Celebrating Alexis Hope’s Birthday

I would like to take a few moments to celebrate our oldest daughter’s life on my blog. Alexis is the first baby to make it alive out of my womb. She has three older brothers or sisters who came before her but didn’t make it past the first trimester of life. Those three babies’ lives changed my life forever and paved the way for her life and her two younger sisters that we were blessed with. It is very ironic that Alexis was scheduled to be born on Oct. 15th, which is the official Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. And if I hadn’t been paying attention and listening to that “mother instinct” to go to the hospital on Oct. 13th, the day she ended up being born, she very likely wouldn’t have made it out alive either.

The following account of Alexis’ birth story is one that I wrote back in 2007, when I submitted it to the BabyZone Newsletter. However, I am adding a few tidbits here, which will be in {} brackets. WARNING: There are a couple small “graphic” parts, but they are part of the story.

This is a long story. It is one that actually started in 2003, when I went through the loss of three pregnancies. After two of those tragedies, I underwent tests and a surgery. I then lost the third pregnancy a month later. And a month after that, in January of 2004, I found out I was pregnant with Alexis. {I had a bicornuate and septate uterus (a congenital uterine anomaly, known as a Mullerian anomaly); a few uterine polyps; asymptomatic endometriosis; elevated lipoprotein-A; and a luteal phase defect.}

Alexis’ birthday is October 13, 2004. (She shares that birthday with my mom who thought it was the best birthday present ever! Nothing can top her first grandchild being born on that day!)

At around 6 weeks or so, I started bleeding – passed a large clot. Of course, I panicked and thought I was loosing this pregnancy, too. {Read as absolute sheer terror.} I called my doctor who said she would meet me at the hospital immediately for an ultrasound. I rushed there thankful to see a tiny beating heart on the screen. She was okay. {Relief! But very cautiously optimistic.} It turned out that I had a subchorionic hemorrhage – it’s like a blood clot between the placenta and uterine wall. It required several ultrasounds, (which I was thankful for), to make sure it was dissolving and going away. {I was on pelvic rest and progesterone suppositories just as an added precaution.} By about 20 weeks it was gone. For me, each ultrasound was a reassurance that she was still okay.

By 30-32 weeks, we knew she was in a breech position. (It was a Frank’s Breech position, which means her butt was down, with her head up under my ribs on one side and her feet up under my ribs on the other side.) My uterus is heart-shaped, so we figured that she was stuck and didn’t have enough room to turn. My doctor offered to try to manually turn her, but I declined because of the major risk involved, and pain, and we didn’t think it would work in my situation anyway. So we scheduled a c-section for Oct. 15th. Obviously, that’s not her birthday, so there’s more to the story.

As my pregnancy progressed, I felt less and less movement from her. Being my first full-term pregnancy, I knew babies had less room to move as they grew, so I wasn’t sure what was normal and what wasn’t. Plus, having the heart-shaped uterus would
give even less room, and she was in an awkward position. The last “movement” I remember from her was on the evening of Oct. 12th – we had gone somewhere and riding home in the car she had hiccups, (which she frequently had in-utero). I was extremely uncomfortable that night. I was up most of the night having braxton-hicks contractions, {My uterus is very irritable in pregnancy and “normal” for me is to start having braxton-hicks in the second trimester that increase in frequency until the end. No amount of rest or hydration can curb them.}, and started loosing my mucus plug. I was also worried about not feeling any movement. The only thing that kept me from panicking completely was that I could feel her body heat from her head. At that point, her head was up on my left side and I could literally hold it in my hands and feel that she was still alive because she still had body heat.

I had an appointment the next morning (13th) with the anesthesiologist for the c-section. I barely made it because I was so uncomfortable. Then I had lunch with my mom for her birthday. I went home and lay on the couch, timing my braxton-hicks. I finally couldn’t take it anymore because I still hadn’t felt movement and the braxton-hicks were coming about 30-60 seconds apart!!! I called my doc and she said to go to the hospital and get checked out. I called my husband at work and we met at the hospital.

They hooked me up to the monitor, so we saw Alexis’ heartbeat. They had me drink juice and tried to put a vibrator on my belly to get her to move, but no movement. And contractions kept coming – they said the contractions were registering at a level that would be normal contractions, but I wasn’t feeling pain with them. They were also in a consistent pattern with a baby in a breech position. The nurses called my doctor who was still at her office, who ordered a biophysical profile to be done. That’s where they do an ultrasound for a half hour and count the number of movements in that time. Well for Alexis, the only movement was the beating of her heart. They called my doc again, who rushed right over as soon as she could. (It was now about closing time for their office.) She made the decision to go ahead and do the c-section as soon as the anesthesiologist got there. So at 7PM on Oct. 13th, Alexis Hope was born.

