‘I couldn’t grasp how we went from a happy new family of 5 to our world being turned upside down! Our sweet, perfect baby girl went into brain surgery at just 9 days old.’

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“I met my husband at 18 years old, both freshman at our local college. How we met has always been referred to as a meet cute that you’d see in a romantic comedy. He rear ended me leaving the college, we exchanged names and insurance information but not contact information as neither of us knew what we really needed to do in our first ever accident. My best friend ended up friending him on Facebook and messaging him saying who she was and that she really thought he owed me dinner and a movie after our accident. I didn’t believe she had done it but not even an hour after she said she messaged him I received a text asking me out. The rest is history as we have now been married just shy of 8 years, together for 10, and been through a number of trials and tribulations.

Bride and groom sit beside each other smiling
Courtesy Kristina Landrus

We got pregnant for the first time when I was 22. It was a healthy pregnancy aside from terrible morning sickness. I went into active labor on the 11th of May 2013, Mother’s Day. It was a terrible delivery that lasted for 3 days with an epidural that never really worked. Finally, being told I was ready to push, pushing for 4 hours after having not eaten or slept for 3 days, I was exhausted and my OBGYN told me my body wasn’t doing what it needed, and our daughter was in distress every time I pushed. It was decided that I would need a cesarean and at this point both my husband and I felt that was best and we just wanted our baby girl healthy regardless of how she entered this world. Our sweet, perfect baby girl was born at 9:59 p.m. May 14th.

Having it been a C-section they called in a surgical nurse to monitor me as well as the OB nurses once I was wheeled back to the delivery room. Being in a small town, our hospital doesn’t have 24-hour staff, just people on call when they are needed. I remember my husband trying to hand our daughter to me to hold her for the first time and I told him I didn’t want to hold her as I felt really shaky and weak. I desperately wanted to hug her and nurse her right away, but I felt so off I didn’t trust myself not to drop her. It was a couple short minutes later the surgical nurse was going to check my postpartum bleeding as the monitor was indicating my heart rate was high and my blood pressure was low.

As she lifted the sheets, I remember the look on her face, her eyes got large and as much as she tried to mask her reaction, I knew something wasn’t right. She told me she was going to grab an OB nurse to come check as she didn’t know what an appropriate amount of blood after a C-section was as she was a surgical nurse. The OB nurse came in, looked at my sheets and immediately said they needed to call the surgeon back to the hospital as I was losing too much blood. They put my feet above my head as to keep as much blood circulating to my heart. Within 5 minutes the surgeon was back, as well as the anesthesiologist and many nurses. Being from a small town, they don’t keep a lot of blood on hand, they most certainly didn’t have enough for how much and how fast I was losing it. I knew it was a bad situation when there were 10 medical personnel around my bed and they told my husband to call my mother and mother-in-law for support. They also called in the head of the ER, who was not on call, which made it clear how serious things were.

It was decided after a half hour that I would need to be transferred to a larger hospital as they could provide the blood and care I needed. They had called in a life flight who would be bringing blood, so I could have a transfusion while in route to the larger hospital. The problem was they couldn’t get any good veins. At one point they discussed bringing me back into surgery for a full hysterectomy. At 22 years old, I begged them to try anything else and thankfully they did. To add to my desperation, the larger hospital would not allow my newborn daughter to travel there. I made my husband stay back with our daughter at the hospital we delivered at, with his mother. My mom was going to meet me at the larger hospital as neither she nor my husband wanted me to be alone once I was there. At this point it was 1:30 in the morning. I was in shock and all I could think about was my sweet little girl as she was crying in her bassinet not being tended to as they were all trying to save my life. I can’t be mad at them for that, but I remember worrying about her needing me and not being able to do anything about it. I ended up in the ICU trauma floor for a week with 5 blood transfusions. My husband came down the next day as my mother-in-law stayed with our daughter at the other hospital. The following day, the hospital released her to my mother, so she could be brought to me 2 hours away. The best feeling in the world was hearing all the nurses on the trauma floor cooing over our daughter as my mom walked her to my room. Knowing I would FINALLY be allowed to hold my 3-day old daughter!

Woman lies in hospital bed with newborn in her arms while husband leans over to kiss her on forehead
Courtesy Kristina Landrus

At my 6-week checkup my OBGYN said that she couldn’t believe my heart didn’t stop with how much blood I had lost. Do you know what kind of reality check it is to hear your heart should have stopped at just 22 years old? She said they had the charge pads on standby expecting it to happen. The only thing she could contribute to it not stopping was my young age and my good health.

