Alexa’s Birth Story
After conceiving via IVF, my pregnancy and delivery of Alexa were full of things that happened against the odds. Beginning at the 12 week ultrasound, we were told that I was showing placenta previa – the placenta was covering the cervix which is dangerous during labor because the bleeding can be hard to stop. Most of the time, this condition goes away on its own but by the 30 week ultrasound, it hadn’t so I had a C-section scheduled for September 10 when I would be 37 weeks pregnant to avoid going into labor. I had one last ultrasound at 36 weeks even though the placenta rarely moves that late. Surprisingly, my placenta had moved! It was still low-lying but my doctor canceled the C-section. I then began to have issues with my blood pressure, and I was induced on Friday, September 12, my birthday.
I arrived at Magee Women’s Hospital mid-morning on September 12 and the triage area was packed. It was a popular day to go into labor! We spent all day in triage and my parents came down to visit in the evening. I didn’t get any medication to induce the labor until that evening. I was hooked to machines all day to monitor Alexa and me. Since my blood pressure was so high, I was constantly setting off alarms. I didn’t get to move to a labor room until late that night because they were so busy. Because the regular rooms were all full, I was put into an intensive care labor room which ended up working out in the end.
Travis and I spent the night in the labor room and my parents went to the house to take care of our dog Scooby. Poor Travis was very uncomfortable and cold. Unfortunately, the doctor slept through his pages and missed a dose of the medication for my induction. He decided to insert a balloon to speed up my labor since I wasn’t dilated at all. That seemed to do the trick and got my dilation started. The balloon fell out not too much later. My epidural was inserted to control the pain and we watched a “Too Cute” marathon which we believe made Alexa extra cute.
Around 3, the doctor and nurses told me it was time to start pushing – the medicine had worked more quickly than they expected! Since I had thought I was going to have a C-section, I didn’t know much about labor and the breathing that goes along with it. My nurses gave me a crash course and we got down to pushing with my mom and Travis there for support. I pushed for about an hour and a half and Alexa was born at 4:29 PM. She was perfect and my mom cut the umbilical cord. She was 7 lbs 2 oz and 21 inches long.
Next, the placenta had to be delivered and that is when the trouble began. As sometimes occurs with a low-lying placenta (although I wasn’t aware of this possibility), it was attached to my uterus. The doctor had trouble getting it all out. There was blood everywhere. My desire to donate cord blood was forgotten. The doctor was so covered in blood that he had to change his scrubs. I only remember bits and pieces of this time. I do remember a nice nurse putting my beautiful baby on my chest for a few seconds but mostly they were trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding. The room was full of people – there were 4 OB’s in there at once. It was all very scary but Travis was very strong and held my hand. The doctors inserted a balloon and filled it with fluid to try to use pressure to stop the bleeding. I received 2 units of blood and a unit of platelets to make up for all the blood I lost. I was so cold and also nauseous. They weren’t sure if that would stop all the bleeding so one of the OBs recommended that interventional radiology be used. The doctor that had delivered Alexa hadn’t been aware of this possibility and if it had been just him, I would have had a hysterectomy. While they couldn’t guarantee that I would still be able to have more children since it has not been extensively studied, they could say that other women have had additional children. The procedure isn’t done everywhere and may not be widely known but I want to make more people aware of its existence.
Because I was too sick to try breastfeeding, Travis’s mom gave Alexa her first bottle and she loved it. I was so worried that this would mean I would not be able to breastfeed since everything I read seemed to indicate that but it did not. All of the grandparents took turns visiting and holding Alexa. Around 7 that night they took me to radiology. They had had to call in the radiology people since they are not usually on call. The nurses got a bit lost on the way to radiology but we got there eventually. The radiology room was so white. I was still so cold and trying to control my shivering and hold still. They covered me all up except my groin area where they would be working. They gave me some medicine and I drifted in and out of sleep while they worked. Technically they did a bilateral uterine artery embolization with Gelfoam. Basically they used a slurry to block the arteries on either side of my uterus in order to stop the bleeding. I had to lay completely flat and not move my legs at all for a couple of hours. My nurse checked on me every hour to see how much blood I was still losing so needless to say I didn’t sleep much that night.
The next morning, I got to try breastfeeding even though I was still connected to lots of tubes (4 IVs with branches, plus my epidural). They removed the balloon in increments to ensure that the bleeding did not begin again. I was finally able to drink something real that afternoon (Sunday when I had last eaten Friday morning) and icy apple juice had never tasted so good. I was able to eat that evening and moved to a normal room that night.
Alexa and I got to go home the next day. I am so thankful for the OB resident who knew about and suggested the radiology procedure. I am also thankful for the lactation consultant that helped me and Alexa. My normal OB later told me that if I would have had a C-section, they most likely would have had no other choice but to do a hysterectomy. With a C-section, it would have been too difficult to determine the source of bleeding. I am so blessed that everything worked out the way that it did.