Monday, November 17, 2014

Hope Rekindled: An update on Brielle

God is never late in answering His promises.

Some answers take a very long time, though. Much, much longer than we expect, want, or hope for.

However, I continue to see His faithfulness, even when I begin to lose faith myself. And just when I need it the very most, He swoops in to catch my heavy heart before it falls. It is true. He is a good and faithful friend to me. He is a compassionate Father that never abandons or fails. He is quick to hear us, and eager to care for our needs.

It's just not on our timeline.

I've been quiet on Socialmedialand. Intentionally quiet. Mostly because, for many months,  I have not been sure what to say. When people ask how our daughter is doing, the same daunting response fumbles from my lips: nothing new... keep praying.

I wrote a very lengthy blogpost recently about that; sharing the longing, anxious, dark moments I've felt lately regarding Brielle's health issues. But I just couldn't bear to post it. It was too close to home... too depressing. I felt myself slipping close to hopelessness.

But then, something happened.

Brielle is still Brielle, nothing has changed there. But I firmly believe the Lord orchestrated a series of events last week that is finally bringing a glimmer of hope to her situation and progress.

You see, we've been feeling abandoned. Not by God, or our family or friends (quite the opposite)... but by the medical world. Doctor after doctor, hospitals, therapists... all dead ends. Silence.
I've dealt with some anger and frustration. Feeling as if they've dropped our sweet daughter by the wayside. Why aren't they being proactive? Why aren't they doing more to help her? Do they know what's wrong but are avoiding telling me? Do they know more than they lead on? What happened to "do no harm"? Is neglecting and ignoring her needs harming her?

I didn't know what to do. I felt as if we were flatlining in what to do for her. I felt like I was flailing around in the darkness. I felt like a failure as a mother. I felt like my prayers were muted. But at the same time, I hesitated. Sure, we had her in therapy... but that hasn't seemed to make a big difference. What next?

So, we prayed.

And last Sunday, I felt an urgency to ask our pastors to pray over her (again). She had been having some mild febrile seizures quite often that week and I was just desperate. I knew going to the hospital wouldn't help. And she's seen most of the other doctors and specialists. But "riding it out" and not DOING anything about it just seemed unthinkable to me.

So we pulled aside one of our pastors, and mentioned our concerns (he also happens to be a nurse and knows Brielle's situation well). A few other friends were standing by listening. All of them, in agreement, suggested seeing Dr. Nabulsi here in Midland. Their kids all went to him and they loved him. He also seemed to have a knack for the difficult cases. However, there's a catch: his waiting list is about a YEAR long. So, we'd have to pull some strings... and pray. A lot.

Over the next 24 hours, my friends called to refer Brielle, and they also sent him a personal email, pleading for our daughter's case. Then I called to set up the appointment. They turned me down... flat. No exceptions, no mercy. I was heartbroken. I felt as if my one glimmer of hope was completely shattered. I cried. Then we prayed some more.

Then, hope rekindled: The doctor read my friend's email, and asked to call me! Within hours, he called me asking all sorts of questions, then asked for ALL Brielle's medical history and records. I spent hours compiling emails, pictures, and records to send him. Six emails actually. SIX. "Surely this is overkill," I thought. "There is no way he is going to read all this."

Two hours later (at 8pm, mind you), he's TEXTING ME asking for even MORE info! I have never ever in my life received such personal communication from a doctor. After 30 minutes of texting him answers and pictures of Brielle, he ends with. "Ok, you need to come in. Tomorrow if possible."

I was floored. God was moving, in a hurry. To have such a well-known pediatrician-- who specializes in difficult cases-- take such personal interest in our daughter... it's truly a miracle.

We went in the next day, fully expecting the receptionists to give me a difficult time or at least bombard me with questions. I said a silent prayer, "God, make a way where there is no way... I will give ALL the glory to you, if this doctor is the right one for Brielle."
...And sure enough, they just handed me my paperwork and waved me on as if I was royalty, no hesitations.

"Thank you, Lord!"

At the end of our appointment, after sharing his observations and suggestions, Dr. Nabulsi looked at me and asked, "Do you have any other questions?"

I literally felt weight lifting off my shoulders, "Actually, for once... I have more answers than questions."

I share this God-appointment with you, not to turn this doctor into our Savior. He isn't. He is just a man. But he is a man that God has placed in our path that has a gift and talent, and at the very least he has connections to those who can help even more.
But most importantly, he is compassionate, driven, and proactive. Qualities I have not often seen in our journey with Brielle (unfortunately). I expect him to follow her case until we find the right answers and get her the help she needs to thrive. I am so incredibly thankful that even though we don't have any more answers than we did two weeks ago, at least we have three important things in place now:

2) Direction, a plan of action (see below).
3) Direct support from a knowledgable doctor who is determined to walk alongside Brielle.

