Because it is difficult to rewrite and reflect on the moments after birth, I will share with you the letter we sent to our family and friends to give them the full details of our trauma. As I edit the letter to delete any identifying information, I cry. I cry remembering my pain, I cry remembering my baby's pain, I cry remembering my baby being pulled from my arms not once but twice. But mostly, I cry in humble gratitude and thanksgiving. God is good.
Dear Friends, Family,
We want to thank you all for your support, prayers, and love as we have recently expanded our family! On Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 2:55pm, we welcomed our baby boy J into the world. After 15 hours of a natural and peaceful labor - and with the wonderful support of our doula, A, and E's mother - J was born! Our little guy weighed in at 7.00 lbs and was 19 & 3/4 inches. He was very alert and healthy and all of us were able to spend nearly an hour together without interruption. These moments will forever be cherished.
An hour after delivery, E was unable to deliver the placenta and suffered some complications that caused her to begin to hemorrhage. While fairly lucid during the entire process, she did lose consciousness several times after labor due to significant blood loss. After a successful birth at the birth center, E had to be transported via ambulance to the nearest major metropolitan hospital center. J stayed behind with E's mother and A at the birth center to be cared for as he was too young to be discharged. T and our midwife accompanied E to the emergency room, where she was immediately transferred to the operating room. In the OR, E was given many IVs including a central line in her neck, heavy antibiotics, narcotics, epidural placement, multiple blood transfusions and a surgical procedure to remove her placenta. The high risk obstetric surgeon unofficially diagnosed E with placenta acretta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Placenta_accreta), a condition where the placenta attaches itself too deeply into the uterine wall and cannot be delivered naturally - the odds of having this condition is 1 in 2,500 pregnancies, but even less common in first time young mothers with no history of uterine surgeries. The doctor warned E that there was an 80% chance of a needing a hysterectomy to remove the entire uterus if they were unsuccessful in removing the complete placenta. Her warning stated that even if a small fraction of the placenta remained in the uterine wall, at any time, E could begin to hemorrhage again with critical consequences.
Meanwhile, T waited in the recovery room and was updated by our midwife who was able to accompany E into the operating room. We were reunited an hour later where the next wait began. E's blood loss was continually monitored by a balloon catheter that was placed inside her uterus, and an arterial line measuring continuous pressures in her blood stream. Understanding T had a medical background, one of the attending doctors showed him E's vital records and lab values as they were taken when she had first arrived. With a very serious look on his face, he explained that they would "be having a very different conversation had you arrived just 30 minutes later." He then put his hand on T's back and said, "Consider this a good day." E was on the verge of severe shock and possibly death as she had lost almost 1/2 of her entire blood volume in nearly 90 minutes.
Close to 9 pm that night, E's mother and J were reunited with us in the recovery room where E began to stabilize, narrowly avoiding placement on the Intensive Care Unit. At 2 am on Monday morning, she had an MRI to see if there was evidence of the placenta still attached. The radiologist arrived early the next morning to read the results and give his official prognosis, where he did not see sufficient evidence to require a hysterectomy!
On the heels of this amazing news, E made leaps and bounds in her recovery - even insisting that she be weaned off of the morphine so that she could finally and safely hold her baby in her arms. After a day and a half of steady improvement, she was allowed transfer to a step-down post-partum unit for less critical patients. Things were looking up as we sent E's parents home for this, the second night after birth.
Earlier that day (Monday) we received a special visit in E's hospital room from J's pediatrician who, concerned for his coloration, ordered a few blood tests to be done. The results were not obtained until around 1am Tuesday and were at levels so high that T had to rush J away from E's side and into the emergency room at the children's hospital. Once there, they informed him that since J's bilirubin levels were climbing at such a fast rate that if he had waited until morning, brain damage may have occured. After a few upsetting days of pokes and prods in the Neonatal ICU, J was able to be discharged on Thursday. E too, was allowed to go home that day from her hospital.
Since then we have been simply trying to play catch-up on bonding that was lost those first precious and frightening days. Now, officially three weeks out: both E and J have passed their follow-up appointments with flying colors and are finding their new normal with amazing grace. Most importantly, E and T are trying to appreciate every single fleeting second of parenthood (even the middle of the night exhausted ones!). We know that some of those mothers and babies whose hospital rooms we walked by that week did not make it home and we continually pray for them, and know that we are blessed beyond reason.
We apologize that some of you may have heard only parts of this story while others none at all, but trust you understand how difficult both keeping and sharing these details were, while trying to live through them.
We have only now had a moment to breath and begin to reflect.