Ep 116: Eileen’s Birth Story – Life and Love After Loss

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Warning: this episode includes loss

This is a birth story episode and it’s a bit of a different one. Today we have Eileen Robertson Hamra on the podcast. After having 3 children with her first husband, Brian, Eileen had a tubal ligation because she was certain she did not want any more children. However, Brian was tragically killed in a plane crash when their children were 4, 7, and 8 and Eileen was 41.

She was lucky enough to fall in love and marry another man, Mike, 5 years after Brian’s death. Her new husband had no biological children so she opened herself up to the possibility of another child. After undergoing IVF at the age of 45, Eileen got pregnant using her own eggs, giving birth to an 11 lb 5 oz healthy baby at the age of 46. And you’re going to hear all the details of that journey today.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • What it’s like to suddenly be a widow with three young children
  • How Eileen reimagined what was possible for a family
  • When and why she decided she was ready to date again
  • Why it’s important to trust your gut and go for what you want
  • What pregnancy at 45 was like for her
  • What it’s been like being an “older” mom

Links Mentioned in the Episode

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Ep 116: Eileen’s Birth Story & Life and Love After Loss

Nicole: This is a different type of birth story episode today, but one that I know you're going to find helpful. Warning, it does involve loss. Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Nicole: Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 116. I am so glad that you have decided to spend a bit of your time with me today. It is a birth story episode today, and it's a bit of a different one. Today we have Eileen Robertson Hamra on the podcast. After having three children with her first husband, Brian, Eileen had a tubal ligation because she was certain that she did not want any more children. However, unfortunately, Brian was tragically killed in a plane crash when their children were four, seven and eight, and Eileen was 41. She was lucky enough to fall in love and marry another man, Mike, five years after Brian's death. Mike didn't have any children. So Eileen opened herself up to the possibility of another child. She underwent IVF at the age of 45, got pregnant, using her own eggs and gave birth to a healthy 11 pound five ounce baby at age 46.

Nicole: You are going to hear all the details of that amazing journey. Today Eileen and I chat about what it's like to suddenly be a widow with three young children, how she re-imagined what was possible for a family, even though it was different than what she originally planned, what pregnancy at age 45 was like for her, what it's been like to be an older mom and much, much more including a book she wrote about her experience called Time To Fly. Eileen has some really incredible insight and just great life advice. And I know that you are definitely going to enjoy this episode. Now, before we get into the episode, let me do a listener shout out. This is from our pat and the title of the review says love the info. And I did shorten it just a bit. I had a rough time trying to find a podcast about pregnancy and birth.

Nicole: I'm planning to start trying this year and just wanted to learn more about pregnancy and birth before it becomes a reality for me. And this was exactly I was looking for. Most podcasts I came across were women talking about their pregnancy stories, but I was looking for one by a licensed physician who can give me a heads up on what to ask my provider when it's time. I don't want to walk away disappointed in my experience when I leave the doctor's office, I want to be prepared and what to expect. I love how informative and supportive this podcast is and how much I've already learned in just a few episodes. Thank you for doing this. Well, you are so welcome. Arpad I am so glad that you are finding the information helpful, and I love, love, love how you are getting prepared for your pregnancy, even before you get pregnant.

Nicole: Now, I have something coming up that I know you will also love that I know you'll all love. I am doing a live workshop at the beginning of June on how to make the best of your prenatal care experience. In this live workshop, you'll learn exactly how prenatal care is structured, how it's supposed to be structured, what to expect each trimester, all the tests that happen, including a nice downloadable guide, questions to ask. There will be tons and tons of great info in this workshop. And I'm super excited to do it live because we'll have the opportunity to interact. You'll be able to ask me questions beyond what we can do here on the podcast. So follow me on Instagram @drnicolerankins or join my email list at drnicolerankins.com/email. So you can be the first to know about the details of the workshop.

Nicole: There will be a limited number of spaces in the live class. So you want to hop on if you really want to do it. So again, follow me on Instagram @drnicolerankins or join my email list, drnicolerankins.com/email. So you can be the first to know all the details of that upcoming workshop. All right, let's get into the episode with Eileen. Thank you so much, Eileen, for agreeing to come onto the podcast. This is going to be a bit of a different birth story episode for sure. But one that I think is going to be very, very useful. So I appreciate you coming on.

Eileen: Oh, thank you for having me.

Nicole: So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself, your work, if you'd like and your family?

Eileen: Yeah, so, um, I'm an author now. I've written my first book, Time To Fly Life And Love After Loss. Um, I work, uh, I do a lot of philanthropic work in Chicago, uh, around health and wellbeing, and also have a small, um, company that does meditation and yoga and, uh, other corporate wellness programs. Yeah.

Nicole: Oh nice. And what about your family?

