When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Jenn

Jenn and I actually became friends because of our bonding over moving to Texas. She saw my post about moving and sent me a message. A couple weeks later we had a playdate and have been friends since. She told me about this experience the first time we met and I knew it had to be shared. Miracles are real and things happen as a blessing in disguise.
Jenn is originally from Denver, and her little family is from Boise. They currently live in Texas while her husband earns a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has a 7-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son, and 2-year-old daughter (the one her story is about). She works super part-time from home as a paralegal. She likes to read (ok mostly listen to audiobooks), workout at Orange Theory, drink diet Dr. Pepper, and she’s a decent cook, although she would like it a lot better if someone did the shopping and cleaning!

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Sometimes we make a plan and God sends us in a completely different direction.  It is often difficult to understand why life isn’t going according to our own plan, but in time, we can come see the beauty of His plan and not picture life any other way.  One of these instances brought my family one of our greatest blessings.

As we were exploring Greg’s academic options to further his career we learned of a program in North Carolina that felt like the right fit and began the application process as soon as we could.  Several things happened during this time to make us feel like this was the right direction for us to take. In fact, we were so certain that when I wondered aloud what we would do if Greg didn’t get in, he jokingly said we would have a baby!  We laughed and didn’t bring it up again. However, God must have been listening and did what He needed to do to get Charlotte to our family.  

Despite everything feeling like it would be smooth sailing to North Carolina, Greg ended up being denied admittance and asked to apply again the following year.  We were shocked! And I will admit I was pretty upset and angry. It was so difficult to understand why everything had seemed so right when it turned out it wasn’t.  I quickly recalled our conversation about having another baby and felt very nervous. At this time, Parker was only a year and a half old and he was beginning to enter “terrible two” territory so the thought of adding to our family so soon was intimidating.  However, we decided to go ahead and try to get pregnant during the time we were waiting for school applications to open up again.  

I soon became pregnant with Charlotte and was grateful to still be in Meridian, surrounded by good friends and an amazing doctor (Dr. Uranga) who had also delivered Adalynn and Parker.  At around 16 weeks a nurse practitioner ran some precautionary labs because of a rash I had. She said the condition she was checking for was rare and she was not concerned at this time, nor when the lab results came back.  However, after discussing the lab results with Dr. Uranga a couple of weeks later, she decided to run a repeat set of labs since the first were too close to abnormal for her comfort. These results came back outside of the normal range and I was sent to see a high-risk pregnancy specialist.  

The specialist diagnosed me with Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP), a pregnancy induced liver condition which caused my body to have abnormally high levels of bile in my blood.  Outside of pregnancy these levels do not cause problems, but during pregnancy the excess bile could get to the placenta and harm the baby. I was a rare case of ICP for a few reasons: first because while my blood showed high levels of bile acid, I was not experiencing any of the physical symptoms (mainly severe itching) that come with ICP, and also because I developed it so early in my pregnancy, ICP typically does not arise until the end of the 3rd trimester, plus the fact that I didn’t have ICP with either of my previous 2 pregnancies.  Because of this, and the high risk of stillbirth if left unchecked, it was decided that the baby and I would be monitored very closely for the remainder of my pregnancy to keep an eye on my bile acid levels and monitor the baby for any signs of distress.  My blood was taken and sent to the lab at least once a week and I started with weekly, then twice weekly, then every other day appointments for non-stress tests and ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s growth and movement.  

As my pregnancy progressed Dr. Uranga needed to make a decision on when to deliver the baby.  The highest risk of stillbirth comes after 32 weeks of pregnancy, which is still too early for a baby to be born without complications from prematurity.  For weeks we walked a fine line between wanting our baby girl to have enough time to grow and develop as long as possible and needing to keep her from being poisoned by the bile in my blood.  We were truly blessed that although my bile acid levels remained elevated, they never spiked high enough to require emergency delivery and I never fully contracted the physical symptoms of ICP.  I was anticipating the uncontrollable itching to start and got anxious anytime I felt a bit itchy but surprisingly, it never came! We were also so blessed that Charlotte passed each and every NST and ultrasound with flying colors.  Her growth and movement was steady and normal. I trusted my doctor completely and knew she had both of our best interests in mind. Because of all of this I was able to make it to 37 weeks pregnant, the longest Dr. Uranga was willing to let me get because this was the point where the risk of premature delivery was smaller than the risk of stillbirth due to ICP.  

At this point in time Greg had applied to 2 PhD programs and was accepted for interviews at both.  There were a few stressful weeks when we worried she would need to come while he was out of town but in the end, our baby’s delivery date fell right in between these 2 interviews so he was able to be there for her birth without worrying about missing an opportunity for school admission.  

When my C-section was performed Dr. Uranga observed that my uterus had thinned so much it was nearly clear and she could see Charlotte’s feet through the uterine wall, like looking at her kick in a swimming pool.  She told us later that this put me at a significant risk of uterine rupture and she was almost certain this would have occurred had we waited to deliver Charlotte until 39 or 40 weeks like my other 2 children. Uterine rupture would have most likely been fatal to both me and my baby.  The ICP diagnosis and treatment protocol was a blessing in disguise that ultimately saved both my life and Charlotte’s life. I believe ICP was a way Heavenly Father could watch out for us to make sure Charlotte was delivered early enough to avoid catastrophic complications, without causing either of us too much additional pain or stress.  

Now, Charlotte is a beautiful 2 year old who is a joy to our family and beloved by so many.  She is brave and feisty and smart and sweet and we couldn’t imagine our family without her in it!  And Greg was accepted to both PhD programs he applied to and we ended up in Texas instead of North Carolina.  When I first received news of my ICP diagnosis I distinctly remember hearing the words “This is why” run through my head and I immediately knew this baby and this pregnancy were the reason Greg didn’t get into school when we thought he would.  Looking back I can see now that it would have been SO much harder to go through a complicated pregnancy without a doctor I loved and trusted completely. Had we moved to North Carolina as expected I would have been in a small town and I would not have had quick and easy access to the specialist and hospital I needed.    I will never forget Dr, Uranga’s care, instinct, and persistence in making sure we got the best possible care.  

I also know I would have had a much harder experience without support, help, and love from countless incredible friends.  My friends signed up for times to watch my children so I never had to take the other two to my many (and often lengthy) doctor appointments.  They brought dinners and treats that were so thoughtful and specifically for me because my diet had to be closely monitored to keep my bile acids low.  Many offered to be “on-call” at any time of day or night if I needed to go to the hospital for monitoring or delivery. I would have felt like such a burden to dump this onto strangers in a new town but these dear friends we so loving, giving, and supportive I never felt this way with them.  I truly could not have done it without each one of them and will forever be grateful for the love and service they showed my little family.  

None of this was what I had planned or even saw coming but I know this is one of those times when God’s plan for me was far better than my own, even when I couldn’t see it.   I have no doubt that Heavenly Father had his hand in this pregnancy in making sure that even though it was difficult and scary, it was not impossible and did not devastate my family.  When I feel alone or forgotten or like my problems are silly, I remember this experience to remind myself that I am His child, He loves me, I matter, and to trust in Him.

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