If you're still with me reading this, here is an update on where Brielle is now, and what we have planned in the foreseeable future for her medical care.


Reality is sinking in as we are nearing Brielle's second birthday in just a handful of weeks (Christmas Eve!). Even the thought of planning her birthday leaves me feeling anxious. When I see children her age running, talking, playing... my heart is heavy. She isn't like the rest of them.

Sometimes I fear that I will get our answer and not like it. I fear the answer could only bring on more questions and concerns. I want an answer, but I don't.
Don't get me wrong, I know it could be worse. It could always be worse. I have seen the pain of "worse" in many friends and family. I am very grateful for the gift of my daughter, her health, her cheery demeanor. I wouldn't trade her for anything. I don't take those things for granted, because we aren't promised earthly perfection, nothing in this life lasts. We must hang our hope on the promises that are eternal, in Jesus.

Brielle is now 22 months old. And I so desperately wish I could share a new milestone since the last update... but I can't. It pains me to say that.
She is severely behind, globally, in development. Grueling and painfully slow progress, if any at all. She seems to have 'stalled out' developmentally, and uninterested in, well, most anything. She is well over a year behind now. She's around the 8 month mark in almost all areas. Her muscles are very weak, and it's still hard for her to sit up, let alone the occasional "scoot".
On top of that, she continues to have mild febrile seizures (we believe they are connected to when she's teething/low-grade fever), which seem to complicate things.

We celebrate the smallest of milestones. She started helping to turn the pages during our book reading time this week. She gives us a "snuggle" every night before bed. A hint of understanding - there is definitely intelligence and even some wit and feistiness hidden in this tiny package of a girl. Every little glimmer of hope is huge.

Dr. Nabulsi believes that the seizures may actually be causing her developmental delays. He wants us to do a second EEG in Dallas (the first one was done in Lubbock when she was overnight at the hospital). He is convinced that something should have shown up on that. He also wants her to have an MRI to see what, if any, damage has been done to the brain.

If his observations are accurate, he wants her on a low-dose of anti-seizure medication for at least six months to help her body "normalize". He thinks the seizures are 'handicapping her' and not allowing her body to grow and develop like it should. Removing seizures from the equation for a while (coupled with intense therapy), he hopes will give her the boost she needs to catch up and get back on track. Although I'm not a fan of medicating my child on a daily basis... I'm also hopeful and quite relieved that this could be a fairly "easy" fix, if this is really what's causing all the problems.
Genetic testing has been set aside for now, though we will go that route if we rule out the seizure connection.

We covet your prayers, for logistics/travel for the tests, for God's provision, for our family as we juggle everything in order to care for Brielle the best way we know how. Therapy is starting to fill up our weeks, and the other appointments I'm sure will add to it. Pray for strength and endurance, and most of all, for our sweet daughter's healing and wholeness. We so desperately want to see her thrive and grow as God intended her to, whatever that looks like for her. We know He has a very special plan and purpose for her life and for us as a family.

Thank you for asking, for caring, for praying, for reminding us of His Word and promises. It's what holds us together when it gets tough.

Oh, my sweet Brielle.
I am standing on His promises. He is never late, He is ever-present, He is always faithful.

The name Brielle (derived from Gabriel) means "God is my might", or "God is my STRENGTH".
I am claiming strength, through the Lord, over her body and mind... in Jesus name.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

our drummer boy

I just watched Judah's "Judah's First Year" video from his time in the NICU and his progress at home. It was the first time in a long while I had watched it, and, after crying like the blubbery hormonal mother I am, was humbled at how gracious our God has been to our son these 3.5 years he has been in our family! He went from a tiny one pound squishy micro-preemie, to a growing infant who had a lot of catching up to do, to the boy he is now that doesn't even show a hint of "preemie" in him, either by physical attributes, health, or development.

Judah is now a spunky, bright, energetic little guy who loves people, has a sweet and sensitive demeanor, and just a hint of mischief! One moment he turns to me at dinner and says "thank you for making dinner mommy" (oh melt my heart!), and the next moment he's flinging potatoes with his spoon. Love that kid so (drives me crazy too!).

One thing we noticed maybe about a year ago, is his growing musical inclinations. Well, inclination might be a grand understatement. It is in his blood. I am not calling him a prodigy child by any means, but this kid has rhythm. It's in his soul, he has to be tapping, beating, beat-boxing with his mouth, wiggling and dancing, or drumming on whatever he has in front of him (drums, table, floor, himself, other people), at all times. It is physically difficult for him to stop and sit still for more than a few moments!

