Stephen's Birth Story (Kelley's CBAC after a Preterm Vertical)

September 2, 2008

This is my miracle story.  This was my 6th pregnancy and 8th baby.  My first 4 were "normal" vaginal births (for everything "normal" means when you're at the mercy of the hospital and OB), and my 5th pregnancy was my triplets.  They were born at 28.5 weeks, and their births were how I got my SS, a vertical incision.  We waited 3 years to have another baby, but it wasn't because of the c/s.  It was because we had 3 babies to take care of.  :)  And this is my story...

As I tell the story, my hope is that you can see how God was there from the beginning protecting and keeping Stephen safe.  Before Stephen was even in the womb, God was there making sure things were going to work out.  And he made sure that it worked in a way that only He can get the glory.

I know I couldn't have gotten through it alone.  God is big enough and able to do whatever he wants, but sometimes he uses people to help him accomplish things.  I know Stephen would not have made it if it had not been for 2 little girls from our church.

I struggle to keep from calling them angels.  Almost from the beginning they were there with me.  Eileen and Anne (13 and 11 yrs old at the time) practically lived with me for more than 5 months.  In fact, when Eileen talks of this time, she says, "When I started living here."  If it hadn't been for these girls being with me and taking care of the triplets, I know Stephen would not be here.  There were a couple of times when I tried to do a little something with the boys, and each time it caused my condition to worsen.  I was dependent on these girls to take care of my children, and they did a marvelous job.  It is not a stretch to call them life savers.  That's exactly what they are.  Through their selfless giving, Stephen's life was saved.

His was a pregnancy so troubled that, no matter the words I find to describe it, the words are incredibly inadequate.  But the Lord was merciful.  And this is how it all happened...

In December '07, I started seeing my GYN for some pain I had been having.  She diagnosed me with a uterine infection and prescribed some very strong antibiotics that I could take after I started my next cycle.  When I started my January cycle, I started the meds, which was probably a 10 day dose.  If I had the typical 14 day ovulation, there's a chance the meds would have still been in my system when I ovulated.  But God knew this, so he provided for me to have a 17 day ovulation so that the meds were completely out of my system before I conceived.

I conceived January 21.  (When we found out I was with child, it was important for us to find out exactly when it happened because of the meds I had been on.)  January 29, I started my cycle at the regular time.  It was abnormal, but that could have been from the meds I had just finished taking, so I wasn't too alarmed.  Little did I know, there was a tiny baby inside – fighting.

After the abnormal cycle ended, 4 days later I started bleeding again on a Saturday morning.  I called my GYN that Monday and explained what was going on.  She saw me that day and scheduled an ultrasound for Wednesday morning Feb. 13, along with a follow-up with her that afternoon.  By this time, I had been bleeding like a normal period for almost 3 weeks.  I had the ultrasound and went in for the follow-up.  While I was talking with her, the nurse brought in the results of my scan.  They had found a "fluid-filled sac" in my uterus, which was thicker than normal.  They said I was pregnant with an estimated due date of October 13.  Well, this came as quite the shock.  Paul and I hadn't been trying to prevent the Lord's will, but after all of this bleeding, we weren't wholly convinced it was a pregnancy, so the doctor ordered a blood test.  I went to the lab on the way home and waited for her to call me.

Well, we all know what the news was.  I was with child.  Normally we would have been rejoicing, but I was still bleeding.  Naturally we were concerned.  I immediately put myself on bed rest, and that night at church Paul made the announcement and asked for prayer.

The same bleeding continued through the next 3 weeks.  My doctor scheduled another ultrasound for March 5.  The hospital where I went for the scan has a policy that not only forbids the patient from watching, but the technician isn't allowed to talk to you about what she's seeing.  I had to wait for the doctor to call me.  When she did, she had more shocking news: it was twins!  But there was a problem.  One of them looked like he wasn't alive.  (I say "he" because I believe they were identical twins.  When they found my pregnancy, there was only 1 sac, and now there were two.)

That night, at about 10:30p, I was in the middle of writing an email when I suddenly got very sick.  I was overcome with pain more severe than anything I've felt in my life.  I couldn't get out of the chair I was sitting in, and I could feel myself about to vomit, so I tried calling for my husband, but I was in too much pain to yell out.  From the kitchen, he heard my faint cries and came running.  Before he could get to me, I was bleeding very heavily.  I could feel it of course, but I was in so much pain that I couldn't move.  After vomiting, I managed to get to the restroom.  The pain was so bad I curled up into a ball on the bathroom floor.  In the back of my mind, I knew what was going on.  I knew the baby was gone, but I didn't want to tell my husband.  I didn't want to say those words.  He called Kristi (our midwife) and told her what was happening, and she told him to take me to the hospital immediately.  We called Paul's mom, and she came as soon as she could, but that took almost an hour.  Meanwhile, I was still bleeding, but the pain had pretty much gone away.