Fast forward 9 months later, we consulted with our OBGYN about getting pregnant again. We never wanted our children far apart in age, and as terrified as I was to deliver more children, I knew they would be better prepared for any future deliveries. We received the all clear to start trying and was told I was in perfect health. It took us about 4 months to get pregnant but when I saw that positive test, I was so excited! Unfortunately, four weeks later I started spotting and cramping. I am aware some spotting is normal, but I never had any with our daughter and I felt that something wasn’t right. They did an ultrasound and right away I knew we had lost the baby. They couldn’t find a heartbeat, but the sac was still measuring correct. In those moments, I was devastated. The sense of loss I felt was earth shattering and I didn’t understand why. Why I had such a traumatic delivery with our daughter, why we lost our second child. What was wrong with me that my body couldn’t do the one thing it was made to do? I think a lot of women blame themselves when we lose a pregnancy, regardless of how much people try to rationalize around you why it happened, it doesn’t make you feel any better. My OBGYN said that she thought perhaps my body wasn’t ready to carry a baby after the situation at my daughter’s birth, that I may have a harder time conceiving and carrying a full-term pregnancy with the damage/scar tissue my uterus would have. She believed I would miscarry on my own with 3-7 days. But of course, my body couldn’t even get that right. We waited 3 weeks in hopes it would happen on its own but at 11 weeks ‘pregnant’ and another ultrasound later for me to confirm a baby didn’t by chance just be missed, it was decided I would take a pill to miscarry. I took the pill before my 24th birthday. Not how I expected or hoped to celebrate that year. We took time to grieve our loss and appreciate what we had together with our daughter.

Jump ahead about 5 months later we found out I was pregnant again! I was so excited but was so so scared of losing the baby again. I noticed I had terrible cramping all the time the first few weeks that I thought for sure I would see blood any time I went to the restroom, listening to my concerns my OBGYN decided to do an early ultrasound to see what was going on. We decided my husband would stay home with our very active 15-month-old and I would keep him posted. Laying down on the table the tech put the wand to my belly, she didn’t even have it there a full 30 seconds, pulled it off and asked me if I was ready? My first thought and words out of my mouth was ‘what’s wrong?’ She smiled, put the wand back on my stomach and said ‘Nothing, but there are two babies.’ I laughed at first asking if she was kidding, then cried while laughing when she said that’s not something she could or would joke about.

I went home and asked my husband to come in the house as he was in the garage. He later said that he thought I was going to tell him I lost the baby again, but I turned his world upside down when I told him we were having fraternal twins. No twins run on my side of the family, how this happened was beyond us. We truly felt that it was a miracle, our rainbow baby wasn’t just one baby, but two beautiful little ones to add to our family! How much mire blessed can we be?

I had a relatively easy pregnancy considering it was twins. We ended up having to deliver them at 36 weeks as neither passed their non-stress tests. I was terrified that something might happen to me at delivery, but we had opted to deliver at a larger hospital who was well equipped if I had complications and who also had a NICU in case one of our twins needed it. As our local hospital didn’t have either. I could not and would not be separated from my newborns again! We delivered two beautiful baby girls on June 4th, 2015. Even with being premature neither needed the NICU and were able to stay in my room the entire stay. Payeton, baby A, did fight jaundice and maintaining body temperature a little so we stayed for 5 days after the section when three days is average. We were all discharged with a clean bill of health but with checkups at our local hospital for the twins sooner than their two week checkup. The following day at their checkup Payeton’s bilirubin was up again. They admitted her, so she could be under the lights. After a 24 hour stay, they were back to normal. We were again, released with instructions to come back the following afternoon to check up. The next morning, I thought Payeton once again looked yellow as did my mom. I brought her in earlier than their scheduled appointment and again her numbers were high. A 24-hour stint, numbers were back to normal and we were sent home. Later that night I noticed she again looked so yellow compared to her sister. I brought her into the ER, they took her bilirubin and her numbers were high, again. But this time her temperature was far lower than they wanted. I believe it was 92 or 93 degrees. We were again, admitted for the third time and they said they would be keeping us for the weekend. My husband stayed home with our oldest daughter and our other newborn while I stayed at the hospital with Payeton.

