When Vanessa Hernandez looks into her baby daughter’s eyes, she sees a living, breathing miracle. That’s because Jayne, delivered on March 30, 2021, defied incredible odds just to be born. This mother’s story of joy, defeat, confusion, perseverance, determination, collaboration and faith will take you on a roller coaster of emotions and will end with a baby that is a true miracle and a superwoman mom who did everything in her power to make sure she arrived safely.
How It All Began – The Pains of Miscarriage
Vanessa, a mother of five and a nurse on the cardiac care floor at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital -Westover Hills, a sister facility to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, knows all too well the pain associated with miscarriage. Pregnant eight times, Vanessa miscarried three times, leaving an unfillable hole in her heart with each loss.
So, this time when she took a home pregnancy test and learned she was pregnant, she did not get her hopes up or get too excited, and neither did her partner Jeffrey, also a CHRISTUS Associate tending to cardiac patients.
“I had a vivid dream about being pregnant the night before which prompted me to even take a test,” explained Vanessa. “I took the test, brushed my teeth, washed my face afterwards, and honestly I forgot to look at it. I was about to put it in the trash and when I glanced at it, I saw it was positive! Then I did what every mom does, I took about 20 more to check to make sure it was right.”
Because of her prior history, she wanted to get an appointment with an obstetrician right away. At her first appointment, an ultrasound detected a sac, but couldn’t quite make out a baby yet. She would have to return in a week. She was only five weeks along at this point so knew it was still a little early to see anything. Vanessa continued to tell herself not to get her hopes up.
A week later, Vanessa was relaxing at home watching TV with Jeffrey when suddenly she felt a massive gush of blood.
“I panicked, and my heart dropped,” said Vanessa. “I knew immediately what was happening because I had been through it so many times before. I started wondering what I had done wrong and was so disappointed in myself.” Vanessa said she felt like a failure.
Her follow-up appointments confirmed her suspicions – that she had experienced yet another miscarriage. After several ultrasounds, the amniotic sac was visible, but it was empty. At the same time, Vanessa felt dizzy, nauseous and weak. Her doctors assured her this was her body’s reaction to having the miscarriage, and it was completely normal.
But Vanessa kept feeling worse, and her doctor said they needed to discuss some options. Vanessa could allow her body to clear itself naturally, she could take pills, or she could have a dilation and curettage procedure, also called a D&C.
Vanessa chose to go through the natural route and wanted to give her body a chance to do what it needed to do.
Something Was Different This Time
Vanessa continued to feel sick and was experiencing more dizziness and nausea so when she returned to her OB, her OB strongly recommended Vanessa move forward with the surgical D&C because her body was not clearing the baby on its own.
After discussing it with Jeffrey, she scheduled a D&C for October 6. While she was waiting for her procedure to begin, Vanessa recalls praying, crying and questioning whether she was doing the right thing.
“I still was so conflicted on what to do,” said Vanessa. “It felt different than the other miscarriages. It was an odd feeling, and I didn’t quite know what to think. I kept asking Jeffrey, the nurses, and the doctors if I should be doing this.”
Despite how she was feeling, Vanessa went through with the procedure, thinking this was behind her and she could move forward. It was finally over.
A Miracle in the Making
Two days later she felt sick again, to the point where she couldn’t get out of bed. “I was so dizzy and the room would not stop spinning,” she said. “I felt extremely weak, and I knew something was wrong.”
Vanessa decided to head to the emergency room at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Westover Hills, where she and Jeffrey work. She thought how she was feeling may be a delayed reaction to the anesthesia.
Upon arrival at Westover Hills, Vanessa spent 10 hours in the ER. The nurses did blood draws and tested her HCG levels for pregnancy hormones. Because of her severe symptoms, the ER physician wanted to do an abdominal ultrasound to rule out what might be an ectopic pregnancy and would also explain why she was feeling so sick.
Vanessa noticed a perplexed look came over the ultrasound tech’s face while he was conducting the test. After a few moments of silence, he began to talk.
“Vanessa, I know you said you had a D&C a few days ago, but these ultrasounds show you are pregnant.”
