Mom to Briar
September 13th, 2010
Columbus, GA

Let me begin. This is the story of our first born son.

My hubby and I had been married a little over 4 years and we thought it was a great time to begin to start expanding our family.  We have so many amazing friends that are great parents, and we were excited for that time in our own lives.  We found out we were pregnant after a weekend we spent in Savannah, GA with dear friends. Brandon asked me to take a pregnancy test because I was feeling a little funny.  We had only been preventing pregnancy for ONE month, so I knew I wasn’t going to be pregnant. In fact, I did my business…put the little test on the counter and went about my business. Brandon yelled, “You might want to come here!” minutes later and I raced back to the bedroom.  What I saw changed our lives forever.

If you have ever been pregnant…you know that feeling. It was the scariest, most amazing, most exciting, crazy feelings I have ever had! (I’m going to be a mom?! Will I be good enough? Are we ready? I thought we were! Can I provide this child everything they need? etc. etc. etc.)  I went to get a blood test the next day that confirmed that I was, in fact, pregnant. Since my hubby was scheduled to deploy a week and a half later, they allowed us to do an early ultrasound at six weeks. When we went in, we were so excited to see the tiny baby for the first time.  What we saw when she placed the wand on my belly was surprising. We saw an empty circle (uterus).  We had never seen an ultrasound so we weren’t concerned. After she was quiet for a moment, the ultrasound woman said, “There is no baby that I can see”.  Talk about having the wind knocked out of your sails! I couldn’t BELIEVE it! What about the blood test? What about the positive pregnancy test? All 8 of them?
They told me to come back in a week.  What a long week that was. I decided I would go ahead and let most of my good friends know to pray.  We prayed all week, and in the meantime, Brandon deployed overseas. i was devastated, because I knew I would probably find out bad news when I went back.  When I went back to the doctor, my sweet friend Rebecca came with me. We sat in the waiting room and prayed and my pastor’s wife texted me scripture. I knew it was going to be okay.  As we went in, I readied myself to see an empty uterus.  As soon as she put the wand on my belly she said, “There’s our baby!!”.  Rebecca started crying and threw herself on the table…our ultrasound woman started crying, and so did I.  I was SHOCKED. He was 7 weeks gestation, and he was just too small the week before.  The lady the week before had called it a “blighted ovum” which can be misdiagnosed. And this was!
So began the whirlwind life of Briar Allen Whitis.
At 11 weeks, just 4 weeks later, we went in and got another ultrasound.  Lucky us!  This time, my friend Catherine was with me.  We went in and the ultrasonographer wasn’t very talkative, which was sad for me because as my first baby, i wanted to know all about what was going on.  It never struck me that there could have been a problem.  She let us go as if everything was normal.  I remember Catherine saying,  “Whew, don’t you feel better now that you’ve seen that?” because of course I worried about having a healthy baby!
Then we were sent into a room to wait.  Pretty soon, a sweet midwife named Courtney came in. She loved my Amy Butler Birdie Sling bag and I remember talking about that for a moment. Then I remember her face got serious and she said, “They see a little problem with the back of your baby’s head. It looks a little abnormal. The doctor is looking at it now, and contacting a perinatologist.  I had so many questions. I just wanted Brandon to be sitting beside me. I was so, so, so grateful that Catherine was there.  I was in shock.  I remember walking to the parking lot and Catherine wasn’t sure what to do with me 😉  She offered to let me stay with her, to drive me around, etc. I remember thinking that there couldn’t possibly be anything wrong. That was at COB on Thursday. Friday morning they called and said the perinatologist was able to fit me in that morning. It was field day at our school, which I was really looking forward to. As I walked my kids out to the field, the office called and I left my kids with another teacher and ran back inside. I got Catherine again and we quickly left to drive over there. I was so eager for someone to tell me it was no big deal….only a small chance it was really a problem.
It wasn’t what I heard. He told me it was most likely something called Anencephaly.  He said that it is not a condition that is compatible with life. But he didn’t feel 100% certain because I was only 11 weeks pregnant. He said he could be more certain if I were farther along. I asked him what the next step was…and he told me I could go to Atlanta if I wanted…just because they might have seen more cases like this.  I was in SHOCK.  My friend Catherine had the foresight to ask the nurse to write down the name of the condition. I am so glad she did. I went home, googled it, and immediately realized the severity of the condition we were dealing with.  It was no joke.  Anencephaly is a severe neural tube defect which happens in the first weeks after conception.  When the neural tube doesn’t close completely, the skull doesn’t develop and part of the brain doesn’t develop.  The brain is usually exposed when the baby is born.  The babies sometimes die in utero, but more common is that these babies live through the entire pregnancy but pass away during labor or very soon after.  The doctor was SO KIND and did not at all encourage any option over another, he simply presented the options to us.