After the experience at Obici and not being allowed to look at the ultrasound, I did NOT want to go back there, so we drove pass Obici and went all the way to the Navy hospital, which was about 30 minutes further.  They immediately did an ultrasound.  The news.. There was a baby.. not two.. just one.  We had lost the twin, but Stephen was still in there – fighting.

The bleeding continued even after the miscarriage.  I continued the bedrest, and Eileen and Anne were there taking care of the boys.  The most I did every day was get up to cook my eggs and potatoes breakfast.

Five days after the miscarriage, neither Eileen nor Anne was with me on this day.  They had to go home for an appointment.  I was doing my best to do nothing, and I was sitting on the couch talking on the phone when all of a sudden, I was overcome with pain.  It was the same pain I had felt just 5 days before.  I thought I was losing the other baby.

Paul was at work, so I had to get the boys into their room so I could try to get to the restroom.  I had the presence of mind on my way to unlock the chain on the front door.  I knew in the back of my mind that I needed Paul to come home, and I just had this feeling that I wasn't going to be able to let him in.  I brought the phone with me to the bathroom, and again, the pain was so bad, I curled up into a ball on the bathroom floor.  I couldn't do anything except call my husband.  He rushed to come home and told me he was calling 911.  The EMT's got there, but they couldn't get in.  I had only unlocked the chain, not the dead bolt.  They knocked on the door, but I couldn't get up.  I just laid on the floor in pain.  They knew Paul was on his way, so they waited for him to come and let them in.  This time I had no choice.  I had to go to Obici.

Obici doesn't keep technicians in the facility around the clock, and since this was "after hours", the technician was called in to do an emergency ultrasound.  She arrived at the hospital in a timely manner, but there was some kind of mix up with my blood work that prevented us from getting the scan for a few hours.  Again, she's not allowed to let me watch or talk to me about what she sees, so we had to wait for the results.  She had to send it to the radiologist to read, he had to print his report, send the report to the ER doctor, and the ER doctor could finally come and give me the results.  An hour after the ultrasound, and 5 hours after we called the ambulance, we had the news: the baby was still there – fighting.

A few days later I started care with the high risk clinic at Portsmouth Naval.  They did an ultrasound and found a large clot in my uterus.  Apparently, the baby that died had managed to form at least a small attachment of the placenta.  When he died, the placenta didn't clamp off.  It was an open wound inside of my uterus that was bleeding.  The blood was pooling in there and caused this clot to form.  On top of that, I was still bleeding like a regular period and still on bed rest, and I was so weak I was literally having trouble even taking a shower.  In fact, I couldn't take one.  Paul had to buy me a shower chair to sit on so I could take a shower.

At this point, it's the middle of March, and I was about 9 weeks pregnant.  I continued bleeding like a normal period.  A week or two after I started being seen at Portsmouth, I was in very bad condition.  I was bleeding heavily and too weak to walk, so Paul took me to the ER.  After all these weeks of bleeding, I had lost so much blood that I needed a transfusion.  They admitted me and gave me 3 units of blood.  And my baby was still there – fighting.

The bleeding never stopped.  I was seeing the doctors and having regular ultrasounds, and they were watching this clot that I had.  It was getting bigger.  I started taking an herbal concoction that was supposed to help prevent miscarriage.  This herb somehow knows the difference between a viable pregnancy, and one that's not.  It somehow helps the body to deal with it if it's not viable.  I had taken the pills early in my pregnancy, but not being the pill-popping type, I hadn't kept up with it.  At around 14 weeks, I started taking them again.

After two days of taking these herbs, I had the scariest experience of my life.  I started bleeding heavily and having contractions.  I was only 14 weeks.  We got to the hospital 45 minutes after the bleeding started, and by the time we got there, my clothes were completely soaked to my knees with blood.  Paul put me in a wheel chair to get me in the door, and the blood was dripping from the chair.  I was having labor pains, but these weren't the typical pains that lasted for 30 or 45 seconds.  These were lasting for several minutes.  The pain was so bad that I was shaking, and I was going into shock from the loss of blood.  They labeled me in critical condition and kept trying to give me drugs to ease the pain, but I wouldn't take them.  I wanted to be able to know if I was having pain.

