By Rita Brhel, editor of The Attached Family publications
Emily Fran was born at 8:27 a.m. on Tuesday, October 23, at 19 inches long and six pounds, 12 ounces. I waited a long time to write her birth story. Emily was more than a year old when I finally decided to sit down and put it on paper. The reason is because my pregnancy with her was rather bittersweet: I had been happy to be pregnant again, but stressed by the fact that my previous pregnancy had ended in a dangerous condition that had formed for no known medical reason. I didn’t want to put another baby in a life-threatening situation, but with none of my questions answered from the previous pregnancy, I didn’t see how this pregnancy could be any different.
Emily is our second child, our second daughter. Unlike her sister Rachel, my pregnancy with her was never threatened with anything more than my extreme fear that something may go wrong and that Emily would be born early. But Emily was no less a miracle child. She didn’t survive against all odds, but she was my hope…a wonderful, beautiful gift from God that helped me heal and taught me about faith.
Emily didn’t come when my husband Mike and I were planning for a second child — in fact, I found out I was pregnant only a week after Rachel came off the last of her medicines for apnea of prematurity; Rachel was nine months old.
Through my mother’s OB/GYN office, I found a very experienced specialist who was able to answer all of my questions of what exactly went wrong with my first pregnancy. Terry Foote, MD, had more than 30 years of experience; in fact, he delivered my brother John and shared the office with the doctor who had delivered me when I was born. He helped me come to terms with what had happened with my first pregnancy and what had to happen with this pregnancy. I learned that the placental abruption most certainly had its root in a fluke in how the placenta had developed and that the threatened miscarriage was the sign of this, but that the real reason for the abruption was undiagnosed pre-eclampsia. The fact that I suffered no edema, not even swollen ankles, during Emily’s pregnancy and that my blood pressure never rose supported this theory. The premature labor and birth with Rachel was likely the only one I would ever experience.
However, the fact that I had such a difficult time delivering a three-and-a-half pound baby with my first pregnancy was troubling. I have a narrow pelvis, meaning that my bones along the birth canal are misshapen so that I cannot deliver a baby larger than four pounds. I would have to have a Cesarean section; a vaginal delivery is impossible for a full-term baby.
The night before my scheduled C-section, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was nervous for the surgery, having never gone through one before — anxious for myself, for Emily, for Rachel. Mike got me up at 5 a.m. on October 23, at 39 weeks gestation, and drove me from our home in Sutton, Nebraska, to Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital in Hastings, Nebraska, the same hospital where I had been born 26 years earlier.
The surgery wasn’t pleasant, and there were some complications for both Emily and I, so I couldn’t hold her anymore than I had held Rachel when she was born. A nurse held her up for me to see for a couple minutes before I had to be put to sleep to finish the surgery.
Unbeknownst to my doctor, I had become anemic during the last month of my pregnancy and with a hemorrhage during the surgery, I had lost a lot of blood. My iron level had dipped down to 5, when the normal is 12 to 16. I also had a spinal fluid leak due to the spinal injection for the narcotic-anesthetic for the C-section.
Emily had low blood sugar when she was born, but more than that, her poor nose had apparently been smashed up against my pelvis since she turned head-down in utero. The newborn doctor used a naso-gastric tube to open up one nostril to make sure she could breathe through both sides of her nose.