Ep 202: Charlotte’s Birth Story – Choosing To Have A Miracle Baby

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You’ll definitely want a box of Kleenex for this episode but spoiler: Charlotte’s baby is doing just fine! A very low risk pregnancy became high-risk almost overnight when an irregular scan revealed a heart problem. This very rare condition meant her baby would be born with a partially-formed sternum and an exposed heart.

Eventually she delivered her daughter via c-section but before that she had to decide whether to proceed with the pregnancy at all. Termination was a viable option and she discussed it with her husband. However, it didn’t feel right. Charlotte is an ardent supporter of a woman’s right to choose and when it came time to make a decision about the path of her own pregnancy, she chose to continue. She has some really wise words for anyone going through the unpredictable parts of pregnancy so you are definitely going to learn something by listening to this powerful episode.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • Why childbirth education is important even for someone who works in maternal and children’s health like Charlotte
  • How her care changed after the defect was discovered
  • Why she had to make a very quick decision about the best course of action for the pregnancy
  • What life circumstances made it possible for her to choose to continue her pregnancy
  • Which congenital conditions affected her baby and what they mean (even I had to look some of it up!)
  • How a therapist and a doula helped Charlotte with her mental wellness
  • Why you should make a birth plan even if you aren’t getting the birth you wanted
  • What it means to consider “quality of life”

Links Mentioned in the Episode

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I want this podcast to be more than a one sided conversation. Join me on Instagram where we can connect outside of the show! Through my posts, videos, and stories, you'll get even more helpful tips to ensure you have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. You can find me on Instagram @drnicolerankins. I'll see you there!

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Dr. Nicole (00:00): This is a really beautiful birth story with Charlotte that demonstrates such strength during a difficult pregnancy and birth of a child with complex medical needs. Welcome to the all about Pregnancy and birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified obgyn, who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer@drnicolerankins.com slash disclaimer. Now, let's get to it.

(00:56): Hello. Hello. Hello there. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 202. Whether this is your first time tuning into the podcast or you are a returning listener, I am so glad that you are spending a bit of your time with me today. Pregnancy is supposed to be this wonderful, magical time, but for Charlotte, it was characterized by grief and mourning since they were not sure if her baby would survive after birth. When she was pregnant, their daughter was diagnosed with something called Pentology of Cantrell. I'd actually never heard of this before. I had to look it up. It's a collection of five congenital midline and birth anomalies Happens in about 5.5 in 1 million live births. And her daughter also had Tetralogy of Fallot, which is also a rare heart condition that happens about 20,000 births a year, and Charlotte is here to share her story of how she learned about this news.

(02:02): Just one week before the cutoff date to have an abortion, she ultimately chose to carry the pregnancy to term despite knowing the risk and despite not knowing whether or not her baby would survive. Now, I'm going to give it away and say that her miracle baby did survive despite being born without a complete sternum, and her heart was partially outside of her chest. She is now a thriving toddler and doing great, although she will always have certain unique health challenges. Charlotte has some truly wise words of advice for anyone who's going through a high-risk pregnancy or facing something that you weren't expecting during your pregnancy. Just really wise words of advice for anyone having a baby. So you are definitely going to learn something from this really powerful episode. Now, Charlotte is actually a member of my childbirth education class. The birth preparation course, if you're not familiar, the birth preparation course is my signature program that gets you calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful birth.

(03:09): Now, although the birth preparation course is not designed for these complex circumstances like this, she actually enrolled in the course before she knew what was going to happen with her pregnancy. One of the great things about the course is that you get lifetime access when you join. So even though for this pregnancy, the content of the course was not quite as applicable, although some parts actually were for all future pregnancies, she'll have access to any updated content inside of the course, again for any future pregnancies that she has, and that's the same for anyone who joins the birth preparation course. It's really important to me to give lifetime access so you don't have to keep buying childbirth education over and over again. It's really important and something that you should have nice access to. So you can check out all of the birth preparation course details@drnicolerankins.com/ enroll. All right, let's get into the birth story with Charlotte. So Charlotte, thank you so much for agreeing to come onto the podcast. I'm really grateful and excited that you decided to reach out and share your story, because I know it's going to help someone today.

Charlotte (04:22): Yeah, thank you so much, Dr. Rankins. I'm really thrilled to be here. I've actually been listening to your podcast for a few years. Oh, wow. I've had your voice and my ears so much. I feel like I'm meeting with an old friend, so it's really fun to be talking to you directly like this, and I'm a big fan of your work.

Dr. Nicole (04:39): Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your family?

Charlotte (04:45): Sure. So my name's Charlotte. I live with my husband Paul, and our daughter Amaya in San Diego.

Dr. Nicole (04:51): That's a pretty name.

Charlotte (04:52): Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. I'm from Seattle. Originally, I met my husband when we were both living in Washington, DC where he's from. We were both doing an AmeriCorps program together. Yeah. But now

Dr. Nicole (05:08): You're a West Coast person?

