Amy Fraser was five months pregnant when her marriage unexpectedly ended. “I wasn’t planning on being a single mother,” she explains, “It was an unexpected turn of events which threw me into single motherhood.” A turn of events which prompted her to move back to New Zealand, where Amy is from and where her immediate family still lives.
“My mum flew to New York on the next flight out and helped me pull everything together.” Amy is the founder of OKREAL, and she still had work to do—like previously planned events across the country in San Francisco. Once she tied up loose ends in the U.S., Amy flew home to New Zealand. From there, she “went into survival mode”—trying to make sense of this unexpected life change while supporting her body and mind for the baby she was still very much excited to bring into the world.
Finding Prenatal Support
First, Amy needed to reckon with the weight she had lost due to anxiety and stress and make sure she was addressing, to the best of her ability, the emotional trauma of her relationship ending. “I knew I didn’t want medication because I felt my situation was circumstantial. I found a really great therapist who specialized in trauma and pregnancy; she was fantastic.” Also helpful was the incredible support system Amy found in New Zealand’s national healthcare system.
“Most people in New Zealand get a midwife, and mine was amazing. I checked in weekly with both my midwife and doctor to make sure my baby was growing at the appropriate rate, especially after losing a lot of weight from such a traumatic time,” says Amy.
30 Hours of Labor
At 39 weeks, the baby was looking large and as Amy’s first baby, her doctors didn’t want him to arrive late. She was induced at 39 weeks and five days, after having contractions. On January 31 at 11am, she went to the hospital, was induced by 2pm, and in labor by 3pm. She spent that night contracting regularly but not dilating. “As any woman who has been in labor can vouch for, your body doing all the work and yielding no results—epecially for that length of time, is pretty miserable,” she explains.
After staying in the hospital that night, Amy was given more induction gel the following morning. The accumulation of the gel in her system sent her into heavy labor. As this was happening, the doctors learned the baby had, at the last minute, moved into posterior position, which is understood to be one of the most painful labor positions. “The pain was phenomenal,” Amy recalls. “I was vomiting from my body going into shock and felt like I was on a different planet. From there, things got bad quickly.”
Amy finally received an epidural, to which she had a stroke-like reaction called Horner’s Syndrome that caused the left side of her body to collapse. “The doctors were trying to turn me to flush the drug to the right side of my body, but that was contradictory to the baby’s position.” Still vomiting from the pain, at 6pm on February 1 (more than 24 hours after arriving at the hospital), the doctors told Amy to start pushing.
“I pushed for two hours and the baby didn’t even make it to the birth canal. He was getting jammed in my pelvis. At that point, he started getting distressed and his heart rate was dropping, so they quickly got me into theater and gave me a spinal tap, which I reacted to so I’m then vomiting all over the operating table,” Amy says. “I was quite delusional at this point. Then my blood pressure plummeted and his heart rate disappeared.”
At this point, her medical team acted quickly to perform an emergency C-section. “They ripped him out in two minutes but because I had been pushing, he was impacted and kind of stuck, so they kind of had to dig him out.”
Once the doctors removed the baby, he was a bit blue and not breathing well. “C-section babies are often full of fluid, so as soon as the pediatrician suctioned the fluid and kind of rubbed him around a bit out of the shock, he was fine.”
Meeting Her Baby
Amy remembers seeing the doctors lifting her baby up from behind the blue sheet. “Just seeing my baby and hearing him cry…the birth had been so traumatic, but in that moment, i just felt relief and pure joy.”
The doctors first handed the baby to Amy’s mom, who put him down next to her face. “It was the best moment of my entire life, hands down.”
Recovery and New Motherhood
Amy spent the next few nights in hospital, followed by a stay in Birthcare—a postpartum recovery center in Auckland. (Shared rooms are free in New Zealand, and private rooms are a couple of hundred dollars a night).
“Unless you choose to have an OB, everything pregnancy-related in New Zealand is free. You get a midwife for free. There were midwives on rotation [at the hospital], and they teach you how to breastfeed and help with the after-birth process,” Amy explains. “I was on a heavy dosage of morphine so the midwives, along with my mum, would tend to the baby and make sure he had everything he needed.”
Amy named her baby Rawiri Rain, or “Ra” for short. Together, they went home on Feb 7 to begin their new life as mother and son.
When I ask Amy about all of the adorable photos of Ra I’ve seen on Instagram, she says, “People should know there’s a whole other side to motherhood than what you see on social media. Motherhood has become almost trendy; and while it’s true that there is a lot of beauty in motherhood, it’s also really hard.”
While being a single mother to Ra was unexpected, Amy is redefining what she thought motherhood might look like.
“I’m a single mother running a business from overseas, which is not what I envisioned when I became pregnant, but I love my life with my son and we’re figuring it out one day at a time. I interviewed Erica Chidi Cohen of Loom for OKREAL and she talks about redefining what a productive day looks like for a new mother, particularly a working mother. I’m still reckoning with that and I haven’t mastered it, but trying to run my business at the same capacity doesn’t work. You need to be realistic about your expectations and try not to feel guilty.”
We talk about how guilt is such a common sentiment shared among new mothers, and Amy says although she feels guilty often, she’s also trying to combat the narrative.
“I need to be realistic about the fact that I do need to be a working mother and that comes with sacrifice. I also love my work and don’t want to feel guilty about that. It’s important to accept that it’s OK to want to thrive as a mother and a businessperson – and to create a balance (or really, a chaos) of both that work for you personally.
Amy is still figuring out what her new normal looks like—as a mother, as a business owner, as a woman. One thing she knows for certain?
“You need a village. I have my family nearby and a nanny once a week and I don’t have time to feel bad. I want to pour my energy into my business and being a good mother and providing for my son.”