Birth: Take 2

Oh my friend, I just want to pull you close and tell you everything. I’ve loved and appreciated every single one of your texts, comments, calls, and messages, but I have been awful at responding. I want to hug each of you and tell you how much your support has meant to our family, but things have been so crazy. I don’t even know where to start.

This pregnancy has been hard. Not in your usual ways—morning sickness, fatigue, reflux— though I’ve had those too. Having a baby wasn’t planned. You probably guessed that just by the sheer timing of it all. David graduated, we had to move and start a new job all in the same month the baby was due… The honest truth is when I found out I was pregnant, I cried. Sad tears. It’s not that I didn’t want a baby. I did. I do. My experience having Dru was the most traumatic of my life. HELLP syndrome changed everything. I was so sick I could have easily never had the chance to be a mom at all. The type of distrust I have for my own body is hard to describe. A dull headache can be the first sign that my body is being thrown into organ failure within hours. A bit of extra swelling can mean I need to head to the emergency room immediately. And here’s another catch even up to 6 weeks after delivery, HELLP syndrome can still occur. It’s a terrible, emotional mind game.

The first and second trimesters I handled things really well. The thought of having another child, when I had been so closed to the idea, was exciting in a way that I never thought I’d experience again. Because complications from HELLP normally only arise in the third trimester, I felt safe in my excitement and hope for the future. What if everything went well? What if I got to have that light, airy picture right after delivery, snuggling a beautiful full-term baby? What if I went into labor, delivered the baby, and took her home the next day? I tried to keep my mind focused on the fact that I had a greater than 50% chance of HELLP reoccurrence. But what if I got my shot at having a normal “motherhood” experience?

What if?

Third-trimester hit and I was a wreck. I felt angry that any day complications could hit and take me away from my family. Over and over again I would make David run through the reasons why we would be able to catch it early and it wouldn’t be so devastating: We have an amazing specialist, I take labs weekly, we know what to look for, etc. But in the third trimester, and as 34 weeks approached, these safeguards started to feel less and less safe and the lines of when to be alarmed were blurrier. There were nights I would completely lose it. What would Dru’s life be like without me there? What if he never knew what it was like to have me as a mom? What if he couldn’t remember how it felt to be so confident in his mother’s love? Where would he think I had gone? How do you explain that to a 3-year-old? I tried to keep my mind focused on early recognition and positivity.

But what if?

Just under 35 weeks we took my blood pressure at home, normally a solid 110/70, was now a mildly elevated 135/90. Just like we had talked about, I headed into the office to get checked out. Given my history of HELLP they sent me directly over to the birth center. I didn’t even go to triage. They checked me in and started running labs. I had thrombocytopenia, but my liver was still functioning well. The doctor basically told us that this was the beginning of the end and that things were going to start going downhill so we should buckle up. I stayed overnight as they measured my kidney function and prepared us for the worst. By the next day though, instead of a quick deterioration like last time, there had been little change. Stable enough to go home, I gladly welcomed a few more nights in my own bed. I began to be checked very frequently. It was becoming apparent that the baby would deliver early because of my health. The question was, how long could we keep her in there and keep me stable. The balance was hard to get my mind around. Every day I wondered if I should go in or if the symptoms weren’t as bad as I thought. I went in for a visit with the specialist and he sent me directly over to the family birth center because it looked like the balance had shifted and the baby needed to be delivered before my body further decompensated. We waited on lab work and the word from the doctor. When things came back she said it was time to induce me due to my blood pressures and low platelets.

We were ready. I was ready to finally get started on finding out the ending to this pregnancy. The labor was long, around 18+ hours, and hard. Being in pain that long is awful. Having a doctor stick a balloon into your uterus in an attempt to dilate you faster is a really painful experience—take my word for it. I started having contractions every 2 minutes starting at 5pm on Friday and labored through an exhausting night. At 10am our little girl was born. Estella Lauren Parker weighed 5lbs 8oz. and measured 19 inches long. They took her from me immediately and called in the neonatologist who whisked her away. It felt disappointing—but familiar. I guess I wouldn’t get that picture after all. David followed the baby to the NICU and I lay in that dark, quiet room alone. So many of my “what if’s” answered.

