Birth Story Contest 2019
A Healing Birth
by Karen Price
Karen Price lives in Kingston, Ontario. She is new to the Kingston area and used to work for the Peel District School Board. She has two sons, ages ten and seven and is currently a stay-at-home mom.
This is the story of how I came to have one of the most special boys in the world. The story begins back in April of 2008. I was 22 weeks pregnant at the time. On April 18th, while I was at work, I noticed that I had started bleeding. I contacted my husband and he left work immediately to pick me up. He rushed me to the hospital where we were whisked up to the maternity floor. Right away I was hooked up to monitors and IV, and an ultrasound was ordered.
It didn’t take long before they took us to have the ultrasound. This is when we got the news that we were having a boy. After a few minutes, the technician went to get the doctor, who came right in to tell us that they found a 14 cm blood clot in with the baby. They could not find any reason for the blood clot to be there, but guessed it might have been a partial placental abruption. It was unusual, and nothing specific happened to cause this. They informed us that there was nothing to be done, labour had begun and they couldn’t stop it. They moved us to a private birthing room and prepared us to give birth to a baby boy we couldn’t keep. At 22 weeks he was too small, he would not be considered viable. The pediatrician told us that if he survived the labour, we could hold him until he passed away. I was given an epidural for the pain and morphine to sedate me, and on April 19th at 1:33 am, I gave birth to my baby boy, Benjamin. He was 1 lb, 1 oz, and the most perfect little baby. He, unfortunately, did not survive the birth, but we were able to hold him and say our goodbyes. There is no real way to properly express the devastation and immense sorrow we felt during this time. Robb was my rock. He kept me sane. We will forever be grateful for our nurse during this labour, Chris. She provided a lot of comfort to Robb and I as she had been through a similar situation herself and went on to have three healthy pregnancies and deliveries.
The hospital moved us to a private room while I recovered. Robb and I were visited by a social worker. She spent some time with us, talking about what had happened and making sure we were on the path to healing. I remember her saying that she knew we would be okay just by watching us. She could see that there was no blame or hurt towards each other, which often happens in these situations. Without all the support, I don’t know how I would have coped.
Time passes, the pain eases, but it never goes away completely. We discovered that we were pregnant again. We were thrilled, but terrified. I made an appointment with my OB right away and met with his resident. She took a keen interest in us due to my history and recommended that we consult Dr. John Kingdom, a renowned placental specialist.
Due to our loss, we were very hesitant to share the news and decided to wait until after we had our appointment with Dr. Kingdom, which was scheduled to happen when I was 20 weeks along.
When the time finally came, we started the process of numerous ultrasounds and tests. When completed, he sat us down in his office to tell us that I had Vasa Previa. Vasa Previa is a very rare condition where the fetal umbilical vessels are lying along the cervix, and affects about 1/2000 pregnancies. If it is undetected, just under half will survive. He was pleased that we were able to discover it early, however, because that increases the survival rate to 97%. I would have to have a C-section to deliver, there was no way around that, and I would have to give birth at 36 or 37 weeks to ensure I didn’t go into labour. His confidence in his ability to take us through this pregnancy and give us a baby at the end was reassuring, but we were terrified. Dr. Kingdom put me on modified bed rest. I couldn’t work, and basically all I could do was go from my bed to the couch.
After what had happened with Benjamin, we were too scared to get anyone else excited, and really didn’t want to have to explain what happened if anything went wrong. This news made it even more difficult to tell anyone. We told close family members what was happening, but mostly kept the news to ourselves until we were 24 weeks along.
The rest of the pregnancy passed uneventfully with long periods of boredom and many doctor appointments. During all of these visits, we did find out that we were expecting another boy. We decided to name him Dexter Earl.
Our C-section was scheduled for April 1st, 2009. The night before we stayed in a hotel in downtown Toronto so that we could make it to Mt. Sinai Hospital without having to deal with the traffic. We arrived the morning of April 1st and we were quickly prepped and taken to the OR. Mt. Sinai is a teaching hospital, and Dr. Kingdom had asked if we would allow some of his residents to observe the C-section. I was more than happy to let people learn from what I was going through and let them learn how to save lives. In addition to Dr. Kingdom and his 5 residents, also present in the operating room were an anesthesiologist, a NICU nurse with an incubator (just in case), and a nurse that just stood with me to make sure I was feeling okay for the duration of the procedure.
Dr. Kingdom started the procedure and asked if we had a named picked. We told him the name we had chosen, and in less than five minutes he delivered Dexter. When he held him up, everyone in the room cheered and said “Hello Dexter!”. And that is when he let out a giant wail and I felt the biggest sigh of relief in 36 weeks.
Dr. Kingdom placed Dexter on the warming table and walked away, leaving him there. He then started teaching a lesson about placenta previa to his residents. He asked Robb if he had brought a camera because he would like a picture of my placenta saying “it is the most perfect example of placenta previa” he had ever seen. Robb was unwilling to take the pictures himself so he gave our camera to one of the nurses to take pictures. he went over to the warming table and crouched down beside Dexter and started stroking his back and talking to him. The relief and joy had me crying as I watched him with our baby. Robb was the first one to hold him and brought him over to me so I could finally see him up close. We spent the rest of the time in the OR laughing and crying while Robb held him. Once we were taken to recovery, I finally could hold him. Robb took that opportunity to call our families to let them know the newest member of our family was safely with us. During our time in the hospital, Dexter lived in my housecoat like a little kangaroo, he was happiest whenever he could be right against our skin. We spent three days in the hospital recovering, the doctors and nurses at Mt. Sinai were amazing. They were able to answer all our questions and spent lots of time with us giving us all the help we needed.
Dexter Earl, at birth, was 6 lb, 15 oz and 20 inches long. We will forever miss the possibilities we could have had with Benjamin, but are forever grateful for all the opportunities we have had with Dexter.
Maybe I should add that following Dexter, I had one miscarriage and one normal pregnancy. Regardless of being told that there was nothing wrong, Robb and I walked on eggshells for the entire pregnancy waiting for something to go wrong. Fortunately, my second son, Elliot Louis, was born healthy by a planned C-section on March 2th, 2011.
Pregnancy has been, for me, a stressful time. I have always been envious of the people who seem to breeze through pregnancy and labour, never for once having to think that it may not work out. I can say though, my boys bring me so much joy every day and I anticipate many more years of joy and memories with them. I will always be grateful to the doctors and nurses that have helped us deliver our boys safely.