{Briar's Story}

Let me begin. This is the story of our first born son.  The most precious gift we have ever received from the Lord.

My hubby and I had been married a little over 4 years and we thought it was a great time to begin to start expanding our family.  We have so many amazing friends that are great parents, and we were excited for that time in our own lives.  We found out we were pregnant after a weekend we spent in Savannah, GA with dear friends. Brandon asked me to take a pregnancy test because I was feeling a little funny.  We had only been preventing pregnancy for ONE month, so I knew I wasn't going to be pregnant. In fact, I did my business...put the little test on the counter and went about my business. Brandon yelled, "You might want to come here!" minutes later and I raced back to the bedroom.  What I saw changed our lives forever.
If you have ever been pregnant...you know that feeling. It was the scariest, most amazing, most exciting, crazy feeing I have ever had! (I'm going to be a mom?! Will I be good enough? Are we ready? I thought we were! Can I provide this child everything they need? etc. etc. etc.)  I went to get a blood test the next day that confirmed that I was, in fact, pregnant. Since my hubby was scheduled to deploy a week and a half later, they allowed us to do an early ultrasound at six weeks. When we went in, we were so excited to see the tiny baby for the first time.  What we saw when she placed the wand on my belly was surprising. We saw an empty circle (uterus).  We had never seen an ultrasound so we weren't concerned. After she was quiet for a moment, the ultrasound woman said, "There is no baby that I can see".  Talk about having the wind knocked out of your sails! I couldn't BELIEVE it! What about the blood test? What about the positive pregnancy test? All 8 of them? 
They told me to come back in a week.  What a long week that was. I decided I would go ahead and let most of my good friends know to pray.  We prayed all week, and in the meantime, Brandon deployed overseas. i was devastated, because I knew I would probably find out bad news when I went back.  When I went back to the doctor, my sweet friend Rebecca came with me. We sat in the waiting room and prayed and my pastor's wife texted me scripture. I knew it was going to be okay.  As we went in, I readied myself to see an empty uterus.  As soon as she put the wand on my belly she said, "There's our baby!!".  Rebecca started crying and threw herself on the table...our ultrasound woman started crying, and so did I.  I was SHOCKED. He was 7 weeks gestation, and he was just too small the week before.  The lady the week before had called it a "blighted ovum" which can be misdiagnosed. And this was!
 So began the whirlwind life of Briar Allen Whitis.

At 11 weeks, just 4 weeks later, we went in and got another ultrasound.  Lucky us!  This time, my friend Catherine was with me.  We went in and the ultrasonographer wasn't very talkative, which was sad for me because as my first baby, i wanted to know all about what was going on.  It never struck me that there could have been a problem.  She let us go as if everything was normal.  I remember Catherine saying,  "Whew, don't you feel better now that you've seen that?" because of course I worried about having a healthy baby!
Then we were sent into a room to wait.  Pretty soon, a sweet midwife named Julie came in. She loved my Amy Butler Birdie Sling bag and I remember talking about that for a moment. Then I remember her face got serious and she said, "They see a little problem with the back of your baby's head. It looks a little abnormal. The doctor is looking at it now, and contacting a perinatologist. (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? I wondered!!) I had so many questions. I just wanted Brandon to be sitting beside me. I was so, so, so grateful that Catherine was there.  I was in shock.  I remember walking to the parking lot and Catherine wasn't sure what to do with me ;)  She offered to let me stay with her, to drive me around, etc. I remember thinking that there couldn't possibly be anything wrong. That was at COB on Thursday. Friday morning they called and said the perinatologist was able to fit me in that morning. It was field day at our school, which I was really looking forward to. As I walked my kids out to the field, the office called and I left my kids with another teacher and ran back inside. I got Catherine again and we quickly left to drive over there. I was so eager for someone to tell me it was no big deal....only a small chance it was really a problem.  I prayed and prayed for what the Lord's plan was for us, for our family.  I prayed for a healthy baby, for mistakes in the first ultrasound.

