This month we are honored to have a guest blog by someone who knew all too well the story about stillbirth – she has lived it her entire life as she watched her father push forward his passion for preventing these needless tragedies. And then she had her own brush with tragedy……. read on….
Guest Blog by Catherine Alford
I’ve been hearing all of your stories – your stories of loss, love, sadness, and eventual triumph – my entire life. My dad, Dr. Jason Collins, started his research on umbilical cord accidents when I was only 5 years old. In fact, I was so used to him staying up late every night looking at heart rate strips that I used to draw him pictures of them and tape them to his bedroom wall so he’d see them before he went to bed. It was far more exciting than drawing him stick figures, and he thoroughly enjoyed them.
My dad has been trying to solve this problem, this terrible, preventable problem of umbilical cord accidents for such a long time. It has been his life’s work, his obsession, and his amazing gift to medicine. When I was a kid, we had a phone in our kitchen connected to the wall with a really long cord. This was back before cell phones of course. Every time other physicians would come over to the house, my dad would try to explain what happens to a baby in utero with a UCA using the phone cord. He would wrap that cord around his arm, twisting it and turning it, trying to explain. “Torsion!” “A true knot!” These moments, these lessons, slowly seeped their way into my mind. I knew at a young age that having a full term healthy baby was truly a miracle.
Needless to say, when I got pregnant for the first time, I was nervous. Very nervous. I was living abroad at the time away from my family and away from American healthcare. When my husband and I went in for an early ultrasound at 5 weeks to confirm the pregnancy, we got the shock of our lives and found out we were having twins. After the shock wore off and I had time to compose myself, the first person I told was of course, my dad.
“Dad,” I said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I’m having twins.” His immediate response was, “Oh cool! Twins are so fun to look at on ultrasound.”
My dad was there for me every step of my pregnancy. I obsessively e-mailed him pictures of every single ultrasound, even when my twins were just tiny little circles, even when he and I both knew there was nothing he could do to save them if something went wrong.
I wish I could say I enjoyed my pregnancy, but I couldn’t. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, I was fully aware of the risks. I knew about the unthinkable, the unfortunate reality that many of you have faced in your lives. To top it off, carrying two babies at once meant more risks, more chances for the kids running out of room, more opportunities for cord compression. I tried to stay calm and tried to enjoy it, but it was hard. Both my husband, who is a medical student, and I just wanted to make it to the end and hold our babies in our arms – alive.
I moved back to the United States during my second trimester with plenty enough time for my dad to spoil me with steak dinners while my poor husband studied for a massively important medical school board exam. I received countess ultrasounds both from my regular physician, my maternal fetal medicine doctor, and my dad. I knew that if anything bad were to happen, I would know about it.
I know my dad though, and I know he was nervous about my pregnancy even though he tried not to show it. When I told him how happy I was to make it to the viability point of 24 weeks, he just calmly said, “Let’s just try to make it to 28.” When I told him I was having one boy and one girl, he let out the funniest laugh, which I got on video. He was slowly getting attached to the babies as a grandfather and yet remaining detached as a physician observing what could potentially be a problem.
At 30 weeks, my dad gave me a heart rate monitor so he could monitor the babies’ heart rates remotely, like he has for many of his Pregnancy Institute patients the past two decades. Every night, I would monitor my daughter for 30 minutes and my son for 30 minutes, sending my dad photos of the strips every five minutes. I had to put up with his commentary of course. When I had a contraction he’d say, “Yeah. That looked like a good one!”
At around 34 weeks, he started noticing a bit of cord compression on my daughter’s strip. He monitored me even closer, all while I was being seen by my regular physician every week. Throughout the day, I counted kicks, making sure I could feel both babies.
Then, the morning I hit 35 weeks, it happened.
I counted my daughter’s kicks but I couldn’t feel my son. I shot straight up in bed and yelled at my husband hysterically: “I can’t feel him!”
I went straight to the guest room to get attached to the heart rate monitor while my husband listened for his heart beat with his stethoscope. A wave of relief hit us when he found it. He was there. Alive. He just wasn’t moving.
I hopped in the bathtub since both babies got really active in the warm water. Again, my daughter kicked around happily but nothing from my son. After I ate a pop tart to try to wake him up and still nothing happened, I told my husband we were going to the hospital.
I didn’t wait for an okay from my doctor. I didn’t hesitate. I knew from hearing all of your stories that time was of the essence. I called my doctor to tell her I was on my way, then I called my dad. When I got there, I was contracting every 7 minutes and in labor. I hadn’t even noticed because I was so focused on trying to feel my son kick.
At the exact moment my doctor told me that I was going to be having the babies that day, my dad was texting me frantically ordering me to stay at the hospital (my husband sent him a picture of the heart rate strip, and he knew it was time!) I was able to calmly call him and say, “Yes, Dad, my doctor agrees! We’re having the babies now!”
On March 23, 2014 at 11:35 A.M. my son was born alive and healthy. A minute later, my daughter was born also alive and healthy. After a bit of a rough start and two weeks in the NICU, they came home with us. They’re now almost one, crawling all over the house and all over each other. They love to FaceTime with my Dad. They know his voice and try to clobber the phone when they see his face on it.
I know I’m fortunate because my story has a happy ending, and I’m confident that happy ending came because of my nightly remote FHR monitoring.
I also had the world’s best doctor and the world’s foremost expert on UCAs watching my every move during my pregnancy, and I’m especially blessed because that same doctor is my dad.
Catherine Alford is the daughter of Drs. Jason & Candace Collins and is a well rounded professional in the digital space who is best known for her ability to write about difficult topics in an engaging way. With a formal background in American History, Catherine worked for years as an historian before she began to focus her attention on her love of blogging and building online businesses. Currently, she is a professional blogger for numerous websites and is actively growing her online reach. Read her blog – Budget Blonde. Her most important job however is Mom to her beautiful twin son and daughter.