I’ll start with some basics…
My name is Chelsea. I am 19 years old and I am a pre-med student at Kennesaw State University. I’m head over heels in love with my fiance, Bobby, and we are planning on getting married next summer. I ride horses, and I have cats and dogs that I love and cherish.
I thought I had the perfect life: I am a strong believer in God, I had the man of my dreams, a family that loves me to death, and I never had to worry about getting by in life. I thought my life was pretty much complete, (minus the medical degree which was coming in the near future), until I found out that I was about to recieve something I thought I would never be able to have: a baby.
On Monday, March 28, 2011 at 8am, I found out I was pregnant. I was shocked, scared, confused, happy, sad; everything you could ever imagine feeling in your life I felt at one time. I first called my mom and told her that I needed her to come home from work because I needed to talk to her, but with some coaxing she got me to tell her over the phone. After the words came out of my mouth, she immediately went to my father and told him, and came home as fast as she could. While she was on her way home, I called Bobby and told him. He thought it was an April Fool’s joke at first, but finally realized I wasn’t laughing and took me more seriously. I don’t think he was nearly as freaked out as I was at that moment. After all, I had been told multiple times that I was going to have to have infertility treatements to get pregnant. We weren’t trying to get pregnant, and I was even on birth control to prevent it from happening IF it ever was to become possible (which we thought was a never-going-to-happen situation). Somewhere between the 10 different birth control pills my doctor had me “taking my rounds” on, I ovulated (which could have possibly been my body’s first time lol), and BAM.. baby happened.
My mom got home and we went to the doctor to get a blood test. Upon getting there, he gave me a urine test which came back negative. I knew I was pregnant, but the doctor said he was sure I wasn’t. I told my mom not to get her hopes up, that I had just peed too much before taking that test and I didn’t have enough hormone in my urine to make their unsensitive tests positive. 3 days later, my blood test came back, and I was definitely pregnant.
Pregnant, scared, and very, VERY confused.
My family was very supportive, and I went to my first ultrasound to confirm my pregnancy on April 22, and I ended up being 7 weeks and 4 days pregnant. everything looked fine and normal. It was so unreal seeing that little bean inside of me. The heart rate was 154 beats per minute. I thought it was going to be a boy, Bobby told me he knew it was a girl.
My next appointment was only a few days later on April 25, and, once again, everything was fine. Our little peanut was growing right on track and had a healthy heartrate of 141 beats per minute. They asked for some family history information, took my weight and blood pressure, collected some viles of blood for testing, and asked if we were interested in the 12 week ultrasound for nuchal screening. Normally, you get this ultrasound if you are at risk for having a baby with a genetic or chromosomal abnormality, such as Trisomy 13, 18, or 21, which are carried by a parent. At 19 years old, I had such a low risk for a baby with an abnormality, that I only agreed to have the ultrasound so that I could see my little baby again.
The next 4 weeks leading up to the ultrasound were rough. I was having emotional difficulty with accepting my pregnancy. I was scared and felt alone even though I had a great support system. I even said that I wished I was pregnant and that this pregnancy was ruining my whole life. Those words are the only thing in this whole world that I regret with all my heart. Looking back, if I had known then what I do now, I would have smacked myself in the face.
On May 23, I was 12 weeks pregnant. I had a lot to do before my doctors appointment, but I was so eager to see my baby that I didn’t mind all of the other chores. I went to the barn to meet the vet because my horse had been limping and had come up very lame. After a few x-rays and a couple hundred dollars, I was told that my pride and joy Poco had navicular syndrome. Leaving the barn, I was crying my eyes out. I knew it wasn’t the end of the world, but the day seemed like it was going from bad to worse and I was losing control minute by minute. The only thing that kept me from breaking down completely was the fact I was going to see my baby in just an hour or so. I was running late and barely made it to my appointment in time, and as soon as Bobby, my mom, and my sister in law Abby got to the office, we were taken back into the ultrasound room. We chatted nonchalantly as the ultrasound tech prepped the machine and asked me to lay back as she squirted the warm gel on my belly. She put the probe on my stomach and we all got silent in anticipation of seeing how much our little baby had grown. I didn’t notice anything wrong until 30 seconds went by without the tech saying anything about the baby. She was moving the probe around a lot and taking some measurements, but at that stage in the pregnancy, I didn’t really know what I was looking at. She looked at me and said “I’m sorry, I need to go get the doctor.” I asked her if something was wrong with my baby, and she replied that “yes, something was very wrong” and left the room. There was a still image of my baby on the screen, and I felt so lost not knowing what she was so concerned about. The doctor came in and resumed the ultrasound, and told me that the baby had something called a Cystic Hygroma and Ascites, which was a cyst on the back of the neck, and fluid in the abdomen. We asked if the baby was going to make it, and he said that the baby was not going to be born into this world a healthy baby. He suggested that we get an abortion, or we wait and by the next appointment at 16 weeks, the baby wouldn’t have a heart beat.
