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It Was the Best of Times and the Worst of Times…

My husband Andrew and I had been married for just under six years when we finally became pregnant. We had tried for a couple years to get pregnant without success. We saw countless doctors and prayed desperately for a miracle.  The first week of May we received news that we were pregnant, and a few days later we found out the news that we were going to be welcoming twins.

The first two trimesters of the pregnancy were relatively uneventful.  Although I had the benefit of receiving twice the ultrasounds, we saw it as a way to see our kids growing and thriving. In August we found out the news that we were expecting girls. I already had the perfect names picked out for them, Charlotte and Catherine.  Now that we had found out the gender and had names it made ultrasound appointments that much more special.

On September 2nd my husband and I went to my routine sonogram appointment.  The appointment went as well as others had in the past except at the end the sonographer said we needed to speak with the doctor.  Our doctor came in and told us that my cervix was funneling and I would have to go see my OBGYN immediately. We sensed some concern and went to our OBGYN immediately to get her take on the situation.  Once we were in her office, I completed a diabetes test as we waited to speak with my doctor.  Once she came in, she told us that the situation was bleak, but if there was anyone who could help it would be a doctor she knew in the Med Center.  She immediately called him on the phone and we drove straight to his office.

Once we arrived, Dr. Gei rushed us into an ultrasound room and performed another examination.  Unfortunately, at that point the situation had deteriorated and I was beginning to dilate.  Dr. Gei had a plan to perform a rescue cerclage that would close my cervix until the 28th week of her pregnancy in order to save the girls.  We were immediately admitted to Children’s Memorial Hermann and waited for my turn in the operating room.  Late that night Dr. Gei attempted to perform the cerclage.  Within minutes of prepping, Dr. Gei discovered the situation was more severe than he had originally thought.  Charlotte’s amniotic sac had been compromised and she was losing fluid.  Dr Gei checked Catherine’s and it was holding strong.  Dr Gei was forced to abort the procedure.

Once I got out of the OR, Dr Gei came into meet with us to discuss our options.  By this time my mother-in-law, who happened to be in town during a break from her travel nursing assignment in California had arrived. My dad was in town for work and came to see us as well.  It was about 1 a.m. when we were given our options.  At 21 weeks of gestation the twins would not be able to survive birth.  Even at 24 weeks their lives would be severely impacted by severe birth defects.  On top of this, my blood work came back and I was fighting an infection from an unknown source.  Dr. Gei laid out the following options.  We could abort the pregnancy in order to protect my health and in a few months try to get pregnant again.  We could do nothing and wait until 24 weeks, and while it would get the girls to viability, it would put my health at risk due to the infection. Finally, we could stop Charlotte’s heartbeat and hopefully I would pass Charlotte’s body without impacting Catherine.

Dr. Gei was extremely professional while being extremely empathetic at the same time.  He gave us all sorts of evidence and journals to support his conclusions. My husband and I were left alone by our families and we privately discussed the fate of our children.  At around 2 a.m. September 3rd, we decided that we would induce labor to abort the pregnancy.  While we loved our children, we decided my health was a priority. If I couldn’t beat the infection, then I would have no chance to sustain this pregnancy or a possible future pregnancy.

My mother-in-law and my husband went outside to smoke a cigarette when a man approached them to ask for a smoke. He instantly saw by the look on their faces that something was terribly wrong.  My mother-in-law briefly explained to him what was happening. My husband said the stranger in that moment prayed the most beautiful prayer he have ever heard.  My husband said it was in that moment that the little faith in God he had was restored.  Once the man finished his prayer, he walked across the street and disappeared into the park.

The following morning, we were making the final preparations for the procedure, talking with the nurses that coordinate the grief counseling services when Dr. Gei came in.  Dr. Gei had been doing more research and thinking about our situation and came up with a new plan.  The plan was to induce labor using Pitocin, slowly increasing the amount of meds until I was in full blown labor and then stopping the delivery of the medication before I labored to give birth to Charlotte.  Then we would wait and hopefully the contractions would stop and Catherine would remain comfortably inside of my womb. He said if it worked we would know within days.  So that was the plan, we all agreed that it would give us the best chance for a positive outcome.