Eileen: So I, um, I have four children. I am remarried and this goes into a little bit, my story, I, my first husband, unfortunately, was killed in a plane crash in 2011. Uh, we have three children, um, in that marriage and happily married. And then, um, you know, my life took a turn and I was lucky though, and I found another amazing man and was remarried in 2016. And now we have, um, we together have our fourth child, uh, Zach, who is three and a half now.

Nicole: All right. And we're going to get into the evolution of, of all of that. So let's start with the death of your first husband, Brian. I know that was obviously completely unexpected and unimagined unimaginable that the grief, all of those things. So what was that like to suddenly and unexpectedly be a single mom of three young children?

Eileen: Yeah, it was, it was like you said, completely shocking. Not what I expected, not what I wanted. Um, you know, it was three days before Christmas. Uh, yeah, it was really awful. Um, his, he was flying a plane and his right engine failed and, um, it was very close to the ground, so there was actually nothing he could do. And yeah, so my life, I was 41 at the time and my life. Um, I, you know, I just planned on being, Mrs Brian Robertson and I was happy, happy, you know, mom, I was taking care of the kids and, you know, my life turned around and, um, you know, it took a lot of healing and, um, I share a lot about that in the book, um, about what it was like and the transformation of really my, you know, my identity, because I could no longer be his wife in the same way that I had been being it. And again, and also actually really cause an evolution in my motherhood as well, because like you just said, I became a single mother overnight and being a single parent is not easy. It's not impossible. And I've have lots of wonderful friends that do it, but I have a lot of respect. Um, and you know, it was definitely not what I had planned and it caused me to grow and develop, um, more than I thought that I could that's for sure.

Nicole: And we're going to of course, link to your book in the show notes, and you can tell us about where folks can find it at the, at the end, cause it's a very inspiring story for sure. Um, but at what point did you decide that you were ready to date again?

Eileen: Yeah, that's an interesting question. So, um, you know, when Brian first passed, I really did believe that I was never gonna want to get remarried again. Um, there was nothing inside of me that thought I would be, um, open to remarrying. I was in love with Brian. We had a great relationship. We had three young kids who were, um, like four, seven and eight at the time he passed. And I believe I just really did believe, um, that I was going to be happy, not happy, but I would be okay single. And, um, about the year mark? Well, I guess probably, I don't know, like, so he died in December, I would say in the summertime, the late summer, it was probably the first time I ever thought, you know what? This is really hard being a single mom. I don't know if I can do this forever.

Eileen: And I'm 41 and that's a really long time to not have a partner. And, um, and honestly not to have an intimate partner. And so I was thinking that's when it probably the first thoughts. And then of course I felt awful that I would even have those thoughts and blah, blah, blah. And then, you know, uh, and also the reality of not being married had sunk in more. And, um, it was around the new years. So that would, would have been our 12th wedding anniversary. And I had started contemplating the idea of taking off my wedding bands and what that might look like. And it was a really painful thought initially. But then my girlfriend gave me this great idea of creating a past, present future ring and putting the diamond, you know, and, and stones on my right hand. And I was like, that feels I'm actually still wear it.

Eileen: Um, you know, that felt like, okay, I can still have a relationship with him, even though it's not an earthly marriage, but then it was the idea of really opening myself up to, you know, maybe there is someone else out there, which I actually initially also did not believe I could get lucky twice. So, you know, there was a lot of things. Um, and also how the kids would respond. I mean, it was, you know, as anyone who's moving into a, either from a divorce or a death, like moving into that second committed relationship, it's, it's very, it's way more complicated, I would say then than the first time. So, um, yeah, it took something, but I, I was lucky to find someone.

Nicole: Yeah. Gotcha. Gotcha. So you met your second husband, Mike and you all got married, you said in 2016, five years after Brian died and he did not have children before you got married. Did you talk about whether or not you would have children together?

Eileen: Absolutely. And that was actually one of, I would say probably the issue that, um, was going to determine whether we really could, you know, have this relationship and I I'm on my third pregnancy, I actually was clear that I never wanted to have any more children and I tied my tubes. So I was like very sure that I, I was, you know, 37 at the time I was happy. I was like, I felt blessed that I had three healthy children and I'm good. I'm done. And then I meet Mike and what are the chances that, you know, you meet someone that doesn't have children and I fell in love and we had a lot of really heart to heart conversations about, you know, was I willing? And, you know, he, he was open to obviously to adopting, you know, Brian and I have three children and he has done that.

Eileen: And that was all great, but he really did want the idea of a biological child. And I thought to myself, if the tables were turned and the scenario is the opposite, I would want that opportunity. So I really did have to dig deep and look in and see was I willing to do what it was gonna take and w be willing to fail. Um, and if we did fail would would, is that the only reason our relationship was together? Like the whole thing. And we, you know, we, yes. So absolutely we did a lot of heart to heart conversations and a lot of going to the doctor and just to even see, this is even, you know, a dream worth having kind of thing. And, um, yeah, so we did definitely.