She wasn’t crying or breathing at first. In fact, I never heard her cry until a few days later. She was limp and floppy – very low APGAR scores. They whisked her away – called in a helicopter to life-flight her to a larger hospital about 45 min. away. {The hospital I gave birth in was small, with no NICU, and they required me to be in recovery for an hour after the c-section. My recovery room nurse, who was a wonderful lady that went to our church, got a call from the nursery, asking if they would send me back upstairs to the maternity floor ASAP. When she told me they wanted me back up there quickly, I was very alarmed. I knew things weren’t right and was wondering what was going on with my baby. More sheer terror.} They said she was having seizures and very low muscle tone. She was in the NICU for the first 9 days of her life. I was in a different hospital than her for the first 4 days. I was discharged ASAP, but with a c-section it takes time and drugs and special treatment. I planted myself at the other hospital – they gave me a nesting room and meals. I went to the NICU every chance I got. It was hard seeing my baby hooked up to tubes and monitors and undergoing all these tests and not being able to just hold her whenever I wanted to. {The five days I was in that other hospital with her was the longest five days of my life. The NICU experience, albeit short, was a roller coaster. Lots of tests, never knowing what day she would be discharged, requiring her to meet certain criteria, etc. I remember laying in the bed they let me have and breaking down, crying out to God. The doctors had to rule out certain reasons for seizure activity and they warned us that Alexis may have cerebral palsy or learning disabilities. Not only was I going to have to watch her for seizures, but closely monitor her development. The gravity of it hit me during this time. All the “what ifs”. Facing the fact that there was a possibility of dreams of raising a normal child being crushed and having to raise a child with disabilities. I was begging God to heal her and protect her and let her be okay.}

But we made it. She was finally discharged and came home. The umbilical cord had been around Alexis’ neck 3 times. I guess that ultimately since she only had seizures and low muscle tone (hypotonia) at birth, the doctors concluded that the cord cutting off oxygen was the cause of her challenges. Thank God there were only minimal lasting effects {Sensory Processing Disorder} and that I went to the hospital on the day I did. She could’ve had major brain damage or been a stillbirth. {I give unending thankfulness to God and feel that her story is absolutely miraculous. She survived my physical challenges; she survived the subchorionic hemorrhage; she survived her oxygen supply being diminished – she not only survived but thrived, considering the circumstances.}

Alexis was on anti-seizure medication for the first 9 months. She had regular visits to the neurologist. She also had physical therapy and occupational therapy with the local Early Intervention program. At 9 months she had an EEG done which was normal, so we weaned her off medicine and no longer went to the neurologist. Her therapy lasted until about 12 months and they re-evaluated her and determined she no longer needed the E.I. services.

Alexis’ middle name is Hope because she was our hope baby. SHE was very hoped for. I hoped after having her that our story would bring others hope that they can have kids after suffering miscarriages. And being born with complications, she was born with and starting life with so much prayer and hope. {“Alexis” means minister. So her name essentially means “minister of hope”. Regardless of what she ends up being/doing when she grows up, her name reflects one of my missions and purposes in life. I aspire to be a “minister” or ambassador of hope to other women who are struggling with pregnancy loss, pregnancy complications or having a baby in the NICU. (Our youngest daughter ended up being a preemie and spending time in the NICU as well.)}

Alexis is seven. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. She has been the hardest daughter to rear so far. She is a sweetie, however, she has an abnormally huge strong will. (I guess her strong will to survive what she did should have foreshadowed this to me!) As a toddler, she had a very low attention span and was very impulsive and sometimes downright crazy. Always hyperactive – even rocking when sitting down, so much so that she broke the backing on her favorite spot to sit on the couch. When she was three, I was at my wits end and talked to her doctor about the possibility that she had ADHD. She was evaluated but the results were that they could not conclusively diagnose ADHD, but rather that she had some sensory processing disorder (SPD). Once we found out about that and that she was a “sensory seeker”, everything made sense. (SPD’s can be caused by a lack of oxygen in utero or at birth.) She was in therapy for a short while, until we moved to Ohio. Her therapists told us that her case wasn’t severe enough, though, to find continuing therapy when we moved. As she has gotten older, thankfully, she has calmed down quite a bit. As a school-aged girl, she still has an iron will – she is an exceptional negotiator! She can be a drama queen. And she has some behavior challenges every once in a while. She struggles with some things sometimes, but she is also very smart, artistic, a proud big sister, compassionate animal lover, soccer player, lover of dirt & mud, peanut-butter sandwich eating, sometimes quirky, tomboy-ish girl! I love her and feel blessed to have been entrusted with raising her.

I love you Alexis! Thank you Jesus!
Mom