Wedding coordinator Lauren Smith on having two emergency C-sections and finding balance as a mom and entrepreneur
As the founder and president of L4Love, a boutique wedding planning company, Lauren Smith is not one to leave things to chance. When we got together five years ago to plan my wedding, I was actually a little freaked out by her meticulous, color-coded spreadsheets! Of course, being hyper-organized and detail-oriented - in addition to sweet, creative, and dedicated - has allowed Lauren to produce hundreds of gorgeous and seamless events for her lucky clients.
Yet while some of life's momentous occasions can be planned and plotted out in advance, that's not always the case with childbirth. Coming up with a birth plan may (or may not) calm your nerves as the big day approaches, but how that baby ultimately enters the world is Mother Nature's surprise. With her first pregnancy, Lauren had envisioned a normal vaginal delivery; instead, the consummate planner and former baseball player was served a curveball. Here, she opens up about her *two* emergency Cesarean deliveries and how she's adapted to the role of mom-boss.
Lauren, thank you for sharing your story! Your daughter Hayley - your mini-you - was born 4 years ago. I know that she ended up being delivered by emergency C-section. Did you have a birth plan prior to that?
I had taken birthing classes and practiced labor breathing, and I did know I wanted an epidural (I have no pain tolerance), but the possibility of a C-section didn't once cross my mind. I think that's why it freaked me out so much - I hadn't read up on C-sections at all, and what I pictured in my mind was so scary that I had a panic attack and started hyperventilating! I don't do well with things unplanned, but my best advice to all my pregnant friends now is to be prepared for ANYTHING, as you never know what will happen. Everyone has a different and unique birth story!
I hadn't read up on C-sections at all, and what I pictured in my mind was so scary that I had a panic attack and started hyperventilating!
What freaks me out about the idea of a C-section (beyond the operation itself) is the prospect of having to care for a newborn, which is exhausting in itself, while your body is in such a delicate, healing state. What were those first few weeks post-partum like?
I was in so much pain after my C-section the first time. I could barely walk for weeks. It was painful to get in and out of bed, and I think it took me over a month to fully recover. I think Sean (my husband) changed every diaper for at least the first few weeks because I just couldn't move. I was in so much pain that I kept taking my pain meds, but looking back, I think they made me really foggy and added to some of my postpartum blues.
Well, that doesn't assuage my fears at all - ha! - but I appreciate your honesty!
Oops! Sorry if I scared you, but honestly, I have a LOT of friends who have undergone C-sections -- apparently it's more common than I ever would have thought -- and everyone I know has handled it differently, including many who experienced minimal pain and smooth recoveries.
You mention postpartum blues - had you braced yourself for the possibility of emotional/psychological challenges as a new mom?
I had heard about it (postpartum depression, a.k.a. "baby blues") a little, but definitely wasn't prepared. I would find myself crying for no reason, as well as for reasons like feeling like a bad mom, being in pain, parenting not seeming like all it was cracked up to be, difficulty breastfeeding, engorgement, or worrying about something 24/7. I was a complete mess for about a month and I don't think I really felt like myself for 6-8 weeks. I was also unprepared for this or how bad it would be, and it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
By the time of your first pregnancy, your wedding planning business, L4Love, was already a few years in the making. What stage were you at in building your business at that time, and how did having a baby affect your vision for the company and your ability to continue growing it?
You know, luckily I was about 5 years in and so I was doing pretty well, but it's really challenging to own and run your own business and care for a newborn at the same time. You don't get maternity leave, and there isn't really anyone to pick up the workload for you while you recover. In my head, I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know how hard. I also decided to move home with a 2 month old right before the busy wedding season began, which didn't help! Luckily I had 2 team members who really helped as much as they could, but at the end of the day this is my company and there were a lot of things only I could do.
You don't get maternity leave, and there isn't really anyone to pick up the workload for you while you recover.
When I first returned to teaching after my son's birth, I had this feeling that I was failing in both roles - not sufficiently attentive as a mom, and not as organized or energetic as I should have been at work. How did you juggle being a new mom with running your own company? Do you have any advice for working moms (and mom-trepreneurs in particular) on how to maintain balance and sanity?
With my first baby, I oftentimes felt very overwhelmed, like I wasn't able to give 100% to either my kid or my company, and that killed me. When I was all-in at work, I felt like I was neglecting my daughter; when I spent time with her, my mind would be consumed with all the emails I had to return. It is really hard to do both, but I learned that it is possible and that you need to focus on what you are doing at the moment and not worry about the other thing at the same time. It is a work in progress, but balance is so important. Be patient with yourself. You just went through something HUGE -- both physically and emotionally. You grew a human being inside of you and brought it to life and are now caring for it and keeping it alive!
When I was all-in at work, I felt like I was neglecting my daughter; when I spent time with her, my mind would be consumed with all the emails I had to return.
Knowing that you will be spread thin for a few months, it's important to line up people you trust to take the reins on childcare, housework, and/or work when needed. I am so grateful to have family, friends and a supportive husband to help with my children, and also an expert wedding planning team whom I can entrust to be just as meticulous and detail-oriented as I am.
How was your second birth experience different? Did you do anything differently based on what you'd learned the first time around?
I had another emergency C-section! I'd planned for a vbac (vaginal birth after Cesarean) and was told I was a good candidate for it. Labor was super painful, as contractions came on hard and strong - I hadn't felt this kind of pain with Hayley, and it was unbearable!!! When I finally got my epidural, I was still in a ton of pain (I was still in the staging area) and once a delivery room finally opened up they wheeled me in and told me that I was about 8 centimeters dilated, so I should get some rest because it would probably be happening soon. I was still hurting though, and when I finally told the nurse, all of a sudden they turned on all the lights and an alarm went off and I was instructed to move back and forth, open my legs, etc. The whole time I was freaking out, not understanding what was going on. The nurse gave me a really vague explanation, saying it could be one of 3 different things (possibly hemorrhaging) but she wasn't sure which.
...all of a sudden they turned on all the lights and an alarm went off...The whole time I was freaking out, not understanding what was going on.
After awhile, the pain subsided and I could rest...but shortly after, the doctors came in and same thing happened with the alarm and lights. The doctors started maneuvering me around, saying "nope, he doesn't like that side for sure, flip back over" - basically the baby's heart would stop beating if I moved a certain way. After a few minutes, my doctor said, "I'm so sorry, I know this is not what you wanted, but we need to do a c-section." In my head I had been continually telling myself what I tell my friends -- to always keep an open mind and expect the unexpected -- but my heart was still a little broken knowing what I would be going through again. It was definitely less emotional than the first time, though. The good news? For whatever reason, my recovery was a completely different story. Instead of staying my 4 full days at the hospital (I would have, but wanted to get home to my daughter), I went home in 3. I could walk with minimal pain in 2 days and by a week, I was walking almost normally. The doctor also smoothed out my keloid so my scar looks better now, too!
The good news? For whatever reason, my recovery was a completely different story.
As a second-time mom, I’m just trying to enjoy every moment, since I know now how quickly it all goes by and how fast they grow up. As time consuming and hard as it can be sometimes, I know I’ll miss it one day and I’ll never get this time back.
Whew - finally some good news, after what sounds like a grueling and very frightening ordeal! Looking towards the future, I feel like you're perfectly positioned to expand your business into the baby-shower and kid-party sectors. Any plans to diversify, or are you staying true to your first love - weddings?
I would love that! I've done a few first birthday parties - a big tradition in Hawaii - and have had so much fun with that. I'd be thrilled to do more! But yes, weddings will always be my first love.
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