I had the pleasure of connecting with Stephanie and Craig back in the spring. Their doula Ashley, from Empowered Beginnings , had connected us as they'd hoped to have a birth photographer present again for this birth. Their previous photographer had moved out of state and I was honored to be considered in their search for a new birth photographer.
Upon our initial meeting I could see how passionate Stephanie was about not only being a mother, but pregnancy and birth too! She expressed how hard she worked to grow this little one, and how proud she was of her body. She wanted to celebrate and honor it all, and I was happy to help her do so! We spent an hour chatting and getting to know each other. Going over any questions or concerns they may have and what their hopes for these portraits. When we were talking about this pregnancy and their hopes for this birth, they shared how they had kept the gender a surprise. How Exciting!
As her pregnancy progressed we kept in touch, enjoying a maternity session as we waited, celebrating her current pregnancy and bodies amazing capabilities. On June 4th, just over a week since I'd seen he for her maternity session, she'd reached out to let me know that she'd been diagnosed with Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs in pregnancy caused by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. When it's left untreated it can become very dangerous to a women and her unborn child. Because of this, her doctor wanted to induce her at 37 weeks. She let me know that she'd keep me posted on how her next appointment went. Just a couple days later she let me know that the date was set for the 17th. Her baby had checked out well but was transverse (side ways.) Because of this, they had planned to do an an external rotation of the baby the morning of her scheduled induction, if they hadn't turned on their own. Their hope was that this would get the baby to turn into the head down position so that Stephanie could continue with the induction and have a vaginal delivery like her previous two. If the rotation where to be unsuccessful it would mean she'd have to have a C-section.
On the morning of the 17th around 8:30am, their doula Ashley let me know they had settled in and were waiting on the Doctor, who would be coming in around 9am. I let her know I would be finishing up a few things and then heading that way incase I was needed, as I lived about an hour out from where she was delivering at Vidone.
At 10:41 Ashley had texted me saying that she was rushed back for a C-section and to stay tuned. My heart dropped, it didn't sound good. She let me know I could make my way over as she was already back in the OR.
When I arrived Ashley had caught me up to speed on everything. Stephanie had handled the external rotation like a champion! She described her as remaining calm and relaxed, despite two men physically shaking as they tried to turn her baby by just their hands on her stomach. They had managed to get baby into a breach position, only for them to code moments later. Next thing everyone knew they were paging for the OR, and whisking her back for an emergency caesarean. It all happened so fast that there was no way Ashley would be able to go back with them. She'd even mentioned that it was a close call for Craig to even be able to follow her back. It was then that I realized just what she meant by the babying coding...their heart stopped.
We waited in anticipation for any news. It seemed to be taking longer then usual, but soon after we started discussing the clock, a nurse popped in to say everyone was doing well and should be back in soon.
We waited in anticipation, as we stared at the door. After what felt like an eternity, the door opened and Craig came walking in wheeling a bassinet. We eagerly asked how Stephanie was doing and how it all went. As he got closer and the baby was in site, Ashley and I gasped.
A bright pink hat laid upon the babies head. In a moment of confusion we asked if it was indeed a girl, to which he beamed with pride, yes! When the nurse had stopped in, we both could have sworn we heard it was another boy. We were elated to see that they had in fact finally gotten their little girl!
As we waited for them to wheel Stephanie back in, Ashley took a moment to check in with Craig and see how he was doing with all the events from that morning. He shared how he was just happy to have both of his girls happy and healthy, and took a moment to hold his daughter and take her all in.
A quick check while we waited for her mom and just as they were finishing up, Stephanie was wheeled back in.
Shortly after Stephanie was brought in, and we were all so happy to see her. Ashley and her nurses got her all settled in and handed her daughter to her. While they established a great first latch, Stephanie and Craig shared the name they'd chosen for this sweet little girl. They named her Stella, a name passed down from a beloved family member.
As Stephanie settled in Ashley helped her order food and get situated a bit. They talked about what had happened. Thankfully by the time they had wheeled her back into the OR Stella had flipped back to her previous transverse position and had stabilized. This allowed for them to avoid a general anesthesia that would hinder her ability to be awake and alert when their baby was born. Stella was born at 11:35am weighing in at 6 pounds 4 oz and 19 inches long. Craig had been allowed to cut the remainder of her cord and share the news that they had a girl with her. We could all see the disappointment Stephanie carried. This was not how she'd for scene her birth going, and it was a lot to take in. Thankfully they had Ashley present to talk about all those emotions, both in that moment, as well as the weeks after. It wasn't until a few days after their birth that they had learned that Stella wasn’t going to be born in any other way, but a c-section. Stephanie had a massive blood clot across the front of her uterus, along with a big blood vessel that wouldn’t allow her baby to turn any other way.
(Craig explaining what it was like to watch them do the external rotation)
While enjoying their first breastfeeding session, Stephanie took in every detail of her daughter. From her gorgeous head of hair, to her button nose and tiny fingers. She was in awe.
Before we knew it, it was time for their two eldest son's to arrive with Stephanie's parents who'd flown in to help take care of them. All I have to say is this girl is loved beyond words and has some outstanding big brothers to help guide and protect her as she grows up. They were so gentle and sweet with her! They were even already eager to share they toys!
As I wrapped up, I told the we'd be in touch once they had a chance to settle back in at home to schedule their newborn session. The following week I ran into Ashley at our New Haven studio and she had shared how Stephanie had been readmitted to the hospital for preeclampsia. Generally, once a women gives birth to the baby and the placenta, it will go away. However for some, and in the unfortunate case of Stephanie's, it did not.
During their newborn session I learned that sometime during the night and leading into Tuesday she had started experiencing what she'd described as "the worse headache I have ever experienced and also a very stiff neck." Just getting up and walking to her bathroom and back to bed had her in tears she shared. As soon as she would lay down the headache would disappear. Her night nurse told her it was due to exhaustion or dehydration. But Stephanie knew something wasn’t right and asked not to have her as a nurse again. Fortunately the day staff was significantly better. They realized she had a spinal headache and got the ball rolling to get her a blood patch. A blood patch is when they remove blood from your hand and inject it into your back. The hope is it will form a blood clot to stop the spinal fluid from leaking. This gave her significant relief for her headache and the surrounding pain in her neck disappeared. It looked like they could head home within a day or so. However after Wednesday evening her blood pressure started to spike again. She was put on magnesium sulfate for the next 24 hours. Her blood pressure came down and she was released from the hospital Friday morning. Happy to finally go home and have everyone under one roof and tuck her boys into bed after nearly a week apart. However Later while putting them to bed, her headache came back. By Saturday evening she wasn't making much improvement so they decided to go back to the ER to see what they could do for her headache. While there they had a CT scan done which had come back inconclusive. They were worried she might have a rare blood clot in her brain. So she then needed to have an MRI.
Eventually, she was readmitted to the maternal ward to monitor her blood pressure and she continued to stay all of Sunday while they played with her medication dosage and type. The following Monday morning she was discharged with orders to schedule and appointment later the week to monitor her blood pressure.
Thankfully, I am happy to share that things have improved for this wonderful family! Mom is no longer battling those horrific headaches, and both mom and baby are doing great!