Trigger Warning: Miscarriage; Infertility

To start off our Reflections of Motherhood series, I sat down with Priscilla Brown. She has provided community, support, and connection for many women experiencing infertility and miscarriages over the past decade through vulnerable, insightful, and powerful content online and her intimate book of poems, Waiting on the Universe. Follow along as she shares personal and validating reflections regarding motherhood, infertility, breastfeeding, and more.

Tell me about yourself apart from motherhood.

When I went to college, I wanted to be the next Katie Couric. I wanted to be the journalist, so I went to school for communications and suddenly realized that there's really only one Katie Couric. There's only one Oprah Winfrey, and I wasn't sure I wanted to pursue journalism. Then I took a psychology class and ended up really liking it, so I double majored in communications and psychology thinking “well, I can decide which path to go later.” In my last semester of undergrad, I shadowed a behavioral therapist who worked with a kid with autism, who also had a speech therapist. I thought that was the coolest gig, and I ended up deciding that's what I wanted to be. I came to Charleston, South Carolina to get my Master's at the Medical University in speech pathology, and I loved it. I still love it.

I worked full time as a speech pathologist for nine years at a hospital in pediatric acute care. Then when my first son was born, I wasn’t sure how to be the best speech pathologist and the best mother. I had a wonderful, supportive manager that said I could go PRN, so I've been PRN now for six years while I’ve stayed home with my kids and grown my business.

{ Priscilla with her husband and four children }

What is your favorite part of being a mom?

My favorite part is watching all of them together. Watching how the six-year-old takes care of the three-year-old and how the three-year-old is silly with the twins. Watching the twins together has been the most fun because now they're at the age where they play together and recognize each other. You know, they’re creating their own little relationships. That's my favorite part, watching all of them love each other. I came from a big family. My husband came from a somewhat big family. That was my favorite part of growing up with my siblings. They were my best friends, and they still are. I love being able to do that for my kids, give my children brothers and sisters. So now my favorite part of motherhood would be watching the children love each other, grow up together, and take care of each other. It's really so sweet.

What is the most challenging part of being a mom?

The most challenging part right now is that there are so many little bodies that need assistance. Once we get somewhere, if we're at the park or the beach, it really is so magical, so fun, so beautiful. But getting there involves a lot - trying to get everyone in the car and in their seatbelts, we need snacks, everyone needs a pair of shoes, everyone needs a bag, we have to get enough diapers. A large group of little people is the most exhausting.

{ Priscilla in the Emilia Nursing Dress with Ziggy and Olive }

What has been one of the most surprising things about motherhood?

I was surprised at how hard breastfeeding was in the beginning. Before I had kids, I was more of that judgmental person who was like, why wouldn’t you breastfeed your child? Then I went through it with my son, Liam, and I was like, this is so hard. I was ready to quit because we couldn't figure it out. Turns out he had a little bit of a tongue tie and eventually we ended up getting a frenotomy that changed the game.

Once it stopped being so hard, I was actually surprised at how much I loved it. Especially right now, everything is so chaotic with a big family. At the end of the night when it's calm, my husband has the big boys and I nurse the twins. It’s the only time of the day that I tandem nurse them and it’s really just the three of us. I absolutely love it. I know it's gonna be ending soon because they're getting older, but I love that moment, just the three of us nursing at the end of the day.

How has motherhood impacted your view of the world?

It's made me realize the importance of the little moments. We really try to spend time just with us because you realize too, with motherhood that time goes by so fast. You don't necessarily see yourself aging. You go from 35 to 36 to 37 and you don't see a big difference in yourself. But with a child from two to three, there’s such a difference. It really makes us treasure all this time we have with them now while they're small.

How did you get started writing about infertility?

Back in 2012, I started blogging about infertility. It really picked up around that time because there weren't a lot of people talking about infertility except for doctors. I don't by any means want to say that I was groundbreaking, but I was talking about it. I shared about my miscarriage openly on my blog and Instagram because everyone knew I was pregnant and had gone through an IVF transfer. As it has grown, I've been able to make a business out of it and work with a lot of brands, and also still focus on motherhood which is my number one job. I'm also still a speech pathologist, so I guess I have three jobs.