The doctors were very concerned and had no idea why I was in labor.  Because of the nature of my problems, every time I went to the hospital the doctors would go over this and that and what may happen.  They always mentioned abortion.  Every time.  They weren't telling me that this is what was GOING to happen.  They were just trying to prepare me in case it needed to be done.  Paul and I would never have agreed to that.  But if it had come to the point when they needed to do such a thing, I would have literally been on my death bed, and there would have been no choice.  I'm glad to say it didn't come to this.  The Lord was taking care of us.  They did another scan.  It showed the baby was still there – fighting.

In hind sight, I think the herbs were trying to help my body get rid of the clot.  It was there and growing bigger all the time, being fed by this placenta that never healed.  Well, I had lost a lot of blood, so they admitted me- again- for another transfusion.

Through the latter part of April and through May, the bleeding continued, but I didn't have any more dramatic episodes.  By June 2, when I had my last appointment with the doctor at Portsmouth, ("last" because we were still planning a home birth) the bleeding was very light.  That day when they did the ultrasound, they had wonderful news- the clot, which had probably gotten to be about the size of a soft ball, was gone.  Amen!

Shortly thereafter, the bleeding stopped altogether.  For three marvelous weeks, I was back on my feet taking care of the house and kids.  Then came that day.

It was late June when we were at BabiesRUs looking at strollers.  Making a long story short, I was trying to work this particular stroller that didn't work properly.  I didn't know it until we left the store, but I had hurt myself.  That night, I started bleeding again.  I didn't need to go to the hospital, but I was back on bed rest and talked to Kristi about what happened.  She said it was probably an abruption of the placenta.  That means the placenta actually has been torn away from the wall of the uterus.  In my case, it was just a small tear.  The good news was that I could still feel the baby moving.  He was still in there – fighting.

I continued to have some very minor bleeding over the next four weeks or so.  Then, one night in late July, I started having some heavy bleeding again.  My husband has joked (in his dry humor kind of way) that I always had to pick the late night hours to visit the ER.  Well, this was no exception.  It was about 11:00 when we went in.  We didn't have Tricare anymore, so we couldn't go to Portsmouth.  Kristi told us to go to Norfolk General because CHKD is right there, and they're the best people for the baby.  By this time, we had gotten wise and packed a bag for me before we left.  The bleeding was severe enough for them to admit me.

During that stay, I was diagnosed with a Group B bladder infection.  But they never told me that it was a Group B infection; they just told me I had a bladder infection.  They put me on antibiotics and kept me for a few days to watch the bleeding.  When they were satisfied that I was doing well enough, they sent me home.

Three weeks later, I hadn't stopped bleeding, but it had been just a light flow or spotting.  In late August, I had a day when it got to be a little heavier, so we went in.  After their evaluation, they actually sent me home.  This was the only time I was sent home from the hospital.

Five days later, I was sitting on the couch when I felt a gush.  This was no big deal.  By this time, I had felt many gushes of blood.  Sometimes, the bleeding had been so fast and heavy that I would literally go through a pad before I could make it to the bathroom.  After experiencing that a few times, it wasn't such a big deal any more.  Well, I went to the restroom but didn't see the normal thing.  I wasn't sure because it's hard to tell on the pad, but I wondered if my water had broken.  Kristi had told me that my fluid would probably be bloody, so I wasn't sure if I was seeing bloody water, or watery blood.  I decided to wait and see what happens.

Well, over the next day or so, I grew more and more suspicious and eventually was able to catch some of this fluid.  It was obviously bloody water.  Guess what time of night it was.  Yes, it was the wee hours of the morning, around 1:00 or so.  I woke Paul up just to tell him that we would have to go to the ER in the morning.

Bright and early, we got everybody up and out the door.  A friend met us to take the kids, and we went in.  Naturally, I was admitted.  I knew when I left the house that I was not going home without a baby.  I was 33.4 weeks.

The doctors were concerned about having a "prolonged rupture of membranes", so they were very eager to induce me.  They kept telling me that "the data supports" the baby being born immediately because it could be very bad for the baby to stay inside the womb for a long period of time after the water breaks.  They knew we wanted to do an all natural birth, but they kept pushing.  "The data supports" this, that, and the other thing going wrong if we don"t deliver that baby today.  They kept telling me that babies born at 34 weeks fare almost as well as term babies, and I was just a couple days shy of 34 weeks, so it was about the same.  They REALLY wanted me to have the baby right now.  They wanted me to do a C-section, but they were going to induce me if I didn't want to have the surgery.  We trusted our midwife, though, so we called her to see what she thought about all this.