Eventually, I was stable enough to be wheeled down to see the baby. They told me she had respiratory distress syndrome and a pneumothorax. I think a normal person would show some concern, but again, this chaos and worry just felt familiar. I held her and wondered what she looked like, the CPAP covering almost all of her face. Eventually, I was wheeled away back to that dark room.

Sunday was medical school graduation. David had been up all night with me during the labor, and since I was feeling fine, I sent him home to get some rest and be with Dru before his big day. I had such bad cramps, but of course with how much pumping I was doing to try to get milk in for the baby and with recovery in general I thought, hmm must be normal. Around 2am I got up to go to the bathroom and I felt blood and cantaloupe-sized clots gushing out of me. I called the nurse and calmly asked if she could come see if this was normal. She came in and looked startled at the volume of blood. She said nothing and ran out calling for the charge nurse to come in immediately. The charge nurse came in and explained that the size of my clots and volume of my bleeding was concerning. She pushed on my stomach and forced out a huge amount of blood. They felt like they had done what they needed to do and told me to push the call light the next time I needed to get up. Around 4:30am I pushed my call light and two nurses came in to make sure I was ok to walk to the bathroom. As I stood up I felt blood gush out from under me. I felt light headed and woozy as I heard the nurses yell out the door, “Get the hemorrhage cart and call Dr. Guillicks!” Within seconds the bright lights flipped on and there were over 12 people in the room. “Look at me, look at me, don’t close your eyes!” “Push the pitocin!” I felt a cold burning sensation slither up my arm from the IV. I asked if I could have my phone to call my husband. A nurse promptly told me this was an emergency situation and just then I felt my body start uncontrollably shaking. The doctor reached up into my uterus and dug out clots and left over placental fragments with his gloved hands. For the record, that is much more painful than childbirth. I closed my eyes tightly trying to endure the pain. All I could think was, “No one is here. No one will know what happened to me.” After about an hour of this everyone was gone and I called David sobbing.

The next day was Mother’s Day and it was awful. They took my labs and saw that my hemoglobin had dropped severely from the massive amount of blood loss—and I felt it. And in case I didn’t, the every nurse who walked in the room made sure I knew how “ghostly” I appeared. Throughout the day I was in and out of it as they gave me blood transfusions, which burned my IV so fiercely each time I wondered if I could make it through another one. This was also David’s medical school graduation. I forced him out the door and an hour north to attend the ceremony. Throughout the day I received pictures and videos… But I will simply say that’s not how I pictured celebrating an incredibly long and challenging 4 years.

Without a doubt, the hardest part of this entire experience was being away from my Dru. We were kept afloat by my mom and dad—truly we would have drowned without their support. My mom took Dru to Chuckie Cheese, to buy new toys, out to French fries—he was in heaven. But he and I had only spent hours apart at a time up to that point. So several nights was entirely different. He developed this new, nervous kind of behavior where he would squint and blink his eyes. The hospital really revved up this new tick, his little eyes would continuously blink and blink. Every day I wanted to see him, but bed-ridden and exhausted from the hemorrhage left me a shell of a person. He would walk in shyly and hide behind people’s legs to look at me. “Go hug your mom,” “go tell your mom about your morning”… It was all too much for him…and for me. Finally, when everyone was more preoccupied and less attention was on him he wandered over to the bedside. “Mommy?” Sweet eyes squinting into mine, “You look different.” I can barely type this right now; the look in those nervous, blinking eyes still breaks my heart. In his three-year-old way, he was asking if everything was going to be all right… and I didn’t yet have an answer.

After several transfusions, my hemoglobin began to rise. I finally started to feel a difference. Finally stable enough, I was wheeled down to see my new baby. I snuggled her for the first time skin to skin. I closed my eyes and wondered if we had all made it through the lowest points of this journey. That’s the problem with life, you never really know when the hardest part is over. You have to just keep hanging on. Eventually, I was stable enough to be released from the hospital. I couldn’t wait to be home and play toys with my little boy. I hadn’t slept in days, but that couldn’t take away from the blissful hour of playing trains with Dru.

