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I’m Just Thankful to Be Alive

My daughter turns fifteen on Tuesday, the 21st of November. She is our Thanksgiving baby, born the Friday before the Thursday that year.

 

Both of my children were preemies and have harrowing birth stories. We have spoken often about the start of their lives and how both strangely almost coincided with the end of mine. They know these stories well. But with every year older, there are new details that can be shared, or old details that hit them differently with another year of experience and maturity.

 

This year’s pre-birthday reminiscing focused on the days and hours immediately before Berk was born. And now, I’m telling you. First, because it is one heck of a story and second, because it is in the telling and re-telling that my own faith and courage are stirred again. And friend, my current circumstances warrant a Kitchen-Aid for all the faith I need stirred right now.

 

I had HELLP Syndrome with both of my children—Hemolysis, Elevated Liver, Low Platelets. This is a life-threatening condition marked by acute hypertension, liver failure, and low platelets (blood will not clot). This is further complicated by the cure, deliver the baby via C-section…and risk bleeding out. It is not good. With my firstborn, mini-strokes, liver damage, and some very scary days praying my platelets would come back up after delivery made a lasting impression. He was born at 32 weeks, 2 lbs 14 ozs.

 

Pregnancy with Berk was different. Or at least I hoped it would be. There are much longer backstories here that I will spare you but briefly, you should know this—I wasn’t supposed to be able to have children at all. I had known since college that adoption or fertility treatments would be a part of any family the Lord allowed me. Shock of all shocks when we found out I was pregnant with Emerson. But let me tell you what, even bigger shock when we found out I was expecting again.

 

My kids are 17 months apart. I thought I would make it further the second time. I wasn’t working full time anymore on my feet teaching. I had family to help and watch over me this time. Berk was born at 28 weeks, 2 lbs 40z.

Berkley on her birthday, November 21st, 2008. Only Andy and grandparents got to see her for just a minute that day. I didn’t see her for a couple of days.

 

There was a lot of symptoms I missed the first time around, but honestly, I had an easy pregnancy with Emerson and felt very good. Until I didn’t. And then I felt very bad.

One of things that didn’t make sense until looking back over everything was the nosebleeds. I have normally very low blood pressure, so it never registered high until Emerson was born. But I would get the most sudden and awful nosebleeds, like horrifying, go to the ER nosebleeds. Hello, high blood pressure, low platelets!

 

 

On November the 18th, 2008, I felt okayish—not bad enough to stay home but not great enough to do much other than a quick trip to the grocery store. I remember walking across the parking lot and I bent over to pick up Emerson, who was seventeen but really an adjusted age of fifteen months at the time. My nose started bleeding right on his beautiful blonde head and I knew. I just knew in my gut, in my spirit…I was not okay.  I already had weekly appointments with a maternal-fetal specialist, and I had one scheduled the next day, but I called that afternoon and went in anyway.

 

A stress test. Some lab work. And the all too familiar, “We are going to go ahead and admit you on bedrest for a few days.” Ha! I had heard that before and I knew it really meant there’s probably a baby coming sooner rather than later. But I hoped that because we caught it earlier this time, Berk would be able to hold out a little longer. Scary things can happen under 30 weeks. I do remember being told that as a comfort when Em was born. Maybe bedrest would really be just that this time.

 

Nope. Not so lucky. In fact, less lucky this time.  On the evening of the 19th of November, I was moved from the antepartum floor to Cardiac ICU in heart failure.

 

I will tell you what happened in the next post but let me say for now…fifteen years later and I am honestly still just so glad my daughter, and son before her, and I are alive. None of those things were guaranteed.

Berk was over a week old when this picture was taken. She was so medically fragile that kangaroo care (skin to skin contact) was not something we got to do right away.

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