The following day, Sept 4th, I began receiving the medication to induce labor with an epidural.  Slowly I began contracting. With each contraction the reality of the situation grew stronger.  My husband sat there in the hospital room helpless of what I was experiencing.  He did the only thing he knew to do which was pray.  He sat there and prayed and prayed. We begged our friends for prayers. We clasped our rosaries and prayed so desperately for protection. My husband asked for his late father to intercede and pray for his first granddaughter. He asked God to receive her into his kingdom with open arms.  He prayed that she would not experience any pain and he prayed for the miraculous outcome we were hoping for.  We prayed that Catherine would remain safe within my body.

Charlotte’s bear and memorial box given to us by the amazing L&D Staff.

The following morning, 5 September 2015 at 0747 I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl we had ever seen.  She weighed 14.5 oz and was 11.5 inches long. Charlotte Ann Adams had ten fingers, ten toes, a perfect nose, and absolutely gorgeous face.  As we grieved as a family for the loss of our daughter and our parent’s first granddaughter (my parents first grandchild) we waited to see if I would continue to contract.  Miraculously, the contractions quickly faded and the ultrasound confirmed the Catherine was still safe and sound inside of me.  While we lost one child, we gained a saint in our family to continue to pray for Catherine.  Not a day goes by that we don’t think about our beloved daughter.

Once the contractions completely stopped on Sunday, September 6th, Dr. Gei made another attempt at a rescue cerclage.  I was told that there was a huge sigh of relief in the OR as Dr. Gei was able to complete the procedure successfully.  After I was out of recovery, Dr. Gei said now we have to wait to see what will happen and we would have to treat the infection that was blooming since the first procedure.  Dr. Gei consulted some of his colleagues that specialize in infectious diseases and created an aggressive yet safe treatment plan.  I was given a strong cocktail of antibiotics and we were moved to our new home in antepartum on the 5th floor of Children’s Memorial Hermann where I would continue my bed rest. At this point we were only a couple of days shy of 22 weeks.

Lying in Trendelenburg during a visit from my dog, Lilly.

In Antepartum I remained under the care of Dr. Gei, but we were also blessed by the amazing nursing staff.  This group of women would prove to be essential to allow my husband to continue to go to work while I remained on bed rest.  These ladies were the most amazing group of medical professionals that we had ever met.  They would be there to provide comfort and encouragement at a moment’s notice and were extremely vigilant regarding any of my medical needs.

The next few months were both uneventful and challenging in their own right.  I had to immediately focus on Catherine without having time to grieve for the loss of our sweet Charlotte.  Each week that passed we had weekly ultrasounds and celebrated the slightest relief of being one week closer to a safe gestational age for Catherine’s delivery.  By this time, the conversations with Dr. Gei were less medical related and more personal.  Dr. Gei was quickly becoming a close friend, even at one point brought me homemade pasta and pate!  As milestones passed, 24 weeks, 28 weeks, 30 weeks, we watched our daughter grow and begin to take on her own personality.

The weekend of November 17th things began to change.  We had our regular ultrasound and we were excited about being able to see Catherine’s full head of hair, snapped a couple cute shots of her face on the 4D machine, and went back to our room.  Little did we know, Dr. Gei had noticed a small leak between the two layers of the amniotic sac.  He didn’t tell us at the time as he didn’t want to cause any anxiety.  This was something he had seen before and didn’t feel like it would compromise the pregnancy.  I started feeling symptoms of a UTI that Sunday and the problem seemed to persist. Dr. Gei ordered a urine culture and prescribed meds to treat it and we thought that was the end of it. Something didn’t feel right….I called Dr. Gei’s PA and she stopped by my room with instructions to remove a pessary that had been in place for a few weeks to lift Catherine off of my cervix. However, upon removal of the pessary, it was discovered that I was leaking amniotic fluid. I began to have severe contractions. On Tuesday, November 17th my husband went to work like any other day and shortly after lunch I sent a text to my husband saying nothing more than “Come now.” My husband immediately left the office and rushed to my side.

Once my husband arrived to my bedside, I was connected to the fetal monitor and we were watching for contractions and observing the baby’s heartrate.  I remember it being over 200bpm.  Dr. Gei arrived and immediately looks at the strip and said that there is an issue with Catherine’s placenta and we had to deliver her immediately.  Before we knew it my “dream team” of nurses filled the room and prepped me for an emergency C-section. Once I was prepped, we were moved to the OR.  My husband sat outside as they prepared me and gave me the spinal anesthesia.  Dr. Gei allowed me to grab onto him and I squeezed his arms as hard as I could. The spinals were awful and always made me very shaky. Dr. Gei came in to scrub up, and reassured my terrified husband that everything was going to be alright. He said Catherine was healthy and we just had to make sure she remains that way.  My husband sat next to my head and began to pray.

