Jesse Truelove is a pre- and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Before she started her work with the Ab Rehab program through Nancy Anderson Fit, she trained women both privately and in group classes across multiple states, gyms and online. She now trains exclusively for, and is the program director for Birth Recovery Center, where they have raised the bar and standard for all affordable access to prenatal and postpartum experts. Some of the experts you have access to include, Postpartum Ab Rehab, Lactation consulting, Infant Sleep experts, Maternal Mental Health, and Labor & Birth Prep – all things Jesse wish she had access to when she was postpartum the first time around. She is also a two-time c-section mama to two feisty girls, Radley and River, and she is married to her high school sweetheart. We feel super passionate about stopping the mom shame that has gone on for those that choose (or don’t have the choice) to have cesarean births, as does Jesse. We asked her to impart her wisdom on this very topic, and here’s what she had to say…
We came across your work on the Nancy Anderson Fit platform, and we just love what you guys are all about! Can you tell us more about how you got into this work?
Thank you! I love what I do so much. It is my life’s purpose and I am so, so fulfilled by pouring my work into mamas, that are constantly pouring their work into everyone else. I, personally, had such a hard physical, mental and emotional recovery from my first experience with a cesarean birth. It was an emergency situation, and went completely opposite of what I dreamed that my birth story would look like. I felt like a stranger in my body, and I felt like my body had totally failed me. That very experience is 1000% why I am in the field that I am in now. Focusing on raising the standard of care for mamas, validating their feelings about their pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences and restoring their faith in their bodies. I definitely found my purpose in my own mess of postpartum.
You had an unplanned c-section with your first daughter Radley, how was that experience for you?
To be completely honest, it was the worst. Yes, it ended with a beautiful baby girl, and yes, we were both healthy - but my birthing experience was also important, (as is every mother’s), and I felt like my body had failed. I felt like I had no control of the situation, and it was as though I was robbed of the birthing experience that women “are meant to have”- and you just don’t understand the weight of those words until your body literally ‘can not’ have the type of experience it was “meant to have”. I struggled for a long time about my birth, and at the time, I wasn’t sharing openly about how much I struggled mentally, physically and emotionally. I wish I had the content to look for, or a support team to help me through that time. That lack of support is exactly why I became that support for other moms, and now get to do it with Nancy Anderson who has the same vision.
For the birth of your second daughter, River, you planned your 2nd cesarean. How was that experience different than your first birth?
It was so different! Interestingly enough, I had always planned to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after Radley. Just before my emergency c-section (literally, right as I was heading towards the OR!), my doctor told me that I would never be able to have a vaginal delivery - so a little part of me after hearing that thought, “Oh yeah? Watch me!” Fast forward to when I became pregnant again after Rad, I had a miscarriage before I got pregnant with River. After the miscarriage, my thoughts and pride regarding the VBAC had shifted. I wasn’t sure if I could emotionally handle the same outcome as the first time, and I also wasn’t sure where I would end up mentally with then, two babies to care for, a job that I love and showing up in my relationship as a present wife. Not to also mention, the risks that are involved with trying for a VBAC in a rural area of the country with no OR on staff 24/7. In the end, the risks of an unsuccessful VBAC outweighed the reward for me. Nonetheless, my experience with my second c-section, (although still very scary and stress inducing) went way smoother. When I was finally in the OR with my husband and a new team of doctors surrounding me, I have to say, all I felt was peace. It was so, so different, and my recovery was so, so different. Unrelated to most c-sections, I had a series of unfortunate events happen after River was born, and I speak more about those experiences in my Story highlights on Instagram. Regardless of those events, though, the experience was so healing for me overall. It healed so much of the trauma from my first birth experience. I participated in a podcast that tells more of the full story on why I chose to have a cesarean for the second time, and you can listen to it here.
We know you are passionate about destigmatizing cesareans births – we are totally with you on this topic! What would you say are some of the most common misconceptions and/or judgements about those mamas that either need or choose to have cesareans?
