Mama’s Can Be Warriors Too!

Published by Josie on March 08, 2022

We call our kids who are fighting big battles warriors…but mama’s are warriors too! I got very used to being the caregiver with all of Maya’s surgeries and subsequent recoveries. Now don’t get me wrong, Ryan and I were a good team, but I was the one who got to be home taking care of the girls, the house, the dogs, the insurance companies, the doctor appointments, etc. But in March of 2021, I was the one who was in need of being cared for.

I was 35 weeks pregnant with our fourth baby, when around midnight, I woke Ryan up:

“The baby is fine, but I don’t think I am. Something isn’t right.”

We called my mom who came over to watch the three big girls. Ryan took me to the ER where I was admitted to the OB floor. I had a stomach bug the day before so the doctor thought I was just dehydrated. After two bags of fluids I was not getting better. They were monitoring the baby and she was ok, but it was clear that I wasn’t. I was having contractions but they needed to do an MRI. That was awful! Laying still while having contractions, and in 10 out of 10 pain, in this metal tube thingy is pretty much hell for someone who is claustrophobic.

It turned out my appendix had ruptured and needed to be taken out. So at 4:30 pm they wheeled me into the OR. They didn’t know until they opened me up if they were going to have to take the baby or if they just remove the appendix. To say I was terrified is an understatement. Was my baby going to be ok? Was I?

Post-Op 1

I woke up in a panic, the nurses had to hold me down and they were explaining that I was still pregnant and they could remove the appendix without needed to do the C-Section.

Thank HEAVENS! I was going to spend the next five weeks resting and recovering while still growing my baby! Ryan had to work so my parents took care of the girls for me since I wouldn’t be able to lift Maya until after the baby was born. My dad was retired and he and Maya became such good buddies during this time! The relationship is still so special between those two! Olive and Elodee were the best doctors I could have asked for…bringing me an endless supply of popsicles! But I have the sneaking suspicion that they knew whenever mama got a popsicle they got a popsicle too!


About 10 days after my surgery, I had called the doctors office because I was not feeling good. There was pain in my lower right abdomen but I was told that it was just the baby growing while scar tissue was forming and as long as I didn’t have a fever I would be ok. Now, I have a pretty high pain tolerance so I just needed to deal with the pain (no pain meds mind you because I was still pregnant so I could only take Tylenol….occasionally!)

That night as the girls were in bed, Ryan called on his way home from work around 9:30. I told him I was in some pain but we needed a few groceries so I asked him to stop on his way home. Within the 45 minutes it took him to get home I went from being in about a 4/10 pain to 10/10 and felt like I was literally dying. Again we called my mom who rushed over and he took me to the ER.

This is my view of how it went:

When we got there, no one seemed to be in a rush. I was in so much pain and nothing was helping. It wasn’t until a nurse from the OB floor came down when things started to happen. She is the reason the OB on call came in, she was the reason things started to move. The baby was ok at first but as time went on she started to be in distress so they were taking me back into the OR and would have to take the baby. Ryan was at the head of the bed when they started giving me the spinal block but I could still feel everything. So he got kicked out of the room and they put me under full sedation to do the C-Section which I am so thankful for.

At 36 weeks gestation, they had delivered our fourth baby girl! She scored a 1 on the APGAR but soon started to come to. On the bills from the hospital it was written “reviving newborn at birth”….not something I ever thought I would see written but there it was. She was so sick because I was so sick. After my appendix ruptured, an abscess formed and I was septic which in turn made her septic. After they delivered her, they had to clear out the abscess and remove my fallopian tube that it adhered to.

Post Op 2

Our baby girl spent a week in the NICU getting IV antibiotics. I didn’t get to meet our baby until over 12 hours later. The only way I could see her is if I could get out of bed and into a wheel chair. So I used ever ounce of strength, fought through ripping pain, to go and see her. When I got to her bedside, I didn’t have the strength to even hold my arm up to touch her for more than a few seconds.

Ryan and I were trying to come up with a name for her but I just kept saying, “I haven’t even held her yet. I barely met her.” It was awful. Thankfully a nurse took pity on my and wheeled our girl into my room. 38 hours after she was born, the nurses put her on my chest and I finally got to hold my baby, Juniper Gene Hau Vanderkin.

There are things in life that test your strength. Watching Maya go through open heart surgery broke me in such a way that I was forever changed. Going through the pain of a ruptured appendix, becoming septic, needing an emergency C-Section, not being able to hold my baby, broke me in a very different way. But regardless of the battle, I am a warrior. Whether it’s a scar on your chest, or five on your abdomen, we can do hard things!

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