Nicole: Yeah. And are you all about the same age?

Eileen: We are. He's a couple years older than me. He, um, he was born in 68 and I'm born in 70.

Nicole: Okay. And had he been married before? I'm just curious. Typical.

Eileen: Oh yeah. You know, it's so funny. Cause then, you know, you have the opposite end. It's like, okay, well, why was he never married? You know what I mean? So he was never married. He, he had been in committed relationships, but he never had taken that leap and, you know, made the commitment. So, and it's interesting because, you know, I was not what he thought he would find and fall in love with and marry. Like, he was like, I'm going to marry a widow with three kids is not how I thought it was going to work out. And he, he was attractive and successful and, you know, he, he just thought he would be able to meet someone. And I say, you know, he was just waiting for me waiting for the waiting for us to meet. But, um, yeah. Yeah. And we did, there was a very strong connection as most people feel like it was like, I knew right away, it took him a hot minute to figure it out. But I, I met him and I talk a little bit about this in the book. Oh, actually a lot about this, but like I knew who he was it.

Nicole: Right. Yeah, yeah. Yes. So once you all got married and you were like, okay, we're going to try and have a baby together. How soon did you try to start having a baby? And did you go straight to IVF?

Eileen: So we, um, we actually started trying, even before we got married, because, you know, we're like time is of the essence. So as soon as we made the commitment, we got engaged, you know, I was like, okay, full force. You know, we're going to do this. And in my mind, you know, I had like boundaries, I'm a little bit type a, so I'm like, okay, I, you know, this is what I'm going to do. We're going to go for it. You know, my mind. Um, I was like, if we need to be willing or I need to be willing to try more than once because, um, you know, at my age, at this point I was 45 when we even started trying. So I was like, I need to be willing to, um, go more than once. So in my mind, I was like, I will be willing to try three rounds with my own eggs.

Eileen: And that's actually another story. Like originally I was like, I'm just, let's just go straight to donor eggs. And, um, you know, that was a conversation we needed to have. And, and, you know, I'm, I'm one, maybe my type a, or my like, like get it done attitude was like, okay, that's the, you know, all the doctors say, you know, that's your surest at my age, your surest and fastest way to get pregnant. But, you know, then I had to look and we had to look and I was like, it was possible. It was not probable, but it was possible for us to conceive. Um, and I had to look and I said, okay, what will I regret more? You know, never trying and failing or never trying. And I was like, I got to try because if we could dream, you know, if I had a magic wand, I wanted our biological child.

Eileen: Sure. You know, all the thoughts like, oh, it's not possible. It's not probable blah, blah, but no, no doctor told us it wasn't possible. Like I still had my numbers, my FSH was decent. My AMD, whatever, those numbers, all are, all the numbers were not great, but they were good, you know, good enough to be at least a little bit logical to try. So we did, we did three rounds of IVF, you know, retrieving my own eggs. I was able to retrieve a lot of eggs. I not a lot, but like relative, like, you know, good night, nine to 12 each round, you know, I was like super proud of my ovaries.

Eileen: I mean, like my 45 year ovaries are smashing it. You're like killing it. And, you know, I of course was on the highest doses of everything. Right. And it was not easy. It was exhausting and all of, you know, emotionally exhausting, the roller coaster of it all too. Right. Like I'm sure your listeners know. It's like every, every phone call, what, what's my estrogen, what's my follicle count? What are the sizes? I mean, you just become immersed in this world of, you know, praying for the miracle. And so we wanted, we wanted it, we, we ended up getting pregnant on the third round with, um, with my own egg and it was didn't last, right. It was my, my, um, HCG quickly determined it, wasn't growing it. Wasn't going to make it. So we then decided, okay, we're going to go for a donor round and, you know, again, get it done. I decided on frozen eggs, we, you know, and I had already been looking, so we're like, let's we found a donor, we did a donor round and we did not have great numbers and it did not take, and we were all kind of scratching our heads. Like, you know, we kind of thought that was the sure thing. Right. You know, um, and background, I didn't have trouble getting pregnant with my other three. I did have a couple of miscarriages, but you know, my fertility was pretty good, at least in my thirties.

Nicole: Sure, sure. So you may, let me just say, so you, you, you had, you had retrieved all of these eggs. You tried with your own egg and still had some frozen embryos available, but instead decided to try the donor.

Eileen: Yeah. Well, no, I never had any frozen. We always, for those first three rounds, we put everything in.

Nicole: Okay. Got it. Got it, got it. Got it. Got it. Okay. Okay.

