Sometimes Lauren needs to take a break. Matt and I found her in her old room, sitting in her nursery chair rocking herself while she sucked her fingers and sat quietly with her thoughts. It was one of those moments that makes us stop and think about who she is and who she will be. As a crazy two year old with boundless energy it seems as if her only thoughts in life are where she can play next, who will run around the house with her and who will get her juice when she is thirsty. But there is so much more to her. She is a little mind that we are molding, a little personality that is developing and a little heart that we are trying to make aware of and sensitive to the world around her. It is an amazing process.

When I look at Lauren as she sleeps soundly, draped in various positions around her twin bed, my heart aches with how much I love her. It is true that you don't know how much you can truly love someone until you have a child. Living with Lauren I have learned the depth of my ability to love with patience, care and gentleness even during the daily challenges of exhaustion and fear.

After seeing Lauren in her moment of quiet, Matt walked into the kitchen and asked me, "If Lauren had died, do you think that we would have had another baby?" to which I quickly replied, "Thank the Lord we don't have to worry about that because she did." But my dismissal of the question doesn't mean that it isn't something I've wondered about myself.

I like to think that I would have eventually had another baby, but the memories of that time even with Lauren surviving are still something that I have to consciously talk myself out of. It isn't so much the memory of Lauren's time hooked up to ECMO that bothers me. I can now look at the photos of that without tearing up, though the reality of her heart not beating for three days but her staying alive is still something that boggles my mind. It isn't the moments of watching Lauren receive CPR when her heart stopped on six separate occasions because in those moments I prayed and time was suspended as I lived in a place of disbelief. The memory that haunts me now is a feeling that I experienced as I held her as a baby in my arms. While we were in the emergency room as they were taking a break from assessing Lauren's condition before her diagnosis, I tried to feed my child who hadn't eaten all day. She started to choke in a frantic sort of way and I told Matt, "Something is wrong! This isn't right!" He ran out to get the doctor and I held Lauren as she choked (likely on her own tongue) and her warm little panicked body arched back and went rigid before she collapsed in my arms. That is the feeling that haunts me. The actual feeling of her pulling back as her heart stopped and collapsing and there was nothing that I could do. There was nothing that I could do to keep my child safe. And fear entered in.

That fear was something that lived with me even though she survived. How would I have moved past it if she hadn't? It took so much work with God, with a therapist, with my family and with Lauren to move past that fear enough that it stopped ruling my life. It still takes work. Now the what ifs of things that could happen to Lauren (some of them totally unrealistic) are still something that I fight against and I feel like, with constant vigilance, I'm keeping it under wraps.

When we made the decision to try to have another child, I was full of fear again for this new baby. Once you have a child with a heart condition, your likelihood of having another doubles. Granted that goes from only 1 in 100 to 2 in 100, but since ALCAPA is 1 in 300000, numbers like 2 in 100 don't sound that comforting. Once I found out that I was pregnant, I knew that I had to hand this baby over to God before I drove myself crazy with fear. I firmly believe that God doesn't give us more than we can handle and He knows of my struggles with fear. I have felt such a peace about the health of this new baby and all ultrasounds that we have had also suggest that her little body is forming just fine and she is entirely healthy. This pregnancy has been incredibly easy and I can't wait to meet this new little girl!

In the end, I don't know if we would be having another child if Lauren hadn't survived, but having her around makes me wonder if we would have survived without experiencing what it is like to love our child.

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