Blankets for Brianna: Laurel’s Story
Expecting a first baby is a joyous time in one’s life. For any woman who has planned her pregnancy, there is excitement and anticipation for nine months as she picks out a name, prepares the nursery, and daydreams about the day she will hold her baby in her arms. There is no other feeling that compares to that of the little life moving around inside.
Laurel Taylor was experiencing her own joyful pregnancy for the first time and was marveling at the little life inside of her. She was 39 1/2 weeks pregnant with a little baby girl whom she and her husband, Joe, had named Brianna. It was a Thursday afternoon in early January, 2012, and she had just finished up at her doctor’s appointment where he scheduled her induction for the following Monday. Her pregnancy had gone smoothly; there were no complications or any concerns from the doctor. Things were going completely as planned. Until all of the sudden, they weren’t.
She awoke in the early hours of the next morning, Friday, January 13, and had a strange sense that something was wrong. Joe, a firefighter, was still at work and she debated if she should drive herself the 40 minutes to the hospital to check on the baby. Less than 24 hours before, the doctor had said the baby looked great. Surely, there was nothing to worry about. Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. She quickly dressed and made the drive to the hospital, intending for the nurse to check the baby’s heartbeat and [hopefully] send them back on their way home. If all went well, she might even be able to make it back home before Joe’s shift was over, saving herself the explanation of why she drove herself out to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning.
While she was lying in the hospital, monitors hooked up on her belly, relief washed over her when she heard Brianna’s heartbeat. Satisfied with the sound of her baby’s beating heart, Laurel was ready to head home, but the nurse and ultrasound tech were still watching the screen. They were concentrated on Brianna, discovering that she was tangled in her umbilical cord, making it difficult for her to move and causing some distress. Laurel was told that she would need to go in for an immediate C-section.
Laurel was shocked. She was already set for induction on Monday. Was the situation so dire that they couldn’t wait? She became very nervous, knowing that her instincts had been right; something was wrong. As she tried to process what was happening, she immediately called her husband to let him to know to come straight to the hospital. She made a few other phone calls to family members and friends; her parents had a six-hour drive to make from St. George, Utah. By the time she was ready to go in for her emergency C-section, her in-laws and Joe had all arrived to be with her.
The last thing Laurel had wanted, or expected, was a C-section. She was worried about the procedure, but she thought that her baby would be okay. Joe was sitting next to her head, with the anesthesiologist, as they pulled Brianna out of her womb. Laurel waited for her baby’s cry, but it never came. Anxiously, she asked the anesthesiologist if Brianna was okay. He tried to calm her down, without answering her questions. What seemed like an eternity, yet no time at all, she heard the doctor say the words she had been dreading,
“We are going to call it.”
Laurel knew exactly what that meant. Her precious baby Brianna had not survived the delivery. She was not prepared for a C-section, but she certainly was not prepared to go home with empty arms.
Over the next several hours, Laurel and her husband, along with their closest friends and family members, were able to hold Brianna in their arms, loving on her and memorizing her sweet face. The hospital staff gave Laurel a special, keepsake blanket to wrap Brianna in.
The nurses were amazing; caring and empathetic. After a two day stay in the hospital, Laurel was released to return home where an empty nursery awaited her, a painful reminder of all that she had lost. In the coming days, friends and family gathered near her side, comforting her, helping her to get through this dark time. Meals, cards and flowers were brought to the house, offering sincere condolences to Laurel and Joe. A small graveside service was held for baby Brianna. Their closest friends and family joined with them in saying good-bye to their little girl.
Because of the C-section, Laurel was on leave from work for 8 weeks. She was lucky enough to have Joe with her during most of that time. She clung to the blanket she was given in the hospital. It brought her comfort to hold it, a sweet reminder of the baby she held briefly in her arms, and holds forever in her heart. While working through her grief, and holding onto Brianna’s blanket, Laurel had an idea to make blankets and donate them to the hospital. She wanted to give other grieving moms the same comfort that she felt. She rallied together a few of her friends and they set out to make baby blankets. When she contacted the hospital, they encouraged her to name her project. She called it “Blankets for Brianna.”
Laurel didn’t intend for this to be an ongoing project. She thought that she would donate one time and be done, but donating the blankets helped her to feel like she was doing something positive in the midst of this terrible loss she was going through. It felt good to give back and bring some sort of comfort to others experiencing that same pain and devastation. It was also a way to keep Brianna’s memory alive, a way to honor her. Within 10 short months of her loss, Blankets for Brianna had become an official 501c3 non-profit organization. For the past 5 years, Laurel has connected with hundreds of amazing people who have donated baby blankets for her organization. Blankets for Brianna has donated over 5,500 items to over 125 different hospitals across the country. Though her life on this Earth was not lived, Brianna has still made an impact on thousands of people.
Laurel remains a positive and upbeat person, despite the unimaginable tragedy she went through. A year after she lost her sweet Brianna, she welcomed another sweet baby girl into her family, Sarah Faith. Going through the loss of one child has made her appreciate her motherhood journey so much more. Raising a child is far from easy, but it’s not something that Laurel takes for granted.
Along with Blankets for Brianna, Laurel has found peace and healing in running. She ran her first half-marathon a month before she became pregnant with Brianna, not realizing at the time what a big part of her life running would become. After she gave birth to Sarah, she started running again. At first, her distances were short and her times were slow. She gradually built up her speed and endurance, oftentimes running to Brianna’s gravesite. When Sarah was seven months old, Laurel participated in her second half-marathon. On January 13, 2018, on what would’ve been Brianna’s 6th birthday, Laurel plans to run “a race of a lifetime.” Her mantra has become “If I could run to you, I would run forever.”
In the midst of great sorrow, Laurel was able to rise above it all, finding her inner strength; helping and inspiring others along the way. I have personally met Laurel. We first met after I had organized a group of women from church to make baby blankets for donation. I came across Blankets for Brianna on Facebook and felt inspired to take on this project after my dear cousin had endured the loss of her sweet baby. At the time, Laurel was about 5 or 6 months pregnant with Sarah. As she walked into my house to pick up the blankets we had made, she shared her story with me. I literally stood in awe of her amazing strength and resilience. A few months later, I reached out to her again after witnessing the stillbirth of my precious nephew. She graciously spoke with me, and my sister-in-law, lending support and love while we navigated one of the most painful experiences one can fathom.
The compassion that Laurel possesses is truly remarkable. The world needs more Laurels!
Places you can find Blankets for Brianna:
If you are interested in reading some of Laurel’s journey, you can visit her blog here.
If you found this story inspiring, please share. If you have your own story about how you were able to “make lemonade” out of the lemons life handed you, please contact me.