I may be investing in ear plugs before long...

Here's a fun little video I took about a month ago that cracks me up. Most of the time, he either sings worship songs he hears on the radio, or makes up his own words and "ewok language" to sing along while drumming (like the last part of the video)... but this time he made up a legit song about monkeys. ;)

If you need interpretation: "We go to zoo, we see monkeys, and ooooh hah hah hah, and a diggabow!"

Thankful to Jesus that I'm this boys mother! :D

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slow but steady mini-milestones: Update on Brielle

Update on our sweet girl. We are now in full swing with all sorts of therapy every week, and though it seems progress is slow, Brielle continues to gain strength and endurance and we are celebrating "little" milestones along the way. All her therapists think she is smart, engaged, and responsive and they anticipate her to do very well and make big strides to improve.

Brielle is now 19 months and just as charming and delightful as always, getting a little more vocal and a LOT more personality!

We have seen two significant mini-milestones in the last month and we are thrilled to see her attempting new things and trying to be more independent and mobile.

Milestone #1:
She has been pulling into sitting independently (when she feels like it, maybe a few times a day). She surprised me a few weeks ago when she tried to do this by herself (we had been working on this in therapy but never tried without me initiating it for her). Seemingly small but a BIG deal for this little girl! In this video, this is the first day she did it, and she even performed for the camera! Impressive :)

Milestone #2:
I would define as "scootching", or what most people might define as dragging herself across the floor, haha! Not full-fledged crawling, and certainly not consistent, but still progress!
Now, this only happens when she is reallllyyy motivated by something. And what motivates her are usually two things: FOOD, or things she shouldn't have (brother's toys, paper, specks of whatever she finds on the floor, etc.). But mostly food. This girl LOVES her food, and can easily pack away more than her 3.5 year old brother eats on any given day... two hollow legs? Possibly two hollow arms as well? ;)

I have noticed her trying to pull her knees under more, so perhaps it won't be too long until she is using her legs more than arms to crawl in the near future.

Honorary mini-milestone: First itty bitty piggy tail! I've waited 19 months for this cute baldy to have enough hair! :D

We are stillllll waitingggggg for our developmental pediatrician and geneticist appointments. Doctors and paperwork can be as slow as molasses here in Texas sometimes. We hope these visits will happen before too much longer though.

Concerning her seizures, though we can never know for sure, we suspect that they may be connected to very low-grade fevers when she's teething. She was cutting a molar the weekend she went to the ER. Her fever must have been so low it didn't even appear she had one. Two weeks after, she cut the other molar and had several shorter and less-severe seizures over a 48 hour period. At that point a lightbulb went on as I made the connection. That gives us hope that perhaps at least it's not random and we may be able to expect it and possibly prevent it in the future. Keep praying for closure and answers there. We have a follow-up appointment with the neurologist in Lubbock on August 8th (our 6th wedding anniversary!).

Then, the following week, we head to North Carolina to see Jonathan's family and our new little nephew! Very much looking forward to that visit and time together, plus, this will be our first big airliner flight as a family!

Thank you for your continued prayers, they are certainly effective and appreciated!

Friday, June 27, 2014

update on Brielle: a crazy week with a hope-filled ending

Well, what a week this has turned out to be!

What's even more amazing is that God already knew what this week would look like for us, what the outcome would be, and He paved the way ahead...

Last Tuesday, I (Charisma) had my wisdom teeth removed as scheduled (fun times, yay). Jonathan was off for the week as planned to help with the kids and give me time to recover. So thankful for his care over our family!

Saturday (June 21st) was the first day I started to feel normal enough to venture out, so we ran some errands, took the kids to the library, and had a late lunch at CiCis pizza.

At 2pm, we were waiting in line to pay for our pizza, when Brielle had her first "event". I call it that because I had witnessed similar episodes so it didn't immediately alarm me.
This past Spring, she has had a handful of what I call, "absence seizures", or "spacing out episodes", where she would kind of tense up, get a little jittery and look really focused, as if she is trying to pass gas or something. But her arms and legs would still move as normal, and she would still make eye contact. After doing some research and discussing it with her doctor, none of us were concerned about them immediately.

However, the episode last Saturday was different. She completely stiffened, including extremities. Her eyes were glossy and unable to make eye contact, her breathing slowed or stopped for about a minute, and afterwards she was so lethargic, she fell asleep. I tried to feed her because food has always been a major motivator for her (ha!), but she wanted nothing but sleep. I woke her up 15 minutes later and she ate normally and seemed herself again. I assumed because it was past nap time that maybe she was just extra tired. I'm not sure if at that point I realized that it was a more serious seizure, or if I chalked it up to just another spacing out episode.

