Tender Warrior: Brooke Helms

May 10, 2017

Tender Warrior: Brooke Helms

As I entered their home I felt the love and warmth. The first thing I see is Breckin (2yrs) sitting on a big stuffed teddy bear chair with her sister, Harper (5yrs) sitting right in front of her singing to her and playing with her hands. A child’s walker catches my eye in the corner of the house and sparks my interest of all the intricacies of this family.

photography by: David Tigrett

Brooke Helms (35yrs) greets me warmly and we get comfortable on the carpet with her two girls and I feel immediately at home with them. As Harper plays with her sisters toes nestled in her striped socks, Brooke begins to share with me about her loving husband and gentle eldest daughter, the grief of a miscarriage and the scariness of the uncertainty to come with her youngest daughter.

photography by: David Tigrett

“When my husband Josh and I had Harper it was a transition, as most assume, but not anything we couldn’t handle,” Brooke tells me. “Harper was so easy and so great that we felt really thankful.” But as time went on and Brooke discovered the excitement of being pregnant with her second child she was unprepared for what would happen next.

photography by: David Tigrett

“At 15 weeks we found out that we had lost our baby,” she said as Breckin crawled into her lap wrapping her arms and legs around her like a koala. “It was really hard because it was past the point that you think you are safe. This was the hardest thing we had faced up to this point in our marriage,” she continued.

With a foundation of faith built from the start the couple clung to the Lord harder than ever before.  “The dreams we had for our second child were shattered and dark times of grief quickly followed, but what I realized throughout this was that God is good and He is sovereign,” she told me as she glanced over at Harper playing with play dough on a table nearby. “God  knew that would happen and even though I don’t understand it, it was for a reason and I have clung to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and through that have been able to comfort other women going through the same thing,” she finished.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 1 Corinthians 1:3-4

As she began to recover from this heartache and pick the pieces up again she discovered another miracle coming soon to her life. She was pregnant again. Mixed with worry, a touch of fear and joy she prepared for this new life growing inside of her.

photography by: David Tigrett


Breckin was sitting next to her mom with her book that played ‘Jesus Loves Me’ clapping her hands and smiling so big with all teeth showing and one dimple on the side of her cheek. “We went in for our ultrasound at 20 weeks to find out the gender and found that our new baby girl had a cyst in her brain and they could not see all 4 chambers of her heart,” she said soberly.

photography by: David Tigrett 

So many questions, worries and even the fear of potentially losing another baby on top of how she would face her loved ones at a gender reveal party that same day were flooding over her at once.“We went ahead with the revealment party with our friends and family and I just couldn’t hold it in,” said Brooke. “I just cried.” Breckin, blind from birth, touches her neck and moves her hand to her face studying her momma with her fingers.

 photography by: David Tigrett

From there they were on unchartered waters, filled with uncertainty and a whole lot of faith. They discovered their baby girl had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and Dandy Walker Malformation. Brooke explained, “When I heard the two diagnoses my medical background as a Physician's Assistant kicked in and I knew hypoplastic was one of the worst heart defects. It felt surreal.”

photography by: David Tigrett

As they tried to steer away from Google and looking up everything they could on Dandy Walker they clung to scripture knowing this was part of God’s bigger picture and plan. “ I knew God was with me and He would not leave me,” she said with fingers intertwined with Breckin’s and Harper sitting next to her sister reading her different books.

photography by: David Tigrett 

I am no expert with Dandy Walker but from what I understand it is a rare group of congenital human brain malformations that can have delayed development; particularly a delay in motor skills such as crawling, walking and coordinating movement and in Breckin’s case even blindness due to her optical nerves not developing.

photography by: David Tigrett

“When Breckin was born she came out blue and not breathing,” said Brooke. “As they got her breathing, I was able to hold her for just a few seconds and I tried to soak up each and every one just being still in that moment because I knew all that would follow it.” Breckin was immediately taken to Lebonheur to NICU to have heart surgery at just 3 days old. Brooke was out of her bed and downtown to the hospital within 24 hours of birthing her baby to be by her side during the surgery. Talk about going into mom beast mode.

 photography by: David Tigrett

“Some of the many challenges following the surgery was getting her enough nutrition. Breckin has a cleft palate so she couldn’t nurse or take a bottle, so she had to have a feeding tube and that is how she ate for weeks,” she said as Harper proudly showed her the colored page of Elsa from Frozen she had done.