Eileen: Statistically, you know, right. Statistically it was safe, right. I wasn't, I was not really at risk of having multiples. And it would be a blessing if even one took. Gotcha. So after all of those, and we never did freeze anything and we never did any genetic testing either. Cause I was like, well, if we get lucky and we get pregnant, like, you know, if there's something genetically wrong, most likely it will miscarry. So, um, and we would just cross that bridge. And so anyway, we had tried this, so three rounds of my own, one round of donor, and now we are ready to do another donor round. So we had some more frozen eggs from a donor, a beautiful, you know, lovely, generous, amazing people who donate eggs, who are, um, so I, God bless you for, for families who have trouble.

Eileen: And so we have these donor eggs and I go in for my baseline and which, you know, they tell you guys tell us like how many follicles? And it was August 8th and I had 16 and it was like a record number for me. And I went to lunch with a girlfriend and I just had this gut, like, should I try one more time? And I know this is like such a, it's so hard, right. To make those choices because you don't want to be a fool. You don't want to keep trying. And it's expensive. Absolutely. And it's time and it's energy and money, all of the things. Right. And I just had this gut feeling and I couldn't couldn't stop thinking. And my friend was like, I think you should go for it. And so I texted my doctor at lunch. She calls me right away, Dr. Beltsos in Chicago. And she said, I think it's reasonable. Let's give it one more time. And at that point she had already recommended that I not do it. So she must've had some gut feeling. So I go through, I get the, I go through, I did not have great numbers. It was fine. I was produced, you know, because I had been suppressed. Right. And getting ready for a donor round. So, you know, all the emotions are there. I ended up having my retrieval on my birthday, my 46th birthday. Um, and we got five, I think out of the 16 or maybe seven. I don't remember. At this point we have three embryos growing. At this point, we decided to go ahead and do the genetic testing and the freezing and prepare my uterus for transplant. And I was like, let's just go all in one more time, all in all the stops and every moment.

Eileen: And I just want to, for listeners, like, it's like, I questioned the whole thing the whole time. I was like, I was like, that was stupid. I didn't have great numbers. I, you know, I was foolish. I'm wasting time. I'm wasting money. I'm this was not a good idea. Right. And, and I was like, but you've already in, you're already in just keep going. So when they told us we had one, one embryo that made it to day six, it was a six AB um, you know, every, every, you know, all those messages are like miracles, right. You're like, oh my God. And I was like, go for it. Even though it was expensive. Go ahead and do the genetic testing. Go ahead and freeze it. Couple weeks later, I get the phone call from my doctor. And she's like, Eileen, you know, you have a genetically normal embryo.

Eileen: And I was like, oh my God, I couldn't believe it. And then like all people in this process, then we're like, oh my God. Now I've got to get this baby to stick. Right. It's still frozen. It was like the elation of knowing I had one, like within about 30 seconds turned into the sheer panic of, I have one.

Nicole: Right. Right. So just one of the three was normal?

Eileen: Only one could be genetically tested. They were like the, by three by day five, we still had two, by day six, we had one. Oh my God. Oh yeah. So it was the full. And so then, um, you know, we actually did the, um, mitochondrial testing as well, and that came also back normal. So we were so hopeful. And so, you know, I joke about this, but like my sister and I, who, who was with me through every cycle obviously, and I was like, we're going to just, we're going to get this baby to stick.

Eileen: We like joked about chewing gum or like, whatever we can do to get, we went, we call each other, are you chewing gum? Anyway. So just to try to bring some levity to the situation and, and, and then also honestly, and I think, you know, one of the things I wanted to say, I honestly also felt a big trust in, in the process. I was like, just keep going. If it's meant to work out, it's going to work out. And I honestly do not have any control. I can do what I can do. And then there's more at play. And if losing Brian wasn't, didn't teach me that one. Um, you know, I was like, we did everything we knew to do and, and he still died. Right. It was like completely out of our control and I'm okay. So it's like, I'm going to give it all I can do and go for this baby. This is what we really, really want. And it's not all up to me. So a lot, you know, giving it up to God or giving it up to just universe or whatever you want to call it. But we were just, okay. So anyway, um, yeah, and then we were lucky we, you know, we were able to get pregnant. Um, it was, you know, he was, uh, 11 pounds, five ounces. Oh my goodness. Yeah. When he was born and, uh, yeah, he's a miracle child. Yeah.

Nicole: I mean, okay. We just have to recap this. You're 45 years old. No, I was 46. Yeah. You had gone through three cycles already with your own eggs, a donor cycle, then again with your own eggs and then just got down to this one chance and it worked out. Yeah. That is such an emotional, I mean, you talked about it, but, and I'm sure you talk about it more in the book with just like the ups and downs is just a lot.