Estella was still in the NICU, but doing really well. Every 2 hours I would go up to the hospital to feed her. On Wednesday, while walking in the nurse blurted out that the newborn screen came back abnormal. Estella has the same organic acidemia that Dru has. Ugh. A punch to the stomach. I’m not sure why, but I had convinced myself that she was “normal.” Looking back I can’t think of a single reason I had for being so convinced, other than blind and desperate hope for me getting anything “normal” out of motherhood. I’m sure that sounds stupid and whiny… and it is. But, this news broke me down. I sat there quietly through the feeding as the nurses and doctors came by to explain the additional tests they would now be running and the specialists they would be consulting. I tried not to cry, to act like, “yeah, I got this, it’s all that I know,” but the knot in my throat got harder and harder to swallow. We are lucky. I know that. Dru is everything I could have ever hoped for. He is curious and sweet. He is smart and brave. He is utterly perfect in my eyes. I’m sure as I get to know our new little girl, regardless of the challenges she has, I will rave about how incredible she is as well. I wish in the hard moments my eyes could see that more clearly, but on Wednesday it was hard.

I have never had a “normal” experience with motherhood. My pregnancies are a mental and emotional endurance race that have only ever ended in me not getting to hold or see my babies for days, and me ending up in some life threatening situation. Meanwhile, motherhood to the rest of the world seems to be birth videos and serene pictures of new mom snuggling her brand new full-term babe. Nowhere in my realm of possibilities does there exist a labor that is so in control and predictable that someone can film it. The baby is born and it is so lovely, sweet, and precious a moment that it can be put to music. What is that like?? Sign me up for THAT kind of motherhood experience. It’s not even just the pregnancy, labor and delivery, but my sweet babies are considered and called, “abnormal” from the moment the first test results come back. Doctors shallowly try to explain, “We just don’t know,” to every question asked. Completely alone, we embark on an unknown life path. Will she have delays? How severe will the delays be? Will she grow normally? Will she have failure to thrive? Will my life always be so full of questions and concern? At prom will she be embarrassed that she can’t order anything off the menu? That sounds so stupid, right? How have I already cried over that fact? It’s just not “normal,” none of it is. It’s not “normal” to have to carry an emergency letter with you anywhere you go. She was my shot. She was going to be “normal.” I was going to be a “normal” mom having a “normal” motherhood experience, but here I am… trying to act like I’m not devastated.

I excused myself to go the bathroom and I cried so hard I soaked through dozens of those funny smelling brown hand towels. When I calmed down enough to take deep breaths and stop my angry thoughts for a “normal” life I said a prayer. When nothing in life has been clear and chaos is so prevalent, there is nothing more calming than a direct answer from Heavenly Father. “This is your journey.”

This is my story. Not a “normal” motherhood experience that I thought I could will into existence, but this worrisome and sometimes tragic-feeling path. If there is one thing in life right now that I know for certain, it’s that this life plan was meant for me. I don’t necessarily always like it, but it’s mine, it was meticulously planned just for me. These precious, “abnormal” kids—just for me.

I got back to the NICU and finished feeding my little girl. My eyes were still red, despite fanning them to stop the tears. David had gotten the news as well by this point and looked at Estella and said, “It’s funny how it only makes me love her more.”

Me too.

After several more tests, poking, and prodding they let us all go home–only to be readmitted less than 24 hours later for dangerously high bilirubin and to make sure there wasn’t more going on with her metabolic disease. More testing, poking, phototherapy, IV in her head, and a bit of crying (after they stuck her literally 12 times without getting enough blood) and long nights in the hospital.

Finally, we are all home… hoping it stays that way. The first night Estella was home, we were all getting ready for bed. Dru took his medicine, the same medicine he has taken twice a day since birth. Then I drew up Estella’s medicine, the medicine she will take all of her life. Dru curiously came over as I emptied the syringe into Estella’s tiny mouth. “Mom”… a thoughtful pause, a furrowed brow… “she’s just like me?” I had to put the baby down I was sobbing so hard I could barely manage to reply,

“Yes, she is just like you.”

