It was one of those days. Both kids woke up cranky, my husband was out of town, naps were too short, someone was pushed into the corner of the wall, milk was spilled at dinner, tears were shed, Mommy was snappy and short, and bedtime couldn’t come soon enough. Ugh, motherhood. There are days were the Calgone isn’t strong enough to take me away. But it’s at the end of days like this that those memories from my first pregnancy come flooding back to me.
I remember the joy my husband and I had when we saw the positive results from the pregnancy test. I remember that first appointment where they confirmed the baby’s heartbeat, smiles spreading over our faces as we began our plans. I remember thinking how I would try a delivery without pain medicine and see if I could do it, just like my mother had. I remember spreading the news – we would be parents and we were ecstatic!
And then I remember our second sonogram. The tech came into the room, doing her routine thing and then hovered – hovered just a little too long, looked a little too close, didn’t say enough to fill the empty space that was growing in the room and then left to return with the doctor. I remember the sick feeling that washed over me when I asked, “Is everything okay?”, only to be answered with, “We just need to take a closer look.”
I remember being sent to the perinatologist’s office and first hearing the word “omphalocele” and asking the doctor to spell it – a word that would become all too familiar to me and one I can now write as easily as my own name. I remember learning that my child’s internal organs were developing on the outside of her body and that she would be born that way. There was no fix in utero. And I remember being so scared.
I remember the doctor advising us not to come home and Google “omphalocele” and hours later, sitting in front of a computer screen with fear creeping into my heart and feeling sick at my stomach at what our future held as I frantically searched online for this new vocabulary word. I remember each pre-delivery doctor visit – perinatologist, ob, neonatologist, pediatric surgeon – each time hearing worse news, each time growing more terrified as we heard the words life-long complications, multiple surgeries, potentially fatal outcome. I remember being told that a C-Section was the only option for delivery. If we chose a vaginal delivery, our baby’s omphalecele was at risk of rupturing, highly increasing her chance at infection and, ultimately, her chances at death.
I remember waking up at 2am almost every night during my pregnancy, sobbing uncontrollably, crawling out of bed so as not to wake up my husband and ending up in a heap of tears on my bathroom floor. I remember my prayers during those midnight hours, “Lord, please get us through this. And if this baby girl lives, please don’t ever let me forget this feeling of utter helplessness. Please remind me daily so I can be grateful.”
I remember writing. My blogging began to keep family and friends informed but it became my therapeutic journal. Somehow, if I put words on paper, I felt a little more in control.
I remember finally picking her name – Harper – after Harper Lee, author of my favorite book, “To Kill A Mockingbird”. And then I remember thinking what it would look like on a tombstone because we were told that was a possibility and the thought being too much for me to bear.
I remember the night before our delivery. I remember trying to act so in control, because if I didn’t, my world would shatter and I wouldn’t make it through the next 24 hours. I remember neither my husband or I sleeping that night, the alarm going off in the 5 o’clock hour, alerting us it was time to go to the hospital. I remember those minutes and hours that dragged and felt like days as we were prepped for delivery. I remember the smell of the operating room, the bright lights, the cold temperature, the sterile feel, the all-too-serious attitude in the room.
I remember her first cries. They were like beautiful music to my ears. She was here and she was crying, which was amazing! I remember seeing her for less than a minute before she was whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and I remember wondering what was next. I remember Jared running off to be by her side because I didn’t want him anywhere else than with our little girl and I remember feeling so lonely, so helpless as they stitched my body back together.
I remember being wheeled into the NICU to see her. I remember thinking she looked strong, like a fighter. I remember whispering in her ear that I needed her to survive, I needed her to fight. I needed to love her for the rest of her life, to watch her grow and run and play, to learn how to dance, to learn how to drive, to walk down the aisle to get married, and to stand beside her and hold her hand when she would one day see her baby for the first time.
I remember leaving the hospital without my baby girl in my arms as she stayed in the NICU and knowing it would be one of the hardest things I would ever face. I remember those days in the NICU, oh were they hard. I remember leaving each day to come home, a hormonal wreck, and sobbing over our dinner each night before we left to go back to the hospital to say goodnight. And I remember the good – holding her for the first time after watching her from afar for so many days. I remember nursing her just a few weeks later. I remember the nurses falling in love with my sweet girl as they so tenderly took care of her and loved her through the hours we went home to crash in exhaustion. I remember the progress she made, how she became stronger, how she grew in the midst of the beeps and buzzes of the hospital. How days turned into weeks, turned into months, and we finally got the news that she would come home. She would come home!!!