He didn't give me the news I had prayed fo. He told me it was most likely something called Anencephaly.  He said that it is not a condition that is compatible with life. But he didn't feel 100% certain because I was only 11 weeks pregnant. He said he could be more certain if I were farther along. I asked him what the next step was...and he told me I could go to Atlanta if I wanted...just because they might have seen more cases like this and could diagnose it more surely.  Plus, we wanted a second opinion about something SO real.  Although we trusted this doctor, he was incredible, it was important to know for sure (although we prayed until the end that it wasn't true...that the Lord would heal him..)  I was in SHOCK.  My friend Catherine had the foresight to ask the nurse to write down the name of the condition. I am so glad she did. I went home, googled it, and immediately realized the severity of the condition we were dealing with.  It was no joke.  Anencephaly is a severe neural tube defect which happens in the first weeks after conception.  When the neural tube doesn't close completely, the skull doesn't develop and part of the brain doesn't develop.  The brain is usually exposed when the baby is born.  The babies sometimes die in utero, but more common is that these babies live through the entire pregnancy but pass away during labor or very soon after.  The doctor was SO KIND and did not at all encourage any option over another, he simply presented the options to us.

When I went to Atlanta the following week, at 12 weeks, my mother in law flew in from Kentucky (because Brandon was still deployed).  We went to the specialist who was absolutely incredible. I loved him.  He literally sat in our room for about three hours, maybe more. He left two times for about 10 minutes each.  I don't know another doctor who has ever spent so long consecutively with me, apart from during surgery!  His nurse gave me an ultrasound and so did he, and they both could say 100% that I had a baby with anencephaly.  They did not encourage me to terminate. They did not encourage me to keep the baby or carry to term.  They just explained with love what that diagnosis meant, and gave me options. They told me about the pregnancy complications. They told me about how we could induce and they also told me about just having a D &C.  I truly believe that God gave us his mercy by allowing our insurance to say that we could not induce early. I'm not saying we would have made that choice, but we were so hurt, so confused.  I will never judge someone going through something like this, because it is heart wrenching. I know other people, who obviously trust God much more than me, tell me that it was not a second thought in their mind to carry their baby.  we really wrestled because we felt like we were the life support (I was) for this child.  If Branodn gets injured in the military overseas and goes on life support, our choice would be to take him off and let him be with Jesus.  So that confused us a bit. We prayed for guidance and we got it.  I prayed that insurance and our doctors would allow us to know when the time was right. I know that sounds silly.  I wish I could say that this was such an easy decision and we didn't wrestle at all. We did. But we trust that God is good and has good intentions for us. Briar was HIS baby and we wanted to ensure that Briar's purpose on this earth was fulfilled before he went to be with his creator.  

 It was clear to us through his journey that he still had impact to make on this world. We decided to carry him as long as the Lord said to. Sweet Briar began leaking spinal fluid out of the opening in his head. He decided that he did not want to keep the spinal fluid in his body, and instead, transferred it to mine.  I blew up like a BALLOON!! From about 28-31 weeks, I gained a half liter of fluid a week. By 30.5 weeks, i was measuring 41 weeks pregnant. I had several other concerning factors about my pregnancy, not to mention being VERY, VERY uncomfortable!! I asked my doctors about draining my fluid and letting me continue at that point.    They were concerned at the rate at which I was gaining fluid.  It was very abrupt.
There were many complications that I was showing signs that I could have with myself and the baby.  
They ended up doing an amnio reduction and taking out 3+ LITERS of fluid.  PLEASE imagine a 2 liter of coke. Then Imagine another one cut in half. That is THREE LITERS.  That is pretty significant.    
29 weeks
 30.5 weeks!

At a little past 31 weeks, we were asked and it was recommended that we induce because of the rapid rate that I was filling with fluid.  They knew that this would continue at a higher rate as he grew, and although they could do another amnio reduction (which I was hoping for, and sometimes wish that I did), there were just lots of complications that were beginning to pile up.  This was hard for me. In fact, when we were discussing this, I called my mom crying so hard, she couldn't understand me. She thought something was wrong. And it was. I knew then that I was going to have to say goodbye. I wasn't ready. I didn't know if I ever would be.  But I felt an overwhelming peace that it was time.   35 weeks would've been too soon. 42 weeks would've been too soon! I would've loved to have a lifetime with this sweet baby. I was heart broken that I only got a little more than 31 weeks.  But we felt the peace and guidance of the Lord through every step.  Sometimes I meet mommas that judge me...that say that they would have carried to 40 weeks no matter the complications.  And to that, I allow you to walk your journey with the Lord, but this is the way we felt led.  Not because we are selfish or focused on ourselves, but because we were listening to the Lord and to how and when he wanted Briar to enter this world.  It hurts my feelings when I get that...but in this world there will always be pain and judgement, so I choose to stand free from that.

None the less, I gave birth .

But goodness, what a blessing that little guy was to our family!!
We  might not have him with us right now, but he will always be our first born child! He made a huge impact on our family and we are truly in love with the little man we knew for just moments in the scope of eternity!

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