Owlet: Navigating New Motherhood After Loss, Interview With Kayla Bottiglieri

How are you feeling?

I truly feel in my element. I’m three months postpartum. Every time I type out “partum,” my phone autocorrects to “party” and I feel like the host with the most! As a mother, I am all things: food source, entertainer, soother and the comfort of the womb on the outside. We have finally established some form of a schedule, and I am learning to surrender to all of my baby’s needs.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I just gave birth to my first daughter, Stella Stone. I am currently on cloud nine, in baby-land. I enjoy almost any creative outlet and found that after I went to school for fashion business, photography didn’t need to be a passion project but a career. I’ve transitioned from fashion photography to birth photography over the years and took my doula training shortly after. Something about walking alongside clients that become friends and assisting during one of the most transformative times of their lives has brought me great joy. I’m enjoying watching my life evolve and feeling like every experience has led me to the peaceful moment I’m at now. My hope is to keep creating art however I’m called to, with my daughter by my side.

You have, unfortunately, endured miscarriages. Could you tell us about that?

Three and a half years ago, I suffered a miscarriage, and it changed the trajectory of my life. The details still bring tears to my eyes. I birthed my son on October 10, 2017. Just weeks after coming home from Europe, I was bombarded with news I couldn’t have ever imagined. I was going to every doctor’s appointment and every specialist possible to ensure my pregnancy continued healthily. Unfortunately, while in the ER, bleeding, I was told that they could not find a heartbeat.

Do you find that many women have a difficult time talking about their experiences?

One hundred percent. It was shocking to me to find out that one in four pregnancies result in miscarriage. I had no idea it was so common, mainly because it wasn’t something I was exposed to growing up. My biggest saving graces were the women brave enough to share their stories on the internet. Reading about their experiences made me feel seen and like my experience, as unfortunate as it was, is a normal part of life and, on the brighter side, unites you into the warm arms of a beautiful sisterhood.

Having experienced a miscarriage before having your baby girl, how did going into your pregnancy a second time differ?

I found out two days before we went into lockdown that I was pregnant. I was lucky enough to have my partner with me when we got the results back that I was pregnant. However, it left me feeling that, in the case of possibly receiving bad news, I’d be going through it alone. I had to change my mindset and focus on trusting the timing of my life. The most significant difference was being well-educated on pregnancy and the outcomes, so I quickly set up an excellent healthcare support system. The biggest difference was I kept the news of my pregnancy to myself for as long as I could, not in fear that I’d have the same outcome but because I wanted it to be my baby and me with the most positive energy for as long as possible.

What inspired you to go from a career in fashion photography to birth photography?

I was invited to shoot at a friend’s birth. She had me on call from her 37th week pregnant on, and from the second I stepped foot into her living room (where she birthed her baby), I was in awe. I was immediately taken over by the power that’s held in birth. The strength the birthing person radiates, the waves that come, and the sheer beauty of the experience. I loved it. I felt like what I was capturing made a difference in normalizing where we all come from. It was so beautiful to watch the birth of not only the baby coming earthside but the mother. I can’t forget to mention the biggest oxytocin rush that flows freely in the room!

Shortly after giving birth, you suffered from postpartum depression; tell us a bit of that time.

Following the miscarriage, my hormones wouldn’t regulate. Filled with grief and irregular hormones, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and PTSD. The days felt like they dragged; there was really no end in sight. I feel naive to think about the version of myself before I went through it. It opened my eyes to mental health struggles and shaped me into the person and mother I am today.

Now, you have a healthy baby girl. Can you tell us a bit about your birth with her?

I was convinced this baby was coming early! I had planned and prepped for a home birth. At 41+2 weeks, my contractions started. I call them fast and furious because I was at minute-long contractions every three minutes within three hours of labour. Unfortunately, even after enlisting the help of a midwife and doula, there was a cascade of manipulation, uninformed consent, and interventions that were beyond my control. After a 28-hour labour, my daughter was brought earthside through an unexpected C-section.

Now, on the other side of the experience, I feel so strongly about women’s rights and have a greater understanding of surrendering to the reality of my birth story. I think it is so important to seek help after your body goes through birth to release any trauma.

Why do you feel women still need to justify having a C-section?