Charlotte (05:09): Yeah, we've been all over. I have my master's degree in nutrition science from Basier University in Washington State. And then after I finished my master's program, my husband and I moved to San Diego where I was placed to do my dietetic internship at the VA hospital in San Diego.

Dr. Nicole (05:32): Okay.

Charlotte (05:34): Yeah. So we thought we would just be here for a year for this program, and then a lot of people just end up staying in San Diego. We have the beach, we got the sunshine. So we ended up liking it, and now we've been here for four years. All right. And I work as a registered dietician and a just amazing maternal and child health center. So we have kind of wraparound services there. So I'm on a team where we have, OBs, so we have people getting their prenatal care. We have pediatricians, social services, dental care, dieticians. So I really,

Dr. Nicole (06:12): Oh, all in the same place. Yes. Yeah, that's really cool.

Charlotte (06:15): It's great. Yes. It's the way it should be. I

Dr. Nicole (06:18): Was getting ready to say 100%. So you can go down the hall to go see the dietician or who to refer to.

Charlotte (06:26): Exactly, exactly. I have newborns who haven't had their weight check in a while with their pediatrician, so I can just call my pediatrician friends. So it's a wonderful, wonderful team to be on, although I am on a family leave right now to take care of my daughters, so I'll get into that more soon. But yeah, I love my job. It's really special to be in the same life stage as my patients, too, as my own family has grown recently. So in 2021, we had our beautiful baby daughter, Amaya, and she's a year and a half old now.

Dr. Nicole (07:03): Now we're going to get into the story of how

(07:06): so let's start off. I always like to talk about, as a listener, that in order to understand what the birth was like, we got to talk a bit about what the pregnancy was like, and yours is going to be a little bit different for sure. But let's start off with a bigger overview of what was your pregnancy and prenatal care in general.

Charlotte (07:27): I had this kind of unique experience from going to a very, very low risk pregnancy to a very high risk pregnancy kind of overnight. So my pregnancy originally was just so normal, deeply desired. We were really ready for a baby. I had pretty bad nausea at first, but nothing really an uncomplicated pregnancy. Right. I originally started my prenatal care at a group practice where I had seen a nurse practitioner. So I think she would've been only able to see me until up until a certain point in my pregnancy, and then I would switch to one of her colleagues, but I just adored her. We had a good connection, so I was fine with that. It was just a really fun time of life finding out I was pregnant, and it was the Covid era and working in healthcare, I was taking that pretty seriously. But we had a lot of fun doing very elaborate announcements on Zoom for our families, and a lot of my best friends were getting pregnant around the same time, and it was just a nice time of life.

Dr. Nicole (08:28): Nice. So then how did things go from low risk to high risk?

Charlotte (08:33): Yes. So I was just last night in preparation, trying to remember the timelines. So I had been scheduled originally for my anatomy ultrasound in my second trimester. But remember that I work at a maternal and child health center where we have obs doing ultrasounds. So I'm kind of a shy person, but one of my coworkers asked one of the doctors if she could scan me at work just to really, to see sex

Dr. Nicole (09:01): Just for fun, maybe

Charlotte (09:02): Just to check in and see the sex. And I was like, oh, should I wait? But remember, it was a covid era. My husband wasn't allowed in any of these appointments with me, so I was like, let's just find out, let's just find out at work where I can have some company. So we all piled into this little patient exam room, some of my coworkers and myself, and the doctor scanned me, and she told me she was about 90% sure it was a girl. So I was thrilled. I cried some happy tears. The sex is really not that important to me, but just any little bit of information I could find. Right, sure. About this mysterious little creature inside me. So the doctor was scanning me. I thought I'd be ready to go any minute, but she kept scanning me, minutes were passing, my coworkers, coworkers started to trickle out.

(09:56): They had to go back to work, and there was just silence, and the doctor was frowning and silence, and I asked, is everything okay? And gosh, Dr. Rankins, I don't even remember what she said. I think I blacked out, but obviously there was something wrong with my baby's heart and something pretty severe. So I just stumbled out of that room, and I was in an alternate universe. I just kept seeing my patients the rest of that day. My coworkers asked me if I wanted to go home, but I don't know. I don't even know how I was feeling. I just wanted to put my head down and get through the rest of the day.

Dr. Nicole (10:33): You don't even remember the exact wor, because it just hit you with what's happening?

Charlotte (10:37): I don't remember. I'll have to reach out to that doctor.

Dr. Nicole (10:39): No, no, no. I mean, think sometimes that's what happens in hindsight. I remember when I was told that my daughter had an intestinal malformation on ultrasound. I don't remember what she said. Something about it just, it kind of hits you. And at that moment, were your coworkers still in the room, or had they all left, or,

Charlotte (11:01): I think a few were definitely one coworker was who I'm closer to. Sure. And I'm grateful. I'm so grateful that I wasn't hearing that news alone. I if I had waited for my anatomy ultrasound that understood.

Dr. Nicole (11:15): That is true. And so she says that, and you hear, baby has a heart problem.