I told her what the doctors were saying and their reasons for not exactly being pleased with our plans to have a natural birth.  The pregnancy had been so difficult, and with my previous C-section, there was a greater risk of the uterus rupturing, and if that happened, it was going to be a big problem and I would have to have an emergency C-section.  There's not a lot of time if that happens, and it would prevent all of that if I just agreed to do a C-section.  They also told me when I got there that I had Group B in my urine, so I was immediately started on antibiotics.  After talking to Kristi, I talked the doctors into letting me try a natural induction before we used the pitocin.  I told them that if the natural induction didn't work, then I would be willing to use the pitocin the next day, Sunday.

All day Saturday, I tried and tried to get my body to go into labor, but each time I stopped the stimulation the contractions would stop.  It just wasn't working.  That night we were going over the birth plan with the doctors and came to a point that we didn't agree on.  They just weren't willing to do what we wanted.  Making a long story short, let me just say that after arguing with them about it for more than 2 hours, we weren't willing to proceed with any induction the next morning until this issue was resolved.

We called Kristi and told her what was going on.  She had some articles that would help us present our case, but Paul had to go get them.  Guess what time of day it was?  It was around midnight.  Paul went to her house and had a good long talk with her about everything they've been telling us.

The next day, Sunday, the head doctor comes in and, without much discussion, agrees to at least partially compromise their position.  Satisfied with what we were getting, we were ready to proceed with the pitocin- but he wasn't.  He said he wanted me to take the day to rest, and we would go ahead with the pitocin on Monday.  That night I was talking to Paul and told him that I was not worried in the least bit about the baby.  I had peace that he was going to be alright.  It was me that I was worried about.  I didn't have anything specific in mind.  I just wasn't at ease.

The next morning, we were ready.  It was the big day.  Stephen was going to be born on the triplets' birthday.  We had mixed feelings about this and weren't sure about how the triplets would feel about sharing their birthday (as odd as that sounds).  We didn't know it, but the Lord had been working over night.  Monday morning, the doctor comes in and tells me that he's just not comfortable with proceeding.  He told me that "the data shows" a much higher percentage of cases with a ruptured uterus after a drug-induced labor.  What?  "The data shows"?  Wasn't that other doctor just telling me 2 days ago that "the data supports" the baby being born NOW?

He wanted to hold off and wait for my body to labor on its own.  Well, we didn't trust much of anything the doctors were saying at this point, so I called Kristi to see what she thought.  I barely finished telling her what the doctor said before she was saying she had been up and down all night praying over this.  She just didn't have a peace about it.  Remember how Paul had talked to her Saturday night?  Well, one of the things he told her about was the Group B in my urine.  It turns out that they couldn't have possibly known about that the same day I was admitted.  The culture on that takes two days for results.  The only way they could have possibly known about it was if they had cultured my urine on one of my previous visits.  This information had her up praying all night, and she asked the Lord to have the doctors hold off on this induction if it wasn't good for me.  And that morning the doctor comes in saying he wants to wait.  The Lord was working!

Kristi and I had a good long talk on the phone that Monday morning about this Group B thing.  If that infection had been there since July, this could be a very bad situation for the baby.  She wanted me to get the lab results from July so she could review them with us at the hospital that night.  When she got there and looked at it, the news was not good.

That infection had been there since July, and when they found it the first time, the medicine they gave me was not enough to get rid of it.  This is now September, and this infection has been inside of my body spreading for at least 5 weeks.  If it had gotten inside the uterus, the placenta itself could be infected, and with the condition of the placenta, it was very plausible that this infection had a direct path to the baby through the cord.  The baby needed to be born-soon.  If that infection gets to the baby, it would be very bad and could be fatal.  On top of that, after all the bleeding I was already having, if we proceeded with a natural delivery and something went wrong, it would be hard to tell because I was already bleeding so heavily.  We felt like there was no choice.  We had to schedule the surgery.  To this day, I believe that if we had continued with the natural delivery, it would have been disastrous.

The next day, we went into surgery.  After Stephen was born, my husband asked the doctor about the condition of the placenta.  It was "pretty bad", he said.  They started Stephen on antibiotics immediately and cultured his blood to check for the Group B.  And in some miraculous way, it came back clean.  The baby had no infection.

Stephen was born that Tuesday morning Sept. 2, 2008, via a horizontal cesarean incision.  He weighed in at 5 lb. 7-1/2 oz.  Not too bad for being born 6 weeks early.  Our VBAC didn't quite work out for us this time, but we know that this complicated pregnancy was isolated.  We know our chance for VBAC will come.

Stephen fought his way through 7 months of bleeding, miscarriage, blood clots, blood transfusions, torn placenta, infection, and a birth that was six weeks early.  He was born perfectly healthy and has no effects from any of it.  The Lord kept him safe.  He is – a miracle.