Eileen: It is a lot. So I would tell you something, that's actually really also miraculous about this. So Brian, if you're, you know, if you're into astrology, if you're not in, but like he died on the winter solstice, which is the darkest shortest day of the year. And Zack Hamra was born on the summer solstice. Oh, wow. Yeah. I was like, it's so cliche, you can't even make that up. I was like, you know, and you know, we weren't planning, you don't plan on that. Except for that, he was, you know, my last doctor's appointment before the planned C-section the woman took, you know, took the, the, uh, ultrasound. And she was like, do you have gestational diabetes? And I was like, no, but if I need to to get this baby out, I am will like, whatever I go home right now, whenever you have an opening, like this baby is measuring like over 11 pounds. I was like, yeah, we need to, we need to go. I'm ready. Get him out. So it was summer solstice.

Nicole: Oh my goodness. So what was your pregnancy like? Did you have any complications or issues or anything during your pregnancy?

Eileen: So the biggest difference I would say is, um, two things. One, um, I definitely experienced much more, I don't know, like how emotional depression in the first. And I think that partly is due to the progesterone and hormones that you need to take when you're supporting a pregnancy through IVF. And so, and I had not, I, I'm not a happy pregnant person anyway, but like, actually it was one of the things I warned Mike about. I was like, you I'm just warning you now. I am not happy. A lot of women are amazing. They feel wonderful. They want to have sex all the time. I'm like, no, that's not right. So it was, I would say probably the worst of that. Like I was not happy. I'm crabby, I'm tired. Um, and it was really uncomfortable. And then I also had pretty severe anemia, um, probably cause he was just getting so big and maybe I don't even know why, but, um, so I had, you know, um, what do you call that when your legs are twitch all the time or like a restless leg, restless leg?

Eileen: That was awful. It was awful. Like I would just walk, I would get up every night and just like walk to try to just tire myself out and like move my legs to see if it could help. But, and I, you know, I watched a lot, a lot of television and so, which I don't normally do. So, you know, my, my kids are all like, you don't ever need to do that mom ever again because they were old enough to now watch me. So straight up like medical risks except for being, um, high risk age in general, you know, and, and a fourth C-section and a really big baby. No, I was, I was good. Yeah. I was lucky. Yeah.

Nicole: Good, good, good, good. And then how was the fourth C-section I mean, fourth C-section can carry substantial risk for bleeding and you're already anemic and things like that. So how was the birth itself?

Eileen: Uh, we were prepared, so, um, I, we already had blood, uh, blood transfusion ready and, um, had the baby at Northwestern, um, hospital, which is, uh, you know, very well equipped hospital. So I felt very safe, but it could tell it was definitely a different experience, you know, like they were not playing around. The doctors were very serious and, and I would say, you know, for me, that was what was most important. A lot of women want, uh, doctors with wonderful bedside manner and or whatever they want. Right. And every, everyone needs to find their own, the match. But like, for me at that point, I was like, I'm good. You don't need to be nice to me. You just need to get me out alive. And they were very nice. They were very nice, but it was, it was, um, you know, they were not like my, Hey, they were like, okay, two doctors, serious surgery. And I could tell there was a different mood or which I was expecting. I wasn't like, oh, what's going on here? I'm like, no, I'm 46 and I'm anemic, and this is a big baby and I want you to be very serious. So, um, and it was, you know, it was uneventful except for that. I did end up with needing some, um, I forget how much blood, but they did give me someone else's extra blood to help me recover more quickly. So, yeah.

Nicole: Okay. Okay. Okay. Was it a particularly long C-section or did it go fairly

Eileen: Fairly routine. I mean, the funniest part about it was like when the baby came out, they were like, oh my God, child. Yeah. They were like, we need another chart. Like some, they were like, this has got to be one of the, it was for many of the people in the room, the biggest baby they had ever seen. So yeah. 11 pounds, five ounces is no joke. Yeah.

Nicole: And how big were your other three? Not close. Not that.

Eileen: You could add my first two, five-13 and six-nine together. And you know, it's, I think who knows age, who, um, uh, you know, different genes from the father, he was, he was strong. He came out, you know, ready to go. So we did end up in the NICU. Um, big babies, often do little little ones do and big ones do too, because they do have trouble regulating blood sugar.

Eileen: And, um, so he did spend the majority of the time in the hospital, in the NICU, which is very stressful. Um, at the time it was very stressful. Like now I look back and I'm like, it's all you want is your baby to be healthy. So like, you know, and you know, um, that's the right place, but it was so I would say if, if anything, that was the only other, um, you know, difficulty, but again, I think I was, I kind of was prepared. I was like, this is, he probably will end up there because he, he will need a lot of, a lot to eat. And, um, anyway, so, um, yeah, he was good. Yeah. Yeah. He was good.

Nicole: So how long did he stay in the NICU?

Eileen: Um, one day more than normal. So I think he was, you know, we, we got one extra night in the hospital for like three or four nights. Like normally you spend three nights. Yeah. It was not, it was not long. He, he was able to regulate pretty quickly and go home, go home with us. Right.