Charlotte (11:21): A heart problem. Yeah. And she didn't know exactly what I do remember. It's funny what you remember. I do remember that day. My baby had just started to move a lot, and I was feeling her just flip around inside me just full of life that day. Right.

Dr. Nicole (11:39): Oh my

Charlotte (11:39): Goodness. I think that experience was a little traumatic for everyone in the hindsight, maybe don't get an ultrasound at work, but you know,

Dr. Nicole (11:48): Didn't know. I mean, you didn't know I, you had no idea. And you think it's going to be a fun moment. I think I've seen lots of times like the nurses at work, and we'll hop in a room and do an ultrasound. You, it's something that happens. Yeah. Yeah.

Charlotte (12:05): And it's crazy the way it all works out, because my prenatal care, I was actually able to transfer immediately to that doctor who scanned me. So she only came to our clinic once a week, and then the rest of the time she worked at her own group practice. She's a maternal fetal medicine specialist. So I just had the relationship with her. I transferred my care to her immediately and everything, the ball kind of got rolling much more quickly than it would've gotcha. Again, if I had waited for that anatomy ultrasound.

Dr. Nicole (12:36): Gotcha, gotcha. So then what happened next?

Charlotte (12:39): So then all the craziness started happening. I went from having monthly appointments to, it felt like almost every day I had an appointment that first week and weekly appointments. I saw everyone. I got everything done. So I got fetal echocardiograms. I had an amniocentesis. I did have some genetic testing, which I hadn't previously because just insurance hadn't covered it before. Gotcha. Now it did. I had genetic counseling. I had biweekly fetal monitoring. And then I actually met with pediatric surgeons

Dr. Nicole (13:16): All with all within the week.

Charlotte (13:20): Not all within that first week, but

Dr. Nicole (13:23): Still

Charlotte (13:23): Pretty for it. It was a lot. Pretty

Dr. Nicole (13:26): Quickly. You got all of

Charlotte (13:28): things. Yeah. So I think after probably the first fetal echo fetal echocardiogram is when they determined that my daughter did have. Okay. Which is one of the more common heart defects. It's a series of internal heart defects. And she also had pentology of cantrell

Dr. Nicole (13:48): Actually never heard of that.

Charlotte (13:49): The one you got to look up, right? Yes.

Dr. Nicole (13:51): I had never heard of that. So what is

Charlotte (13:53): That? So that's a rare, very rare congenital condition that can affect multiple organs. And in the very worst case scenarios, babies are born with their organs outside of their bodies. And we were talking about this a little bit. I struggle with how much I want to share About my daughter's conditions, just because I don't know how she'll feel about having her information out there like that when she's older. So I'll just say that we didn't know if these conditions would be compatible with life. Right after she was born, basically right in the utero. She was doing great. She was thriving. Right. Kicking me all the time. Yes. Because she was getting everything she needed. I was able to protect her, but no one was quite sure after what would happen after she was born.

Dr. Nicole (14:41): Gotcha. So then that brings the question, was there ever a discussion of ending the pregnancy?

Charlotte (14:50): So we had a big decision to make. My husband and I do remember quite clearly that when we officially found out about my baby's diagnoses, we had a week before we would hit the legal limit for abortion in the state of California. So we had a big decision to make end quickly. And let me tell you, just to throw it out there, I am the most pro-choice person on the planet. I believe abortion is healthcare. It's a decision a woman needs to make with her doctor, and the government should have no part in regulating it other than to make it absolutely accessible. Absolutely. Just that's where I'm coming from. Right. So I was a little surprised at my own reaction. Then when I started to feel just a little angry, or a little hints of despair almost, when my own provider started to mention the word termination as a very reasonable option, and I had this kind of unreasonable and protective instinct that I wanted to shield my baby.

(15:52): Even from those conversations, I didn't want her to hear me talking about that. And for a very brief moment in I was grieving, I was in this haze almost for a moment. I questioned of those feelings, kind of contradicted my very pro-choice stance. And then it kind of hit me I was, and I was making a choice for myself and my family, and that choice was right for me. It may not have been right for someone else, and that's okay. And aside from my really deep intuition that I felt that she would be okay, there were a lot of other factors that made it possible for me to continue with the pregnancy. For example, I'll just list a few, the support of my family, the support of my partner, a stable job, and insurance, and my health, and no other children are caretaking responsibilities. So all these things made it possible for us to not only make that choice, but commit to raising this girl and loving her for whatever amount of time we had with her, and kind of delving headfirst in into the unknown.

Dr. Nicole (17:05): Right. Right. I mean, you just make such a beautiful point that it's about you having the choice and not someone else making the choice for you. Because if this happened today and you were in Texas, for instance, you would not have a choice.

Charlotte (17:26): Exactly.

Dr. Nicole (17:28): And that's the part that I hope people understand that this is not a decision that anyone takes lightly. You know, don't come to, as you said, you've had some gut reactions that were strong against it, but I agree very deeply that this is, the government has role in this, as you said, other than to support access so that women, people having babies can make the best choices for themselves.

