Watching my husband with my daughter while writing this feels surreal… here is my story which until now has remained very private but this testimony is one that I realize needs to be shared, in totality.
My journey to motherhood began somewhat unexpectedly January 2, 2017 when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. My husband and I had not been trying for a baby then, we were just having our fun, traveling and building businesses/ brands. That season we’d been focused on producing content for our YouTube series “Married to Business” and were very occupied with planning an EPIC New Years Eve party which was a huge success. Although unplanned, we were very happy with the news of expecting our first child.
As things in my pregnancy progressed… I had the usual first trimester symptoms like tender breasts, fatigue and some nausea. Despite pregnancy symptoms, I continued to focus on my brands. I was still very active, attending meetings and business lunches. I withheld the news of my pregnancy to the public until I reached 12 weeks gestation.
Then, at about 14.5 weeks gestation and at the beginning of the second trimester, I experienced pre-ruptured membranes (complete leakage of amniotic fluid after my water bag broke) following a stressful day. The water breaking and complete fluid leak led to an inevitable miscarriage as a fetus couldn’t be sustained without any fluid to develop in. Attempting to carry to viability with broken water would also put me at great risk of infection which could become fatal. Our hearts were completely broken.
The next few days, I carried a baby that I knew I would never get the chance to meet. I went in for my scheduled in-office procedure (D&C) and after no more than 45 minutes, the baby was gone. I saw nothing. There was no blood (that I could see), no pain… just an emptiness as I left that doctor’s office. At that time, doctors never pinpointed what may have caused the pre-ruptured membranes. I had no real answers and that ate me up. Physically, it was as if the pregnancy never happened. Emotionally… a different story. I mourned. I cried. I screamed. I have fallen to my knees. My world was grey for a moment.
I learned about a huge community of women who’d also experienced pregnancy loss and the outpouring was real. This helped me feel less alone in my despair. It had happened to so many women (many who I knew personally) but the topic just was not really talked about. I never realized how common it was until I myself went through it. According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage — most often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant. About 15-25% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. More than 80% of miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy.
I PRAYED for emotional healing and had a lot of people praying for me. Prayer works… because eventually I was healed and my joy fully and completely restored. I dried my tears and I pressed on. I learned to accept what was and that God had a plan. It was greater than I could understand at that time but I accepted His will and I trusted Him completely. Letting go and letting God was how I returned to ME.
BENT BUT NOT BROKEN
The duration of that year March – December ’17 was spent reclaiming my intrinsic love for life and developing a greater appreciation for my own strength. I traveled, I laughed, I created new and ever-lasting memories with family and friends.
I was productive with personal and financial goals. I’d finally decided to leave the corporate world for good and focus my professional skill set on helping grow the law firm that my husband built. Our new found financial situation made the decision a no brainier. Hurricane Harvey happened… which by the way, my first due date would have been right in the middle of the mess Hurricane Harvey made. Kind of scary considering we were stuck in our house for 6 days! God knew! I thanked God for my faith and the resiliency that He allowed me to have. I thanked God for His protection and loving me in spite of me. I thanked God for the lessons and the blessings. So much growth took place during that time period.
DANCING IN THE RAIN
Around the start of 2018, after reflecting on my life and realizing how strongly I desired to be a mom, my husband and I decided it was time to start planning for our family. We tried for months and I felt myself grow increasingly anxious and even impatient to get pregnant again.
Never-the-less, the year was off to an AMAZING start! Our company was growing leaps and bounds, we’d planned some travel and were in love more than ever before. After several months of a negative pregnancy test and disappointment in “Aunt Flo’s” arrival into town… we decided to take a break from the ovulation tracking. We chilled out some to avoid falling victim to being overly task oriented during love making. I never wanted to be that couple!
The summer rolled around and thus, my anniversary. I always look forward to my wedding anniversary and our annual anniversary trip! I had gotten back into really good shape and was feeling amazing. The plan was to travel to Cabo San Lucas for a week to celebrate. The goal was to not even think about getting pregnant and to enjoy paradise in marital bliss with the love of my life!
