Holding on to Hope: A High-Risk Pregnancy Journey

In June of 2020, Lauren found out she was pregnant again. What would have seemed like a joyous occasion brought a lot of fear to Lauren since just a few months earlier she had lost a baby at 11 weeks. This time she was hopeful, but told herself she was not going to get attached. Just in case. This pregnancy would take Lauren on lots of twists and turns and several ups and downs, but in the end, she would learn a lot about her own health, how strong she is and how choosing the right doctor can make all the difference.

During Lauren’s first trimester, she was very careful not to let the news about her pregnancy slip to anyone except her mom and her husband. Lauren put her focus on Andi and Cody, her two other children, ages 4 and 2 ½ who were keeping her busy these days.

At 11 weeks, the same week she lost her previous baby, Lauren was attending her first regular appointment with her obstetrician when her doctor noticed some things going on with her health and had some lab work drawn. This lab work brought more answers than Lauren would have ever expected. It was at this time when Lauren learned her thyroid was not functioning properly due to Graves’ disease. This is what likely caused her to lose her baby in the previous pregnancy.  And, the bad news did not stop there. Lauren was also told there was a high probability this baby may have a rare genetic disorder.

“This couldn’t be happening again,” explains Lauren. “My husband and I were already contemplating hard decisions we might need to make in the next few weeks. But we weren’t ready to give up.”

Lauren was immediately sent to Dr. James Hill, a high-risk maternal fetal medicine specialist at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care – Westover Hills, which is a program of The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Lauren would have frequent labs drawn and doctor visits. “My heart rate would increase significantly, and he monitored my heart medications closely. He also noticed I needed to be put on thyroid medicine,” Lauren explains. “The medicines really helped me to feel better. He wanted to make sure I was being treated. His concern about my health and my baby’s well-being made me feel so cared for, and the fact that Dr. Hill immediately jumped on it was so comforting to me.”

Dr. James Hill is a maternal fetal medicine specialist at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Lauren was amazed by the genuine care he provided to her and her baby.

Because of Graves’ disease and the possibility that her baby could have Graves’ and another rare genetic disorder, Dr. Hill referred Lauren to Rachel Ault, a genetic counselor at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Rachel walked Lauren through all the possibilities and recommended an amniocentesis that would be performed when Lauren was 16 weeks pregnant to test for fetal abnormalities. She gave Lauren a lot of information about what to expect and reminded her that she should not blame herself for what was going on.

“At this point, everything felt like a whirlwind. I was so scared and having to wait for the amnio procedure and then for the results was excruciating,” adds Lauren. “Dr. Hill was amazing during this time. He prayed over me and prayed over the baby. He calmed me and told me to have hope. I have never had a doctor that was so invested in me. I knew I could put my faith in him, and he would take good care of me and the baby.”

On August 24, Lauren nervously walked into her amnio procedure. Dr. Hill and another doctor performed the procedure.  Lauren remembers how the baby’s head was near the needle and remembers Dr. Hill telling her that the baby looked good on the ultrasound. A glimmer of hope Lauren thought. During this procedure Dr. Hill identified that Lauren had an anterior placenta which made an extra layer that the needle would need to push through before getting into the amniotic sac. For Lauren, this meant that there was an even higher increase of miscarriage and that the cushioning may make it more difficult to feel her baby kicking. Dr. Hill assured her he was confident that he could safely perform the amnio procedure – and he did.

Now the dreaded waiting period began. Lauren would have to wait two to three weeks for the results of the amnio. These would be the longest weeks of Lauren’s life.

“Every night I cried waiting for the results,” remembers Lauren. “While I was waiting, I was calling around getting quotes for a funeral and at the same time doing lots of research on raising a special needs child, if the child would survive.” Lauren’s husband, Bobby, would remind her every day to hold onto hope, not to give up and have faith. He was her biggest supporter during this tough time for their family.

Lauren had still not told anyone about her pregnancy and had been going through all of this alone, but she decided to share the news that she was pregnant with a few of her mom friends at FIT4MOM Alamo Ranch/Helotes, a fitness business geared toward moms which she owns. She knew she needed all the support she could get right now and what better place than with the women who were part of her community.