Charlotte (17:58): Exactly. And to that point, having it be my decision and my choice was incredibly powerful and kind of fortifying for my spirit for everything that was to come, being able to say, this is the path that I choose, and not having it be made for me or forced upon me. It really prepared us. My husband was saying it kind of, and it's kind of in the darkest moments, we think about that we chose this and we're grateful for everything that's happened, but it was our choice.

Dr. Nicole (18:34): Yeah. Absolutely. So then you're about halfway through your pregnancy that you're going to have a baby that needs complex care after birth. So what types of things did you do to prepare and how did the medical system support you? Or did they?

Charlotte (18:53): Well, I wish I had done more. I wish I had done more. Well, also, I have to give my previous self a little grace because I was just trying to get through each day. But before I learned about Amaya's conditions, I had bought your birth preparation course, and I was really enjoying it. One of my good friends also bought it, and she was also pregnant at the same time. So we were doing that together. Oh,

(19:20): Love it. And I hired a doula who was incredible.

Dr. Nicole (19:24): You had hired the doula before you found out about this?

Charlotte (19:27): Yeah. Okay. This is my field. I was so excited to be pregnant. I just wanted to do everything I could and get ready to have a low intervention vaginal delivery, which is what I assumed I would have. And right then when we learned about Amaya, I just kind of stopped with any birth preparation because I was finding it too painful to even contemplate. And then we did learn it would be a C-section. Because, Amaya was actually born without a complete sternum, so her heart was unprotected and after she was born, we saw her heart beating out of her chest. Oh my God. Covered by a layer of kind of a membrane. She's incredible. And let me just tell you, she's doing great, but I don't think I've said that she's thriving. She's on the verge of walking. She's talking. She's just doing so well. So yeah, I kind of forgot to mention that

(20:29): But at the time, we had no idea. And anyways, they did want to do a C-section because with her heart exposed that they didn't want any pressure on their chest. So after we learned it was a C-section, I was like, okay. So I did watch the C-section parts on your course, and I talked to my doula about C-sections, what to expect, and about the doula. I'll just say I had originally wanted a doula for support during labor, especially as a first time mom. But she ended up being just the most incredible person to support me through all this hardship. And it was just really nice to have someone very wise to debrief with after these appointments. And also someone who wasn't my husband or my friends or my family,

Dr. Nicole (21:17): Someone who's very neutral

Charlotte (21:18): And Exactly. So I'm really grateful to her.

Dr. Nicole (21:22): Well, that's amazing. Yeah. That's amazing. Now, when you met, you said you met with the pediatric, did you meet with pediatric cardiologist and pediatric surgeons?

Charlotte (21:33): Yes. Yeah. So actually, let me see. We started meeting with a cardiologist when I was pregnant who was doing the fetal echocardiograms, and she is still a amaya's cardiologist. So she's seen us through all of this, and I ended up meeting with a pediatric surgeon and also a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon who would both end up operating on her. I took a tour of the nicu, which I don't know, that was pretty horrific experience. I think maybe I shouldn't have done that.

Dr. Nicole (22:09): I think we're both having a moment of having had a child in the NICU and seeing the other children it, yeah. I don't know. I'm having a hard time putting into words. Right.

Charlotte (22:21): Yeah. Yeah. I was just checking off things to do. Oh, I should see this. I should see this. I saw the hospital where I would deliver, and it was, so it's right next to the children's hospital.

Dr. Nicole (22:36): I was here to say, because this is going to require some specialized, you don't find pediatric cardiothoracic surgeries everywhere, so I know. Did you have to travel any distance, or did you happen to be in an area that had those specialties available?

Charlotte (22:51): We just happened to live in this area where we're 25 minutes from this world renowned children's hospital. And it all seemed to work out, even us moving to San Diego and just where we happen to be right here. But that is a factor. And when we're thinking about if we ever might move in the future, we're not going to be able to move to some small town. We'll have to be living fairly close to a large hospital for the rest of our life, which is totally fine.

Dr. Nicole (23:20): Sure, sure, sure. So was there ever any attention pay to your mental health during this?

Charlotte (23:31): Yeah.I did find a therapist who I actually, again, it was, I did virtual visits with her, not even that frequently, maybe once every few weeks. But that felt important again, to have a neutral third party. And I remember you saying when your baby was in the NICU, that you gave yourself a time to cry every day. And that really resonated with me, and that's what I did every day. I went to the shower and I knew, okay, I'm going to cry, and then I'm going to come out of the shower, and the shower is the best place to cry, by the way, because you're can just clean up.

Dr. Nicole (24:11): Right, right.

Charlotte (24:13): But that kind of allowed me to just keep living my life and showing up for the next appointment and showing up to work. I mean, I kept working through this time too. And yeah, I think people were quite concerned, but the attention was all on the baby. as prenatal care is kind of focused on the baby. So I'm really lucky to have amazing family, amazing friends, really wonderful, built-in network that I relied on, but was a horrible time of life. I was grieving, I was crying every day. I had no idea what to expect, and it was hard. I do remember, I really debated on if I should get pregnancy pictures done, which is something I had wanted to do, but I was like, gosh, I feel like I'm in this grieving period. But I ended up doing those pictures, and thank goodness I did, because I treasure those pictures. And I think even if things hadn't gone the way they did, even if we had lost my baby, we were fearing, I think I still would've treasured those pictures.

