One Family's Journey through Infertility to their Miracle Baby | Tulsa Cesarean Birth Story of Adler Olivia
I had the privilege of documenting this sweet baby girl’s birth story in May; and her story, told by her mama Jennifer, is one for the books. There were many changes of plans along the way as this family navigated the journey to Adler, and Adler dictated how/when she wanted to make her way Earthside… including miscarriage, numerous fertility treatments, a hospital stay during pregnancy, an early delivery, and an unplanned cesarean… but her parents handled every single turn and curve with such grace and complete trust in God’s goodness over their family. What a JOY it is to know them and their testimony of the many miracles that brought their long-awaited little girl into their arms. Enjoy, friends! <3
We are not that couple that can tell you how many days, months, years we struggled with infertility. I wish we knew, but we don’t. I believe this is partially because for so long we did it in silence and also had some denial. I think we felt if we didn’t acknowledge it then it didn’t exactly make it “real”. All I know is that it was a long time, a very long time. And it was one of the hardest experiences of my life.
We experienced ambivalence for a long time with the decision to pursue IVF (the treatment plan recommended to us after less invasive measures failed). We didn’t feel 100% confident on if it was the right choice for us or the direction God was leading us. We also didn’t want outside opinions or judgment about how we were “playing God”. So we took our time deciding and prayed about it a lot. We ultimately took comfort in knowing that although science/modern medicine is incredible, it is not a guarantee. If IVF was purely science, it would work every time. And I can assure you from my experience and the shared experience of many others-this is not the case. In the end God decides. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.
Unfortunately, IVF was not a one and done experience for us like we had hoped. Because of my diminished reserve it took 3 egg retrievals (and 3 canceled cycles due to my body not responding) before we were able to attempt a transfer. I went into the transfer with the mindset that more than likely it was going to fail. This thought process was not because I didn’t have faith but infertility and pregnancy loss changes you. At times the thought of facing more hurt /disappointment is just too hard so you quickly begin to anticipate poor outcomes as a coping mechanism for protecting your heart.
We were incredibly blessed that our first transfer worked! We were finally PREGNANT!!!
I wish I could say that my anxiety, fear and worry stopped once pregnancy was confirmed but honestly it got worse. We had lost a baby before and couldn’t even fathom the thought of losing another. I remember I would get so anxious before OB appointments throughout my first trimester (really it was probably closer to the middle of the second) that I would almost make myself sick. I remember telling Caleb over and over “I can’t lose another baby…I just can’t… I am just not strong enough to do it again”. Before every appointment we would pray together in the car asking God to protect our sweet baby and if that was not His will to help us understand, accept and trust in his plan.
We had a ton of prenatal appointments and monitoring due to my age, IVF, previous pregnancy loss and little lady’s growth. I was fortunate I had a fairly unremarkable pregnancy until my third trimester when concerns increased about poor fetal growth/development. (It was later confirmed after my placenta was sent to pathology this was due to having a “crap placenta”). Following a BPP at almost 35 weeks there were increased concerns related to fetal growth and cord pressures which resulted in one overnight hospitalization to receive steroids for assistance with fetal lung development. Upon discharge I was placed on bed rest and it was decided that she would need to be delivered early. The original goal was to make it to 39 weeks. Then as complications increased the goal became 38w, then 37w.
It was determined at 36 weeks it was safer for her to be out than in when concerns persisted about her growth and I began to experience some mild maternal hypertension.
We went in for a medically necessary induction at 37w2d on the evening of our 7 year wedding anniversary. At this point I was not dilated at all so I knew it would not be a fast or easy process, but I felt I was mentally and physically ready to bring our little girl into the world. We started low dose pitocin that evening. Our OB chose not to do any cervical ripening medications, as she was concerned that baby girl may not be able to tolerate them. It definitely was not a restful night (of course it’s impossible to sleep in the hospital), but I did not experience any pain or discomfort throughout the night. In the morning the nurse checked my cervix, and I was still completely closed. Ugh! They started to push the Pit and increased the dosage every 30 mins (which was the plan from my OB going into the induction process). Dr. Lakin (hands down best OB ever) came in around 7 am and broke my water. We continued with the treatment plan of increasing the Pit every 30 mins. I started to have some pretty significant and strong contractions, including some that were back to back and would last 5-6 minutes, so I was checked again around noon. At this point I was sure I had made some progress. Nope, sadly I was only dilated to 1cm. We again continued to increase Pit to try to get things moving. My amazing OB nurse brought me a peanut ball and had me try hands and knees positioning in an attempt to get the contractions in a pattern that would start to dilate the cervix. We did this all afternoon.
Baby girl had a couple of decelerations in her heart rate during this process but nothing super significant. (I must give kudos to the HMC L&D staff that was in our room lightening fast when this would occur). I had experienced some hypoglycemia during pregnancy, so we were also checking my blood sugars throughout, and I was continuing to have low blood sugar. The silver lining to this was I got to eat lots of popsicles, so I’m not complaining. :) I also had some mild hypertension at the end of pregnancy which was elevating throughout the delivery process. During this whole process we were in contact with Brittany (birth photographer) who continued to offer to come to the hospital. We continued to tell her to wait, since we felt we had plenty of time and didn’t want to waste hers. Around 5pm my nurse checked me again- sadly I was only dilated to 2cm. So again we told Brittany there was no rush and to wait.