For the entire month of May, I actually didn’t think about getting pregnant not one time. We had too much fun on our anniversary trip and I had planned back to back trips that month. The second trip was a girls trip with my mom and sister to the Texas Wine Country. I was lit the whole month!
God is has a funny sense of humor. The moment I stopped trying to control the timing of everything was when we conceived. It happened ON our anniversary in Mexico. I know the exact day because we spent the first night alone in our 6 sleeper condo before being joined by fam/ friends that we’d invited the next day. When I realized I was ‘late’ sometime in near the end of May, we laughed (at the irony of it all)… and REJOICED! We were also met with some fear and apprehension due to our experience the prior year.
Excuse me while I take a break from writing to pump… #mommymode
I somewhat knew what to expect during the first trimester of pregnancy and was ready. This pregnancy, I was more nauseous than the first. I still worked as long as I could at the firm, closing my office door and taking naps when I needed to on my in-office couch. I took my time with everything. Made sure to keep my stress level down, ate like a champ and even picked up prenatal yoga. I’d learned the power of saying “No” to things that weren’t in the best interest of my pregnant state and felt like a woman empowered as I continued my journey to motherhood.
To a certain degree, I sort of held my breath until making it past the point that I had in my first pregnancy. Once I did, and with a new doctor and preventative plan in place, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. My new OBGYN had diagnosed me with an incompetent cervix which is what caused the miscarriage in my first pregnancy. I had a cerclage placed during the first trimester. Finally, some answers and a plan in place to reduce the chance of the same thing happening again. The cerclage was to keep my cervix reinforced as the baby continued to grow and the pressure from gravity made it harder for my body to carry.
I never shared my pregnancy publicly until I was nearly 8 months pregnant. I had NO desire to. I didn’t care about putting the news on the internet. The people who are actually in my life knew and that was good enough for me. I ENJOYED my pregnancy out of the public eye for 8 months.
Following my fabulous yet high activity birthday weekend in September, at a regularly prenatal check-up… my specialist MFM doctor noticed my cervix had shortened, suddenly and drastically. The cerclage that had been placed almost 10 weeks prior was my saving grace. I was instructed to go straight to the hospital next door with only the clothes on my back as I were to be admitted to strict hospitalized bedrest for the next 10 weeks (at least). Needless-to-say, I was pretty much in shock for a few days. Those 10 weeks ended up being 12 weeks as my doctors are very conservative and regardless of how I felt about it at the time, would do everything to keep this baby in as long as possible.
So from mid September – mid December, I spent my days in a small hospital room laying down, incubating my baby girl. For three months I ate mostly hospital food, I got up only to use a bedside commode and I took bed baths the majority of the time. That little room was my kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.
Things in the hospital took some adjusting and some tears of frustration in the beginning. I’d missed one of my best friend’s weddings that I was a bridesmaid in and my sister had to fill in for me. That was one of the hardest things about being on bedrest. I missed other events and opportunities that were important to me and that I was excited about. I missed my sweet furbaby, Josie, tremendously but was so grateful to have a newly retired mom who gladly took care of her the entire time I was in the hospital. She got spoiled over there, enjoying her regular groomings and my mom’s two other dogs to play with.
I watched from my window as the seasons changed craving to feel the outside air. The corner shelving in my room served as my focal point for seasonal decor. I began to realize NOTHING else in the world mattered. Nothing that I could’ve missed was worth taking a chance and not giving my baby the best start at life possible. God had to clear my plate so there could be room to receive my greatest blessing of all in a way that could be none other than for His glory!
On Halloween I played dress up. I became a pro at doing my makeup while laying down in bed (though most days I wore none). The hospital invited all the expecting moms in the Antepartum unit to participate in trick-or-treating and true to form, I went all out. All of the children of the other bedrested mommies and hospital staff came and went trick-or-treating door to door. Social workers made sure the bedrested mamas got big bags of candy to pass out to the kids… the good, expensive candy too! It was a great night as we played Michael Jackson’s – Thriller and other fun songs in my room. (Picture my sister Amber doing the Thriller dance with those long legs of hers. #Priceless).