At that point, I didn’t know what to do. I called my dad and asked him to come to the office. I asked about the abortion, and what we would have to do to go through with that. He suggested that I go to a clinic, but if I wanted to get the abortion through him, we would have to go see the perinatologist today and get some paperwork started. I decided to go to the perinatologist and see what he had to say.
Going into the next doctors ultrasound room, I was terrified. I was against abortion, and now I am at an office trying to get paperwork started to kill this baby? At that point, I started praying and asking God to walk with me through this time and lead and guide me in the direction He wants me to go. The doctor came in and did an ultrasound and confirmed that not only did the baby have the Cystic Hygroma and Ascites, but it also had fluid around it’s heart and lungs. He said the baby wouldn’t live to be 15 weeks gestation, and that while he would recommend the abortion, it wouldn’t hurt me to carry the baby until having a natural miscarriage. He said I still had time to think and that I should take that time to decide what was best for me. Before the ultrasound was done, I asked him if he could tell what the sex was, and he said that it looked like a little girl. I looked at Bobby and couldn’t stop crying. He had been right about it the whole time: the baby was going to be daddy’s little girl. Her name was already picked: Sophia Noelle.
I left there in a mess of tears. I was scared and didn’t know what to do with myself. I prayed and prayed and I finally came to the conclusion that I would carry this baby as long as it was God’s will. I knew there was a purpose and reason behind having a child with this problem, whatever it was that was causing the issues. I knew that God wouldn’t give me anything that I couldn’t handle and that I was going to give this baby every chance at a life as I had. Many people didn’t agree with my decision. They thought it would be easier for me to lose a baby early on in my pregnancy than have to lose a baby at 15 weeks. I had a whole seperate train of thought: If I terminated this pregnancy not knowing what the outcome would be, I would always question whether or not I made the right decision. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.
I called the perinatal office and made an appointment for 15 weeks. They were expecting her to not have a heart beat at this appointment. I went in a nervous wreck, and when they put the probe on my stomach my heart was racing. There she was, kicking and dancing around. The cyst and fluid was still there, and it had gotten worse. But Sophia had a great heart rate and she was waving her hands as if to say “Hey Mom and Dad! I’m still here!” The doctor once again said that she wouldn’t make it to 18 weeks, and for me to make another appointment. He said that at this point, there would be a risk to me if I began to develop preeclampsia because of her fluid build up. He told me that at the next appointment, her heart and lungs wouldn’t be developed enough and that at that point, her heart should stop beating. I cried laying there on the table, but thanked God for allowing her heart to still be beating and for her to be growing inside of me.
After that appointment, I ordered a home doppler off of the internet. It came within a week and I was able to listen to her heart beat anytime I wanted to, day or night. I never had to worry about whether or not she was still with us.
At 18 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I went in to my doctor again. The ultrasound showed that the cyst had remained about the same size, but the fluid in her body was worse. At that point, the doctor brought up that he believed this might be something that was caused by a chromosmal abnormality handed down to her from Bobby or I. I opted to get an amniocentesis so that we would know for sure what was wrong with her. I prayed that it was nothing, but I knew there was something. I had this gut-wrenching feeling that it was Turner Syndrome: an abnormality of the XX chromosomes in the genetic make-up of a baby girl. When I said this to my doctor, he said he didn’t believe that to be the case, but I still knew that was going to be the outcome. The FISH results came back in 3 days, and she did indeed have Turner Syndrome. Our little Sophia had a higher chance of survival… only one percent, but still higher than “not compatible with life”. I called my doctor who said he wanted me to wait 6 weeks before my next appointment, assuming that I would go into either miscarry before 20 weeks, or shortly after go into preterm labor and have her through a D&E.