How could I not see? I was so blinded by my disappointment that I neglected to see the real miracle. My kids will never be all alone. Neither of them will ever be the only one who is different. The journey is already looking up. The beauty is already becoming a little more clear. It is not possible to explain how grateful I am to get to snuggle my new baby and be a mom to my little boy. That’s why, for now instead of wishing things were different and comparing my trials to everyone else on the internet, I’m going to continue to distance myself from my phone, from social media, from distractions, and re-engage in my own life.

26 Comments

  1. by Karyn Nash on May 30, 2017  4:26 am Reply

    I still remember reading Dru's birth story and sobbing. Reading through this one, my heart aches for you. I was praying the same way you were; that you would get some kind of "normal" pregnancy and delivery with your sweet baby girl. I am in absolute awe of your faith and understanding of this path that Heavenly Father has chosen for you! You are incredible, your sweet children are incredible, and from what I have seen, you have the most amazing support system anyone could ever hope for. I will forever be praying for you and your family!

    • by Lauren Parker on June 1, 2017  8:19 pm Reply

      Thank you so much, Karyn. I can't express how much it means to me to know I have people like you rooting for me and my family. You are so sweet, thank you for the message.

  2. by Heather Lee on May 30, 2017  5:19 am Reply

    Oh you sweet girl! ♡ I had no idea about your story... and I have no words to adequately express the awe I feel towards you. You are an incredible woman, an inspired writer, and a heroic mother!! I will keep your sweet family in my prayers!! XO

    • by Lauren Parker on June 1, 2017  8:17 pm Reply

      Heather, your comment made my day. That is so kind of you to say. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for your prayers!

  3. by Beth Schaible on May 31, 2017  4:13 am Reply

    Lauren, thank you for sharing your journey through this pregnancy in such a poignant way. I had no idea all you were facing and struggling with, and for that I'm sorry. I feel I could have or should have done more to allow more conversation on your feelings. Lauren, David and Dru, you now have a second child who is NOT abnormal, but is extraordinary, just like Dru, in every sense of the word! And this child has the perfect parents, who will already know some of the nature of her medical course and needs. You can handle this; God has prepared you for it and will help you through it. The blog you shared so reminds me of another that blessed me that was recently shared in a widow's Bible study I attended. It is from Desiring God, and called, 'Embrace the Life You Have'. Should you want to read it, here is the link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/embrace-the-life-you-have
    Thanks for sharing your life with me this past year. I pray for your travel journeys from Fargo, and hope we can stay in touch. I miss you so much. Please give Dru a hug for me and tell him I love him. Thanks for sharing the picture of Dru and Estella. They are beautiful; they are perfect!

    • by Lauren Parker on June 1, 2017  8:15 pm Reply

      Oh Beth, thank you so much. We love you. I can't express how grateful I am for all of the resources and support you have given us. You really, truly changed our lives for the better. Dru still asks when you are coming over next, I will tell him you are sending your love. Thank you for the link to that blog, I will be checking it out! We will be missing you and thinking of you often.

  4. by Witney on May 31, 2017  7:26 am Reply

    Most beautiful thing I've ever read. We love you guys so much! You're amazing!!

    • by Lauren Parker on June 1, 2017  8:12 pm Reply

      You are the best. Thank you for saying that. Love you so much!!

  5. by Tara on May 31, 2017  10:59 pm Reply

    Oh Girly! This was so beautifully written. I cried. You are such an amazing woman and a one-of-a-kind mother. Thank you for sharing your story. 😘

    • by Lauren Parker on June 1, 2017  8:12 pm Reply

      Tara, thank you! You are so sweet, I really appreciate your support.

  6. by Sarah Beck on June 1, 2017  3:50 pm Reply

    Oh, Lauren. This gave me all the feels! I was bawling through all of your post. I love your honesty. We have struggles different than yours, but I really relate to mourning and longing for a "normal" motherhood and struggling with the concept of having an "abnormal" child. Over the years, it's gotten a little better, but I still have moments and times every few days or weeks where that mourning pops up again. You are a warrior mama! As Josh says, "you've got this!" I'm so sad you're moving--I feel like I was just starting to get to know you guys. Hope you keep blogging. Maybe we can keep in touch that way :) Love you guys!