Once we got home, the kids went down for naps, and Brielle slept for about 2.5 hours, which is normal. A little bit after I got her up, at 6pm, she had another seizure. Then at 7:45, 8:45, 10:00, and the last one sometime around midnight (after we got to the ER).

Once we realized there was a pattern and they were happening frequently, we called a local friend (who was a nurse) for advice, and while we were on the phone, she had her most severe seizure. Even though she never had convulsions, she seized long enough (maybe 1.5 minutes) that her lips starting turning purple, eyes started rolling back in her head, and for a moment got floppy and almost lost consciousness. That was a terrifying moment as I considered doing CPR and calling 911. However, she came back to us and we realized this was very serious, and if the trend continues, we may only have about 45 minutes to get to the hospital, so we immediately drove to the ER.

Now, I need to pause the story here to thank God for our church family, Sovereign Grace. Not only did we have tons of people praying for our daughter, but we had Mike & Alan show up at the ER right along with us, and people calling the ER to inform them that we were coming.
Pastor Billy not only called and checked in on us several times, but spent the majority of the night awake because of his concern for Brielle, praying for her, and at 4am SHOWED UP at the hospital to be with us and pray with us. I have never met such a compassionate and spiritually-sensitive pastor who is that in-tune to people's needs. He blessed us so much by caring so deeply during a difficult moment, and ACTING selflessly in response. Thank you Billy!

It was providential that we were in the ER on Saturday night, because by Sunday morning we probably had a dozen churches across the US praying for her during their morning services, not to mention hundreds of individuals all across the states and even internationally! We had messages coming in all weekend long offering help, including quite a few who offered to take care of our son while we were with Brielle.

Brielle was a champ, enduring the countless nurses and doctors poking and prodding her all weekend. While at the ER, she had a CT Scan and blood tests. Exhausting their resources, they felt she should get transferred to a children's hospital in Lubbock, that also had a neurologist.

I (Charisma) rode with Brielle in the Ambulance transferring service while Jonathan went back home to be with Judah and give him some stability and normalcy for a while. We figured there wasn't much use in both of us sitting in a hospital for possibly days, unless an emergency arose and then of course he would come up. And we didn't want our son bouncing from house to house not knowing where his parents were.

Side Note:
Now both my son and daughter have exciting stories to tell about their hospital stays! I was life flighted by helicopter just hours before Judah was born, now Brielle has her own story about riding in an ambulance! (We had the option of taking a jet, but didn't feel the urgency to go that route.)

At the hospital, Brielle had another round of bloodwork, an EEG (both 1 hour and overnight), and EKG. Every single test came back negative... she is the healthiest 'sick' little girl I know, apparently ;)

No more seizures to speak of (almost a week later), and she has been her normal sweet self, which we are so grateful for. We don't have the answers yet, but we are thankful to God for...

- the caring and thoroughness of the staff at both hospitals, and the ambulance team
- the timing of Jonathan already being off work for the week, and his boss who did his best to try and get him an extra day off
- that I was mostly recovered from my wisdom teeth surgery, and able to be with Brielle and take care of her
- everyone's prayers, and those that went out of their way to help us in practical ways, like watching Judah, money, food, encouragement, visiting at the hospital, etc.

So remember how I told you that God was paving the way? Aside from things already mentioned about the timing... would you believe that He also orchestrated the financial side of it? And His care for Brielle's other developmental needs?

When Jonathan checked the mail on Monday (Brielle and I were still in Lubbock), there was a completely unexpected check for a significant amount in there from a family member. It was sent "just because", before Brielle's first seizure had even occurred! THAT, my friends, is how God cares for His children (and possibly shows off a little ;)

Also, another providential blessing... had Brielle not had those seizures, it may have been months (if ever) before we would see a neurologist or any specialized doctors for her developmental delays. Dare I say, I am thankful she had the seizures (though I certainly wouldn't want her to have another!), if that means we now may find out the cause of her other problems! Whether or not the seizures are related, we don't know... but we are now connected to doctors that might be able to find the answers, or at least a hopeful direction.

What's to come is still unclear. She has been given a clean bill of health, though there's always a chance she could have another seizure because we just don't know. Praise God, though, that she is considered low risk for repeat seizures and does NOT need to be on any medication!

Right now, we are pursuing genetic testing. We also will be making appointments with a developmental pediatrician here in town, as well as a follow up with the neurologist in Lubbock.