On August 13, I began having back pains. I chalked them up to kidney pain, and called my doctor and asked what I needed to do. He said that I needed to see a physician to see if it was a kidney infection or kindey stones, and then have a follow up appointment sometime that week with my OB. I went to the Urgent Care clinic near my house on Sunday afternoon, the 14th, and after a urine test, the doctor determined that I probably had kidney stones since I had protein in my urine. I had an appointment the following Tuesday with my high-risk doctor, so I decided to wait to go to my regular OB.
At 24 weeks and 1 day pregnant, I walked into the doctors office once again. My belly had grown tremendously in the previous 6 weeks, and I was nervous about whether or not the baby’s fluid would have resolved by then. When the tech began the ultrsound, I noticed right away that the baby didn’t have much amniotic fluid visible. I didn’t say anything to my mom or Bobby because I didn’t want to freak them out. My back was aching throughout the whole appointment, but I decided it was because I still was having kidney issues. The doctor came in and told me that Sophia’s kidneys weren’t functioning, and that she was quite swollen from all the fluid. I told him that my back was hurting, but he didn’t think much of it. He told Bobby and I that “…I don’t believe she will pass within the next week necessarily, but she won’t make it much longer.” He told us that at this point, my health was at risk, and told Bobby a list of warning signs to watch for that could be potentially fatal to me if they were to get to far. I was terrified, but I prayed and asked for God’s will to be done and for him to wrap his arms around my little family and help us through whatever was to come in the weeks to come.
That same night, my back pain got worse. I called my doctors answering service, and he told me that if the pain got any worse, I should go to the Emergency Room. He was concerned that I could have had appendicitis. That night was rough, Bobby and I were arguing and I felt like the whole world was crashing down on me. I talked to my mom and told her that I just didn’t want to do this anymore: I was scared, I felt alone, and there was nothing I could do to make it better, to fix it. It was like everything that could possibly go wrong was happening, but I wasn’t doing anything to cause it.
I went to bed and woke up in severe pain. I called my mom and told her that my back was hurting so bad, and it was beginning to come around to the front of my stomach. She told me to get ready and go to the hospital because we were sure that my appendix was going to have to come out. I woke Bobby up and we went and picked up my mom.
I had a fever, high blood pressure, and was feeling like crap when I got to the ER. By the end of the visit, the nurse that was taking care of me told me there was nothing wrong with me. She basically said I was constipated or I was just having growing pains. I knew that wasn’t the case: and that’s when I noticed that I was having contractions. I called her in to tell her, and she told me that they were probably braxton hicks and I should ignore them. I was so upset and I didn’t know what to do. Just the day before, my doctor told me that my baby wasn’t going to make it and that I was going to go into labor at some point in the next month. Here I was, having severe back pain and contractions every 20 minutes, and these nurses were telling me I was exaggerating what was wrong with me.
When I got home, we called my perinatologist who said for me to relax for the night and see if the contractions got worse. That was the hardest and most uncomfortable night of my life. I couldn’t sleep and the pain was getting worse and worse. The next morning, Thursday, the perinatologist had his nurse call and check on me, and she told me to come in to labor and delivery to be monitored. I went in and they hooked my up to the fetal heart rate monitor and the contraction monitor. Sophia’s heart rate was good… until it started have rapid decreases with every contraction I was having. The contractions were coming every 5-6 minutes, but my cervix wasn’t dilating because Sophia’s fluid was causing her to be too soft for her to drop down into my birth canal. I stayed the night in Labor and Delivery, and the contractions got worse and worse until they were 1.5-2 minutes apart, still no dilation. They had taken her heart rate monitor off the night before because they didn’t want me to hear Sophia’s heart rate dropping so often. The doctor came in and told me they would send me home to labor: I should come back if I feel her stop moving, or I go into serious labor.