 photography by: David Tigrett

Breckin stayed in the hospital for 6 weeks and as a family they decided to take her home with a feeding tube intact so they could manage her nutrition from home and not in a hospital bed. “Me and Josh just made the decision to do that so we could be at home with Harper who was 3 at the time and bouncing back and forth from grandparents homes,” she said.

photography by: David Tigrett

Since that day Breckin had another heart surgery at 5 months old, and will have another next summer. She has been working with speech therapists and learned to sign various things like “more” and she even lovingly shouts out words like, “Hi Momma!” just like a typical toddlers and that sweet voice will make your heart melt.

 photography by: David Tigrett

I asked Brooke how she felt and feels now with everything she has been through and if she found herself angry, lost or just asking the big “why” all the time. She paused, brushed Breckin’s hair out of her face and fixed her bow then shared about the days that followed. “There were definitely dark days and times were I felt that there were doctors who treated her as if something was  “wrong” with her,” she said. “But I found comfort in Psalm 139 that says God knew her before she was born and that she was fearfully and wonderfully made by God, just as she is now,” she continued. “So I would cling to these verses and say to people that this is exactly how she is supposed to be and exactly what God intended for her and us,“ she said as Breckin felt the animal fur in her book and made the corresponding animal noises.

 photography by: David Tigrett

“My favorite thing to do with my sister is to read books with her!” said an excited Harper. She jumped up and grabbed a book from the toy box to show me. She was so sweet and kind with Breckin. She picked up her hand and gently ran it over the braille dots of the book while also reading it out loud as Breckin would squeal with delight and joy. At times I saw Breckin touch Harper’s face as if not to miss a single expression her big sister made and maybe even to show her love in that moment.

photography by: David Tigrett

Brooke was right- this family was fearfully and wonderfully made. It would be understandable after hearing all that Brooke has been through for them to be angry, tired or sad but she isn’t, they aren’t. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have hard days, just like mom’s do, but she has chosen to stand firm in her faith and in trust that The Lord made her children on purpose EXACTLY as they are for a specific reason and fulfillment in this world.

photography by: David Tigrett 

“Having a relationship with Christ doesn’t make your problems magically disappear- it just creates a peace and understanding that God has you and He is there,” she said. “One of the biggest encouragements I can give to others is if you have a support system, utilize it,” she said. “Let people help you and don’t try to carry the burden all by yourself.”

photography by: David Tigrett

As we continued to talk about the safeguards she and her husband put up to maintain the health of their marriage and even balancing attention from Breckin to Harper, I just sat back amazed. Tears fell to the pages I hurriedly took notes on thinking on the elements of this story and how graceful and faithful she was. I tried to imagine the loss of a child. I tried to picture birthing my son only to have him immediately sent to surgery on his tiny, fragile heart. I tried to wrap my head around having a toddler that you are desperately trying to stabilize and create normalcy for during this difficult time. I tried to remotely fathom having a child with disabilities and equipping myself for all that while maintaining a posture of worship, thankfulness and love for The Lord and when I got in my car I wept. 

I thought about how GOOD our God is and how He knew these children would be stewarded and discipled in a way no one else could do but Brooke and Josh. God knew these children before they were born and He knew Brooke and Josh before they were born and KNEW this family would make such a dent on this world, in His name, in a way only they could do! This story, this series of events that have occurred in their lives, did not just “happen to them.” God loved them so much that he chose them to steward this specific story because he knew that they could not just “handle it” but that they would GLORIFY HIM through it and so will their children. Their story was on purpose for a purpose and THAT is how much God loves this family.  

photography by: David Tigrett

“Honored,” said Brooke when I asked her if she could pick one word to describe her stage in life as a mom. “I might not have even said that last year, but I feel like being a mom in itself is a huge responsibility,” she said. “Their whole well-being is on us and God felt us worthy enough to be entrusted with these two amazing little girls and I just feel completely humbled and honored.”

photography by: David Tigrett

To Learn More about Brooke's story, to send her encouragement or to get encouragement you can visit her blog: theheartofhelms.com or email her at brookeamanda82@gmail.com  

 

            




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