Keep praying! This sweet girl has stolen our hearts (and the hearts of all her doctors and nurses I might add)! She is a precious gift from God that we do not take for granted. It certainly isn't fun to be venturing down this unknown road with her, trying to find ways to help her thrive and grow and develop the way she should, but we are thankful for health, life, and a sweet spirit in her. I know she's in good hands... because they are HIS hands.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

He is faithful: an update on Brielle's developmental journey

It's been several weeks now since Brielle has started therapy, and she seems to be responding well to everything. She sees three, soon to be four, different therapists (thankfully in-home and state-sponsored so practically free!) twice a month for different parts of her development. It's a bit daunting to think about all these appointments and to go through this process for an unknown length of time (yet again), but we've gotten positive feedback already and her therapists are optimistic.
Mostly we've been focusing on gross motor / physical therapy, but she also has fine motor / occupational therapy, skills / general overall therapy with her case manager, and will eventually include speech therapy as well. We are focusing on everything from core and muscle strengthening exercises, to hands-and-knees time, spoon self-feeding, more interactive play, as well as sitting more stably and transitioning into a sitting position.
This is bringing back a lot of memories from Judah's growth, and if you've had a normal-developing baby, most of those things just "happen", or transition so quickly you don't even notice them. With both our kids, even the littlest achievement is something to celebrate! But I will be honest in saying she has already fallen more "behind" than Judah ever was, and it seems a bit more slow-going too. However, her therapists have commented that she seems to have all the motivation and ability necessary to grow and reach her developmental goals. All they've been able to see as the problem is having "low tone" in her muscles. In just three weeks, we can already tell she is a little bit stronger and has more endurance during her exercises. She also seems *almost* ready to pull into sitting independently. So that is progress, though excruciatingly slow progress. But we will celebrate every success and know God has His hand on her little body and mind. He has a perfect plan for her, each and every day!

In other related news, we have sent in the paperwork and are waiting to get our appointment scheduled with the developmental pediatric neurologist. Although we aren't expecting any grand diagnosis or answer to the problem, we are hopeful she may have some insight or direction for Brielle.

Aside from our normally fairly healthy diet (about 50-75% organic, with lots of fruits and veggies), we have also removed most wheat, per doctor's suggestion. This tiny 18lb girl can EAT! To this day, I still have not seen her "limit". She must have two hollow legs and two hollow arms! ;)
We've actually been enjoying trying new and creative wheat-free recipes! I don't know if it's been helping or not, but I'm sure it can't hurt.

On a more personal level, it has been difficult to not play the comparison game, or the blame game, as Brielle's mother. The couldawouldashoulda thoughts creep in, and I know that A) there is a slim chance, if any, that I could have done something different to prevent anything that may or may not have contributed to her delays; and B) even if I DID do something (or not do something), there is nothing I can do to change that, so why worry?

I fight the urge to compare Brielle with other children her age (and much younger), who are passing her up developmentally. I desperately want to share in their parents' joy (and I do, but maybe not completely wholeheartedly if I were to be honest) when another child starts crawling, or walking, saying their first words, clapping and waving... my heart aches to see my daughter do all those things. My heart longs to hear her say "mama" and wave and smile and run to me.

Sometimes I just feel like we're stuck. Forever circling in a holding pattern (oh here I go with the airplane terms... yep, a pilot's wife...), wondering when we'll finally get somewhere. It's hard not to feel defeated or depleted, frustrated, hopeless, or overwhelmed. It's hard not to feel jealous of others or angry at ourselves, or worse, blame God as if somehow He is punishing us or just messing with us.

Sometimes I just want to cry out, "Really God? Again? Why are you doing this again? And why don't we have answers? Why do we have to go through this? Why are you doing this to her? Why can't we have a normal life, normal children, normal problems?"

Seriously, it's sounds ridiculous when I actually write that. It also sounds incredibly self-serving and selfish and whiney. Sigh.

I keep going back to what I know to be true. Relying on God and His security in knowing that He is sovereign and good and cares deeply for my precious daughter. He has not forgotten her, and He has a perfect plan in mind for her. It really is a faith trust season of life right now.

Just like with her brother Judah while in the NICU, I was surprised at how much our STRUGGLES were a testimony and encouragement to other people.
Isn't it supposed to be our successes and strength and accomplishments that encourage the most? Or is it seeing Jesus' faithfulness in the midst of the storm and struggle? I think the latter.

He is faithful.

Monday, May 19, 2014

a prayer for our daughter

I'm sorry for the lack of writing over the past year. Having two kids and moving across the country I suppose is enough excuse for not blogging... I'm lucky to get a shower in, let alone sit down and write or journal!