My family all came by and my mom brought party foods. The kids were so cute! Everyone from all around the hospital came to my room because they’d heard great things about the lioness costume in #3042 and had to come check it out. I ended up (the only patient) with my picture on the hospital news letter for that month. I’m so extra. lol
Ok, I need another pump break. Yea, so apparently I’m a #milkfactory!
I kept myself busy and entertained with new hobbies like crocheting, occasional business related phone conferences, lots of visitors, journaling, day time television, all the seasons of Game of Thrones lol, reading up on all the mommy/ parenting tips from books, apps and google searches, game nights with friends, taking good care of myself, and lots of reflecting, meditation and prayer. I can honestly say I never got bored… which amazes me.
“LET US NOT GROW WEARY IN WELL-DOING, FOR IN DUE SEASON WE SHALL REAP, IF WE FAINT NOT” GALATIANS 6:9
A peace which surpasses all understanding came over me during my extended stay at Hotel Woman’s Hospital of Texas. lol I experienced REST that I had never experienced up until that point. I am usually always so go, go go! Once I got over the surrender of my total independence, I could really appreciate everyone waiting on me hand and foot. Nurses and staff at the hospital were simply amazing. Ultimately, I came to realize being on strict hospitalized bedrest was a blessing in disguise. Better that than to not have caught the cervical shortening in time. I told God when I first got pregnant again that I would do anything for this baby that he’d blessed me with if he’d just let this baby grow to term and arrive healthy and beautiful. That prayer was put to the test, chile!!! So worth it and I’d do it all again for my Kamara… He is ABLE!!!
LOVE AT IT’S BEST
My husband Kenneth stayed in the hospital EVERY DAY. (Ok, here come my tears…) Living in the hospital to and from work, sleeping on the couch next to my bed, only going home on briefly on Sunday evenings to wash our clothes, check mail, check on the house and re-pack our things for the upcoming week. I could not have done 3 months in the hospital as happy and as comfortable as I did without my husband, my superman. He helped keep me calm and give me a great sense of normalcy in the hospital despite our situation. He made me laugh everyday, made me feel pretty when I know I was looking crazy, and comforted me during my sad and scared moments. All while having so much else on his plate. He is the real MVP!!! MY ROCK!!! I’ve really gotten to see the stuff our marriage is made of over the last couple of years and I am so grateful for my life partner who’s a reflection of God’s goodness, mercy and love for me. My daughter couldn’t have a more amazing father!!! #BlessedByTheBest
My mom, dad and my sisters would visit regularly. In fact, I think I saw my family more frequently being in the hospital than I had since being married. Mama Pam, Pappa Keith, Sista girls Amber and Kendra… thank you so much. You guys are the BEST! Other relatives that visited, Andre, David, Chrissy, Nicole, Madi, Aunt JoAnn, Minka and Ren. I love ya’ll!
The week of Thanksgiving, my in-laws, Kenneth Sr. and Esylen, came in town from Florida to surprise me and spend several days with us!! I am so blessed to have them in my life and my daughter has the most amazing grandparents there could be! While in town, my father-in-law who is also a Pastor, blessed the baby’s room in our home. Thank you for helping my Thanksgiving be the best and most memorable EVER and for praying over me/ us. I still can’t believe we got all that food in that room!! #OMG
To all my girlfriends who came to spend time with me in the hospital… Marj, Vorice, Free, Manda, Tay, Jenn, Angela, Shara… what a clique of phenomenal women you all are. You’ve all been rocking with me for so long. Kamara will know you each as her aunts. To homies who are more like family… Faran, Megan, Chike, Jeff, Bresha, Nakyia, Jay, Ike, Reggie, Gabby, LaDarien, Corlon, Chelsea, Devon, Sage, Isis, Sammy, Ogechi, Amber B., Nicole M., Brandon C., Symone, Princess, Avery, Rebecca, Karen… thank you ALL for taking the time our of your busy lives to come and visit me while I was on bedrest!! I have so many wonderful pictures and can’t wait to put them all together so I can someday show Kamara all the love that surrounded us while she was baking.
