Little Miracles

In conjunction with the baby shower, Service Soapbox is hosting a writing contest.  This post is my submission.

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My mother’s pregnancy was a surprise.  She was nearing 40 and was not anticipating any more children.  Besides that, we were planning on a move to Alaska.  Moving and familial responsibilities amounted to an enormous stress load placed on my mother’s shoulders.

My mother was a seasoned homebirther–having given birth to all of her previous (8) children in the comfort of her bedroom.   This pregnancy, though, concerned her from the beginning.  Her midwife, after evaluating my mother’s symptoms, suggested she start seeing a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) at our local hospital.

At my mothers 30 week mark, she started experiencing severe symptoms.  One night she began feeling a severe pain that started in her upper abdomen and spread throughout her whole body.  The pain was accompanied by severe nausea.  When the pool failed to alleviate the pain and the nausuea continued, she called her midwife who then directed her to call her CNM.  The CNM advised her to come in immediately. In a remarkable string of events, her home teacher unexpectedly came over and offered her a ride to the hospital and another lady from our congregation arrived to take care of the kids.

After arriving at the hospital, they took her vitals and had her take a urine test.  The L&D nurses (and her midwife) were beyond concerned when they found her urine to be saturated with protein and her systolic blood pressure over 200.  They admitted her immediately, began pumping drugs into her system in an effort to lower the blood pressure and to send steroids to strengthen the baby’s lungs in case of an emergency C-Section.

As I’m sure you have already guessed, my mother had a severe case of pre-eclampsia.  After a few ultrasounds to evaluate the health of the fetus, they discovered the presence of HELLP syndrome.  With this realization, they deemed it safer for the baby to be on the outside than inside the womb.

My brother, Kaden, was born at 31 weeks weighing 2 lbs. 10 oz.

As you can imagine, his low gestational birth meant a long fight for him.  He was in the hospital for 6 weeks and left weighing 5 lbs and with a bunch of equipment (heart monitors and respirator).  Still.   He was home.

Seeing how modern technology saved my brother,  I became quite active at my local branch of the March of Dimes.  While I only did menial tasks like helping send mailers and other paper things, I felt like I was helping an organization that saved my brother.  I felt like I was giving back.

My brother is now 7-years-old. He still bears certain marks of his premature arrival, but overall he is healthy, smart, and quite active.

I guess this is my way of publicly saying thank you.  Thank you people who took care of us while my mother was in the hospital and for the 6 weeks that my brother was in the NICU. Thank you doctors and nurses who saved my brother’s–and my mother’s–life.  Finally, thank you March of Dimes for funding research that made it possible for my brother to be here today.

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “Little Miracles

  1. This is a heavy contender, Amber! Great piece.

  2. What an incredible piece! Thank you for sharing this Amber.

  3. Amber, that’s crazy. I had HELLP syndrome with Miss M.! It’s very rare and incredibly scary, and for a while, we weren’t sure how things were going to turn out, for mother or daughter.

    Luckily, the rotisserie cooker in the NICU kept Miss M. safe and warm and I was able to bounce back, but it was harrowing. I developed HELLP late in the pregnancy; still, Miss M. went from birthweight of 4.3 pounds to 3.6 pounds overnight, so she was in there for a while. But, listening to your mother’s story, I am grateful she stayed in my tummy as long as she did. 31 weeks is scary early to deliver.

    Miss M. was sent home at 3.9 pounds, and I swear, I was afraid of her. I kept saying, “Are you *sure* she doesn’t need to be here any longer?” For her first 6 weeks, we had to dress her in doll clothes, for Heaven’s sake. I still have her Homecoming outfit, and it is ridiculously tiny.

    My husband, to this day, gets stopped by OB-GYN’s who say, “Yeah, we had a meeting discussing HELLP Syndrome and the symptoms/treatment. Your wife was front and center.”

    Niiiice. Great to be known for being a freak, but in a town as small as ours, there aren’t many examples.

    I’m so glad your mother and brother came out on the right side. Someone is looking over her.

    • Kitch, I am stunned that two people (you and Linda) had the same pregnancy complication as my mother. It is rare and to know more than one person is quite significant (statistically speaking). My mother’s experience really scared me. When I became pregnant with Emily, I was sure it was going to happen to me. It didn’t, thankfully, but it did encourage me to make a goal to be done with having children by the time I reach 30. Genetically speaking, my body is more inclined to go down that path and I will do all I can to avoid it. I’m not sure if this goal will insure that I not develop HELLP or pre-eclampsia, but it does give me more reasons to give to inquiring minds.

