I’ll start by introducing myself, I’m Lauren, a 31 year old mother of a beautiful 1 year old boy, Dean. I’m married to an amazing firefighter/paramedic, Ryan, who is an equal in this parenting journey. Because of him I am able to work full time as a teacher and function as a mom. Ryan and I have been together since 2009 when we met while living in Myrtle Beach. I grew up in Newcastle, CA (Gem of the Foothills), spent some time in Washington State (Go Cougs), went to college in South Carolina (Go Chants), and now live in Ohio. Yep, you read that right, I ended up in Cleveland which is where Ryan was born and raised. It’s taken some adjusting but I have learned to accept winter. I love it here and it will forever be Dean’s home, which makes it that much more special. In our free time we enjoy traveling, being outdoors, and fixing up our house. Everything was easier before we had a child, a child with special needs.
In March of 2016 our world was turned upside down. I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy but we were managing. To start, I was high risk because I have Crohn’s Disease, next our blood work showed I had a less than healthy placenta, then I got Cholestasis (severe itching caused by pregnancy hormones). I still can’t even write the word without itching. After meeting with a high risk doctor, we created a plan. I was to get weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests starting at 32 weeks and a planned C-section at 37 weeks. Everything looked great at 32 weeks and again at 33 weeks. I was measuring a little small but nothing to be concerned about, so they said.
At 34 weeks we saw slowed blood flow in the umbilical cord, again they said nothing to be concerned about. I can still remember our 35 week ultrasound like it was yesterday. My mom had flown in from Florida and was so excited to be at an ultrasound. We had spent days buying clothes and getting his room ready. But that day something was different, the tech kept stopping on his head. She left the room and I remember telling Ryan, “something’s wrong.” He assured me everything was fine and reminded me that the blood flow in the umbilical cord was fine again. Next, the doctor came in, someone we were familiar with because, well, we were seeing her every week at this point. The tech showed her the spot, now on an ultrasound you can’t really see anything. The brain should look all the same color but there was something different. The doctor thought maybe it was a shadow. After a few minutes it became apparent, it was not a shadow. She informed us that it looked like the baby had a brain bleed and possibly Cerebral Palsy but we would need a MRI to be sure. It was the worst moment of my life. I never understood the term “living a nightmare” until then. Of course, we googled, a lot. I remember sitting in his room, crying, wondering if he would ever even come home. Wondering if and how my child would ever be able to function.
And to add more stress, we had our baby shower that week. Yep, we had to show up to our shower with smiles on pretending like everything was fine. At this point we weren’t ready to tell people. We hadn’t come to terms with anything ourselves and had no idea what we would say. We cried in the car on the way there, we cried in the car on the way home, we cried unpacking the car. It felt like at any moment we should just wake up from the nightmare we were living. A week later we had the MRI. I laid perfectly still hoping that our little boy would do the same, and he did. They got excellent pictures, unfortunately those excellent pictures showed exactly our worst fear. Dean had a stroke and the stroke caused a brain bleed. We met with a great pediatric neurologist but there wasn’t much she could tell us. He had a perinatal ischemic stroke. She said they can cause long term neurological disability, including hemiplegic cerebral palsy and seizure and cognitive disorders. Everything at this point was such a blur. I begged every doctor I saw to get this baby out. They all agreed, no more damage could be done in utero. It would be worse to take him out before his lungs had time to develop. I struggled with the idea that my body was doing this to him. No one could tell us why this happened and no one cared to figure out why. At the time this seemed so odd, how could we not have any answers? It turns out they don’t figure out why. Ryan and I had a blood test to make sure our blood didn’t cause it but it came back negative. I also donated my placenta and it came back healthy. So that’s it, no answers, no reason why this happened.
I’m writing this blog, hoping to share our story. I’d like to spread support and awareness with people who are not only in our situation but with people who have no idea, babies have strokes too.