On Saturday morning our family doctor came in and said they felt that Payeton should be checked out at the pediatric unit at the hospital we delivered at as they couldn’t determine why her bilirubin’s and body temperature hadn’t leveled out. Payeton and I were picked up by an ambulance and transported to the larger hospital 2 hours away. My husband waited for my mother to show up and watch our oldest and would follow down with Payeton’s twin as soon as possible. Shortly after our arrival the pediatrician requested a spinal tap as they were concerned, she may have had sepsis. When they drew her spinal tap, they noticed old blood came out first which is not typical in any healthy person. My husband had shown up during the doctor explaining this with our other daughter and right away asked if Payeton’s head had always been larger than Alexa’s since birth. It hadn’t been. They were almost on point for height, weight and head circumference. She ordered a head ultrasound. At this point I had gone from concerned to extremely worried. Shortly after the ultrasound tech left the doctor came back in looking far to somber. She informed us that Payeton’s ultrasound showed a grade 4 brain bleed, it appeared old, as in it probably took place in utero, they believe that’s why she wasn’t passing her NST, that Payeton would need to be life flighted to the Children’s hospital four hours away. We were told the neurologist and doctors down there would discuss the next steps that would need to be taken. I sat down, holding Payeton and cried uncontrollably. Apologizing to her for letting her down and again, not understanding how this could have happened while I carried her, where she should have been the safest. I was yet again, separated from my newborn daughter as they wouldn’t allow me to fly with her. My husband, myself and our other daughter drove the 4 hours as soon as we watched the helicopter leave the landing pad. It was the longest 4 hours of my life. Having no knowledge on a brain bleed, not understanding what this all meant.

Finally, having arrived at Children’s we were led to Payeton’s room in the NICU and spoke with a neonatologist. She had a terrible bedside manner, or maybe I was just too emotionally drained, but she came off as harsh and unfeeling to me. She said in her 34 years of work she had never seen a brain bleed so severe, didn’t know what kind of quality of life she would have and said it would be very likely she would be in a vegetable state for her life and we would be caring for her. She also informed us the neurosurgeon and his team would be in shortly to discuss surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain.

I couldn’t grasp how we went from a happy new family of 5 to our world being turned upside down! Our sweet perfect baby girl went into brain surgery at just 9 days old. We ended up having a 6 week stay at Children’s. We were 4 hours away from home, with no family nearby, trying to figure out what to do with our very active 2-year-old as the hospital had a strict 15-minute daily visit for anyone under the age of 12. My husband was our only source of income as I am a stay at home mom. We had allotted 2 weeks for my husband to miss work for the twin’s arrival. We had enough in savings to cover two weeks missed and then some, but that was quickly eaten through with extended hospital stays, travel and food.

In the beginning of our stay at Children’s I was in my darkest days. I couldn’t understand why us, why did I almost die during child birth, why did I lose our baby, why was another one of my sweet babies struggling? I would do anything, and I do mean anything, to switch places with my sweet perfect baby.

Newborn girl laying in NICU who needs brain surgery
Courtesy Kristina Landrus

And the strain it put on my marriage. I can completely understand why some couples break under the stress of a sick child. We have truly learned the definition of unconditional love, we have seen each other at our highest and our lowest as we learned to accept and process what was, each doing it differently but loving each other through it. We had many difficult moments and conversations, sometimes mean to one another, sometimes the others shoulder to lean on. But thankfully, always coming out of it appreciating and loving one another.

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps I may never really understand why we have been thrown so many curve balls, but I am truly blessed. Payeton, thankfully, is healthy and happy.

Mother sits in hospital holding newborn daughter who had brain surgery
Courtesy Kristina Landrus

She talks, walks, runs, just like her sisters. All of things some of the doctors truly never thought she would do. We do extensive therapy to keep her on track, but she amazing. All three of our daughters are amazing! I try to hold steadfast to my faith, I won’t lie and say that it hasn’t faltered but I believe that my faith is what got me and our family through some of our most trying days. I would still love to have more children but worry about what will happen if we do. Being 3 for 3 in regards to traumatic pregnancies doesn’t seem promising. And if we choose not to have anymore, I will always know how blessed I am to have the three little girls that call me mommy and a husband who supports me, understands my flaws, accepts my ridiculous anxiety over things I cannot control, but continues to love me so fiercely.”

Husband and wife stand holding two of their young girl's while their oldest stands in front of them
Courtesy Kristina Landrus

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristina Landrus, 26, of Minnesota. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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