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Kathy and Matthew
Placenta Previa, Pre-Term Labor, Bedrest, Cesarean Delivery at 36 1/2 Weeks

My husband and I had finally made the decision to go ahead and add number three to our family. It was a big decision because we already had two beautiful healthy children, one boy, one girl. We finally decided that neither one of else felt like our family was complete.

We became pregnant in August 1998. The pregnancy was going well, not too much morning sickness, just the general fatigue that I had had with the other two. At 18 weeks, I went for a routine ultrasound. The report came back to my doctor that I had a condition known as placenta previa. This basically means that the placenta is at the bottom or the opening of the uterus, covering the cervix. My doctor told me not to worry as most of the time the placenta moves up out of the way as the uterus expands. We would set up another ultrasound at 28 weeks to check on the situation. He said that no other care needed to be taken unless I had any bleeding in which case I should see a doctor immediately. So, I didn't worry and carried on as usual working and looking after Hillary (4) and Patrick(2). I even helped my husband renovate our kitchen. Some people nest, I rip out walls . . . but that is getting off track.

At 29 weeks, I had the second ultrasound. I asked the technician if the placenta had moved. She knew she wasn't supposed to tell me but she did shake her head discreetly, meaning no. I still wasn't worried. I felt I had already been through pretty rough birth experiences and could handle most of what may come my way. My first child broke my tailbone on her way out with the help of a vacuum extractor after three hours of pushing. My second child came in under two hours in such a rush to be born that he ripped things completely apart, and I had to be completely rebuilt by a specialist, and I had recovered, in time . . . but I did recover. So, when the doctor called me at work two days later with the ultrasound report and instructions, I felt like I had been hit head on by a tractor trailer. He told me I had complete placenta previa and that the baby would have to be taken early, by c-section, and that he had set up an appointment with a specialist who would take over my care for two days later. He very pointedly told me that the risk of hemorrhage was high, and if this happened, to run, not walk to the closest hospital. So, here I am in the middle of the reception area of the dental office where I work, getting this devastating news, and crying my eyes out. The doctor said if I had no signs of bleeding, I could keep working. I later found out, I should have been at home on bedrest.

The next night, I had settled in to watch ER and had to make one of my frequent washroom breaks. I went pee and was getting ready to wipe when I felt and heard another 4 - 5 second gush of liquid go into the toilet. I actually laughed to myself because I thought that I just didn't know that I still had to pee and it was just coming out. So, still giggling, thinking that I would have to get my bladder tied up after three babies in five years, I wiped. My hand and toilet paper were completely covered in blood. I freaked out and started yelling to wake my husband to get me to the hospital as fast as possible. Luckily my father was staying with us and was there to stay with the other children. We made it to the hospital in record time. I was hysterically crying and screaming; the baby wasn't moving. I told my husband I thought the baby was dead. I could feel the blood coming with each beat of my heart.

When we got to the emergency room, I was crying and trying to tell them what was the matter. I was standing there at the desk trying to communicate that I had placenta previa, I was only 31 weeks and I was hemorrhaging. The nurse asked me how many pads I had used. Pads? I yelled and removed my hand from between my legs (I don't know why I was holding myself, maybe emotionally trying to stop the bleeding with my hand) my hand and dark coloured track pants were soaked past my knees. She did then, jump into action. They rushed me to the OB floor. Luckily there was an obstetrician there attending another patient. This is not the norm for our hospital as the specialist usually has to be called in from home. A great flurry of activity was going on around me. IV's started, pages over the PA for OR nurses, blood lab being called "stat". I still thought the baby was dead. The nurses couldn't get the heartbeat with the doppler and the specialist was looking very nervous. He called for the portable ultrasound machine and finally, thankfully, got the nice strong heartbeat. The sweetest sound I have ever heard, praise the Lord; I cry thinking about it. The bleeding stopped, things were looking up.

Then. . . I started having contractions. They were able to stop the labour with morphine and finally magnesium sulphate. I tearfully asked what would happen if we couldn't stop the labour or if bleeding started again, and the answer was to take the baby. I asked how big the baby would be at that point. I was told probably shy of 3 pounds. For someone who is usually not a worry wart and good under pressure, I came completely unglued. My poor husband was pacing, green, trying not to cry. What a night. We made it through though with more praying than I had done in a long time. Reciting the words I had known, but not used much since childhood, kneeling beside my grandmother's knee, were more comfort to me than I can say.

The next day, I was transferred to a larger hospital with a more advanced nursery, in preparation for a probable early delivery. Things settled down for two weeks. Being two hours from home, without my children and family was very hard, but I kept reminding myself that every hour longer the baby was inside of me the better. After two weeks I was transferred back to our local hospital where I spent another four weeks on bedrest. During that time I had another bleed which they controlled much the same way as the first one. I was much calmer that time. I did get the occasional day pass to come to my home for two hours at a time. I had a diabase for Easter Sunday to come home for dinner. My mother had been staying at our house, looking after the children (and my husband) and she had cooked a turkey dinner for Easter. I wasn't at home for more that 20 minutes when the bleeding started. Back to the hospital. I was scheduled to have the c-section two days later, at 36 and 1/2 weeks. But because of the bleeding and labour starting again, they decided to take the baby then. I had to have a general anaesthesia because of the chance that they might have to perform a hysterectomy. I had felt that I was emotionally prepared for the c-section but when they wheeled me into the operating room, and strapped me down, I was so scared and sad. When I woke up in recovery, I was in so much pain. My first question was for the baby, of course. They said he was in the nursery. I asked if he cried, they said yes. I drifted off again thinking everything was fine.

When they were taking me to my room an hour later, they asked me if I wanted to go to the nursery to see the baby, I said in a drugged haze, yes!!! Well, my Matthew was hooked up to every machine available. Apparently, his lung had collapsed, his temperature was low, and he was in distress. At that point he was stable. My mind could not comprehend the situation. The nurses took me to my room, all my sisters, mother, husband and father were there. They all said that the baby was so cute and was doing well. I didn't believe them; I thought everyone was lying to me. I called them a few choice words and asked why no one would tell me the truth. I could see that my baby was not doing well.

The story definitely gets better. Matthew did have a few rough days, but what a fighter! He was 5 lbs, 11 ozs, and strong. He came off of the respirator and ended up coming home with me six days after his birth. He is a strong, happy, healthy boy, almost 7 months old now. He is the light of our lives. Who would have thought that our decision to go ahead with a third child would cause such exquisite pain and joy, all at the same time. A friend recently asked me if I had known what would happen, would I still have done it. One look at my Matthew's sweet grin makes me say, "Yes, I would do it again, ten times over if I had to, to have him with me." Thank you God, and the medical practitioners, who without them, I would have no angel.

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