Lauren and Keith Chalk struggled for years to have a baby.
The couple suffered two miscarriages, and they thought a full-term pregnancy may not be possible for them.
Then, on Dec. 2, they welcomed their first child into the world — nine after days after they found out they were pregnant.
Lauren, 28, found out she was pregnant during a visit to her parents' home in Slidell, Louisiana. She said her mother, who is a medical professional, suggested taking a test because she seemed “on edge.” She thought Lauren's hormones may be off.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, she took the test — it was positive. She and Keith, 28, tried to secure an immediate doctor’s appointment in Southaven, Miss., the suburb of Memphis in which the couple resides. But they had to wait until after the holiday.
'There was a whole baby on the screen'
The day before her scheduled appointment, Lauren noticed blood when she went to the bathroom. It made her nervous, she said, because it reminded her of past miscarriages.
“That’s how it worked with every single one we had,” Lauren said. “I’d taken a pregnancy test, made a doctor’s appointment. Before the doctor’s appointment would come, that would happen.”
The couple had one miscarriage in 2015 and another in 2016.
As a teenager, Lauren was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and later, anemia and lupus anticoagulant. This was around the time she and Keith began dating.
After she noticed blood this time, they rescheduled her appointment a day early. Doctors found Lauren’s blood pressure was extremely high. An obstetrician then performed an ultrasound.
Lauren said she was expecting to see “something small.” She thought she may have been four or five months pregnant.
“But then she did the ultrasound, and there was a whole baby on the screen," Lauren said.
She and Keith sat in awe.
"I’ve been in that position before where we’ve gone in to have an ultrasound and then there’s no heartbeat," she said. "So, that was also something as well, but then you hear a heartbeat.”
The couple left the exam without knowing the exact due date or gender.
When the doctor returned, she recommended having the baby that day.
Their 'miracle baby' arrives
Lauren gave birth to her "miracle baby," Wyatt Rivers, on Dec. 2 at Baptist Women's Hospital in Memphis. The 18-inch newborn weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces. He came home after six days.
“I think that God planned all of it to be the way that it was," she said.
Keith also agrees that the timing was supernatural and meaningful. Considering the past, the quick series of events made it easier to accept.
"That was honestly probably for the best," he said. "We didn't have time to stress ourselves out or get anxious about it."
Lauren had an induced birth.
During her five- or six-hour labor, she received an epidural and several other medications. She said the heavy medication was due to her high blood pressure.
Wyatt sometimes rejected the medicine. When Lauren's blood pressure dropped before contraction, his heart rate also dropped.
After intervals of stopping and starting the medicine, doctors recommended and performed a cesarean section.
Lauren gave birth to Wyatt at 8:06 p.m.
Keith said hearing his son cry made the struggles worth it.
“It was the culmination of everything that we’ve wanted and hoped and waited for,” he said.
Lauren said she discovered a deep love.
“As soon as I saw him, I don’t know that I can love anything more than what I love him.”
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Missed periods were 'normal'
Lauren said she hadn't gotten sick during her pregnancy. There were times that she felt movement, but disregarded it as gas bubbles.
She said she also felt heartburn at some points, but thought it was food-related.
Polycystic ovary syndrome also threw off her awareness. The condition has caused Lauren to have irregular menstrual cycles for years.
"When I missed my period, that's normal. That's how we caught it when I was 15 years old," she said.
Irene Peregrin, an OBGYN physician at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Division, said Lauren's story doesn't surprise her. She's seen it happen before.
"It's not uncommon, I have seen that before, especially in patients that do have a condition called PCOS," Peregrin said. "Those are patients that do have irregular cycles."
Peregrin said she's also seen women dismiss movement and heartburn as non-pregnancy related. In other cases, some women don't have symptoms.
"Sometimes pregnancies are uneventful, and some patients do not have morning sickness," she said.
'I was most likely getting my hopes up'
Looking back, Lauren said she maybe should've taken a pregnancy test after the fourth missed cycle. But still, she and Keith agreed, missed periods have happened before and the test would come out negative.
Past complications also made it hard to believe a full-term pregnancy was possible.
"When you experience the hurt of that happening, you don't really want to open yourself up to it again," Lauren said. "And so, I think that was part of it — that even if, in the back of my head, I subconsciously thought that something was leaning toward the pregnancy, I would dismiss it because I was most likely getting my hopes up."
Lauren and Keith were so convinced that healthy pregnancy may not be an option for them, that they began to explore other ways to parent.
In the beginning of the year, the couple fostered for a few months before the child went back with his parents.
“We decided that that probably wasn’t for us, because if we wanted a child, we wanted to be able to keep him in our home,” Lauren said. “It was hard to love them and then give them back.”
Over the summer, they became content with the idea of not having children.
“Not that we didn’t want them,” Lauren said. “But we just knew that if we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t dwell on it and be bitter.”
The best Christmas present
The couple said they've received a lot of support from family, friends and colleagues in such short notice.
Lauren is a 12th-grade English teacher at DeSoto Central High School in Southaven. She said she called a colleague from the hospital to find a substitute for her class. The colleague sent an email to the entire school about the surprise birth. Many were inspired to help out.
"When we walked in this house on Saturday, the entire kitchen was full," she recalled. "We have cribs and swings and changing tables and cribs and clothes, diapers."
"We are beyond blessed with how the church has come together, how our co-workers and friends and family have just provided."
Keith recently returned to work as an inside sales representative after one week off.
His mother, Sarah Duggan, and Lauren's mother, Angie Wyatt, have been helping out while they tend to Wyatt.
"We've wanted him for so long and they've been just through so much together," Duggan said in tears.
Angie Wyatt is happy to be a grandparent for the first time.
"It is amazing," she said. "I've always wanted grandchildren. He is a blessing."
Keith said this time of year will always be special because of his son's birth. This time, two years ago, the couple was working through loss and are happy to have other memories for the season.
"It's the best Christmas present anybody could ask for," Keith said.
In front of the Christmas tree, the couple contemplated the rest of their son's life.
"I hope that we do justice in showing him what a miracle that he is," Lauren said. "Not that all children aren't miracles, just given every circumstance, he's truly a blessing."
Keith hopes he and his son have common interests.
"I hope that we can teach him and raise him to be a good person and to love other people as he loves himself and his family," he said. "And that he has a heart for helping people and nerd stuff."
Alexa Imani Spencer covers suburbs and breaking news for The Commercial Appeal. Reach her at email@example.com or 901-304-9740. Find her on Twitter: @AlexaImani
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Woman births 'miracle baby' days after discovering she's pregnant