{ Priscilla in the Emilia Nursing Dress with Olive }

Tell me about your journey through infertility and having children.

We did multiple IUI (intrauterine insemination), but none of them ever worked. I did get pregnant with one of them, but I had a miscarriage at eight weeks. We then moved to IVF (in-vitro fertilization) and had Liam, who is now six.

He was born on Valentine's Day. My water broke three weeks early at 37 weeks. I was at a dinner party just having a good time. We're about to sit down to eat and I was like, I think I peed myself a little bit. I thought pregnant people pee on themselves, so it's not a big deal. Let's just go eat. We sat down and after a while, I was like, “guys, I have to confess something. I think I'm either peeing all over your chair or my water is breaking.” We rushed to the hospital and the staff said, ”your water absolutely broke. This baby's coming!” My doctor calls it a Hollywood entrance.

Then we did another IVF transfer, which didn't take. I was pregnant for a day or so. My blood work showed that I was pregnant, but when the doctor looked the embryo wasn't there. We had no more embryos after that, so we had to do the whole thing all over again.

This whole time we weren't thinking about dates. We're just like, let's get this party rolling. I want another kid. I'm getting older. You're already telling me I don't have a lot of eggs. Let's do this. It worked out that the transfer was in June. We only had two embryos. The doctor asked, “Do you want us to transfer both
embryos?” I said, “absolutely not, I do not want twins.” She transferred one embryo and luckily that one worked. The due date was right around Valentine's Day, and sure enough, our second, Bear, who's now three, was born on Valentine's Day. So we've got the two boys with the same birthday three years apart.

In 2020, we met with the doctor and she did some testing. She said, “you really don't have any eggs left. If this embryo doesn't become a baby, you’re probably either looking at needing a donor egg or not being able to have a third child.” My husband and I decided to transfer the third embryo in the summer of 2021.
We thought, if it works, we have a third baby, and if not, we've got two beautiful healthy boys. That'll be it. We'll be done. Let's not go with a donor embryo.

In the meantime, the pandemic occurred and we were stuck at home. This is probably a TMI, but there was nothing better to do during a pandemic. We'd watched everything there was to watch on TV and I was like, well I guess I'll have sex with my husband. Well, I got pregnant on my own and I couldn't believe it. I'd never gotten pregnant all those times we tried before IVF, in between IVF, and in between having the boys.

I called my fertility doctor because I didn't know who to call. I said, “I'm pretty sure I'm pregnant. I have a positive pregnancy test.”

We go in and are doing the ultrasound when she says, “did I give you hormones or something to help with this pregnancy?” I said, “no, this was all-natural. Why do you ask?” Right at that moment, I turned and looked at the screen. Sure enough, there were two babies in there. I ended up with twins. So that's how I now have 11-month-old twins who were conceived naturally without IVF. All those years when I was going through IVF, they wanted to put in two embryos and I would always say no. I did not want twins, and then I ended up with twins. It's been amazing and fun. They are Ziggy and Olive, non-identical boy-girl twins. They're so sweet. We went from thinking that we may never be able to have children on our own to now we have four very healthy, very beautiful babies.

{ Priscilla in the Emilia Nursing Dress with Ziggy }

What went through your mind when you realized you were having twins?

I was like, no, it can't be! Oh my god, what's gonna happen? I'm gonna lose one. There's no way I can carry two. I had all these questions. My husband's jaw dropped, and he didn't speak for probably a day. He didn't say a word. He was speechless.

My sister had gotten pregnant with twins years ago and lost one. I also had other friends that had that happen, so the whole first trimester I was thinking I'm going to lose one of these twins. I can't get attached. I need to just prepare myself. One of them is probably not going to make it. Then it went on, it went on, and every time [the doctor] would say, “there are two strong heartbeats and good-looking
placentas.” It probably wasn’t until the 20-week anatomy scan that I was like, I'm having two babies!