About 6pm Dr. Lakin stopped by after finishing up at SJMC. She had no reason to be there as I was nowhere close to delivering. This is when things got crazy. We began to have pretty consistent non-reassuring fetal heart tones with her heart rate dropping into the 50s. We also started to have a hard time getting her heart rate back following decels. Dr. Lakin immediately stopped the pitocin to give her a break. She then spent a significant amount of time reviewing the fetal monitoring and going over options. She advised us that she was not one to “throw in the towel”, but she had concerns we were going to end up in a crash c-section. She also advised us that it would be difficult to continue Pit with the amount of stress it was putting on baby. Looking back, I know she knew we were going to end up in a c-section shortly, regardless of how we decided to proceed, but she empowered us to make the decision (as she always did).
Getting pregnant was such a struggle for us, and we just wanted our sweet baby to be safe. We told her if the c-section was the best option to provide a greater chance of a healthy delivery it was what we wanted to do. So c-section it was. We had texted Brittany to update her when things started to go downhill but still thought we had plenty of time. We were wrong. Everything from that point happened so quickly, and I was back in the OR probably within 10-15 minutes. (Brittany, being the incredible human that she is, actually made it to the hospital before I was taken to the OR). Dr Lakin has jokingly apologized several times about how she showed up and things went south, however we know it was divine intervention that she just happened to stop by.
Once in the OR I was so tired— a tired I’ve never felt before. I remember them saying “you are so calm”. Anyone that knows me knows that is not my personality or the case. ;) I think I was just emotionally drained and also physically exhausted. I felt like my body was shutting down on me and just kept thinking, if I can just sleep for 10 minutes, then I will be rested once she’s out. I remember as they were getting closer to getting her out I continued to pray “please cry…please cry…please cry” over and over. (It’s funny how the one thing you want your baby to do when they are born is the thing you want to prevent them from doing for the rest of their life). And when she was finally out she did. Praise Jesus! I remember them quickly showing her to me, and then she was gone. At this point I was a little out of it and things were a blur, so it took me a minute to fully understand that I didn’t have her and start to question why not. My husband calmly explained to me (he is always so calm) that her cord was wrapped, and she was experiencing some respiratory issues.
Caleb told me that the NICU team and respiratory therapist were currently working with her. I immediately told him to go be with her and to stay with her… I would be fine. If you know Caleb you know he is the kindest and most gentle soul (attributes I hope our sweet Addie get). I witnessed him struggle balancing being with our daughter and checking on me while they were finishing up the c-section. He periodically would come back to show me videos or pictures of our sweet girl. I remember one particular video was of her receiving oxygen.
Looking back I realize he was trying to keep me updated and as involved in the process as possible. However, in that moment I remember being so upset by the video and telling him “do not show me videos of her needing oxygen supplementation…I can’t see that right now”. Caleb calmly explained to me that she was doing well, that they had a few more minutes to work on her and that if she continued to improve they would not have to take her to the NICU.
It seemed like she was gone forever, but Caleb tells me it was only about 20ish minutes, which might quite possibly have been the longest 20 minutes of my life even with being heavily medicated. Once they stabilized her they allowed Caleb to bring her to me.
I can’t even begin to adequately describe to you the feeling of that precious moment. It’s a moment I will never forget. Never. She was finally here, and she was safe. And she was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
We fully trusted God to protect her, and He did. Unfortunately at this point I had been experiencing severe body shakes for over 8 hours making it difficult for me to hold her without assistance from Caleb. But I knew soon I would get to hold our sweet girl unassisted and never have to let her go.
The “funny” thing about this whole birth story is with Caleb being in medicine and me spending most of my career in maternal infant health/OB, I always joked about not having a birth plan. My token statement was “whatever will happen will happen…all I want is to hold my baby, start skin to skin and nursing immediately”. This obviously didn’t happen. But it’s ok. God continues to teach me that life does not always go according to my plan. It can be messy and scary. But in the end He always protects us, and His plan is greater than anything we could ever imagine. I don’t find it to be an odd coincidence that we went in for an induction the night of our 7 year anniversary at the place that our love story began, or that we lost our first baby on the 15th and our sweet girl was born on the 15th.
Our story isn’t perfect, without challenges, and dark days, but it’s also filled with hope, love, faith, joy and perfectly imperfect in every way. I pray that Adler will grow up fully trusting in God’s plan for her life not only when life is easy but also when it’s hard.
We have been beyond blessed in the process to be connected to some of the absolute best medical teams. We have also been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support and continual prayer from our friends, family, church and co-workers. We are forever grateful to Dr. Ahlering, the entire MCRM staff (especially Jen Atkinson), Dr. Blackwell, Dr. Lakin, WHG staff, our wonderful birth photographer (for caputuring these moments many of which I otherwise would never remember) and of course our friends, family, colleagues and church. Without all of you our little girl wouldn’t be here. Thanks for being part of our story! We love you and are so grateful Addie will grow up surrounded by this amazing village.
Amazing, right? SO grateful to serve families like this one - and be a part of these miracle stories. Adler, you are one lucky little lady to have the parents you do. Welcome to the world, sweet girl. You are loved. <3
Also, check out some of the photos from sweet Adler’s lifestyle newborn session (and see the full film from her birth and in-home lifestyle film) below!
Interested in having your baby’s birth story documented? Contact me for more info!