This I Believe

Sally - Danvers, Massachusetts
Entered on March 8, 2007
Age Group: 65+
Themes: birth
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Hope and a High Risk Pregnancy

A young mother with a high-risk pregnancy combines hope, prayer, and positive action to successfully deliver her pre-term son.


Baby Jack arrived, safe and sound. While his mother shivered uncontrollably from the effects of the anesthesia, Daddy and doctor hustled the newborn to the awaiting cubicle. He passed his first test with flying colors. But within minutes, the sigh of relief felt throughout the delivery room evaporated. Jack’s prematurity manifested itself. And without explanation, doctors whisked Jack away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Baby Jack’s father and Nani followed closely behind.

Preterm birth, research shows, is the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. According to CDC researchers, in the year 2002, birth before 37 weeks of gestation accounted for at least one-third of all infant deaths. Most of these, two-thirds, occurred within the first twenty-four hours. Baby Jack, born at 35 weeks, would need the technology and expertise of the personnel in the NICU to beat the odds. If, along with nutrients, he had also acquired the indomitable spirit of his mother, his chances of survival looked good.

After two uneventful, textbook pregnancies, my daughter Kelly’s third pregnancy ran into problems at fourteen weeks. Continual bleeding, at times heavy, was diagnosed as placenta abruption. The large blood clot behind the placenta was reabsorbed partially over time. But ultrasounds also showed a low-lying placenta covering part of the cervix.

These two major complications posed a threat to both the baby and Kelly.

Hope, though, burned brightly throughout Kelly’s ordeal, and her faith bolstered her. It enabled her to meticulously follow her doctor’s orders. She ate nutritiously and didn’t smoke or use alcohol. She visited her obstetrician regularly, which—between hospitalizations—meant twice weekly visits to the office or the hospital. The required non-stress tests and ultrasounds for the baby became routine.

Most difficult of all for Kelly was the imposed bed rest. She had two active daughters, ages three and five, to care for, and her husband worked long hours. Friends, neighbors, and family pitched in. Meals were pre-cooked, babysitters volunteered, and Nani resurrected her chauffeuring talents.

Kelly continued praying, she remained inactive, and she waited. All with the goal of prolonging gestation and increasing the baby’s weight. Each week Kelly reappeared for her checkups—to the amazement of her doctors, but both Kelly and her mother saw the astonishment in their eyes.

During Kelly’s last hospital stay, she faced her greatest challenge, and the inexact science of medicine reared its ugly head. Two days after being dismissed from the care of her high-risk-pregnancy physician, Kelly suffered another emergency. With that doctor on vacation, the four doctors in the medical practice couldn’t agree how to proceed. Two wanted to wait and see, to give the baby more time in its natural environment. The other two wanted to go ahead with a planned delivery and, thus, avoid an emergency C-section. The hospitalist stepped in with another opinion. Each day the plan, or lack of one, changed.

Frustrated by the conflicting opinions and her worsening condition, Kelly and her husband decided to move the following morning from the community hospital to a major medical center in Boston. Nurses, however, helped Kelly and her husband think through all their options. Their expertise and caring gave Kelly the strength to listen to the inner voice telling her that Baby Jack needed to be born right away.

Her faith was rewarded. The following day, in a planned C-section, the beautiful baby shed his yellowed, cracking placenta and the grey umbilical cord that crumbled in the nurse’s hand. He wailed his first cry.

Statistics show that only 7% of the deaths attributable to preterm birth occur after the first four weeks. Baby Jack made it through the first two weeks in the hospital. He learned how to continue breath through the night and through his feedings, and he learned how to regulate his body temperature.

At nine weeks of age, Baby Jack had an emerging smile. Kelly and her family hope the smile means that for the miracle baby, all systems are go. .