    • by Lauren Parker on June 1, 2017  8:10 pm Reply

      Sarah, that means so much to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I've always admired you from afar. It's always empowering to me have other women that I look up to who can relate to those feelings. I will be keeping up with your blog and gaining strength and inspiration from your stories!

  7. by Jade Stellmon on June 13, 2017  3:59 am Reply

    This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it -- raw and honest and beautiful.

    • by Lauren Parker on June 13, 2017  7:37 pm Reply

      Oh Jade, thank you for saying that. I had such a hard time deciding if it was something I should share, or if it was too personal... with too much complaining. I appreciate your comment and your support so much.

  8. by Jeavoni on June 13, 2017  4:50 am Reply

    Reading that Dru has someone on the same journey as him just made me bawl. What a beautiful realization.
    And what adds to the miracle of your STUNNING babies is that they have a mom who literal almost gave everything for them. Just such an inspiring story of love.

    • by Lauren Parker on June 13, 2017  7:34 pm Reply

      Jeavoni, your comment made me tear up. Thank you so much.

  9. by Wendy Jackman on June 13, 2017  4:51 am Reply

    You're an amazing writer with an incredible journey to share! You are brave and courageous! I just know how much my sister admires you and while I don't know you well, I admire you so much. You are in tune with the spirit, you have showed and relied on your faith, and you are sharing it all the while with anyone who wants to hear it. It is a journey worth sharing and you are amazing! My love and prayers go out to you and your darling family. YOU will teach them strength and show them your unconditional love and that will always make you a super hero momma! XO

    • by Lauren Parker on June 13, 2017  7:33 pm Reply

      Wendy, I can't express how much your comment meant to me. I debated for so long whether or not this was worth sharing, but your comment lifted me from those insecurities. Thank you so much for your incredibly kind and thoughtful words.

  10. by Kate on June 13, 2017  5:07 am Reply

    Lauren you are such an amazing mother. I can't imagine the struggle this has been for you. The Lord loves you and those two amazing children you have been given. You were chosen to be their mother because you are the best person for them. They are beyond lucky to call you mom. Never forget how much you are loved. I love the faith you have and have learned so much from you watching you go through these trials.

    • by Lauren Parker on June 13, 2017  7:30 pm Reply

      Kate, thank you so much for taking the time to write those kind words.

  11. by Katie Crippen Hopoate on June 13, 2017  5:08 am Reply

    From the mouth of babes... Dru is so cute. And Estella is so beautiful. Your journey sounds so hard and frightening, but I can see from your writing; you and David got this. Sending our love and admiration your way. 💕

    • by Lauren Parker on June 13, 2017  7:24 pm Reply

      Katie, I appreciate that so much. Thank you.

  12. by DeNeise Young on June 13, 2017  8:04 am Reply

    Lauren, I don't know what to say except you are incredible. You are an amazing woman and mother. Thank you for sharing your incredible birthing experience. It may not have been the "normal delivery" you wished for, but what a perfect story of faith, endurance and love. I'm so sorry that you have gone thru so much. I'm very grateful that you are still here to raise your sweet kids. My Love and prayers are with you and your sweet family. We love you all.

    • by Lauren Parker on June 13, 2017  7:23 pm Reply

      DeNeise, thank you so much. Thank you for taking the time to read and thank you for your sweet words.

  13. by Hayley Brown on June 13, 2017  2:47 pm Reply

    Lauren you don't know me ( I knew your husband in Provo) but I wanted to say how much your story touched my heart. I have two kids 14 months apart (not planned) and a husband who works a lot or gone for weeks being in the military and most days I feel like I'm drowning but reading your story helped me see things more clearly- this is my journey. You are such an inspiring example to me and Heavenly Father must trust and love you immensely to have you take on all that you're taking on. You are super mom and through these experiences you will be that light of hope to women around you. They will look up to you, like I do. Thank you for sharing your intimate feelings and story.

    Love,
    Hayley

    • by Lauren Parker on June 13, 2017  7:22 pm Reply

      Hayley, I can't thank you enough for those incredibly sweet and thoughtful words. Your comment touched me deeply. Thank you so much.

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