April 10, 2013

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Usually everything works out.  A couple tries for a baby, soon they’re pregnant, and nine months later, a perfect, healthy, beautiful baby enters the world, and a family is born.  But sometimes, the unexpected happens.  All of those plans and hopes and dreams are thrown off course by  a devastating turn of events.  And those brave mothers are forced with a decision: sink into the black hole that is tragedy, or climb out.  Face the pain, the suffering, the loss with dignity and courage.  Move forward.  Move on.
I believe these women are warriors.  I believe they deserve to be honored, and the trials they have overcome are to be admired.  For every time someone is willing to share their darkest moments and the lessons learned, we all come away with more empathy, compassion, understanding, and a little more human than we were before.
I’m starting a new ongoing series on withHEART called {UN}EXPECTED; inspiring and tender features of brave women who look the unthinkable in the face and rise above it.  And I’m starting with Andrea Olsen.

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Andrea was a songbird in sunny southern California.  Ben was a UCLA football player.  They fell in love and married, and about a year and a half later, their first child, Cash, was born.  Andrea lived for motherhood.  And it wasn’t long before they decided it was time to try for a sibling for Cash.  But it wouldn’t come as easily the second time around: three miscarriages in three years.  They had nearly given up hope and were headed to a specialist when they received joyful news– they were expecting!
Andrea went above and beyond to give this baby the very best chance of survival and at 14 weeks, they learned they were having a baby girl.  They were thrilled.  The pregnancy was normal up until 24 weeks.  In a matter of minutes they went from their highest high to their lowest low.  They learned Andrea had lost all amniotic fluid and their little girl, Clara Michele, was fighting for her life inside the womb.  Clara’s kidneys were enlarged, and full of cysts.
The next 12 weeks were spent in anguish.  Andrea did everything she could to give Clara a fighting chance.
“I know I have never prayed so much in my life, and for such specific reasons,” Andrea said.

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Clara was delivered by c-section on May 25, 2012. Family members were all there to greeted her.  Sweet baby Clara was surrounded with love.  For her big brother, Cash, it was love at first sight.  14 hours after she entered this world, Clara quietly passed away in her mother’s arms.  Her lungs were underdeveloped, her kidneys too damaged and though the pain of her loss was excruciating, there was also a feeling of peace.

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Clara was diagnosed with a disease called Auto Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD). Both Ben and Andrea carry a rare gene and when both parents are carriers, each future child has a 25% chance of being born with the same physical challenges Clara had.  The Olsons believed the risk was too high, and didn’t think they would be able to have more children.  But they can– thanks to modern medicine.
A new screening procedure for this specific disease has recently been developed. But time is running out.  The procedure has the best chance of success during a specific target age for the mother, and Andrea is at the perfect age right now.  They have one year to give it their best shot.  They want to go for it.  And you can help them.
The procedure is a pricey one.  So pricey, in fact, that even if they save every penny they can, there’s no way they could afford it.  So, they’ve turned to the power of the internet and they’re hoping to harness some of the good out there in the interweb to help them expand their little family.
Andrea wrote and recorded a beautiful song for little Clara, and if you buy it, the proceeds go into a pool.  A pregnancy pool.  A pool full of prayers and hopes and dreams for a baby to complete their little family.

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“As a mother, it’s hard to explain the longing you feel to hold your baby when she has been so quickly taken from your ams,” Andrea said.  “People want to explain it as being an emotional reaction to the loss of a child, but I am telling you it is physically and achingly painful. I know my husband and son have felt bouts of this physical pain as well, and we want nothing more than to start to replace some of that pain with the joy of a new baby. If for some reason that doesn’t work out, we are still open to some of the other options like adoption. What a blessing it is to have these options.”
The fundraiser expires at the end of the week.  Every penny gets them one step closer to the possibility of a healthy pregnancy.  You simply buy Andrea’s song, and your dollars are donated to their fund.
“I feel like by offering this little piece of what I learned to anyone who wants it, I can somehow honor my daughter, the experience, and hopefully help someone who may be going through something similar.  I hope to move forward with more grace and contentment, and be more appreciative of the wonderful things I have in my life. The little things.”

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Clara forever changed Andrea.  She would have laid down her life for her daughter if she had the chance.  It was a brief life, but it was a precious one.

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  1. Lisa Trent says:

    Stories and images that are all too familiar. I know Clara is tougher than anyone can imagine… it’s strange to watch tiny, helpless babies endure things that even adults are deeply afraid of. Yet, they are accompanied by angels who are with them always keeping them safe and comforted. Being a mom of a child that has had to endure those medical trials AND being a mother that wants another baby (with 4 years and counting of no luck-) I hope and pray that Andrea’s dreams come true. Touching story, Jen. Our thoughts and prayers are with her cute family.

  2. Shalise says:

    Wow, I hope for the best for them and they get the donations that are needed. I know how they feel from a different stand, long story short- I would love another child as well, with both of my living daughters being premature do to my preeclampsia/hellp syndrome with each pregnancy and having endometriosis and so many fetal loss, 20 weeks, 24 weeks, so on and so on I can so relate. When you want a family so bad and you feel so lost. What a beautiful post! I hope they get the money raised, I hope one day I can as well. I am looking into surrogacy but everything is such a cost. What a beautiful family they have and my prayers and thoughts are with them. Thanks for sharing this story!

  3. Brittany Peterson says:

    I don’t think anyone could read this with a dry eye! This is so touching and inspiring! I could never imagine what she has gone through! I hope they earn enough money!!!

  4. Brianna says:

    What a phenomenal series! I am so thankful for people who bring to light the trials of motherhood! Thank you for this!

  5. Becky says:

    oh this hits home for me…. thank you for sharing.

  6. Heidi says:

    This pretty person inside and out has inspired me from the day I met her. Her and Ben are heros of mine. What a beautiful tribute.

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