After 20 weeks, I was so in love with the idea of twins that I was like, I’ll be devastated if I lose one of them. I had a very healthy pregnancy. Mine wasn't even high risk, and I made it all the way to 38 weeks and two days, which is pretty far. I ended up with a routine scheduled C-Section.

How have you navigated tandem breastfeeding?

I was very set that I wanted to nurse both of them, but in the beginning, it was really hard. They were so tiny that I had to have a lot of props and pillows. It really helped to have a partner who could help. I could get one baby set up, and then he'd bring the second baby.

When they were newborns, it was tricky. The nights were hard because they wanted to nurse on their own schedule, which was all the time. I saw on an online twin nursing group someone posted, “you know the old expression you don't wake a sleeping baby? Well, when you have twins, that rule doesn't apply. You need to wake the second baby to get them on the first baby's schedule.” Ziggy would wake up at two in the morning to nurse, so I would wake Olive up to nurse to get them on the same schedule. 

If you don't get them on a schedule together, you nurse one baby at 1 AM, the second baby at 2 AM, and so on. Then you're nursing every hour all night long. I did that in the beginning, and I was so miserable. It wasn't until I realized you have to wake that second baby up to feed them at the same time that it got better.

It got easier to tandem nurse. I would have Ziggy on the right breast and Olive on the left breast. Then since I knew my right breast was an overproducer, I would switch sides at the next feed. Honestly, after a while, I didn't think much about it. I was just like, give me whichever baby and they get whatever boob is out first.

Now that they're old enough, I basically get topless and they crawl towards me and get in position. Sometimes I have one cradled and then the other one comes and gets on top of them. I’ll be nursing Ziggy and Olive will lay on top and stroke his hair. Sometimes one will play with the other one while they’re nursing like they put their hand on each other’s cheeks.

Right now, at this age, they get in whatever position is comfortable for them and it works out. In the beginning, though, it was a lot of pillows, props, and someone else to help position them. The only way I could do it was if I had them both in the football hold. Then I would just sit there like, okay what do I do now? I would definitely say there is a reason why a lot of people don't breastfeed twins. It's really hard by yourself in the beginning.

If you were a mom who was home by yourself, trying to tandem nurse three-week-old twins it would be very, very tough. It's not impossible, but it would be very tough. I was very fortunate that my husband was working from home and was able to help.

{ Priscilla in the Emilia Nursing Dress with Olive }

What support was the most helpful to you when you were going through infertility?

My husband was like, “I’ll do whatever it takes,” but he wasn't one I could go to who understood the desire. He wanted kids, but he didn’t have that longing like I did. It was hard to talk to him about it. There were so many times when he would say, “we can just adopt,” and I would always say, “it's not that I just want a baby. I want to do it all. I want to grow a baby. I want to breastfeed a baby. I want to make a baby that looks like me and you. I want to be pregnant. I want to do one thing that women can do that men can’t do.” He was very, very supportive, but I couldn’t really talk to him because he didn’t quite get it.

I joined an infertility group on Facebook, and we’d message each other like, "how often are you doing the progesterone shots?" "I’m getting mine in my butt." "I'm getting mine in my hip." It was all these little random questions and then even things like, "well I got invited to another baby shower. Is it rude that I
don't want to go?" Then we’d be like, "no, it's not rude. Don't go if you don't want to go." It was really nice to have a small group of girls for support, and some of us are still friends.

I did have a therapist that I worked with a couple of times, but I honestly didn’t like her. I got more out of having a group of other women in the same boat as me to talk to. That's what led me to want to be more vocal. I know there are other women out there who have nobody to talk to.

Tell me about your book.

While going through infertility, I started journaling and it turned into more love letters and notes. I was writing to the baby that I wanted to have. Some days it was very sweet like, I can't wait till you can be here. One day we'll walk on the ocean and we'll hold hands. Then some are more like, why aren't you here yet? I'm angry and I don't understand what's happening. I was writing in more of a poem style. I had journals and journals full of them. Some of them were really crappy and some of them still to this day bring tears to my eyes.

