experienced life in the NICU until I was in the midst of that journey. I think you’d be surprised at how many people you know are praying for the chance to someday have a healthy child.

More

Comedy legend Carol Burnett once said, "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head." She wasn't joking.

Going through childbirth is widely acknowledged as one of the most grueling things a human can endure. Having birthed three babies myself, I can attest that Burnett's description is fairly accurate—if that seemingly impossible lip-stretching feat lasted for hours and involved a much more sensitive part of your body.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
via SNL / YouTube

Christopher Walken is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He's been nominated for an Academy Award twice for best supporting actor, winning once for 1978's "The Deer Hunter" and receiving a nomination for 2002's "Catch Me if You Can."

He's played memorable roles in "Annie Hall," "Pulp Fiction," "Wedding Crashers," "Batman Returns," and countless other films. He's also starred in Shakespeare on the stage and began his career as a dancer.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular