This all began two weeks ago. I wasn’t feeling “right”. I don’t think there is any way to describe what this means. I was not ill, there was no clear symptom that I could point out, I just felt weird.
Turned out I had high blood pressure. The doctor placed me on bed rest for the week and encouraged me to rest and to call if anything changed. I mentioned to the doctor that I had noticed a change in fetal movement, it was less frequent and not as noticeable. I should note that this was not my normal physician as they were fitting me in to the office’s schedule. She shrugged off the lower activity as the baby getting bigger and having less room to move.
Last week, Thursday June 16, I returned to the ObGyn to see my normal physician. My blood pressure was normal, blood tests had returned normal, and I was feeling better. However, I still didn’t feel right. I mentioned the slowed fetal movement, to which my doctor immediately sent me for an ultrasound. The baby moved, she was breathing, blood was flowing, she appeared fine. They did a stress test on the baby, her heart rate was normal and I was showing signs of light contractions. All seemed okay.
My doctor encouraged me to return home, count the baby’s kicks three times a day to ensure I felt 10 movements in an hour. I was in the office at the very end of the day, I was the last patient being seen. The doctor suggested I return on Monday for a follow-up ultrasound, but thought baby and I should be fine through the weekend.
I stopped in the hall and turned to my doctor – “I’m not going to feel 10 movements. Dr, something is not right. I’m not being crazy, something isn’t right.” He nodded his head as though he understood and told the nurse to schedule me for an appointment with the perinatal specialist first thing Friday morning.
As my husband and I left the doctor’s office my husband was shaken, “Babe I’m scared. I don’t want anything to be wrong with our baby.” I consoled him, saying that I had no instincts that something was wrong with her. I just feel like I need to research things a little further… I felt okay and excited to get to the perinatal specialist the next morning.
I went to sleep with no problem, I had no stress about things. At 5am I woke up sobbing. I can’t explain what happened. I didn’t have a sad thought, I don’t remember a bad dream…I just woke up with tears, screaming out that I know something is wrong. I rushed to take a bath, the baby always moved a little when I was in the bath. I was pretty sure I felt a very faint movement, that soothed me enough to focus on getting dressed and getting to the specialist.
The technician confirmed small movements, she identified lung expansion signifying breath, she found the heart beating regularly, she was not able to identify anything that would cause alarm. The baby just seemed a little lazy.
Then the doctor came to review the scan. He asked me a couple of questions about the decreased movement, then he had a look on his face like “Hmmmm???”. He had an idea. He ran the scanner over a little stick looking thing and clicked a few buttons. “75, that’s high”. He asked the technician to measure it again, she concurred, “75%”.
With that he placed his hand on my knee, smiled a fatherly smile and said, “Well young lady, it seems that you will be having a little girl today.”
I was shocked, but excited… I apprehensively asked, “Why?”
“Sometimes it’s best not to ask why, it’s better to ask what’s next. And what’s next is that the baby is going to be better off on the outside than she is on the inside. Her umbilical cord isn’t working quite right, and I think we should go ahead and get things moving to bring her into the world. Okay?”
He left to call my doctor, to set things up with the hospital, and to prepare the delivery team for what he anticipated they would find… Upon his return to my side he said to us, “If my hunch is right, you saved your daughter’s life by coming to see me today. If I’m wrong, then I may have caused you to deliver a little early. She may face a few breathing issues, but she’s big enough and strong enough to be just fine. So don’t be worried, this baby needs you to stay calm and just look forward to meeting her.”
From this point, my memory is quite hazy. I’m pretty sure I was given a drug to block my memory of the delivery. I remember the epidural, I remember the PAINFUL IV, but I don’t remember a lot after that. I remember the doctor saying as she pulled her out, “Wow, she looks just like daddy!”. I know I didn’t get to meet my daughter in the operating room. And I faintly remember her cry. From there… it’s a blur.
Next thing I know, the Neonatologist is telling me that Drew was stable. What the Perinatal Specialist had suspected was confirmed, my body was stealing blood from Drew. It’s called Reverse Maternal-Fetal Blood Transfer. Instead of the placenta providing blood to the baby, my body was drawing the blood through the umbilical cord into my body. They ran tests on my blood and identified large quantities of the baby’s blood in my body. The baby was born with a blood deficit of 80-85% and very low fluid levels. She was 4 pounds, 13 ounces and 17 3/4″ long.
She received 2 blood transfusions through her umbilical artery. The nurses that were in the operating room have all said that they had never seen a baby that ill actually survive. The charge nurse told me today that she had never even seen a baby that color before, she described it as the color of wall paste.
I can’t allow myself to think about the what-if’s. What I know is that the team of doctors and nurses at our hospital saved my daughter’s life. I know that my ObGyn listened to me and my weird explanation of not feeling right, that was the first step in saving her life. I know that the Perinatal Specialist’s hunch was the second step. And I know that the hospital staff that rushed us into surgery, got the baby out as quickly as possible, and rescued her through well-practiced emergency procedure was the third step. The final step was the stream of prayers sent up by me, my friends, family, and the nurses and doctors that were with us.
I met Drew for the first time about 12 hours later. I couldn’t hold her for 2 days, I could just stand to her side and talk to her. She had wires and cords running in her nose, her mouth, her belly button, and to her feet and hands. She had a breathing apparatus on her head that looked like a helmet. Monitors beeped and buzzed, oxygen tanks fizzed and bubbled, and alarms were at the ready every time any measurement dropped below their acceptable levels. I sobbed as I saw this tiny, beautiful baby that looked just like my husband fighting for her life.
I prayed so hard my head hurt. Please just let her be okay. Please just tell me what I can do to take the pain from her. I would give anything to take back whatever I did to cause her blood to leak back into me.
I apologized to her, I was so sorry that she had to go through this for the simple privilege of life.
I witnessed my husband cry over his daughter, promising that if she just fights a little harder he would make sure that the life she had would be worth the effort.
He leaned over her crib and told her, “Drew, I know what it feels like to be in a place where you don’t know if you’re going to live or not. It’s scary. But when I was in those places I fought really really hard to come home because I hoped that if I fought hard enough I’d someday get to meet my child. And here you are. So now it’s your turn to fight Drew. You just gotta make it home girl. You have so much life waiting on you if you just keep fighting.”
And fight she did! She is so perfect and pretty. The nurses tell us how pretty she is, and of course I agree. The doctors tell us what a miracle she is, and of course I agree. The grandparents tell us that she is a lucky little girl, and of course I agree.
Drew told me something was wrong, and I listened. She made quite a dramatic entry into the world, I just hope it’s the beginning of a life filled with excitement and passion, because she deserves no less!