Lauren will never forget when the call finally came in. It was a Friday at 4 p.m. and she was 19 weeks pregnant.

“I answered the phone and it was the genetic counselor, Rachel. I heard her say, ‘Your baby is healthy!’ She doesn’t have the rare genetic condition,” remembers Lauren. “I fell to the ground and held my stomach. For the first time, instead of feeling completely detached from this baby, I felt like I would actually be able to hold and kiss my precious baby’s head. You go from planning a funeral for your baby to then hearing the best news ever that you get to hold your baby.”

Rachel Ault is a genetics counselor at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. She gave Lauren the good news about her baby’s genetic testing results.

It turns out Lauren’s placenta was the carrier of the genetic disorder which happens in two percent of pregnancies. Lauren’s baby had a 95 percent chance of having the condition. Lauren was now looking at what she explains was a miracle baby and one she would name Kacey Hope to represent the hope she was reminded to hold onto throughout this scary process.

For the first time in months, Lauren was able to breathe. She finally announced she was pregnant to her family and did a gender reveal two weeks later with her FIT4MOM group. Her kids, Andi and Cody, were beyond excited to learn they would be having a baby sister.

During this time, she would see Dr. Hill every two weeks to get tested for her thyroid and as Lauren approached her third trimester, she was seeing Dr. Hill weekly. “I still had a hard time accepting that everything was alright. I was so worried this baby was somehow going to be taken from me. Dr. Hill would remind me often to have hope and reminded me to enjoy my pregnancy,” said Lauren. “The ultrasound technicians would also reassure me during my appointments that the baby was growing well, and not showing signs of any disorders.” Her measurements looked great, but the best thing Lauren appreciated during the appointments was getting to hear her daughter’s heart beating.

Thankfully, Lauren’s third trimester was not as eventful as the second trimester and she started getting more comfortable with the pregnancy and the fact that this baby would arrive safely. Lauren almost made it to her due date but ended up delivering Kacey on February 3, four days before her due date.

“On delivery day the baby came fast and there was no time for an epidural. I was used to very long labors, but she had her own agenda. She wanted to enter this world quickly and the nurse and my husband almost had to deliver her. Luckily, the doctor on-call arrived just in time. The first moment I looked at her I could not believe she was really here. I heard her cry and I felt this sigh of relief. After all the trouble we went through and her five percent chance of being here, it was truly a miracle to see her and touch her. It was almost as if everything that happened, never happened.”

Looking back at her pregnancy journey, Lauren is grateful for the dedicated care Dr. Hill provided and how closely he watched over her. From the diagnosis of Grave’s disease to monitoring her heart condition to identifying she had placental lakes, a rare condition where the placenta has pools of blood on it, Dr. Hill was monitoring Lauren closely.  “These are conditions that can easily be missed which is why I am grateful I found such a competent high-risk doctor to not only take care of my baby but to focus on my health as well,” said Lauren.

“Every week I would come and see the team at The Children’s Hospital for my appointments. It became a very familiar and comfortable environment,” remembers Lauren. “I have never had that much interaction with a medical team who seemed to really care about me, and this was something I truly cherished. I do not have the right words to thank them for their care. Now that Kacey is here, it sounds crazy, but I actually miss seeing them.”

Kacey is now a happy 2-month-old baby and Lauren is enjoying every second with her. What started out as one of the scariest times in her life ended with such a beautiful miracle and Lauren is happy she was able to find the right time to tell her story. Her hope is that her story will help other moms advocate for their own health and find the right doctor to care for them along their own pregnancy journey, like Dr. Hill did for her.

If you experience any complications during your pregnancy, please talk to your doctor about a referral to the Centers for Maternal and Fetal Care. We offer three convenient locations with a team of compassionate and experienced physicians. Visit our website for more information at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Centers for Maternal Fetal Care.

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One thought on “Holding on to Hope: A High-Risk Pregnancy Journey

  1. Very compelling story, with a happy ending, God is great. Thanks to the staff for taking care of my friend and her beautiful family.

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