Nicole: Yeah. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. So then what was the postpartum period like for you?

Eileen: Um, so given it was my fourth C-section I had learned the lessons of you do not plan anything, do not try to do anything you really need to physically recover. Um, and for people that are like me and, you know, like to go, go, go, and don't like to be down, um, it's not natural necessarily, but I was like, I knew, I learned like if you push it, it's not going to go well, so it will not be worth it. So, um, and he actually was the best nurser that I had. Like, so he nursed better than the other babies maybe because he was stronger and bigger and I'm not sure exactly, but, so that was a better, but I always, I did have to supplement because he was so big and yeah. I mean, I healed normally, I had a lot of swelling, um, just, but that passed eventually. And, um, yeah, I was really, I, you know, it's funny, I was nervous, really nervous cause I w I remember one of my last doctor's appointments. I was like, if I feel this bad now when I'm pregnant, what is it going to be like after? And my doctor said just like, you're probably going to feel better. And I was like, I hope so. And I did, it was like, I was so tired of being pregnant that not carrying around and creating another human and just nursing him was, was actually physically better.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. So how did you adjust to, well, a couple of things. How did you adjust to having a new kind of blended family? Were there any issues with that and that your children, you know, your first three children have a different father than the baby?

Eileen: Yeah. So one, one miracle was, um, Melanie who's my oldest, right. And probably the most, initially the most resistant to me getting remarried. Um, she, by the time we got married and we had dated for a while, like she loved him and she loved Mike and she was very happy that he was going to be her father figure, but she initially was like, no, I, you know, I don't need, I don't need that. And she came to the hospital and she was holding him for the first time. And she looked at me and she's like, oh my God, mom, I had no idea I would love him this much. And, um, I think we were all kind of taken aback by that. And one of the things that I had imagined, which did not come true was that, you know, that, that there wouldn't be like sibling rivalry, right.

Eileen: Because there's so much, there's a nine year age difference between Zach and, and Max is the next oldest. And I just thought they were going to be mature and they won't tease him. And, you know, and I was like, okay, that pretty quickly, I mean, it didn't happen for six months, but it was like pretty quickly when Zach was kind of, you know, able to take it and they do. It's hilarious. They, you know, there's a lot of that sibling silliness and, and it, it is joyful, but it's like, I can't believe you're picking on your three-year-old, but he'll do it the same. He'll pick on them, you know? Like it's, it's interesting. Um, it sweet. I do think, you know, for Max, um, because he was only four when Brian died and he was very gung ho to find a new dad. And I think, you know, when he was little, his idea of a dad and I need a dad and you found a dad, awesome.

Eileen: Mike's my dad. And he called him dad and the girls never called him dad. They always called him, Mike and, and Max wanted to call him dad. And as soon as Zach was born, it Max really was able to see what he lost for the first time. He never, you know, he was a child and he never could quite put the whole picture together. And now, you know, he's like, oh my God, that's a real dad and a real son who am I to Mike and who is Brian now, or who is my dad? And so he definitely, um, went through a period of time, you know, a good two years where he struggled, um, with reconciling all of that. And part of it was us, all of us, you know, growing through that. So, you know, even though it was beautiful, it did, you know, it was not, it was not, not painful too.

Nicole: Sure. Sure. And then have you been able to honor Brian's memory in the setting of your new family?

Eileen: So, um, Brian was a big solar energy, um, uh, renewable energy advocate. He, he was a CEO of a solar energy company when he died. He, so we had done a lot of, um, and he was also an entrepreneur. So we've done lots of things in his honor, um, to putting solar panels on schools and, you know, sponsoring entrepreneurial, um, you know, pitch contests and things like that. Um, and I'm really lucky. And this was another reason I knew Mike was the guy, is that, you know, Mike really embraces all of it. Right. Like, and I think it takes a big person. Right. Um, yeah, to not, I think it's a little easier because, you know, there's no like, you know, uh, like personal, like he's not around, so it's not like there's not a jealousy from that perspective, but, you know, often when people die young, he was, Brian was 38, you know, they die and they're amazing.

Eileen: Right. And they're always going to be amazing. Yeah. Do you remember the best about people? Yeah, sure, sure. And he, wasn't perfect for sure. So, but Mike, you know, he really does embrace, um, all of it and, you know, we see his family and like, you know, Mike w is in the whole family and the entire Robertson family has, you know, welcomed him and we go up to the lake. Uh he's Brian was Canadian. So we, you know, and Mike will actually think of, um, telling Brian's parents things before I even, well, he'd be like, oh, you know, Max he's in puberty. Right. He has a teeny tiny mustache. He shaved it and, you know, oh, you probably like Max, here's this, I'm sorry. But, um, you know, he sends it to, um, he sends, you know, a note to Dave and Donna and says, Hey, your grant, you know, your grandson, you know, like that. And so it was a combination of honoring him, but also, um, you know, doing our best to, to keep it all together, all three families. And, um, yeah.