Dr. Nicole (25:28): That's great that you ended up coming to that actually, data kind of shows that most people, even when they know that they're going to lose a baby, or if the baby passes away, that they actually do appreciate having those photos. They can help in the healing process. Some people think it's like, oh, strange. Why would you want photos of your baby after they pass away? But it can actually be really helpful.

Charlotte (25:52): Absolutely. Yeah. And I treasure those. I was just looking at them with my daughter the other day. I was like, there you are. And mommy's tummy. She was like, not too sure about that,

Dr. Nicole (26:03): Dunno about that. Okay. If you say, no, mommy, it was pretty

(26:08): Oh, goodness. All right. So you knew that you were going to have a cesarean. You said that you also did a birth plan. So what were some of the things that you put in your birth plan for your cesarean?

Charlotte (26:19): So we did make a birth plan that our doula helped us write, and that was such an amazing kind of service she provided. I didn't even know where to start. I know there's lots of resources, and you have resources, but again, just wasn't in the head space.

Dr. Nicole (26:33): And it's different. It's going to be different thing, right?

Charlotte (26:36): Yeah. So we included things like, if it's safe and the baby doesn't need immediate support, please let me hold her for as long as possible before she's taken to the nicu. Or we had things we were worried about her survival, please help us with any memory making when she's stable, making footprints or letting us give her a sponge bath. And then for me, I requested immediate support, lactation support, even though I actually, I do breastfeeding support at work. I'm a breastfeeding educator, but you still need the support. It doesn't matter. And I was so grateful to the lactation consultants who helped me in the hospital. So it also is kind of a funny thing. I had requested on my birth plan for only kind of essential talk to take place during my C-section. And that's something my doula had suggested, which is something I never would've thought of, but it sounded reasonable to only have the necessary chit chat.

(27:41): And Dr. Rankins, when these doctors were sewing me up after my C-section, after the baby had been taken right to the nicu, they just started talking to each other about their weekend plans. But you know what? I was so grateful to have that background noise because it let me know that I was okay if they had just been sewing silently, and I didn't have my baby there. I didn't have my husband there. Because he went to the nicu. I think if it had been silence, I would've been pretty freaked out, so Gotcha, gotcha. It was oddly comforting. So thank goodness they didn't read that part of my birth plan.

Dr. Nicole (28:19): Oh, that is funny.

Charlotte (28:20): Is funny. And probably various things on my birth plan didn't really go, I don't know how much they read it. There was a lot going on that day, as you can imagine.

Dr. Nicole (28:31): But yeah,

Charlotte (28:32): It was really important for me to write and for my husband and I to kind of have that internal clarity about our wishes, even if it didn't happen a hundred percent. So I highly recommend that for everyone.

Dr. Nicole (28:46): So I guess, so did the two of you take it upon yourselves to think through different scenarios and what you might want to do or not do, and how things transpired? Is that fair to say?

Charlotte (29:00): Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we wanted quality of life for our baby. So if they had told us she would just have a incredibly poor quality of life, then we probably would've made a different decision. It's funny, because the doctor who did my amniocentesis, I was talking to her about that. I made that exact point, and this haunts me because she told me, well, you know, have to think about what quality of life it would be for a baby to be in the hospital for months at a time. And I was like, oh gosh, you're right. And our baby has been in the hospital for months at a time, and actually most recently, she had a surgery two months ago, and that was her second open heart surgery. And we were in the hospital for 40 days, 40 days and 40 nights, because she did have some post-op complications. So it is hard. There have been times of her life that have been really challenging. She's been through so much already in her little life, but here she is, she's in the next room. She's playing with my husband. She's eating, she's going to the park. So I think it's all been worth it. I know it's all been worth

Dr. Nicole (30:16): Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So was your C-section itself pretty straightforward?

Charlotte (30:22): Yeah.It was pretty straightforward. I mean, other than I just couldn't stop sobbing, which I wish that I had kind of been able to be a little more stoic, but I had just kind of lost it by that point, and I was crying.

Dr. Nicole (30:37): Felt how you felt in the moment? It is. So everybody, every birth experience, I hope we all give ourselves some grace to, you just feel what you feel in the moment and you go with it. I mean, that was a lot that you had to manage and everything was like, this was the big moment where you were going to find out what your baby looked like. So I can totally see that

Charlotte (31:05): But everyone was really kind. I have really empathetic. We met the NICU Resusci resuscitation team, so they were the two people who were going to be in charge of that baby. Made it from the women's hospital to the NICU at the hospital next door. And they were just the most kind women I think I have ever met. I, I've only seen them that one time. I wish I could even remember their names, because they were just angels. The doctor who did my C-section, I had met him once previously. I had requested to meet him, and he kind of popped out into one of my other appointments, and I just said Hi. And he was nice. He was nice. And he was talented and I didn't have much of a relationship with him, but it's okay. It all seemed to happen pretty quickly.