The reason for this entry is to ask for prayer and give an update on what news is happening in the Tack Family.

No, I'm not pregnant, for those who I'm sure are curious ;)

I added Brielle's birth story to our blog today, to remind myself of how BIG our God really is, and how He remained in control of every detail of my pregnancy and delivery last Christmas 2012.

Just because Brielle is now outside the womb, does not mean He is any less concerned about the details of our lives and how He cares for His precious creation, specifically, our daughter.

We adore Brielle! She is a precious gift from God. She lights up our life with her sweet smiles and bright demeanor, and occasional spunky attitude.

Brielle has shown exceptional health, with no major concerns from day one, aside from typical colic, sniffles, and teething, etc.
However, we started noticing around 9-12 months that she failed to reach significant developmental milestones as she grew. She mastered rolling over, got her first teeth, etc. at six months... but then didn't seem interested in continuing on from there. At first, we assumed she was just slow or lazy (and with our experiences with Judah, we didn't want to overreact, so we gave her time), but after a while, red flags started to go up that there was something else amiss. No sitting up, pulling up, crawling, talking, walking, etc.

Brielle is now almost 17 months old, and severely behind in many areas developmentally. She lands on the chart at about an 8-10 month level in most areas, and is considered "severely globally developmentally delayed" for "unknown reasons". She is also fairly small, weighing about 18lbs. But that's not necessarily a concern, seeing as we are small people too. This was quite the shock to us, however, seeing as how everything went picture-perfect with her birth (full term and natural) and no major illnesses to speak of. Of course, with her brother being so premature, we expected delays from him. He spent 3 years in physical and speech therapy before he was fairly "caught up". (Now we can't stop him!). But no indication that Brielle would seem to have similar issues! I always imagined she would be quick to reach milestones, in effort to keep up with her brother.

We have seen numerous doctors and currently have her enrolled with physical therapy (and speech & occupational therapy will come soon too). We also are in process of seeing a developmental pediatric neurologist. Yet, so far no doctors have given her a specific diagnosis as to WHY she has so many delays. However, the good news is, every doctor has assured us that they see no signs of major intellectual disabilities, such as retardation, downs syndrome, autism, etc. We are hoping to avoid any expensive testing that could very well be inconclusive, and that the answers will be clear and easily-resolved.

She is still happy and healthy, bright and content, and we just love her to pieces. We are doing all we can to encourage her in her development, and praying that God will continue to direct her path and give us the wisdom to help her grow and thrive. We know He has a perfect plan, and that He cares for her immensely more than we ever could. Please pray with us as we walk down this road with our daughter!

How the Lord orchestrated the birth of Brielle Julianne Tack

Jonathan and I quickly realized how much of this birth story was really about how the Lord answered prayer after prayer the entire way through my pregnancy, and specifically through labor and delivery. This is not my birth story, this is God’s birth story for our little girl. All of your prayers played a key role in this story, too! A true and precious gift to us. I hope you will be encouraged by our testimony to His goodness.

In case you need the back story to why Brielle’s birth is so different and exciting for me, read about our son Judah’s birth story (which is a miracle in itself!), and also about my feelings of being ‘cheated’ out of the birth that I desired.

Many of you know how strongly I desired to delivery naturally via VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) this pregnancy. I wanted nothing to do with a repeat cesarean or a medicated birth, which I am convinced can often lead to a downward cycle of unnecessary medical interventions.
Doctors and other well-meaning people warned me of the ‘dangers’ of having a VBAC, throwing out numbers and statistics and telling me not to get my hopes up. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I’d carry my baby to full term, so it was hard to focus on the end when you’ve grown accustomed to just hoping to make it to the next day and next week in your pregnancy. However, it was difficult to not let those fears consume me. I had to constantly renew my mind with positive stories, statistics, and information about natural birth.

Fortunately, this little girl stayed in until 39 weeks and 1 day. A stark contrast to her brother’s mere 25 weeks and 5 days. Now I was getting nervous she wouldn’t come out, I would go overdue, and be pressured to have a cesarean (because induction was not an option due to increased risk of uterine rupture). I quickly started shifting gears mentally from “stay in baby” to, “come out baby!” at around the 36-37 week mark.

We semi-selfishly prayed that we would have her before the end of the year. We didn’t want to have to meet a new insurance deductible if she arrived after January 1st. Pregnancies for us are already expensive! And I didn’t want to have to fight doctors to let me go to 42 weeks before scheduling a c-section.

To help prepare and/or encourage labor, I started drinking red raspberry leaf tea almost daily, as well as taking baths almost every night (mostly due to difficulty sleeping). We had intercourse several times after 36 weeks, after the cerclage was removed and the doctors took me off any restrictions.