Eileen: Yeah. That's lovely. And then finally, what challenges have you had being a quote unquote, I hate to say the word older, more mature, more mature mother to a young child.

Eileen: Yeah. Okay. So that is not a joke, right? It is. Um, so one thing I want to say about that is it was actually one of the things I actually had to get over in order to open up myself to the possibility, cause I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed. I was like, what are people gonna think? What are people gonna say? And you know, I was, I was like, that's so silly. Why am I going to not do something that, that we want because other people are going to say something and you know, so I had to get over that. And then, um, so good news for me, I have teenagers right. In the house. So in a lot of ways like that, you know, when families years and years and years ago there was like all kinds of children, right? So like I am benefiting from the, you know, teenagers helping, you know, do a lot of the work and then it's, you know, from all I hear, it's really good.

Eileen: It's good for the teenagers. It's good for the kids. And it's also, Mike is super engaged because this is his only baby. So like, and I would say for me, my role is different than it was for the first three. And I have had to do some work in like reconciling that because when Melanie, Brooke and Max were little, I was, it, I was the primary, right. Like Brian was working, he was building a company. I was the one who managed everything. And so for Zach, it's more of a, all hands on deck, but I still, you know, and I still have these older children who now have a whole new set of issues to deal with. Like we're looking at colleges and, you know, emotional things around friendships, you know, and dealing with their grief at times. So like, it is definitely different having a baby at my age with my circumstances than it was for me when they were similar. But it's good. It's great.

Nicole: Yeah. And what would you say are, if you had to pinpoint like two or three things have been really instrumental in helping you manage all of this, like, is it a mindset, is it therapy? What are, what are things that you would say have really helped you to, to ride the ups and downs and the joys and the hard places?

Eileen: Yeah. So definitely therapy therapy for everyone, even if you don't and it's, it's interesting. Cause like, you know, and I, sometimes it's not even necessarily therapy, it's like coaching, right. Um, you know, being really interested in self-development and I, my mindset for a long time and probably, I don't know exactly when I put this in, but it was like, you know, my life is not happening to me. It's happening for me. And so even in hard times and difficult times in, and also, and I've learned to, as I age, appreciate them more, these moments where I was like, I don't want this. This is painful. It's very painful to see your children, um, in pain, right. Wanting, you know, it's very hard to see that it's very hard to lose a husband is very hard. All these, these hard to have a, you know, a difficult patch in a relationship with another family member, right?

Eileen: Like these are not like things we want, but when we lean into them and we look to see what, where we can grow out of it and all the time for me, it's like more compassion, more forgiveness for myself or for the other person, you know, what is the perspectives? Like, what are my, what are my beliefs around this? What are their beliefs around this? Or like, what do I believe about this situation that may or may not be true? Um, yeah. And just leaning into, and then finding support and finding people and, um, that can help, help navigate that stuff when you're stuck, whenever you're stuck. I mean, that's like for me, like a practice, it's like when I'm stuck, I reach out. I have to, because I will drive me and everyone nuts. So I don't always do it. Like immediately. Sometimes I choose to stay stuck for a few weeks or even a few months, but don't, we all know the quicker you can build the muscle to like, I'm stuck. I'm just stuck. Who can, where are the resources who's in my space? Like, you know, what book can I read? What person can I reach out to? What podcasts can I listen to that is gonna help me get through whatever this is that I'm struggling with, because it is truly in, through the struggle that the growth happens.

Nicole: A hundred percent. I love it. Love it, love it. So what would be just a close, your favorite piece of advice that you would tell other women who are listening or other people who are listening? I should say whether about motherhood or pain or anything you have so much you can offer advice about what would be your favorite piece?

Eileen: I think, especially because when I think about my, um, my journey with pregnancy, it was, um, don't give up on what you want. Right? Like now listen to reason, listen to doctors, listen to like, but if I had not really tuned into what I really wanted and just decided to be like, oh, well, I'm just going to do the fast route or I'm gonna do this or whatever. Like, I would never have Zack put it that way, be open, um, in this. And this is not just about having a baby because it's not, it's not always possible. It really isn't always possible. And I get that and I know that I'm blessed, but anything in your life, right? Like just cause you think you're too old or you're too this, or you're too that like, if it's what you really want in your heart, go for it because what will you regret more, not failing. Um, because you tried or not trying at all.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. For sure. 100%. I love that. Love that. So please tell us, where can women connect with you? Tell us all about your book. Where can people find you all of that? Good, great stuff.