Dr. Nicole (32:01): Gotcha, gotcha. And were you full term?

Charlotte (32:04): I was 38 weeks at the very end of my pregnancy. They did diagnose IG R, intrauterine growth restriction. O. So she was born small. She was at five pounds, but up until the very end, she had been growing pretty well. So anyways, that's why they wanted to

Dr. Nicole (32:23): Do it a little bit to

Charlotte (32:23): Deliver at 30 week, 38 weeks. Yeah. I was surprised. I know everyone says that you can still feel things when you're getting your C-section done, and I was surprised how much I could feel, not pain, but it just felt like someone's shaking you or it is

Dr. Nicole (32:39): A very odd sensation.

Charlotte (32:41): It's weird because it's very

Dr. Nicole (32:42): Strange things are happening to your body, but you have no, it's like, what? What's going on? Something's happening.

Charlotte (32:50): I didn't want to see, I know that's an option for gentle to kind of, but I just didn't want to see. after they took the baby away immediately and kind of checked her out. And my husband was with her, but they did bring her back to me briefly. So she got to lay on my chest for, I don't know, five or 10 seconds. And I, I wish I had been able to enjoy that moment more. But I was kind of like, you guys need to get her out of here. You guys need to go make sure she's okay and take her to the NICU and Right. We have a few photos that my husband snapped where I, they're just the most horrific photos. I'm just crying and bright red. Oh. But I did get to see her before she was taken away.

Dr. Nicole (33:41): Gotcha. Gotcha. And what was your physical recovery from the C-section?

Charlotte (33:45): Yeah, I mean, C-sections are no joke as we know it. The first day I felt fine, and I was just so happy that first day that my baby had survived, because my worst fear, oh, sorry.

Dr. Nicole (34:04): No.

Charlotte (34:06): Yeah. My worst fear is that she wouldn't have made it. So I was just so happy that she had survived her birth and that she was safe in the nicu and she was stable. My husband was over there sending me pictures and sending me videos.

Dr. Nicole (34:23): Right, right.

Charlotte (34:25): Yeah. So I felt happy that first day, and my mom was with me, and I think I was a little loopy from all the drugs, and I felt fine. I started pumping immediately.

Dr. Nicole (34:40): Did you have any challenges with pumping?

Charlotte (34:42): Yeah, I think I always had a little bit of an undersupply, and I think the stress really affected me. So that first day I felt good.But the second day, then the pain starts to really hit you. I had a really bad reaction to the opioids. I just did not the way they made me feel at all. So I opted for, what is it? Tylenol and Ibuprofen kind of alternating. So I just did that and I was in a lot of pain, and I think that pain affected my milk supply and not being next to my baby. And I was just tired. So I know you're supposed to wake up every two or three hours and pump, but I just wanted to rest a little bit. And it's not like you're breastfeeding a cuddly baby. It's like, okay, here goes my alarm.

Dr. Nicole (35:35): And after slap those things on

Charlotte (35:36): Slap all those things on. But all that said, I actually, I am still pumping a year and a half later. And my baby breastfed for a while. But then after her first surgery when she was two and a half months old, she lost all feeding skills and was fed with exclusively by a feeding tube for a while. Then we had to just focus on her bottle skills. I had to fortify my breast milk anyways because she needed more calorie dents. She needed small volumes and high calories. So I ended up going the route of exclusively pumping, which I never would've imagined for myself, but it is what It is.

Dr. Nicole (36:19): You go with the flow and

Charlotte (36:21): Yep. I'm pumping a little bit here and there. I give it to her a daily little vitamin shot I, I'm ready to stop. I think, I don't know. I don't know why I can't quite let go of it. It's just in my routine now.

Dr. Nicole (36:34): Yeah. No, I mean, plenty of people pump two years, three years even, so. So you'll stop when you're ready to stop.

Charlotte (36:41): Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Nicole (36:43): And how long was she, you said she's been in the hospital a couple of times, but how was it in that initial period of when you leave the hospital and you leave without your baby?

Charlotte (36:55): Yeah, it was horrible. Although, because we were expecting maybe even the worst case scenario, it also felt good. It felt like, Ugh, our baby's here. Our baby's safe. . That second day, I said, the first day I was feeling good. The second day I started to feel a lot more pain, but the second day I was able to go visit my baby for the for and kind of meet her for the first time. And those two hospitals, the women's hospital and the children's hospital are right next door. They're only a 10 minute walk if you're walking briskly. But if you're in a wheelchair recovering from a C-section, it took a long time. It took maybe a half an hour to get over there because my husband had to push me just so gently, and I just felt every little bump in the road in that wheelchair.

(37:44): And so I was able to start visiting her that second day, but I had to get back to my hospital every three hours for my pain medicine, which I really needed. They wouldn't give it to me to take on the road. So I had really brief visits with her. I could be over there for maybe an hour and a half before I had to go back. And the journey over there was just really painful physically. So that was really hard. I was feeling really depressed then because I was weighing the pain of my C-section versus spending an extra hour in the hospital of my baby and that,

Dr. Nicole (38:21): I have never thought about that. Wow.