The night I went into labor we also had intercourse and I took a bath at about 11pm before going to bed. I slept well for about 3 hours, then woke up around 3am feeling like I had some constipation so I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet for a while trying to pass a bowel movement when I realized my ‘gas pains’ were forming a pattern and quickly became intense enough that I started timing them. After about 15 minutes I realized that my ‘gas pains’ were 2-3 minutes apart! Holy moly I think I’m in labor! I woke up Jonathan at around 3:30am and calmly told him, “I don’t want to panic but I am pretty sure I'm in labor and contractions are really close together so we probably need to leave soon”. I was already getting to the point where I had to stop whatever I was doing and breathe through contractions as we were packing the car. I was very unprepared emotionally for labor to get so intense immediately. I was certain I would labor at home for a while, and expected a few false alarms. For me to wake up out of a dead sleep and be in active labor was a bit of a shock and it was hard for me to transition mentally into managing pain and breathing techniques.
We called the hospital, a bit concerned that we should even make the 45 minute drive. We had switched hospitals/practices at around 33 weeks so I could deliver with a midwife, and so we could financially save hundreds of dollars by not being charged an hourly ‘doctor standby fee’ during labor. That meant a longer drive outside of town, as opposed to the ten-minute drive to our local hospital. We took the risk of making the drive, praying the whole way that we would make it in time. All I kept thinking about was stories (including one from my friend, on the same day our son Judah was born) about delivering on the side of the road or in the car!

With it being Christmas Eve morning, many of our ‘standby babysitters’ were out of town, so we reluctantly had to take our son Judah with us, praying that someone would come available while we waited for Jonathan’s mom, Mary, to drive up from North Carolina, expecting to arrive at about 10am.

We made it to the hospital at about 5:30am and the midwife on call, Mary, arrived within minutes of my arrival. She immediately read over my birth plan and chatted with me. Another small answer to prayer… this hospital/practice was much more open to birth plans than the other one. I was never questioned or belittled when noting my preferences (minus a random insensitive nurse), and they honored every one of them for both the baby and myself.

Shortly after arriving, they hooked me up to a monitor. Another thing I was really hoping for was being about to walk around and be mobile during labor. Being a VBAC, I was required to be consistently monitored, which I understood… but the hospital was being stricter on VBAC patients for some reason, not even allowing them to use the wireless telemetry unit. I was warned by the midwives that it may not be available to me. I fully expected to have to negotiate and be a difficult patient in attempt to have more freedoms during labor.
When I asked if I could move around a bit more, even though the nurse sounded crabby, no one said a word in opposition as they switched me over to the ONLY telemetry unit the hospital owned!
Ironically, contractions were getting a bit more intense, and I had little time to even know what positions felt better than others, so I just leaned over the bed most of the time and breathed through them. I had no desire to walk, squat, or stand. I ended up not even wanting/needing wireless monitoring.
When Mary checked me after being admitted, I was already 7.5cm and 100% effaced! I couldn’t believe I was already that far along. Jonathan held half-asleep and confused Judah while she rubbed my back through contractions, which is exactly what I needed and felt good. She was very ‘hands-off’ and respectful about my labor, gently offering suggestions and being present and available, but not wanting to take over in any way. Out of the four midwives available, I am certain the Lord picked the one that fit my personality and needs the best. My only experiences of hospital staff in the past has usually been one of intrusiveness, so to have someone come in that is there to assist me personally, and direct gently and patiently was a breath of fresh air.