  4. What a story! I’m glad everything worked so well to get him here as healthy as possible. With every pregnancy I became more worried about complications. Not only did I worry about statistics one day catching up to me, but also what I would do with all the other kids I got laid up for a while.

  5. Wow! What a survival story. (I can’t wait to read Kaden’s birthday letter!) Thank goodness for the March of Dimes (and you) for bringing awareness to complications like these.

  6. Only since becoming a mother have I had an inkling of how mothers of at-risk babies must feel. Your mother – and my mother too (my brother was born with spina bifida) – are brave and strong women. I’m so glad your brother is okay.

    Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts actually wrote today about her own experience as the mom of a NICU baby and about her dedication to the March of Dimes: http://tendollarthoughts.com/?p=734

  7. Wow – what an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us.

  8. thank you for sharing this story!

  9. What an amazing story! I have a couple of friends who’ve suffered from preeclampsia and so I know just a little about how scary it can be. I’m sorry that your mother and baby brother suffered but am so glad that they were saved through quick medical attention! What a blessing. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  10. I’m glad your brother is okay, and I’m grateful for miracles too!

  11. Wow! Very traumatic story. I am glad everything turned out ok. Your mom healed up nicely?

    • Yes, my mother did heal okay. I looked up HELLP syndrome and called my mother to understand the extent of the damage, but apparently they caught everything soon enough that no serious damage happened.

  12. Like your mom and TKW, I also developed HELLP Syndrome and Preeclampsia with my son (a.k.a. Bar Mitzvahzilla). He was born at 29 weeks and was a pound and a half. Although amazingly great and healthy, there are things that have come up lately that have taught me that his early birth and micro-preemie birthweight cast a big shadow.

    • I knew that you gave birth to a preemie, but I didn’t realize how close your story resembled my mother’s experience. Those two pregnancy complications are severe. It is almost impossible to describe the birth experience in such a way to do it full justice. You know what I mean?

      I am grateful that your Bar Mitzvahzialla was okay and is here. It is amazing how being a preemie has such a far reaching influence.

  13. Powerful stuff—and that feeling of gratitude for those who know what to do when we do not runs deep indeed, whether it’s during pregnancy or when our kids are sick and vulnerable and things get scary and somehow the seasoned pros get them through okay. Glad to read that everyone in your family made it through alright… and Linda and Kitchen Witch too.

  14. Nicki

    Wow! This made me cry. I am so happy your brother and mother are healthy.

  15. I love that our life experiences open our minds up to the needs of others. And I love it when people like you learn the life lessons and try to give back. Very cool.

    I went through a similar experience with my twins when they were born at 29 weeks. They also spent six weeks in the NICU fighting for their life and it was a roller coaster of guilt and fear and worry.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for stopping by!

      When I read that your twins were born at 29 weeks, I gasped. I am so happy they are okay. Modern medicine really does save lives, doesn’t it?

  16. Autumn

    You do remember Alivia was premature to, right?? 🙂

  17. Thanks for sharing this. I developed HELLP Syndrome in my second pregnancy at 19 weeks. No, that’s not a typo. My doctor determined I wouldn’t live long enough for my baby to reach viability, so I gave birth at 19.5 weeks to a perfectly-formed tiny little girl who never had the chance to take a breath.

    I now have two beautiful boys–a 31-weeker and a 29-weeker.

  18. Amber, what a wonderful story. I’m glad you shared that. This phrase, “In a remarkable string of events…” really resonates with me. I love stories that demonstrate the reality of the small miracles in our lives.

  19. Stopping by after finding your blog via a google alert on HELLP. I, too, am a HELLP survivor. I had it with my first child, who will be turning 7yo in two weeks. Amazing to think that 7 years ago, I had no idea of what world I would be entering.

    Glad to hear your brother was alright.

    • Denise, thank you for commenting. I was 15 when my mother went through her experience and I will admit I was quite self absorbed. I really felt the need, though, to share her experience. So, while I remember bits and pieces of the story, I called my mom to re-hear the full story. After looking up all her symptoms I was shocked. Now that I have my own children, I can relate more fully to what she, and you, and other women, have experienced.

      Once again, thank you for visiting and commenting.

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  21. ck

    What a story, Amber. It’s easy to take for granted how lucky we are when our kids have healthy entrances into the world. Thank you for sharing your mom’s story and for shedding some light into the work of associations like March of Dimes.

  22. What an amazing story, Amber. I feel blessed every day that both of my children were born healthy despite odds that were against us. I’m also so proud of you for sharing this story and reminding everyone why we need to continue supporting organizations like the March of Dimes.

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  24. philjonesin

    I totally enjoyed your story check out mine called the day my mother died it is how I found your post.