Charlotte (38:23): Yeah. I wish maybe I had pressed them more. Look, just give me some Tylenol for the road. Or maybe I just

Dr. Nicole (38:28): Should have taken it. Yeah. It's like, it's Tylenol I, it's

Charlotte (38:30): Tylenol. Yeah.

Dr. Nicole (38:32): I can go get, yeah. Yeah.

Charlotte (38:33): I don't know why. And I was just worried. I was like, oh, I better get back so they can check me

Dr. Nicole (38:39): And Sure, sure, sure. I mean, well, you shouldn't have to press it mean really, we should by default think we should be thinking through these things. I don't think these are things that we think through with in a logical kind of ways. Sometimes we're just so like, yeah, you have to get the medicine and this and that, and yeah, you need to be a bit more flexible

Charlotte (38:56): About things. I definitely agree with that. I definitely agree with that. But I think now I would definitely know how to advocate for myself a little bit more. At that time, I really didn't. I was just kind of getting by, but that was hard. So I forget how long I stayed in the hospital, maybe four days. And those were horrible four days, because each day I would go over painfully, try to see my baby, try to breastfeed a little bit, and then just have to go back. And then my husband would stay with my baby. So I was feeling really lonely. I, I had some family members come to visit, which was really nice, but those days really sucked. So your question about leaving the hospital, I was actually so relieved to get out of there and go to my own bed and be at home, and then we could drive to the hospital and I would load up on all my pain medication and snacks and everything, and I would just stay there with her. So it was actually kind of a relief to leave the hospital.

Dr. Nicole (39:57): And what was it like with the NICU staff and the nurses and things like that?

Charlotte (40:04): Yeah, the NICU staff are amazing

Dr. Nicole (40:08): I mean, they're just some of the most amazing people.

Charlotte (40:13): They're angels.

Dr. Nicole (40:14): Yes. NICU nurses are

Charlotte (40:16): Just, I think it's a calling really.

Dr. Nicole (40:18): I mean, it really, and no shade to neonatologist physicians. I mean, I don't know how it was with you. I would see them for a hot second, but it was those NICU nurses who would really be with you and, Hey, come do this with your baby, or Yeah, Hey, come. So I don't know what your experience was.

Charlotte (40:38): They taught us how to be parents. It felt like they taught me how to give my baby a bath for the first time. And I remember my husband and I were being so gentle, just barely wanting to touch her with the sponge. And the nurse was like, no, get in there. You know, got to clean your baby. And all that said, I will say they are human, these nurses, because sometimes we really think they're superhumans, which they are, but they have multiple patients. They do, and they have long hours. So I will say there also is some human error that, and you do kind of have to watch out for that, and you have to be in the advocate for your baby. But especially in those first few weeks, they were just incredible. They were so supportive of me breastfeeding and just, I got free meals there because I was breastfeeding. So I just felt really taken care of by the staff there.

Dr. Nicole (41:37): Awesome. Yeah. Awesome. So is there anything as we wrap up, that you would say about this postpartum period or since she's been born? I feel like the postpartum actually lasts forever. After you have a child, you're forever changed. And the first percent

Charlotte (41:53): Yes.

Dr. Nicole (41:54): In these first 18 months of her, you said 18 months of her life,

Charlotte (41:59): Right? Yeah. I forget the months, but around that.

Dr. Nicole (42:02): Okay. So is there anything in particular that stands out for you?

Charlotte (42:10): Yeah. Gosh, so many things. I mentioned briefly that she just had her second open heart surgery a few months ago, and that is not an experience I would've wished on my worst enemy because it, it's so much harder now to have a toddler in the hospital. When she was a tiny baby, she didn't care who was holding her. I mean, she preferred mom probably, but anyone could hold her now that she's a year and a half, she wants mom and dad, and she doesn't want anything to do with anyone else. So that it's been traumatic, quite frankly, for our whole family. It's been, and for her. And I think we're going to be helping her to recover from all this medical trauma for a long time. And I guess my purpose or my goal of going on this podcast was maybe to help any other moms who might be in other situation or similar situations, or anyone going through a high risk pregnancy.

(43:17): So if it's okay, I'll speak right to those high risk pregnancy moms. Like, please, please. I just want to tell you that you're not alone. Congenital heart disease affects one in a hundred births. And that's just one of many reasons. A pregnancy could be high risk. So you're not alone. I would say if you have the capacity, try to find people who have been through something similar, even if it's an online community, because no one else is going to understand unless they've been through something similar. So that said, you need to also let your friends and family be there for you, even if they don't fully understand. And try to find some moments of joy in your pregnancy. dont Feel guilty if you're feeling happy one day. Just let that feeling wash over you. And then finally, you know, will transform into a stronger version of yourself through this experience, because I certainly have.