Well I honestly wasn’t aware of the stigmas, shaming or judgement surrounding c-sections, until I openly shared my choice about opting for a repeat c-section. It was both an empowering and surprising experience to share, as so many mamas felt seen and empowered to share their own stories - and then, I also received so much hate and judgement. There was one hate message in particular that stood out, from a doula, that told me that it seemed like “I was too good for labor”- that I was above labor, and I was choosing the easy way out. This was crushing for me, as all I ever wanted was have the dream birth story like I had imagined from when I was little. No one pictures their ideal birth story ending with an emergency c-section (after 26 hours of labor)… No mom is above labor… I tried very hard to labor and birth my baby vaginally, and due to a uterine infection, fever of 103, baby’s heart rate dropping, my placenta failing, my opportunity to birth vaginally was brought to screeching halt, and not by my choice. After the doctor’s broke my water and gave me Pitocin, I just wasn’t progressing. I was devastated to say the least.
In your opinion, how can we help stop mom-shaming and judgements for those that do have or choose to have cesarean births?
This is just so easy. If you take a wide lens here, and take a step back to see the whole picture - at the end of the day, we are all just trying to birth our tiny humans the best way for our physical and mental health, while also being able to bring home a healthy baby. The way one mama chooses to deliver her baby may look different than the way another mama chooses… There are so many different reasons why that choice is being made, including physical, mental or emotional health. Regardless of any of the above, those choices are reasons ENOUGH for her to be supported. We always have to take a mama’s experience into consideration here, as it can shape her for months, years and decades even. She must feel empowered and supported in her choices so she can show up as the best version of herself - not only for her baby and family, but for herself too.
As a c-section mama, do you think this affected your breastfeeding journey?
It is a common assumption that c-sections will affect your ability to breastfeed! The female body is, however, amazing! I have had two c-sections, and successfully and exclusively breastfed both of my babies. I breastfed Rad for two years, and River is currently breastfeeding, with no hiccups due the c-section. What triggers your milk production is the removal or delivery of the placenta, and this is what is needed to shift the hormones that produce the milk for baby. And actually, mamas are already making milk in their 3rd trimester - so if you plan on breastfeeding and having a c-section, do not stress(!), as it usually does not hinder your ability to do so! I’ll also add, that I did not receive skin to skin right away with either baby as I was in recovery post c-section for over an hour. So I missed the “golden hour” with both of them, and still had no trouble breastfeeding. Of course, every mama is different - but I do want to share that part of my experience.
How were your breastfeeding journey’s different with baby 1 and baby 2?
I think the biggest difference so far, is that I have not pumped at all with River. I was home full time with Radley, and am able to be home full time with River as well, but I had this fear that something was going to happen to me the first time around, and I wanted to make sure my husband had milk for her in case anything did. I started pumping as soon as I got back from the hospital with Radley, and filled a deep freezer full of milk, which I never used. Not one bag. Not only did I fill a freezer, but I was way over producing milk at the time, which was also very depleting as it was constant calories and nutrients leaving my body. Looking back, it was my anxiety that made me feel like I needed to do that. With River, she is only three months at this point, and I decided not to pump at all. My milk has regulated on its own, and I have to say I do not feel as tired or depleted as I did with Rad.
Any words of wisdom for those mamas struggling to opt for a v-back or repeat cesarean the second (or third…) time around?
This is tough. I feel like the best advice is to listen to your gut. If you have stress and anxiety going into a VBAC, it definitely will not help you have a successful delivery. You have to do what’s best for you and your family, mentally and physically, and weigh out all the risks. It's so much better going into either situation when you are confident in your choice, rather than being pressured into it.
Quick! Name 3 things either maternity or breastfeeding that you couldn’t or can’t live without!
- Breastfeeding support pillow from Snuggle Me Organic!
- Lillemer Breast Comfort Packs to heat up or freeze - use code TRUELOVE for 10% off
- My essential oils!
Peppermint: 1 drop in the toilet before you sit down will help you pee after birth! Patchouli and Lavender: I used a drop of each and rubbed on my breast (away from nipple) when I felt the onset of mastitis, and it cleared up overnight! (Not medical advice, just personal experience!).