Eileen: Yeah. So the book can be found anywhere books are sold. So all the different online retailers at bookstores, you probably would have to order it, but you can do that if you want to support your local bookstore. Oh, what's the name of the book? Oh, I'm sorry. Uh, time, time to fly, uh, life and love after loss. And I think the whole title is my, you know, the message, right? Like this is it. And don't wait, I guess maybe that's the other second piece of advice. Don't wait time. This is the time you don't know how long we've got. Right. Go for it.

Nicole: 100%.

Eileen: Yeah. And then, um, my website is my name, eileenrobertsonhamra.com. I'm also on all the social media platforms, um, Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. Um, so people can connect with me there. Um, and I just really appreciate the opportunity being able to share my story. Cause I do. It's funny when people say, oh, you've lost a husband. Um, that's so awful. But then when I say, and then I had a baby at 46 everyone's jaw drops are like, tell me more about that one. So I really am grateful that I got to share this piece of the story with, with you and with your listeners. So

Nicole: Yeah. And I'm grateful that you reached out, I know 100% there are going to be people listening who this will really resonate with them. So I appreciate your time and I appreciate your patience. We have some terrible technical issues on my side and Eileen was so gracious in dealing with this, but we have recorded and it will now be out into the universe. So I appreciate that.

Eileen: Thank you.

Nicole: All right. Well thanks so much, Eileen.

Eileen: Thank you.

Nicole: Alright. Wasn't that a great episode. It's lovely to see how Eileen was able to make the best and triumph out of what is, what was a very difficult situation for her. Now, you know that after every episode, when I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes where I do my top three or four takeaways from my conversation with the guests. So here are my Nicole's Notes from my conversation with Eileen. Number one, her comment about trying IVF with her own eggs.

Nicole: Would she regret more that she never tried or would she regret that she tried and failed. And she realized that she would have regretted if she never tried with her own eggs. And that resonated with me. I think you will almost always regret, never trying something. Sometimes there's fear wrapped up in things and why you don't do things. And I mean, just trying things in life in general, not, not IVF specifically, you will regret that you didn't give something a try. In Eileen's case, she followed her instincts and things worked out great. Now, do you want to be clear that things don't always work out great when you try, sometimes you will try and you will fail with things. As a matter of fact, I have an upcoming interview where someone did IVF and things did not work out. So all you can do is do the best that you can and go for what you want, go for what your heart is telling you to do.

Nicole: You can't control the outcome, but you can control the choice to do something or to not do something. And I think that that's really meaningful and important. All right. Number two, Eileen didn't enjoy being pregnant. She was real, real clear about that. And I want you to know that it is okay, that if you don't enjoy being pregnant, I personally, the only thing that I liked about being pregnant was feeling my babies move. Otherwise the rest of it, I could, you know, throw away. Yes. I'm very grateful that my body was able to grow to human beings, but I was just the feelings. I was not like great at being pregnant other than feeling the babies move. And that is okay if you don't enjoy being pregnant, don't feel bad. Um, it is okay. All right. Number three, blended families take work. I think I like Eileen demonstrated.

Nicole: And she also talks about it in her book as well. I'm sure more detail about how you have to work to blend families together. It's not something that necessarily comes easy or straightforward. You have to put some effort in it to have a blended family and one that works. And then the final thing, when you are stuck, reach out. Sometimes it can be hard to ask for help. And as Eileen said, sometimes you, you know, go around in circles for longer than you want to before you reach out for help. But when you're stuck reach out, I think this can be especially important in the postpartum period where things can get crazy. Sometimes things can be challenging sometimes. And you know, there's some expectations from our society that you should just be able to handle it, or you should just be able to deal with it.

Nicole: Or even during pregnancy that things are normal. Things are natural, um, that you, you don't have the right to like, I don't know, think that things are going to be difficult or challenging. And sometimes they are, especially after you have a new baby. So when you are stuck, please, please reach out. And sometimes you have to reach out to more than one place. It may not be the first place you reach out to. You may have to find another place before you get the help that you need to get you back on track. But when you are stuck, please reach out. Okay. So there you have it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and Apple Podcasts, wherever you're listening to me right now. And I'd love it. If you leave a review on Apple Podcasts and helps the show to grow helps other folks to find the show and to do shout outs from those reviews from time to time as well.

Nicole: Be sure to follow me on Instagram @drnicolerankins or join my email list at drnicolerankins.com/email. So you can be the first to know about my upcoming workshop on how to make the best of your prenatal care. Of course, there are other great reasons to follow me and be on my email list as well. I provide lots of great information on social media and then a weekly email newsletter. So I would love to see you in both places. So that is it for this episode, come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast, head to my website, drnicolerankins.com to get even more great information, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information on my free online class on How To Make A Birth Plan That Works as well as everything you need to know about my signature online childbirth education class, the Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's drnicolerankins.com and I will see you next week.