(44:10): So even if it feels like you're breaking, you're just getting stronger. It's, it's been the fight of my life advocating for my daughter through my pregnancy and her surgeries, and especially this most recent one, and kind of shepherding her through all her therapies and all these appointments and things will have to deal with other families, don't for the rest of her life. But that experience of opening my heart enough just to fill her up with enough love to get her through all of this. It's, it's been a great fight. And the thing about great fights is that they're transformational. And I am transformed into a stronger woman, and by being her mom and by being her advocate, and I'm stronger for it, and I'm proud of myself and proud of my family, and whatever happens in your high-risk pregnancy or with your baby, you will be stronger for it.

Dr. Nicole (45:08): I love that. Thank you so much. That just touched my heart for sure. And you have touched the heart of someone out there listening as well. Thank you

Charlotte (45:18): So much.

Dr. Nicole (45:19): So yeah. So where can women connect with you? You can say nowhere if the answer is nowhere.

Charlotte (45:24): Yeah. I'm not a big social media person, so I would say my email,

Dr. Nicole (45:30): You know what? I don't want you to say it because people, it'll get scraped by, you'll start getting spam because they'll pick up. So if anyone wants to contact you, can they mess? They message me. And we can put you in contact with Charlotte if you're Interested.

Charlotte (45:44): Absolutely. And then we actually have kept a blog where we write about our experiences. Yeah. With the baby. I would say if you want access to that, you can write me and tell me a little bit about yourself, and then I'll give you the link.

Dr. Nicole (45:59): Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Well, Charlotte, thank you so much for agreeing to come onto the podcast. I really, really appreciate you sharing your story.

Charlotte (46:06): Thank you so much. It was a privilege. And thank you again for all of your work.

Dr. Nicole (46:19): Wasn't that a really powerful episode? I'm so grateful that Charlotte reached out to share her birth story and that we were able to share that with you today. Now, after every episode when I have a guest on, I do something called Dr. Nicole's notes, which are my top takeaways from the conversation. And here are my Dr. Nicole's notes. From my conversation with Charlotte, I have to emphasize again that the government has no right deciding what you should do about your pregnancy. That is the decision that you should be able to make with the people who are important to you, whether it's your partner or your family with your doctor. This is not something that the government should be a part of. This is a very personal decision, and the government has no right to be in it. The second thing that I want to point out is she talked about how there's just a lot of attention paid on the baby during pregnancy.

(47:16): And I agree we don't pay enough attention to the person growing the baby. I have said this before, and I will say it again and again and again. The most important part of having a healthy baby is having a healthy mother, healthy parent, both physically and mentally. So as the saying goes, put your own oxygen mask on. Definitely take care of yourself, whether it is during your pregnancy, after your baby is born. The best way to have a healthy child is to have a healthy mother. So please take the time to take care of yourself. It is not being selfish to put your needs first. You being in a great state, both physically and mentally, is going to be the best thing to help your child be healthy physically and mentally. And then the final thing I'll say is that after we stop recording, Charlotte mentioned some resources that she really wanted to share that were helpful for her during her pregnancy journey.

(48:12): Two of them came from episodes of this podcast. One is episode 74 of the podcast with Parat Pond. Parat helps folks who have high risk pregnancy. She has a book, and Charlotte ended up reading her book. Her website is parat pond.com, and we'll drop that link into the show notes, or you can check out the episode of her birth story where she shares her preterm birth. That's episode 74 of the podcast, dr nicole rankins.com/episode 74. So it's episode spelled out. And then 74. Another resource that she found helpful was episode 76 of the podcast where I had Dr. Terry Major Kincaid on. She is a neonatologist, and I can't tell you how many people have come back and told me that they found this episode helpful, even though they didn't realize that they would need it at the time. This is a great episode. If there's any suspicion at all that your baby may need to be in the NICU, or even if after your or your baby is in the NICU after birth, pop this episode into your ears.

(49:15): It's just some great questions to ask to help you best advocate for your baby while your baby's in the nicu. That's Dr. Terry Major Kincaid, and her website is Dr. Terry md.com. We'll link that in the show notes. And the episode is episode 76, dr nicole rankins.com/episode seven six. And then the final thing that she mentioned, a book, which is I'm not familiar with, it's called Like A Mother, and it's written by Angela Garbs. She also found that book helpful as well. And just a description of the book. It's a candid, feminist and personal deep dive into the science and culture of pregnancy and motherhood. All right, so there you have it. That's it for this episode. Do me a solid share with a friend. Sharing is caring helps me to reach and serve more folks and live out my passion and purpose of helping pregnant folks have that beautiful birth experience they deserve.

(50:10): Also, subscribe to the podcast wherever you're listening to me right now. Feel free to leave a review an Apple podcast. I read those reviews. I'd love to hear what you think about the show. Or you can reach out to me on Instagram. I'm on Instagram at Dr. Nicole Rankins. Let me know what you think. I really, really love it. So many of y'all reach out and send me dms about specific episodes or the podcast in general. And I mean, when I say it warms my heart truly, truly warms my heart. Okay, so that's it for this episode. Do come on back next week and remember that you deserve a beautiful pregnancy and birth.