Motherhood: Lauren Walbert's Story
Lauren Walbert became a mom at 31 on February 11, 2020 and her son, Andrew, passed away a few days later on February 14, 2020. Tell us about your journey to becoming a mom. What were some of the hardest times? What were some of the most joy-filled moments?
Dan and I got pregnant on our second try. We were shocked that it happened so fast, since we knew it takes years for many couples. I had a middle-of-the-road pregnancy. There were never any complications with baby, but I suffered from a wicked bout of food poisoning at 8 weeks, debilitating pelvic pain (SPD) from 20-41 weeks, and an unnerving PUPPs rash from weeks 35-41.
I hadn’t ever spent much time around babies and never really had “baby fever,” so I struggled to connect emotionally with my baby while pregnant. I just kept looking forward to meeting him on the other side of my belly. Some of my most joy-filled moments were when I would take a bath and feel Andrew wiggle around. He thought it was play time and would kick my ribs and rear his little butt up toward the sky. Dan and I looked forward to singing and reading to him after he was born.
This was my first pregnancy. I was low-risk, and we had no reason to worry about baby or me. I went into labor naturally at 41 weeks and labored for 17 hours at home before going to Baylor University Medical Center in downtown Dallas (they were AMAZING, by the way). Over the course of the next 5 hours, I developed an infection that eventually led to chorioamnionitis, placental abruption, the disappearance of Andrew’s heartbeat, an emergency c-section, the loss of 2 liters of my blood, and Andrew testing positive for GBS (Group B Strep) sepsis. He was born 9 lbs, 0 oz, and 21 inches long, without a heartbeat at 10:30pm on Tuesday, February 11.
While I was still under general anesthesia, the doctors called Dan (my husband) in to tell him that Andrew didn’t make it. Dan prayed over Andrew with the medical staff, and Andrew’s heart spontaneously started beating after the doctors had abandoned 20 minute’s worth of efforts. We consider this a miracle. It bought us 2.5 very difficult but precious days with our boy. He never moved or opened his eyes. He passed on his own on Friday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day) at 5:45am in dad’s arms.
Share with us your experience of meeting your child for the first time and some of the aftermath of that experience.
I first saw my baby boy while I was drugged up on morphine, antibiotics, and who knows what other drugs after my emergency c-section. After my two blood transfusions were complete and I was stable enough to move to recovery, we took a detour to the NICU. They wheeled my bed next to Andrew’s. He was covered in wires and tubes and just laid there motionless. The staff managed to get me close enough to hold his little hand while the doctor explained the severity of the situation. Andrew had very little brain activity and couldn’t breathe on his own. He wasn’t going to make it, but the morphine in my system made the news easier to accept. Dan didn’t get that mercy; he had to face the news unmedicated.
I got to visit Andrew a couple more times before he passed. When I held him, even with all the wires and tubes everywhere, I felt like a mom for the first time. Somehow, Dan and I managed to stay quite calm those two and a half days. There were tears, but they were tame. No wailing. No screaming. Just shock and heartbreak.
What has it looked like for you to process and grieve this significant, heart-breaking loss?
Lots of questions. Lots of crying. Lots of time on the couch. Lots of condolence cards. Lots of flower arrangements. Lots of silence.
Familiar passages of Scripture and old worship-song lyrics strike me as new. I’ve had to re-examine the definitions to words like “good,” “faith,” “trust,” “endurance,” and “hope.”
I never understood the function of the Psalms or why there are so many, but they are helping me connect with my emotions. I’ve never been an emotional type. I struggle to cry even by myself. Because of Andrew, I’m learning how to create room in my life for my emotions, even when they feel stupid. “My feelings aren’t stupid. My feelings aren’t stupid. My feelings aren’t stupid…” (Bangs head against wall).
In my grief, I’ve realized that I don’t need something new; I need something old and something true.
Sometimes people aren’t sure what to say or how to act around people who have gone through such a heavy loss. What would be the best way to care for you or someone in a situation like yours? Can you share some ways you’ve felt cared for in this time?
Tend to their immediate needs. Then find ways to acknowledge their loss.
Bring food. Email a GrubHub gift card. Send a card. Leave a comment on Facebook. Send flowers. Text a simple, “Thinking of you and [insert baby’s name here] today.” It means a lot when people say Andrew’s name. Take note of the baby’s birthday or the day he died and send a note or text to the mom or dad on that day.
The worst thing you can do is nothing. It’s never too late to reach out to those who are grieving. It might seem like everything already “blew over,” but it hasn’t. I think about Andrew every day. He will never be “old news” to me. If you remember him too, I feel less alone and less invisible. People often say or do things to those in grief that are well intentioned but end up causing more harm than good. What would be things to avoid saying or doing to someone who’s lost a child? Well, I haven’t had much human interaction besides family and really close friends since Andrew passed. By the time I was ready to venture out into the world, the coronavirus had us all quarantined. I’m still quarantined and I’m still on maternity leave as I write this.
However, here are a few no-nos:
· “This was part of God’s plan.” No, it wasn’t. Will God bring beauty from the ashes? Yes, He will, but death was never part of God’s plan. Read Genesis 1-3. Humans are the ones who brought death into the world. God’s plan was and is LIFE (see: the resurrection of Christ).
· “Well, at least…” This one’s tricky because, it’s true, there is always something to be thankful for and things could always be worse. If you must resort to positivity, at least sit and hurt with the grieving person for a long while before you start to look on the bright side.
· Anything about my “angel.” He is not an angel. That is theologically incorrect.
What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
That I am indeed a Christian. I knew that before, because I had made that profession. But sometimes, one wonders about one’s beliefs. The fact that Jesus conquered death and offers resurrection and eternal life to those who place their trust in Him (and to babies) just makes more sense than ever. It’s what I need. It’s the true remedy to my deepest problem (read: death).
I wish I had more answers to this question. I’ve learned a lot about God since Andrew died, but I haven’t learned much about myself yet. Maybe that’s the next phase of grief.
Share the biggest ways God has worked in your heart and shown his character to you through this journey.
The gospels, the Psalms, the beginning and end of Job (the middle is confusing), good worship music, and the body of Christ reaching out to comfort us. Nothing novel, really. In my grief, I’ve realized that I don’t need something new; I need something old and something true.
Also, I have been a little frightened to realize how much the behavior of other Christians influences my view of God. The meals remind me that God is providing and will provide for me. The cards remind me that God hasn’t forgotten about me. The hands of God and the hands of His people are more interwoven than I ever knew. We really are his Body in the world, and it really makes a difference when we act like it. How else will people see God?
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience?
Dan and I struggled to agree on a name for our baby. Before we even knew Andrew was a boy, I wanted a name that meant “brave.” When we finally started brainstorming, I forgot about the “brave” thing and got caught up in what proved to be a very difficult process! Eventually, Dan said he really liked the name Andrew. I was on the fence. One day, I decided to look up what Andrew meant and learned it means “manly” or “brave.” That’s when we knew Andrew was the right name for our boy.
When Andrew was dying and I was holding him in my arms, I told him, “I wanted to name you Andrew because it means ‘brave.’ Now, it’s my turn to wear that title. Mommy will be brave for you.” So, that’s the bond my boy and I will have until we meet again. That’s my challenge for the rest of my life. To be brave for my boy.
Thank you for reading this story of Lauren's motherhood journey. I hope, as we continue the series, your life will be enriched by the stories other moms share.