I can only speak for myself and what I’ve learned and been conditioned to believe over my lifetime, but I think as birthing people, we are taught to see birth as the ultimate initiation into “motherhood.” We see the way we birth as a reflection of who we are. Are we strong enough to birth naturally? Are we flawed if we can’t? Society has led us to believe we aren’t enough one way or another. I am still processing my birth trauma and my unexpected C-section, but I reject the notion that I need to show or prove my way of birthing reasonable. It just IS my experience with birth and doesn’t make me more or less than. We are all more powerful than we are led to believe.

What advice would you give to women that are pregnant or that might be suffering from postpartum depression?

Ah! I’m so passionate about this topic and about being proactive because I remember falling very quickly into the darkness that is postpartum depression. It hit me before I even knew it could; after all, I didn’t have a baby to care for, so it was all very confusing and felt like I couldn’t catch my breath while searching and begging for help. The biggest piece of advice is to expect the unexpected. Know that it can happen to you. Have your support in place, and keep an eye out for signs. Let your partner, your best friends, anyone you feel comfortable with know what to look for and make sure they are there for you.

Advice for people supporting people suffering loss or depression: sometimes just being there (during this time in history, just socially-distancing and dropping off a nourishing meal works) and letting them know you are there to hold space, listen, and facilitate a safe place for them to take their time going through something so life-changing is all that is needed.

Shop Owlet Smart Sock 3 Here

On this subject surrounding postpartum depression and anxiety: the Smart Sock from Owlet is the first baby monitor to track your baby’s oxygen level and heart rate while they sleep. Do you feel this will help ease some new mom anxiety and help you sleep better?

I think it is such a neat product that every mom should have! Around a month after Steli’s birth, I found myself in a bit of an anxious rage. I would fear walking down the stairs, getting in the car, taking her to get groceries. The list goes on. I would stay up all hours of the night to watch her. This was obviously unhealthy, and I needed to find a solution to my existential worry. This product has given me the space to not only work through my irrational fears but scientific evidence to put my mind at ease.

As a mother, it’s essential to take some time out for yourself. How would you recommend mothers, and women in general, do that?

Throughout my pregnancy, I brought this topic up with my partner a lot. I didn’t want mom-life to consume me and take away from my personal identity. My role in life isn’t solely “Stella’s mom.” Having open communication with your village is the number one thing you need, followed by creating a schedule that allows you to have even an hour for yourself. Self-care is more than bubble baths and face masks (although as a mother, sometimes those things feel like going on a vacation) but making sure you’re checking in with yourself and being self-aware of your needs before everyone else’s. In history, we’ve been taught to put our children above ourselves. This is such dangerous rhetoric because you cannot be the mom you want to be if you aren’t the you you want to be first.

On that note, do you feel The Smart Sock from Owlet will be a helpful tool during day naps so you can get some alone time without the stress, and focus on self-care?

Yes!

Shop Owlet Smart Sock 3 Here

How has your breastfeeding journey been?

It was something I didn’t think too much about while pregnant, but when the time came, it was harder than I had expected. I believed it would come naturally despite reading about how other women struggled to get a good latch or produce enough milk. There’s nothing worse than your baby being hungry, your hormones running wild, and your nipples bleeding. Get a good lactation consultant in your corner and take every tip and trick from anyone that will share it. I now breastfeed and pump to have a reserve for when I choose to leave Steli with my mom. It’s relieving to know I pushed through that initial bump in the road.

What were your favourite skincare products to use during your pregnancy and postpartum?

I live for the Osea Anti-Aging Body Balm, Salts of the Earth Body Scrub, and used two bottles of Undaria Algae Body Oil. I became even more conscious of what I put on my body during my pregnancy, and I love how clean their products are. I made these products a part of my daily routine while pregnant, and it was my time to show a little love for my changing body.

Lastly, who is your Mother Muse?

Mother Nature, hands down. Another word for her is Great Mother. Through her, I have learned to trust my intuition and feel the depths of the life-giving force inside myself. She shows us resilience time and time again. She is vast, and she is colourful. She holds nothing yet everything important to her. She is full and forgiving. She is everything I strive to be as a mother.

Shop the Owlet Smart Sock 3 here

Follow our Mother Muse Kayla Bottiglieri Here

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