How One Mother Turned Loss Into Messages of Hope for Others
By Katelyn Wooley, The Noble Paperie
"My son's birth changed me. Yes, in the way that motherhood changes us all. But also I started to think about what other mothers endure to get to their own babies. That changed my life. My story is unique in its own way, but it's also universal.
When my husband and I started trying for a baby, our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage—at our eight-week appointment, we saw a baby… but there was no heartbeat. Months went by and we reluctantly started trying again. This time we were lucky enough to become pregnant! But that pregnancy was then riddled with complications.
For most women, sharing their birth story gives them a sense of pride. And it should! Bringing a babe into this world (be it naturally, medically, or through other means) is something we should cherish and be proud of! It makes us who we are as women, and we should wear the experience, whatever experience that is, as a badge of honour. I’m proud of what we had to endure for our sweet babe to be here, but a portion of my heart is also super sad that we went through such a traumatic journey.
I think for any mama going through a pregnancy after miscarriage, there is a little piece of her heart that she tries to hide away, to shelter from the experience in case it culminates with the same ending. At least there was for me. I was so terrified of losing another baby, that I shut a portion of myself off those first few weeks. I would have done anything not to live the miscarriage narrative again. But hope, hope won out. And this time, so did a heartbeat!
After that eight-week appointment, a lot of the nerves and worries left and despite not knowing what was coming, the deep fears of miscarriage were (temporarily) subdued. I carried on as any exhausted, first-trimester-morning-sickness-mom-to-be does with minimal concerns. At 17 weeks, things changed.
I had pre-term labour and went into triage. Eventually, they sent me home for rest, high-fluid intake, and to just generally try to stay stress-free. On the second day at home, I felt my water break when I got out of the shower. I had never been this far along, never given birth, nor gone through labour. But I can tell you what I felt was not from my shower, and it certainly was not pee. We rushed back to triage, and after about 4 hours of monitoring, they decided to admit me.
At this point, my husband and I were terrified. How could we get this far into the pregnancy and have these complications? I was healthy! By all accounts, the baby was healthy! We spent the next week in the hospital and went through a whole host of ups and downs, seeing different doctors, and going through different tests. At one point, they talked about us possibly having to terminate the baby. After what seemed like years, and a whole lot of praying, the doctors diagnosed me with PPROM (Premature Pre-Rupture of the Membranes). They determined that the small rupture I had in my water had managed to seal back up. From my extensive Googling on the subject, I think the chances of this happening were less than 1%.
We were discharged and we could not believe our luck. I was to be on strict ‘hospitalized bedrest at home’—only up to use the bathroom and go (slowly) up and down the stairs one time during the day. On January 2nd. I woke up with contractions, so we had no choice but to head back to the hospital. I was admitted immediately, rushed for tests, sonograms, put on IVs, different doctors were ushered in and out of our room. Time seemed to pass slowly and quickly all at once as we waited for the results and to know what our plan would be.
It took 3 days to confirm our diagnosis. The result? Complicated. At just 27 weeks gestation, I had to be on bed rest, in the hospital, until they were ready to deliver via C-section at 36 weeks. That was, of course, if my body could maintain the pregnancy for that long.
My complications were numerous, with one of the perinatologists saying I was the most high-risk, naturally-conceived case they had ever seen. I was diagnosed with a condition called vasa previa, a rarely reported condition where the fetal blood vessels from the placenta or umbilical cord cross the entrance to the birth canal beneath the baby.
Now I know that probably reads as Greek to many people, and I will explain a bit more in-depth of what the diagnosis meant for me specifically. But before explaining all of that, I did want to mention that the fetal mortality rate for this condition ranges from 50-95%. And there is a 95% chance of mortality for the baby if I was to go into full-blown labour.
When I say my condition was rare, I mean that vasa previa occurs in about 1 in every 2,500 pregnancies and is even less-common when conception occurs naturally. (The incidence rate is higher through IVF, IUI, or other medical processes.) The lead up to our son’s birth was difficult, to say the least. I spent every day in a hospital bed, with monitoring every 6 hours and medication every 4. I had an IV in my arm every second of every day, and only left the room for a weekly sonogram. It was nowhere near what I had had in mind for my birth plan, and not even close to what I envisioned for our pregnancy.
I lasted exactly 40 days in the hospital before our son was born. At 32 weeks + 4 days gestation, my body finally caved and couldn’t stop the labour that was inevitably coming. At 6:30 am on February 11th, the nurses contacted our OB and prepped me for emergency surgery. Surgery began at 8:11, and 4 short minutes later, our son was born. Sebastian gave a loud cry as our doctor quickly lifted him over the curtain, and I got my first look at our son before he was taken off to NICU. We then spent an additional 34 days in the NICU with Sebastian before we were finally able to bring him home.
Although Sebastian was almost 2 months early, our journey to a baby was long. My son, all 4 lbs., 9oz. of him, was as perfect as could be. He had all ten fingers and all ten toes. Despite being admitted to NICU, he was healthy! He was on a breathing apparatus but was on room air instead of oxygen. Even with all the positives Sebastian had going for him being born so early, he still spent 34 days in NICU before we were able to finally bring him home.
It was a long process, but after some soul-searching and lots of prayers, I finally decided to use my artistic gifts and experience as a designer to launch a line of greeting cards. I quickly found that there were so many women interested not only in our cards for miscarriage, but also for infertility and child + infant loss communities.
My journey to a baby made me a mother (on more than one occasion). It also gave me a way to connect with other women, other mothers in a similar situation, through my story. Sebastian’s life gave me a purpose I had never known before. To be a better woman.
I believe my experiences make me a stronger person. They allow me to stand up and say to other mamas: You can do this. You can get through it. The road may be long and filled with steep mountains and deep valleys, but you were made for this. The ache and profound need inside of you to hold a baby in your arms are real, and they're there for a reason. I can’t answer why any of this happened, but I will choose to think that it’s to share our story and support other mamas along the way."
Katelyn's cards are now available for purchase on our website, with a portion of sales going to Miracle Babies.