Friday night I went to sleep feeling my baby girl move and kick in between contractions. I was still uncomfortable, but I wasn’t going to take any pain medicine because I didn’t want Sophia to get anything that could possibly harm her. Saturday morning, I woke up and ate a little breakfast and went back to lay in my father’s bed. Sophia gave me one good kick and I put my hand on my stomach and started crying. I wasn’t sure why I was crying at that moment, but I believe it was because I knew she was about to leave us. That was the last movement I felt from her. Saturday night, I nervously tried to find her heart beat with my doppler. I couldn’t. Bobby and I layed down and he fell asleep fairly quickly. I didn’t sleep at all that night. The stillness in my stomach was something that was so unlike Sophia. Night time had always been her favorite time to play, and she wasn’t even hiccuping like normal. I cried myself into one hour of sleep and woke up for church.
I called my doctor before we left for church and the nurse told me to come in to Labor and Delivery to be checked out since we couldn’t find her heartbeat and I hadn’t felt her move in a day. We decided to go to church before going to the hospital anyways.
At church, we had a guest singer and preacher. We went down and prayed and I thanked God for this journey He had brought us through and asked Him to continue to do His will in not only my, but also Sophia’s life. As we were walking out, the preacher stopped my father and told him that the hand of God had been surrounding our family during the whole service. He said he didn’t understand why and how he saw what he saw, but he was positive that God was holding us today. The preachers wife prayed with us in the parking lot and we left for Labor and Delivery.
After getting there, they used the doppler to try to find her heart beat and couldn’t find it. The nurse left, and when she returned, she told me that I was scheduled for a c-section at 4:30. That fast. I was in a daze but I knew this was God’s will. I signed the paperwork, and Bobby left the room to get the rest of the family. We explained that the baby had passed and that I was going to have a c-section to deliver her since she was too large to pass through my birth canal with her swelling. I was able to have visitors until 4pm, and I tried my best to hold myself together so that people wouldn’t have to see me in such a mess. I am not sure how you are supposed to act when you find out you have lost a child, but I tried my best.
Everyone filed out of the room at 4 and I had my epidural. At 4:30, we found out that there was an emergency c-section that my doctor had to do, and we would have to wait to go back. I was fine with waiting, as long as the baby and mother that were having the issues were okay (they ended up making it through just fine). When we were going back for the c-section, I was nervous. I, once again, didn’t know how to act, so I tried making little jokes with the doctors as they were prepping me for the surgery. Bobby had to stay out of the room until I was ready, and I was so happy when he got to come in and hold my hand. I held myself together, I didn’t cry, but I felt all of the pressure from them pushing so hard on my stomach to get her out. I started having a lot of pain in my chest and shoulder, which they explained was from air being trapped in my chest cavity around my heart and lungs. They didn’t tell me when she was out, but I heard them say “19:07” so I knew she had been born. They sewed and stapled me up and took me into the recovery room with Bobby. We sat in there and I cried a little bit, the nurse stayed with us the whole time asking questions and whether or not we wanted to see and hold Sophia. The doctor said he would recommend that only Bobby and I saw her. They also told us that after removing almost a pound of fluid, Sophia Noelle O’Neil was 12.5 inches long and weighed 3lbs7oz, born on August 21, 2011 at 7:07 pm. She was such a big girl for only being 25 weeks along.
They brought Sophia into the room wrapped in a cute hand-made baby blanket and hat. She was swollen from the surgery and the fluid, but I was so happy that we could see her features. She had her daddy’s lips and big eyes, and my little nose and chubby cheeks. She was everything we had guessed she would be and more. I only held her for 10 minutes or so, and if I could go back I would hold her all night. We let her go back to the doctors to allow them the time they needed to check her out, and the family came back in to see us.
That’s the story up until her birth. It has been the hardest, most life-changing experience I have ever gone through and that I will ever go through. I love and miss my little angel so much and I wish so bad that I could have her here with me as I write this blog. But, I don’t and although I wish I could, there is nothing I can do to bring my Sophia back. All I can do is love her with all my heart, and share my story so that I may be able to help others that are going through something similar.
The doctors told me that my baby girl wouldn’t make it to 15 weeks, 18 weeks, 24 weeks… but she did. God blessed me with nearly 25 beautiful weeks with my baby girl despite the odds, and for that I am so thankful. He showed not only me, but everyone around us that followed us through this journey, that only God can determine when it is someones time to go. He holds the past, present, and future, and He is great.
God bless you all and I will try to write more soon.