To the team at Woman’s Hospital who loved on me and took good care of me… Carol, Liz, Megan, Sherry, and my favorite nurses ShaRay, Dinah, Maggie, Comfort, Sarah, Chika… thanks for holding it down!! Of course my doctors, Dr. Robinson and Dr. Hare who are truly more like my Auntie’s now… thank you for the tough love. My doctors are already discussing ways we can try to avoid strict bedrest in my next pregnancy. Each pregnancy we learn more and more about my tricky cervix. The next time will be easier, in Jesus name.
I made sure to keep my hair and nails done in the hospital thanks to amazing people like Jennifer, the in-house spa technician and stylists, Brittany and Tiffany, who didn’t mind leaving their shop to come and tend to my head! It was important for me to keep a strong sense of self through all this and I’m so grateful for those that helped me.
I managed to take maternity photos and am so grateful for Kyiera Williams Photography for helping me feel more comfortable in my own skin despite having an entire photo-shoot while pregnant on bedrest in a hospital. I debated about whether to take pictures or not, but she kept me encouraged. I was so happy with how they turned out and proud of myself for taking lemons and #MakingLemonade.
I am so grateful for all the love, prayer and support shown by those who knew our situation. I’m grateful for my praying church, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and the Deacons who came to visit and made sure we got our communion every first Sunday while in the hospital. To everyone that visited me during my stay, those that made me for forget I was actually in a hospital, everyone who sent messages, everyone who came out to my husband’s Diapers and Cigars party, and everyone who bought from our online registry… thank you!! With my incredible support system, we all contributed to such a positive outcome. They say it takes a village!
THANK YOU GOD for keeping me, mentally and physically!!!
AFTER THE RAIN…
Two weeks before Christmas I got to go hooooommmeee!!! *Insert praise hands* This was an indescribable feeling. Since I was much further along and in the safe zone with baby (9 months pregnant), I was able to move around a lot more. I enjoyed the days leading up to Christmas, catching up with friends in the comforts of home and even taking a drive with my sister to Town Center to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday.
Christmas Day was magical and spent at my house with family. My mom made it happen in the kitchen and made sure her baby and her grandbaby ate #well! I got my Christmas wish and then some!! #AllIWantForChristmas
Kamara Michelle Stephens arrived on the eve on New Years Eve following intense contractions on December 30, 2018 at 11:23pm weighing 6 lbs, 7 oz. She arrived perfectly and beautifully. She spent every moment with us while I recovered and we brought her home on January 2nd, 2019. She surpasses all my expectations and we are enjoying her sooo much!! I can’t stop looking at her! My daughter is most definitely the #rainbow after the storm. She is our greatest work and our biggest blessing! I am so grateful to be her mama!!!
If you are going through anything that can be classified as a journey, remember that there are blessings even in the hard times. God uses our experiences to make us better and prepare us for our blessings! Trust Him and His timing. Embrace every challenge and handle it with grace. Praise Him even in the midst of your adversities. Take your lemons and make lemonade! Be encouraged to proclaim His goodness and share your story. Your best days are ahead of you!!!
“He that has begun a great work in you, is faithful to perform it.”
This is MY TESTIMONY! Share this story with someone it can encourage.
Thanks for reading! Love & Light xoxo -Mama Riss
#ShesChaRISSmatic #CarissaStephens #Pregnancy #Journey #Testimony #RainbowBaby #KamaraMichelleStephens #PrincessK #StephensPartyofThree #AnsweredPrayer #2017Lemons #2018Lemonade #2019LemonadeStand #ImNotCryingYoureCrying
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