Birth Knot: the .01% Miracle

Birth Knot Cord

Before I begin explaining Elias’ labor and delivery, it’s important to go back to the beginning. In the midst of my husband potentially losing his job, selling our home, teaching full-time, and living with friends while we tried to find a new home, Elias was a bit of a surprise.  When Elias was conceived, we were not “trying”, I was on birth control (the normal estrogen and progesterone pill), and Jude was merely 4 months old.  After finishing a pack of pills, I waited for my period to start.  A few days went by, and when I was supposed to start another pack, I still had not started my period.  So, for some odd reason, I did not start a new pack thinking my body was still recovering and resetting from my recent pregnancy.  Life was chaotic, and we did not have a place to call home, so three weeks went by…no period.  I finally decided to pick up a pregnancy test.  My husband, Silas, thought I was crazy, and he said, “Well, let’s just take the test to be sure, and we can move onto another birth control pack, and go on our way.”  The morning I tested, it was 6am, Noah and Jude had just woke up and were watching cartoons with daddy downstairs—let me remind you we were living with friends from church.  Were we excited?  To be honest, not really.  Our first response, “What are we going to do?”  We didn’t have a house, or even a prospect of a home.  But, we decided that this was in God’s plan.  Heck, I got pregnant with a .o1% chance…obviously, I was not in control! Excitement quickly settled in as we frantically tried to settle down before winter hit.  We found a place, and moved in the day before Thanksgiving.  It was a blessing to finally be home, and we felt thankful for the amount of time we had to get ready for our newest member.  

At 15 weeks, I woke up and headed downstairs to use the bathroom (because flushing the toilet upstairs woke up our two boys, and I was not ready to play mama just yet!)  It was a Monday morning in December, I believe December 18th, the Monday before midterms.  I was going to be reviewing material with all my classes to prepare them for finals Wednesday-Friday of that week.  Well, I didn’t make it to school that morning.  I started hemorrhaging instead.  “What was happening?”  This was all I could think because nothing like this had ever happened before.  “Was I losing my baby?”

After calling in to work, and calling grandparents to come watch Noah and Jude, Silas and I headed to the hospital fully anticipating to be told we were miscarrying and would have to make preparations for saying goodbye to our baby, and schedule my d&c.  To be honest, I felt numb as we drove the 20 minute drive to the hospital.  I know Silas prayed, but I didn’t even do that.  I just sat there with no emotion, scared, and dreading what the docs would have to say.  

I was put into hospital gowns, which I felt was a little overkill considering I was just losing my baby.  They gave me a room, and we waited.  A doctor came in, not an OB, but a very sweet man.  To this day, I believe God gave us to him so that I could see that not everyone believed I was just losing a “fetus”, but my baby.  I told him everything that had happened that morning, and he suggested we do an ultrasound to try and determine what was going on.  It seemed like ages before he finally returned with the ultrasound cart.  What happened next, I couldn’t believe—there was a strong heartbeat, 145 beats roughly; we hadn’t lost the baby, not yet anyway.  But, there was significant bleeding, but no way to tell where it was coming from.  There wasn’t much they could do for me, so they sent me home and advised me to make an appointment with my OB to discuss what to do further.

The remainder of the pregnancy proceeded in the same uncertain fashion.  The baby was still alive, I had a bleed that had turned into a bagel sized clot above my cervix.  We had regular appointments with the perinatologist to continue monitoring the baby and the status of my bleeding.  Unfortunately, at our first visit with the specialist, he informed us that not only were we at risk for premature labor and potentially losing our baby, but that he—we learned he was a “he”—had an absent nasal bone and there was a very good chance that he had down syndrome.  This was two days before Christmas.  We left his office feeling guilty for feeling devastated.  Why was this happening?  After reading a variety of research articles online, we knew that the likelihood of our little guy not having down syndrome was pretty slim.  So, we began preparing ourselves.  We decided to do non-invasive testing through our OB to determine what chromosomal abnormalities he was going to have.  The test would show a variety of abnormalities, and was 99.9% conclusive.  We had to wait two agonizing weeks before receiving our results.  We were told that he did not have down syndrome, or any other chromosomal abnormality that would have shown up on the test.  We had one happy, healthy little boy.  My body was the one who was struggling, not him.

At week 21, I woke with horrible pains, and as I began to feel a “gush” coming on, I sprinted to the bathroom.  I was having another massive bleed, only this time I didn’t get there quite fast enough. I have never seen so much blood before!  Back we trekked to the specialist to be told that the second bleed was from the clot that had formed.  The baby was still doing great, growing, etc.  And part of the clot had passed—it was now the size of a “large chocolate chip cookie” rather than a bagel.  Still a problem, but it seemed to be resolving itself.  

I forgot to mention that I did not return to work after the initial bleed at 15 weeks, and with the second bleed at 21 weeks, I am so thankful that I was not teaching when that bleed happened!  

We continued with our normal OB appointments, although they were every two weeks now, and the clot never changed, and Elias just kept growing and thriving.  So we just waited it out.  