Dr. Alfredo Gei delivering Catherine Sylvia Adams

At 5:52PM on November 17th our lives changed forever. Our daughter Catherine Adams was born alive and had the most beautiful cry and a gorgeous face.  She weighed in at 4lbs 0 oz and required very little assistance to breathe. As she was taken away to the NICU, they brought her by my bedside. I cried out to her and she began to open her eyes and cry. They had to whisk her away and my heart was crushed because I couldn’t be with my child or hold her in my arms.

Once I was out of surgery, we began sharing the news to all of our loved ones.  My mom arrived from Austin about an hour later.  My husband went to see Catherine on the 7th floor. I don’t remember much about that night after I came back to my room.

The next day, I told my nurse to help me get cleaned up because I wanted to see my daughter. She was surprised that despite my pain that I’d be so anxious to jump out of bed. My nurse cleaned me, dressed me, and wheeled me to the NICU. My daughter even had her own small room in the NICU and what was a short jaunt across the hospital felt like a three-hour drive. I couldn’t get to my daughter fast enough.

Catherine “the Great” Adams

Although she was in an isolette (incubator) with an IV, an NG Tube, CPAP mask, various leads monitoring her heartrate and breathing, a temperature lead, in that moment I was able to look past that and meet the strongest person I would ever meet in my life. I couldn’t stop crying. I just wanted to be with my daughter and they allowed me to have kangaroo care where she could lie skin-to-skin on my chest. It was amazing. I remained at the hospital for five days after Catie was born. We were told that the first 24 hours were a bit of a “honeymoon” period so the following day my husband stayed at the hospital as opposed to going to work.  He started ordering some of the essentials that we would need and had them overnighted to his office the next day. We didn’t have much of a chance to finish preparing the nursery because of my hospital stay.

Thursday, November 19th my husband planned to have a short day at the office. He needed to do a little custodial work to prepare his projects so he could be in and out of the office and visit the NICU. He was in the office for a few hours while I was still asleep in my hospital bed. My phone was ringing and ringing, but I was so tired and I could hardly move. I finally grabbed my phone and my dad was on the line.

“Did you talk to Andy?” he asked. “No,” I replied. “He was laid off from his job this morning.” My heart dropped to the floor and I felt like I would vomit. As I lie there helpless, about to be discharged from the hospital, my child in an isolette in the NICU – and now my husband was unemployed? My husband worked for Cameron International and layoffs in the Oil and Gas market were somewhat of a reality.  My husband informed HR of our daughter’s premature birth and of what he had worked through in the past few months ,but there was nothing they could do.  We couldn’t avoid the new reality that we had a newborn premature daughter and he was let go from his job and was going to struggle to provide for our growing family.

Catie’s first Christmas

The next six weeks my husband split his time between hunting for a job and spending time with my daughter and I in the NICU.  It was a long, difficult, stressful journey. Catherine was moved to a room in the NSCU that had a bed so I was able to be with her 24/7. Doctors did everything short of kicking me out of the hospital so I could go rest at home or see life outside the hospital walls. However, Christmas approached and my husband and I both decided to sleep in the NICU. It was not the ideal festive setting, but we didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Slowly, the financial impact of my husband’s job loss became more apparent.  I had been out on disability since September 2, but after Catherine’s birth I was given 8-weeks of maternity leave.  My husband was given some severance, but due to the time of year, the job market was slow, the medical bills were beginning to pile up, and we were worried it wouldn’t last as long as we had hoped. As Catherine progressed, I began to regress emotionally. I began to experience severe anxiety, and PTSD. The trauma of my last trimester had caught up to me. An old friend set-up a GoFundMe page, and the money greatly helped alleviate our medical bills. I saw a psychiatrist and I was prescribed Zoloft.

Fast forward to present day. My daughter is a thriving, rambunctious toddler and she turns two in a few months. She’s the love of our lives, but since her arrival my husband was laid off not once, twice – but THREE times! However, having Catie in our lives makes every day a joyful one. She brings us so much hope and happiness, and for that we’ll be forever grateful.

 

Being silly with mama in Galveston