Thankfully, our friend, Mary, who was on our babysitter call list returned my call at about 7am and graciously offered to drive down and pick up Judah. We were starting to get concerned that he would be with us for all of my labor, and a few nurses started telling us, “you know he can’t be here during delivery”, as if we had a choice in the matter!
From the time I arrived at the hospital, until I started pushing, time seemed to blur together. It certainly didn’t feel like I was in labor for over 2 hours before I started pushing.
I labored on hands and knees on the bed for quite a while, moaning through the contractions the way I had been reading and learning from birthing classes and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It did help during that phase. Not once during labor did I even think about the risk of uterine rupture or the possibility of having a c-section. I had peace that there would be no complications. I reminded myself often to breathe deep to make sure the baby was getting enough oxygen, too.
At one point a nurse asked me THE stupid question, “on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain right now?” and I replied, “I would prefer not to answer that!” Several people chuckled and my midwife said, “yeah we don’t like that question around here.”
After that two hour period, I was on my back for most of the rest of labor and delivery, which I was certain would be the last position I’d ever choose, but I was getting tired and no other position felt comfortable, even though they would have allowed me to push/deliver the baby in any position I wanted. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, and in my mind I often was frantically searching for that ‘happy place’ I could go to in order to manage pain better. Like I said earlier, I was not mentally prepared to progress so quickly, and therefore was not handling contractions as effectively as I think I could have.
At one point, shortly before the pushing phase, I started losing energy and I told the midwife I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this. She responded with, “That’s called transition.” I immediately perked up and regained motivation, realizing I was nearing the finish line, and Mary could see the end was near.
After dealing with an anterior lip in the cervix, which Mary graciously (yet painfully) helped resolve, she told me I could start pushing. Now, in my mind, pushing meant the baby was almost here, ready to crown, and I just had to give a good 10-20 minutes of pushing or so in order to deliver the baby. I was not mentally prepared to push longer than that. I’m not sure why I had that in my mind. I guess the way everyone kept encouraging me with ‘you’re doing great, she’s almost here, you’re so close’… made me think she was really just on the verge of being born. Though I am thankful for the way Jonathan and Mary did keep my morale up with that encouragement, it really was the motivation I needed to keep going.
About 20 minutes in to my pushing, Jonathan had to take Judah down to be picked up by Mary…
Side note: By the way, did you notice a trend there? How sweet and ironic that on Christmas Eve, three very key people present to help with our daughter’s arrival were named Mary.

While Jonathan was away for that 10-minute period, I got very nervous I would deliver the baby without him. Some of the nurses thought I slowed down just to make sure he made it back in time. But little did I know it would be another 30 minutes or so before she was born. When he returned, I started losing concentration and control. I found myself, after pushing through two contractions, losing control on the third contraction. Not breathing right, not pushing well, feeling panicky, and losing motivation, screaming in pain instead of using low guttural groans.

Meanwhile, Jonathan was completely fascinated with the experience. He watched the baby progressing, he kept a cool washcloth available for me, and Mary made sure to keep him involved. He was a wonderful labor partner, even though for the majority of the time there was little he could do to help. Mary coached me on how to push most effectively, which I really appreciate. They noticed that my best progress in bringing the baby down further was pushing three times and then taking the last bit of energy from the contraction and pushing a fourth time. Once they told me how much progress that was doing, it motivated me to put all my effort into that fourth push each time.

The only annoyance I had while pushing was (and this might be TMI), I would poop a little quite frequently during pushes, and the nurse EVERY.SINGLE.TIME would make me raise my butt off the bed to change the pad under me. I could have cared less if I was sitting on or near a little bit of poop to be honest. She was using my precious recovery time in between contractions to make me change the bed pad. I was getting really annoyed with that.

Finally, at 9:01am, I made those last pushes as our baby girl entered the world.

Brielle Julianne Tack joined our family, weighing 6lbs 15oz, 18” long, and 13” head. I’ve already thanked her several times for being a small baby, hah!

As they immediately put her to my chest to bond for a while, I honestly could only think about how much relief it was, physically speaking, to be done with pushing and labor. She was HERE. It wasn’t extremely emotional but it was extremely satisfying and I felt full of gratitude.
Jonathan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, then I delivered the placenta in two pushes. I wasn’t sure I’d want to see the placenta, but she showed it to us and we were both fascinated by it!
I had a few second-degree superficial tears that needed stitching, and some hemorrhoids, but otherwise no complications. One of the most uncomfortable things was when they would push on my stomach to check for blood clotting.

This was truly a story of emotional healing and redemption for me personally. For all that I missed with my firstborn, I feel the Lord gave me this precious gift with our daughter's birth. As intense as it was, it all happened with such fluidity and calm, that it could only have happened by careful orchestration from our Creator. People ask me if I got the birth I hoped for, and if things happened according to my birth plan. I can honestly say it was above and beyond my expectations. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday for Brielle. The timing, the people involved, the emotional and physical encouragement I received, and especially and most importantly, the outcome of health for everyone and a successful VBAC.
I take no credit, but glorify God for His gift to us, just hours before we celebrate His most precious gift that He gave us by sending His Son, Jesus, that Christmas Day. I also have a whole new outlook and respect for Mary delivering that baby in a stinky stable all by herself. Major props to her! ;)

Meaning of her name:
Brielle is the feminine form of the name Gabriel, one of the angels in the Bible, which means “God is my Might”. Julianne means “Youthful” and “Full of Grace”, and is taken from several family members names: Julia after my Great-Aunt Dorothy Julia, and Ann after Jonathan’s mother’s mother, Ann, and Jonathan’s mother, Mary Annette.