I had a very easy, happy and active pregnancy until my water broke at 30 weeks … then everything changed.
I rushed to the hospital and went straight up to Labor & Delivery, where I was having contractions and expected to deliver my son immediately. The hospital staff was able to slow and stop my contractions with magnesium sulfate (which had horrible side effects for me that I was not warned about) and a bunch of other drugs. I was given steroid injections and told I would not be leaving the hospital without a baby; they planned to keep me on bed rest until 34 weeks and then induce.
Four days later, I was lying in my hospital bed working when I started having intense contractions and an urge to push. My son, Miles, was born in that bed minutes later and rushed to the NICU where he remained for six weeks.
The road ahead My placenta came out a few minutes later, and the nurses remarked that it looked small. Pathology reports indicated that it was normal, and I actually felt great after delivery. I didn’t have time for an epidural because of how quickly he came, so I was able to get up and walk pretty much right away, and my priority was getting over to the NICU to make sure he was OK.
About two weeks later, I was visiting Miles when I started hemorrhaging and bleeding through my clothes. A nurse walked me down to the ER where I remained in the waiting room for five hours without being seen. The bleeding eventually stopped, and even though I told them I had just given birth, they suggested, with no sense of urgency, that maybe I had a UTI. (My advice to any postpartum—or pregnant—woman who is experiencing bleeding is to not take no for an answer. It’s not normal to be bleeding like that, and it’s not OK to be made to wait.)
I called my doctor, who told me if I was not bleeding anymore that it was probably safe to go home, but she advised to come to her first thing in the morning. The next day she saw one clot inside my uterus on the ultrasound and said I would probably pass it, but it happened again once I returned home. I wound up in my bathroom gushing blood for an hour and a half before realizing and accepting that it was not going to stop like last time. I was feeling weak and faint, and I called my doctor, who told me to come back immediately.
The nurses sat me down and took my clothes off as I gushed blood all over the room. They called 911 and administered me smelling salts, so I could regain consciousness. Minutes later I was back in the same ER that essentially turned me away the night before, two floors down from where my NICU baby was resting.
I was told I needed a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure to get the clots out. At this point I just wanted to be put under so that I could be put out of my misery. I thought after the procedure it would all finally be over and I could focus on healing and bringing my baby home. The staff told us the process would take about 45 minutes, but it was about an hour and a half later, and I was still in the ER with no news.
A close call When I woke up in the recovery room the first thing the doctor told me was that they saved my uterus and my life. The second thing was that when they went in to do the D&C they realized that clots weren’t the problem; the problem was that I was actively bleeding, and they couldn’t stop it.
I wound up with several blood transfusions and a gauze-packed uterus. We would find out 24 hours later if it worked, and if not, I would head back to the OR for a possible hysterectomy. (It worked!)
It turns out I had placenta accreta that was previously undiagnosed, and it was an increta, meaning my placenta had begun to invade my uterine wall. Looking back at my last 4D ultrasound, my doctor said there was no indication of an accreta. I was due for another ultrasound at 31 weeks, but I never made it to my appointment. They continued to monitor me for weeks to make sure the small piece of placental tissue left inside my uterine lining did not grow. Not only did it not grow, but at my follow-up MRI a few months later, they said it was miraculous there was no sign of anything having been there at all.
While my doctor believes I am fully healed, I’m terrified to ever have another baby. I still feel extreme guilt that my body did not keep my baby safe. Something I want to share with other NICU moms (and other mothers who feel that their body failed them and their baby) is that it’s normal to have guilt and PTSD from these experiences. It’s OK to feel like I’ve missed out on normal experiences that new moms should have, like watching your belly swell big enough for a full-size baby and sleeping in the same hospital room as your newborn.
I eventually went to see a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health who confirmed my PTSD and validated all of my feelings. After talking to her, I felt so much more at peace with it all. It’s so important for new moms to have people to tell them, “It’s OK that you’re feeling that way, it would be weird if you weren’t!”
Our son Miles is 13 months old now and thriving. He’s completely caught up to where he would be if he had been born full-term. We’ve spent his whole life being grateful for every single part of it, and I wonder sometimes if this all hadn’t happened to our family if I would be the same type of mother. Every cry and scream and laugh and cough he makes still just fill my heart with how alive and lucky we are.
Meet the Lavoies Home: Los Angeles, California Favorite activity: He loves to go for walks in our neighborhood and point at everything he sees, playing with our dog and practicing his golf putt with dad! Just for fun: We recently bought a house by the beach, so right now our favorite activity as a family is walking around exploring our new neighborhood and stopping for fresh seafood by the water! Milestone memory: To be honest, every little thing still feels like a milestone. When you have a premature baby, you are often warned of what challenges the future may hold. I wept the first time he crawled—I couldn’t believe it! We are so proud of him all the time.
Every mama has a story to tell … Email your birth story and a few photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it at pnmag.com/birthstory and may even print it in an upcoming issue!