Birth Story: ‘We were told she may need an amputation’

Posted in Birth Stories.

Melissa, Jeff and Zoe celebrate impeding arrival of a baby with maternity photo shoot

It’s no secret that many women face a number of challenges while trying to fall pregnant, now imagine after persevering through this to then receive the distressing news halfway through your pregnancy that your baby may need an amputation. This unsettling revelation became a reality for Melissa, a Grapeviner Mum from the Mum’s Grapevine Summer 2022/23 Baby Group.

What initially seemed like a frightening prospect though, transformed into a profoundly therapeutic birthing experience for Melissa. Now, as she reflects on this pivotal time in her life, she does so with a heart filled with joy.

Melissa generously opened up about her remarkable journey, sharing the details of her experience with Mum’s Grapevine.

‘We were devastated’

High school sweethearts, Melissa and Jeff, fell pregnant relatively easily with their firstborn, Zoe. And thought falling pregnant again would be just as straightforward.

“I started tracking my cycle meticulously, I tracked my temperature and used ovulation kits to pinpoint ovulation. After five or six months I knew something wasn’t right. I went to my GP and was referred to my OBGYN who had previously delivered Zoe by emergency c-section in 2019. He ordered a raft of blood tests for me and encouraged Jeff to get a semen analysis.

“My tests all came back normal but unfortunately Jeff’s semen analysis showed low count and low motility. We were devastated but determined to keep going. He made some changes to his diet, and sleep and stopped drinking alcohol for three months and fortunately, things improved for him.”

‘I was in shock’

Melissa's Pregnancy tests with dates

“My OBGYN referred me to a fertility specialist and he suggested I undergo a Hysteroscopy procedure in the hospital to see if there was any scar tissue in my uterus from my previous c-section. At this point, we had been trying for 12 months. I’d had two early miscarriages and was starting to get pretty desperate. I had the procedure in January 2022 and had some scarring removed but otherwise, everything looked fine. The specialist said if we weren’t pregnant in six months then we would be looking at IVF.”

Melissa and Jeff kept on trying to conceive their rainbow baby however as time crept onwards, Melissa was sure they were headed towards the IVF route. She booked her appointment with the fertility clinic for June, however, on June 1st Melissa took a pregnancy test and saw a faint line appear.

“I remember just being in shock and then sobbing hoping it would result in the baby I desperately wanted after 18 months of disappointment.”

‘I thought it was a boy’

Ultrasound image of Melissa's daughter Imogen

“Over the first week I knew I was pregnant I took pregnancy tests every day just so I could see the line get darker. I also had weekly blood tests with the fertility clinic to make sure my levels were going up. Everything was looking good and by week seven they were happy with me to then go back to my OBGYN for the rest of the pregnancy.

“I felt pretty nauseous for the first couple of months up until around week ten. I struggled to eat anything other than carbs. I went completely off meat, especially chicken. Thankfully things started to feel better again by three months. We had our 12-week scan and NIPT screening. Everything came back normal. It was such a relief and we felt comfortable to announce the pregnancy publicly by 13 weeks. We found out we were having another little girl and I was over the moon to be giving Zoe a sister. Up until that point I was convinced I was having a boy.”

Extremely upsetting news

Melissa and daughter Zoe in water during maternity photoshoot

Melissa’s pregnancy was speeding along and everything was looking up. Suddenly at the 20-week scan, Melissa and Jeff received some deeply upsetting news.

“Everything was looking good but then the sonographer went quiet and I knew something wasn’t right. They found an abnormality with my baby’s left foot. The foot was touching her shin and we were told she may need to have her leg amputated below the knee or she may be disabled or not able to walk properly. We were devastated. After waiting to be pregnant for so long I wanted everything to be perfect and we were so worried about our little girl. There was not a lot we could do until she was born so we decided to just wait and see even though it was hard not knowing. But things got worse.”

From bad to worse

“At 23 weeks I woke up on a Sunday morning and went to the bathroom and discovered I was bleeding. Not just spotting but full-on bleeding. I screamed and Jeff came running into the bathroom. We called my OBGYN but due to my gestation, we had to present to the Maternal Fetal Assessment Unit at the women’s hospital. I was assessed and a bedside ultrasound was done and that showed our baby girl was doing fine.

“Unfortunately they couldn’t work out why I was bleeding so I was admitted for observation. I spent eight nights in the hospital and had several large bleeds. I was given steroids to strengthen her lungs in case she came early. I was prepped by the pediatricians so I knew what to expect with a premature birth. It was incredibly traumatic. However, by some miracle, the bleeding stopped and the baby showed no signs of distress and my body didn’t go into labour. I was discharged and told to take it easy. The rest of the pregnancy was spent nervously waiting for her safe arrival.”