I remember that first year, being so proud with each milestone hit. The endless doctors visits, physical therapy, surgery, but having that smiling little face to look at was joy, utter joy.
Today I look at my strong, happy, healthy little girl. She might have a few more scars than other kids but she is GOOD. So, it is those days as a mom that wear and rub on you; it’s those days that I am so grateful for the memories of my first pregnancy. They keep me grounded, they keep life in perspective. And we have so much to be thankful for.
[…] Looking Back On My Unconventional Pregnancy […]
Reading this, wow. I am so grateful that you shared Harper with me and now understand what that really meant. I thank you for your trust in Rachuel and I. For sharing Harris as well. Your children are such a joy. Each with their own wonderful personalities and so loving.
You are such a strong family unit. You are all so blessed to have each other. (Your wonderful Mother included.) You find a way to not just get by, but grow stronger. Thank you for sharing that strength and your family.
Thank you Julie! You are special to our family and I love that my kids have both had you in their lives!
Wow. Tears. What beautiful writing, and what a beautiful testament to a mother’s love, courage and faith. Thankful that Harper (and Kelly’s son) are thriving and that we all were brought together via CMBN.
What an amazing story, Brooke, thank you so much for sharing. I am wiping away tears. This was such a great reminder to be thankful always. I loved your prayer to not forget the feeling of helplessness so you would be grateful. Just beautiful.
Brooke, I have no idea how I’m just now getting around to reading this, but suffice it to say, I have been in awe of your tenacity and drive since first getting to know you as the incoming Fund Development Chair. Though I knew that Harper had this condition, I certainly didn’t know the specifics of your experience. Reading your eloquent words makes me even MORE amazed at your strength and courage.
Sometimes first-time moms forget, in all the excitement over wanting a girl or a boy, that the only thing that truly matters is that you have a healthy baby. Cora’s newborn screen came back showing elevated trypsinogen levels – the marker for cystic fibrosis. I left the pediatrician’s office in tears (partly because I was scared, partly in anger because the pediatrician had waited until she was 3 months old and had a persistent cough to tell us this), and I was such a mess I couldn’t even bring myself to go to work in the days between learning this news and having her sweat test done (which I had to more or less force the pediatrician to order). I was beyond relieved and elated when her sweat test came back totally normal. After that experience, I sincerely understood what it meant to say that all I really wanted was a healthy child.
Harper is so blessed to have parents who fought for her and gave so much of themselves to help her grow into the happy, healthy little girl she is today. You really would not know upon meeting her that she’s had any complications at all, and that is a testament not just to her sweet disposition but to you and your family’s support and tenacity. You all are an inspiration.
Brooke, thank you for sharing your personal story. Libby told me I had to read it and what an amazing story it was, and I am so glad I did. I am in tears :). Being back to school this week, we’ve all been a little “grumpier” than usual at my house. Your first paragraph seems like the story of my life, ha! I need to be reminded of how blessed I am to have these three little boys in my life, and your story did just that. We are so blessed and should thank our Lord, every second of every day, for their little lives. What a joy it is to be “a mom”! Harper is a little miracle and you are a beautiful, smart and great mom. She’s a lucky girl. Thanks again for sharing and for reminding me today to be thankful for every moment!
Wow… Tears are streaming down my face as I read this sitting in the airport. As soon as I pulled it together, I then read your mother’s comments and I welled up again. Remembering the begining of you blog vividly, the tears today are of joy for how healthy Harper is! hallelujah!
I remember too.
I remember what a strong and courageous daughter I had. I remember hearing you tell me month after month that the situation was seeming to get worse as Harper’s omphalocele grew. I remember crying not only for your first child, but for my baby…you as I watch you grow into a woman a faith, of confidence of grace but also as a mother who was full of fear for her child. I remember you telling me I had to be strong because you couldn’t make it if I fell apart. I remember I grew to admire my daughter more than anyone I have ever known and grew to love and respect you with such depth a that my I thought my heart would burst.
And now we have Harper! What joy, what delight, what amazement she has brought into all of our lives. We will never forget. I will only be incredibly grateful to have you as my daughter and your precious little ones as my grandchildren.
I love you all with all my heart,
Honey (Brooke’s Mom)
Thank you Ma – couldn’t have done it without you!
What a story. Gives me chills. So glad your little girl is healthy!
Thank you Katy – so am I!
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