I collected all the best ones and met with an editor. She loved it, so we reworked them, and I wrote a short book of poems about infertility called Waiting on the Universe. The first chapter is all about hope, desire, and wanting to become a mother. The second chapter is about grief and loss, which are most of the poems that I wrote after I had miscarriages. Then the third chapter had a little bit more hope. The last poem is the one I wrote right before my son was born.

I wrote because it was therapeutic, and my therapist said it would be a good idea. They were really just for me, but I decided maybe if I could turn this into a book then other people could read it. I love what the book has actually become. People have reached out to me to say, "my sister or best friend is going through IVF and I really don't know how to talk to her about it. I was thinking that your book would be a good thing I could give to her." A lot of people have bought the book to give to their friends going through IVF as a way of saying, "I don't know what you're going through, but here's a girl named Priscilla who does and she wrote a book about it." I got support from my online infertility support group friends. I think in return, I’ve written this book as a way to give support to other people out there who are going through infertility.

I love that my book is out there in the universe. It's in people's hands and they can use it as they need to. I've always loved writing. That's why I first got into blogging. I guess earlier, I said that I have three jobs: mother, speech pathologist, and social media blogger. Well, being a writer is my fourth job. That's the one
that is second to motherhood that I'm most proud of. I remember writing poems and short stories as a child and wanting to be a writer when I grew up. Then I ended up somehow stumbling upon this and doing it.

{ Priscilla in the Emilia Nursing Dress with Ziggy }

If you could go back to speak to yourself 10 years ago, what would you want to tell yourself?

I think I would have told 10-years-ago-Priscilla, "just wait, it's gonna be okay." I really wish I could have given her just a tiny sightsee into the future and said, "you know, everything that you are craving so badly right now you're going to get. It's not going to look exactly how you wanted it or how you expected it." I never expected four kids. I never expected twins. I also never expected to get married to a blond-haired blue-eyed man, you know, I thought I was gonna marry a dark-haired Zac Efron type. So everything looks a little different, but it is exactly what I wanted. I wish I could have just told her, "just breathe, you're gonna
have to wait a little bit longer."

One doctor told me, "Priscilla, you need to make peace with the fact that you may never carry children." I thought I don't need that kind of negativity because I want to carry children. I want to get pregnant. You're telling me just to make peace with it? No. I actually switched to a different doctor after that, but I wish someone else would have told me, "it's okay, you're gonna get there. It's gonna take a little more time. Give it time."

For my friends who are going through IVF, I tell them, "you may get there in a different way, maybe through IVF, adoption, or a donated embryo. You’re going to have to give it a little bit of time, but don't give up hope. Don't lose hope." I wish someone had told me that because nobody told me that. Everyone told me, "why don't you just adopt? Oh, why don't you stop being so negative? Why don't you just try to cheer up? Cheer up."

I like to end by asking everyone this next question because I think laughter is healing and our children always keep us laughing. What's the funniest situation you’ve had with your kids?

We had one night recently that the twins were both cutting teeth and crying. I was nursing one baby and my husband was giving the other baby a bottle. The six-year-old wanted to show us a new dance move that he had created. Of course, he knows how to control Alexa, so he said, "Alexa play Can't Stop This Feeling from Trolls." He starts doing this dance routine that he choreographed. Well, our two year-old at the time came into the room and of course, being the middle child did not want to be left out of the situation.

We're feeding and trying to calm down the babies and also give Liam his moment by watching his dance routine. Then the two-year-old puts his body into the baby swing upside down. So he is now upside down with his arms in the leg hole of the baby swing and is just bobbing up and down. We're cracking up while
trying to be serious about the dance routine and feed the babies. Now the two-year-old has just flipped himself upside down into the baby swing and is just dangling there going "help me, help me." It was the perfect example of how chaotic it is and how my husband and I have just lost all control. There was
nothing to do at that point but just laugh.

To read more of Priscilla’s work, you can check out her blog, Instagram, or her book of poems: Waiting on the Universe

I'm excited to share more of the Reflections of Motherhood series with you in the coming weeks. We grow by gleaning wisdom from other mothers and their experiences, and we have an awesome lineup of marvelous women who will be joining us.

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