This is part one of a four part series of a young mother’s story. We were so captivated by her journey we knew you would be too.
BS. That was my life before Skylar—total BS. I thought I had my priorities in the right place. I loved my husband (most of the time), and wanted to have three kids to form our perfect little family. I imagined two girls and one boy playing in our green yard, contained in a safe little bubble in the form of a white picket fence…
I look back now and just laugh. I was ignorant, selfish, and terribly insecure. Change is hard. Most times, it comes with growing pains—sometimes even suffering. It forces you to face your worst fears. In my life, that’s exactly what happened.
It was 2007. I had just graduated college, got married, and had a full time job as a graphic designer. I cared about labels, titles, and what people thought of me. I was on a path to “success” and thought I had it all together. My husband and I put every paycheck of mine into savings to go towards buying a house. in 2008, we were able to make that down payment and purchased a beautiful little house that was not livable. You read that right. A beautiful, charming bungalow that needed A LOT of work before we could move in, but we were excited to make it our own. We started working with an architect to draw up plans.
A few months later, Valentine’s Day happened to fall on a weekend, and we took full advantage of it. So much so, that my period was late the next month. In fact, I had gotten the worst bacne (acne on your back) that I had ever known. And my boobs hurt so badly that I wanted to run away whenever someone walked towards me because I knew they wanted to give me a hug, squeezing my small mounds of pain.
After two weeks of weird bodily changes, I sucked it up and bought a pregnancy test.
I was terrified. I even made my husband come into the bathroom with me on St. Patrick’s Day while I peed on the stick. I think I could’ve breathed on it and it would’ve glowed pregnant. I was 24 years old, we had just bought a fixer-upper, and I still felt like I was in college. I even felt ashamed for getting pregnant, but I reminded myself that my husband and I had been married for over a year and we had even waited to have sex until we were married, so we should be free from judgement. The fact that I even had to fight those thoughts made me really sad and aware that growing up in the Bible Belt affected me more than I thought. Needless to say, we did not go out for drinks and spent the next month accepting the fact that we were going to be young parents and our lives were changed forever.
Little did we know just how much they would change. A few weeks later, we had to move into a new apartment (to hold us over until our house was ready) and I did my best not to lift anything, but it was hard. We weren’t ready to tell people we were pregnant, and I’m usually the tough girl, ready to prove I can do just as much as any guy around. It was just me and a big dude I didn’t know, who asked me to help him lift our mattress. In my head, I recalled a story of a miscarriage due to lifting weights but wasn’t sure the circumstances. With no one around to re-direct the request to, I said a prayer and grabbed the mattress.
I know—the shame started pouring in… “You’re a horrible pregnant mom, how could you do such a thing?” That night I rested, and the days following I rested too. I went to the doctor and learned that my placenta had partially separated from the wall of the uterus and I was in danger of a miscarriage. I knew it was my poor decision to lift the mattress and was so grateful God heard my prayer and kept that baby hanging on for dear life. The next two weeks were spent off my feet and the placenta naturally reattached itself. (Side note—I share my story to hopefully encourage some of you, not to anger the comment trolls who want to call me awful things and join the shaming voices we as women and mothers already struggle to fight away.)
Things were looking good. By this time, we had grown to love this little alien baby inside of my belly and were excited to become parents. Our parents were even more excited as this was the first grand baby of our family. There was so much to look forward to! Because I love surprises, we decided not to find out the sex of the baby—because when is there another time that you can actually surprise yourself? So as my petite frame grew to carry a beachball on the front, I grew to love being pregnant and even more so the thought of being a mom.
I was so thankful pregnancy was a 9-month process because the first month was unknown. The second month was all shock. The third month was acceptance. The fourth month was joy and excitement. The fifth month was growing and learning. The sixth month was sharing and showing. The seventh month was doubling in size weekly. The eighth month was getting to know this little one’s personality from the inside. And the ninth month was this overwhelming desire to be done, which trumped the fear of pushing a baby out of a tiny hole that people promised would get big enough.
As promised, my body performed the miracle of childbirth and through the ring of fire, I was able to naturally deliver a beautiful baby girl we named Skylar Marie.
After 25 hours of labor, I was staring at this living, breathing baby on my chest, grateful to be done with the pain, and wondering if they would let me walk across the street to get some Chick-fil-A. I didn’t have the sweet mommy-feelings that I thought I would… I think I was in a little bit of shock and needed some food and sleep, but my husband’s tears made up for it. It was surprising and sweet when he cried as much as he did. After a few days of visitors, we were sent home as a healthy family of 3 to learn how to be parents.
Since our fixer-upper wasn’t close to being ready yet, we had just settled into a rental house that was close by (don’t worry, I learned my lesson and hadn’t done any lifting). The first few weeks were a blur as our house was filled with visitors and I pretty much just ate, slept, breastfed and changed diapers. I was filled with empathy for the lady in the Bible that had been bleeding for years and years… I had no idea how much bleeding took place after giving birth. I just got a little glimpse into what life was like for her, and I am pretty sure I would’ve pushed through the crowds to touch Jesus’ cloak too!
We were finding our routine, but right before Skylar’s one month check up, I noticed that her right arm looked like a chicken wing. It reminded me of a contracture I saw when working with severely handicapped kids that had cerebral palsy. However, I could tell Skylar was mentally present, even though she seemed to have no direct control over her arm. I brought it up to our pediatrician, who suggested it could be a brachial plexus injury and sent us to a specialist. During that two week waiting time before our appointment, I noticed her other arm started to become affected; however, the left arm was slightly rotated inward and hung limp as if it were broken. Skylar never cried, so I was confused by what could be causing this.
When we arrived at the doctor’s office, we went through a series of questions. I could tell that the doctor was asking specific questions about family history and medical conditions, hoping I would say the right answers. Based on his response, I was not giving him what he was looking for. He told us it was not a brachial plexus injury and that we needed to see a neurologist. He assured me he would make phone calls to get us in as quickly as possible and that a call from him could expedite the process. Red flags went up everywhere. Why was this so urgent? As we left, I’ll never forget looking down the dimly lit hallway and seeing the doctor standing in the distance, staring at us with an overwhelming sense of pity that made me want to scream, “WHAT ARE YOU NOT TELLING US?!”
…to be continued in part two here.
Photo of Ashley courtesy of Janet Howard Studios
Photo of Skylar courtesy of Sarah Harms Photography