When I went to Atlanta the following week, at 12 weeks, my mother in law flew in from Kentucky (because Brandon was still deployed).  We went to the specialist who was absolutely incredible. I loved him.  He literally sat in our room for about three hours, maybe more. He left two times for about 10 minutes each.  I don’t know another doctor who has ever spent so long consecutively with me, apart from during surgery!  His nurse gave me an ultrasound and so did he, and they both could say 100% that I had a baby with anencephaly.  They did not encourage me to terminate. They did not encourage me to keep the baby or carry to term.  They just explained with love what that diagnosis meant, and gave me options. They told me about the pregnancy complications. They told me about how we could induce and they also told me about just having a D&C.  I truly believe that God gave us his mercy by allowing our insurance to say that we could not induce early.  I will never judge someone going through something like this, because it is heart wrenching. I know other people, who obviously trust God much more than me, tell me that it was not a second thought in their mind.  We really wrestled because we felt like we were the life support (I was) for this child.  If Brandon gets injured overseas and goes on life support, our choice would be to take him off and let him be with Jesus.  So that confused us a bit. We prayed for guidance and we got it.  I prayed that insurance and our doctors would allow us to know when the time was right. I know that sounds silly.  I wish I could say that this was such an easy decision and we didn’t wrestle at all. We did. But we trust that God is good and has good intentions for us. Briar was HIS baby and we wanted to ensure that Briar’s purpose on this earth was fulfilled before he went to be with his creator.
We prayed and thought about inducing labor around 24-26 weeks.  We decided that this baby would make it known when he was ready, and he wasn’t showing us any signs at 26 weeks :)  He still had to impact a couple more people…!  He did begin showing signs that he was ready around 30 weeks. He was not a full term fella.  He decided that he did not want to keep the spinal fluid in his body, and instead, transferred it to mine.
I blew up like a BALLOON!! From about 28-31 weeks, I gained a half liter of fluid a week. By 30.5 weeks, i was measuring 41 weeks pregnant. I had several other concerning factors about my pregnancy, not to mention being VERY, VERY uncomfortable!! I asked my doctors about draining my fluid and letting me continue at that point.    They were concerned at the rate at which I was gaining fluid.  It was very abrupt.
They ended up doing an amnio reduction before labor and taking out 3+ LITERS of fluid.  PLEASE imagine a 2 liter of coke. Then Imagine another one cut in half. That is THREE LITERS.  That is pretty significant.  A needle stuck in my belly for an entire afternoon, slowly sucking fluid out into a glass bottle.  Very interesting.
When it was over, I asked if I could just stay pregnant a couple more weeks. I felt so great, and I would love to feel him kicking for any moment that I could.  The concern was the increasing baby size and the increasing fluid.  They were concerned about a placental abruption, where the placenta separates from the uterus wall.  This risks the life of mother and child.  The concern was that this was more likely to happen the longer he stayed in my belly.
At a little over 30 weeks, we were asked and it was recommended that we induce. This was hard for me. In fact, when we got the call that insurance had approved this, I called my mom crying so hard, she couldn’t understand me. She thought something was wrong. And it was. I knew then that I was going to have to say goodbye. And it was there too soon. 35 weeks would’ve been too soon. 42 weeks would’ve been too soon! I would’ve loved to have a lifetime with this sweet baby. I was heart broken that I only got 31 weeks.  I would have taken any time I could have with my little man in my belly, knowing that when he came out, it was going to be another story.
None the less, I gave birth.  I was in the hospital an entire week.  I was in no hurry. You can click through to the links or visit my blog and look at the September Archive to read the story.  It was precious and amazing. I loved every minute of knowing my son.
But goodness, what a blessing that little guy was to our family!!  He still is.
We  might not have him with us right now, but he will always be our first born child! He made a huge impact on our family and we are truly in love with the little man we knew for just moments in the scope of eternity!  We know the Lord brought him here for a reason.  We know that his little life had major purpose.
If you are facing something similar (or totally different, for that matter), I would love to be here for you.  I had so many people who had walked before me that were willing to walk through the journey with me.  It was so important to have support. I am here if you want to talk!
You can contact her at

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  1. Amber Roads says:

    I just read your blog. You have an amazing strength. My husband and I have a child and then we have had three miscarriages in a row trying to have another. There are still days that I struggle with wanting to try for another baby. I wish I had the strength that you do.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Have courage! You are very inspirational, as is your strength and your positive outlook on life.

  3. I'm so glad you shared your story here! I def relate to you saying that any time would have been too soon to have him!

  4. Anonymous says:

    You are such a courageous person to share your story. As a nurse who has worked with prenatal patients with similiar stories as yours, it is great to hear that the medical professionals were very suppoortive and informative in your journey to motherhood.

  5. Im so sorry for your loss.i know how you feel.
    i found out at my 20 week scan that my son had encephalocele.3 months later we got pregnant again! We were very excited,thinking that we would have a healthy child this time. On my 12 week scan I was told that my baby (a little girl) had anencephaly. We were devistated!!!!! The doctors were dumbfound. Third time lucky? Fingers crossed.
    How are you coping? Any pregnancies?

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