‘I had to get everything ready’

Melissa before C-section

By Monday the 23rd of January 2023, Melissa was entering her 37th week of gestation. She was now two weeks away from her scheduled C-section date.

“I started the week feeling incredibly anxious like I had to get “everything” ready. I had done most things but decided on Monday I would take the car in to get detailed and fit the car seats. I repacked my hospital bag for what felt like the millionth time and started preparing some food for the freezer. I was noticing some “excess discharge” during the week. I put it down to pregnancy hormones but in the back of my mind, I was wondering if something was happening.

“On Thursday (37+3), we were relaxing at home and I went to get a facial. When I got home from the appointment I got out of the car and felt a gush of fluid, enough to soak my underwear. I called the hospital and they asked me to come in for monitoring and to bring my bag. I was pretty sure I’d be coming home but off I went. The midwives connected me to the CTG monitor and did a swab to confirm if I had ruptured my membranes or not.

“The test was negative. I was a bit confused as I was sure I hadn’t peed myself. I ended up staying for around four hours as the baby’s heart rate was sitting quite high and they wouldn’t let me go until she settled down. By 8 pm she settled and I was told to go home.”

Preparing for possible C-section

Imogen is born via C-section

“Around 2 am Friday morning, I woke up to another gush of fluid. I went to the bathroom and more came out. I decided to just go back to bed. I couldn’t sleep and then started having mild contractions lasting 30 seconds – one minute to about five minutes apart. I made Jeff get me a heat pack for my lower back. It went on for about 1.5 hours then stopped really abruptly. I fell asleep again.

“At 7 am I got up to yet another gush of fluid, this time I was fairly sure it was my waters. I called my doctor and he said to come to the hospital again. I told him I wouldn’t rush as I had to get Zoe packed and dropped at her Nonna’s and Jeff had to go to the office briefly. I was having some Braxton hicks contractions but irregular at this point. I decided not to eat breakfast in case I needed a c-section that day.”

‘It felt surreal’

Melissa holding newborn Imogen looks out hospital window

“We arrived at the hospital at 10 am and were put into the labour ward, in the same room I was in the day before. I was hooked up to the monitor again and waited around for my doctor to come see me. Midwives came in and out to check on me. After what felt ages the doctor finally came in at 12:30 pm. I was starving by this point! He did a speculum exam and he didn’t even need to do it because my waters came gushing out as soon as he went to put the speculum in. He looked at me and Jeff and said “Would you like to have your baby today?” I’ll never forget that moment. It felt surreal.

“Arrangements were made for theatre and Jeff went home briefly to pack his bag as he was not prepared! Luckily we only live 10 minutes from the hospital. We were booked in for 3:30 pm. I couldn’t eat obviously so I was extremely hungry despite one of the midwives sneaking me some biscuits. I started having some mild contractions again over the next couple of hours but it was bearable. Jeff and I chatted about the names we had been discussing and narrowed it down to two. We decided to wait until she was here to make the final decision. After what felt like forever, we were taken down to the theatre around 4 pm.”

‘It was calm and healing’

Big sister Zoe holding newborn Imogen

“Finally I was being wheeled down to the theatre waiting area. I was asked a million questions by different people and then the anesthesiologist came to prep me for surgery. I started to get pretty emotional thinking we were going to meet our much-wanted little girl very soon. In the theatre, it was cold and I was so anxious. The spinal was administered, I felt nothing then my legs went numb and I was laid back down.

“My doctor began the surgery and our beautiful Imogen Elsie Moira was born 37 weeks, 4 days, 5:23 pm, 27th of January 2023. Weighing a lot less than her big sister at 3.16kg. She was passed to me and immediately placed on my chest and I felt so relieved seeing her and hearing her cry. She was here and she was perfect. She had to be taken away after a minute as she had a little trouble breathing but she was otherwise perfectly healthy. It took a while to be stitched up and I lost about 1L of blood overall.

“After a short while in recovery, we were wheeled up to our room and an hour later Zoe came in with Jeff’s parents to meet her long-awaited baby sister. It was a very special moment.

“I am so happy I chose an elective c-section this time around. It was a calm and healing experience from Zoe’s traumatic birth and because my waters broke on their own it feels like Imogen still got to decide what day she wanted to be born as well. The best of both worlds.”

Melissa and Imogen at beach

Ten months on Imogen’s foot placement has corrected itself to a normal position. She has some minor bowing in her leg that will likely correct itself over more time.

Little Imogen is now approaching her first birthday, an occasion that will be shared with family and friends and so much joy. Mum’s Grapevine wishes Imogen a very Happy First Birthday and all the love for all years to come.

Got your own birth story you’re itching to tell? We’re always on the lookout for new stories to feature. Submit your birth story.


More birth stories from the Grapeviners…

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