At 27ish weeks, I had another bleed, and landed myself back in the hospital, for 3 days this time.  With this bleed, I started having contractions.  They gave me medication to get labor to stop, but at 4am in the morning, I woke up with more pains.  I headed to the hospital bathroom, and passed the remainder of the clot; yes, all of it.  I immediately let the nurse staff know, and again the contractions started.  They let me rest, and eventually the contractions subsided.  I had an ultrasound the next morning and they determined that the clot was gone, but some blood was still floating within the amniotic fluid.  They weren’t concerned about that, and were very optimistic about the remainder of the pregnancy.  They sent me home, and I continued back with my OB doc.  

At 32 weeks, roughly, I had my next bleed; although, much smaller.  My husband and I tried to go out for his birthday, and had to cut our evening short because I had started bleeding.  The bleeding stopped pretty quickly, so I did not go into the doctor’s.  The next weekend, at 33 weeks, I woke up early Saturday morning to more cramping, and as I stood up to go to the bathroom, I felt a little bit of fluid.  I assumed I was bleeding more, but it was only a little.  I wasn’t sure what it was, so I just let it be.  All day Saturday and Sunday, I just didn’t feel right.  I was having some bleeding, but it wasn’t like anything I had had previously.  Finally, on Sunday, we went back to the hospital just to check.  They checked Elias, and he looked great, and did a strip test to see if my water was leaking.  The strip came back positive, so they took more fluid and did the “ferning” test.  The doctor came back and said he thought he saw some ferning, and our OB took a second look and said it looked pretty inconclusive; so, they sent us home.  

The next morning, Monday, I went back to my OB’s office to check everything again.  I was still bleeding, and having the occasional fluid gush.  The strip test came back positive again, and this time, they found definite ferning; my water was leaking.  They immediately sent me to Littleton ER to be admitted.  Was he really coming this early?  Well, we made it to Thursday, 34 weeks, with no infection and no signs of labor.  They told me I would remain in the hospital until he was born.  But, both our OB and perinatologist suggested we deliver at 34 weeks.  I struggled with this decision.  If he was doing well, and there was no infection, why not let him bake as long as possible?  They assured me that the risk of infection after 34 weeks with broken waters would be higher.  “It would be better to deliver a healthy 34 weeker, than a 35 week infected baby.”  

Again, around 4am, I woke to more cramping.  I rolled over in the hospital bed, and my water fully broke.  I had never had that sensation before, so I ran to the bathroom and called my husband.  Given my last experience with Jude, I thought Elias could arrive in 45 minutes.  The nurses came in, changed my bed and my clothes, and Silas headed to the hospital.  Well, 45 minutes came and went, and no baby.  So, I slept and prayed he would be ok.  The next day, 34 and 1, they induced me.  They started me on the prostaglandins around 3pm.  At 7pm, not much was going on, but I requested them to give me one more hour before starting Pitocin.  By 8pm, I was clearly in labor, and contractions were becoming more intense and were becoming more frequent.  I was determined to make it through this labor with no meds or interventions, but I had no idea what was going to happen. 

I labored in my room, in the tub, walking around, swaying, etc.  Silas was awesome!  The nurse would check on me every hour or two, but every time she came in, I had only progressed 1cm.  I was losing confidence, becoming physically exhausted, and my morale got lower and lower every time she left.  At 11pm, I was spent!  I was only at 7cm, in so much pain, and couldn’t even cry although I wanted to.  I tried the tub again, but no luck.  I couldn’t relax.  I couldn’t settle down.  I looked at my husband and said, “I can’t do it, I just need a break.”  Our nurse advocated for me, “Let’s just call for the epidural.  If anything, so you can have a break.”  The time it took for the epidural doc to arrive seemed like ages, although only minutes.   When he arrived, he told me to try to sit still, so he could put in the line.  I sat on the edge of the bed breathing, and trying not to move.  With every contraction, I just kept thinking, “Please hurry!”  He got the line in, and said, “I am going to put in a small test dose to ensure the line is in correctly.”  I said, “OK.”  Seconds after that test dose, I looked at my nurse and said, “I have to push.”  She responded, shocked, “You have to push?? Are you sure?”  “Yes I am sure.”  Our OB came in, and sure enough I was at 10cm and it was time.  I gave 3-4 good pushes, and Elias was here!  All I could think was, “I am not paying for that epidural!  All I feel is itchy! And I felt everything!”  He arrived at 1:21am.

They immediately put Elias in my arms, and all I could say over and over was, “Is he ok? Is he ok?”  The next hour involved us working on nursing, snuggling, and taking pictures.  Our whole doctor and nurse staff stayed in our room for almost an hour celebrating with us.  Eventually, they whisked Elias away to the NICU, and I ate a sandwich and tried to sleep.  They needed me to check into the NICU first thing in the morning.  

Although I have experienced longer labors, and more intense contractions, Elias’ birth was the hardest.  I was not only physically drained, but emotionally as well.  I was petrified of losing our baby, and felt discouraged.  But, he came, healthy, happy, and after 10 long days in the NICU, he came home and is doing so well!  It is by God’s grace he is with us.  He was a surprise, yes, but clearly meant to be here!