The abdominal ultrasound showed something that astonished both the physician and Vanessa: Vanessa was indeed pregnant. And it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy. The baby was dancing around her uterus like a little jellybean with a 171 heartbeat.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was sitting there literally in a daze, not believing what had occurred three days before,” said Vanessa. “Just three days prior, an OB had performed a D&C and my baby had survived.”
That same evening when the ER physician came into visit with Vanessa after her ultrasound, Vanessa asked him point-blank how she could have a D&C three days earlier and still be pregnant?
“I remember he crossed his arms and said, ‘Me being a doctor and you being a nurse, we both know how things go. Most things can be explained with science and some just can’t be explained, and this is one of them. Vanessa, this is a miracle.”
Watching and Waiting – A Superwoman Emerges
After that eventful visit to the ER, Vanessa – after much deliberation – returned to her OB, who told her she would need to be monitored closely through the duration of her pregnancy. She would return for follow-up appointments twice a week and be given progesterone suppositories to help the pregnancy progress.
Through all this, Vanessa was bleeding – constantly. And every time, she wondered if she would still lose the baby.
“I was in extreme pain, and it took every ounce of strength just to shower,” remembers Vanessa.
Despite all of this, she attempted to work limited shifts at the hospital until one day she felt two large gushes of blood. She was sure that she had lost the baby. Vanessa was only 16 weeks along at this point.
“I went home and resigned myself to the fact that I had just lost this miracle,” said Vanessa. “I was relieved that we hadn’t told anyone – that we had kept it to ourselves because we didn’t have to turn around and tell them that I had lost yet another baby.”
But then, out of the blue, the bleeding just stopped. And for one week, Vanessa felt normal and thought she could finally move forward with a normal pregnancy.
Another Turn in the Road
This feeling was short-lived, though. Vanessa started having excruciating abdominal pain. She wondered if she was having contractions and knew it was too early to deliver a healthy baby.
She went to see her OB who informed her they would have to “wait and see” and also gave her the news that her uterus could potentially rupture due to damage that was caused during her previous C-sections, information that was new and disturbing to Vanessa.
At 20 weeks, Vanessa continued to have painful contractions and asked if her OB would give her something to stop them. Her OB told her she would, without a doubt, lose the baby.
Vanessa was determined. She had been through too much to carry this child – whom she’d already named Jayne, meaning God is gracious. And Jayne had survived a D&C.
“I was not going to accept this baby was not coming into the world,” said Vanessa. “I was not going to lose the baby after everything we’d been through.”
It was at this point when she decided to get a new OB.
Finding Shelter from the Storm
It was at this moment when Vanessa decided she would take things into her own hands. The same day she was told her baby wasn’t going to make it, she didn’t know where to turn. The next thing she knew, she was walking into the emergency department at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, knowing that she probably wasn’t at the right place to get OB care but desperate for help.
“I thought they would turn me away immediately,” she said. “But the next thing I know, I was in the children’s ER with butterflies and brightly colored walls.”
A pediatric ER physician first saw to Vanessa and admitted she needed help from an OB colleague at the hospital. The ER doctor reached out to Dr. Peter Hsu who was the OB hospitalist on duty that day.
“Upon hearing Dr. Hsu’s voice, I knew that finally, after all this time, I was in the right place,” said Vanessa. “He was there to take care of me and didn’t question why I had come to a children’s hospital for help.”
After hearing about Vanessa’s troubled pregnancy, Dr. Hsu and his team were determined to do everything in their power to get her and the baby to a safe delivery when the time was right. After being treated and monitored, Vanessa was finally able to relax and that is when her contractions stopped. She would make many more trips to the Antepartum Unit at The Children’s Hospital, where the hospitalists would carefully treat and care for Vanessa, each time giving her relief and peace of mind. After that initial visit to the children’s emergency department, she was discharged the next day and was referred to Dr. Jessica Schechtman, an OB at CHRISTUS Women’s Health.
Dr. Schechtman turned out to be exactly who Vanessa needed.
“I am a firm believer that God puts everything together. The first appointment I had with Dr. Schechtman, it was like she had known me forever,” said Vanessa. “She was extremely thorough and listened to all of my fears and anxieties. For the first time throughout this whole ordeal, I felt validated. I knew that Dr. Schechtman was going to give me my baby.”
Vanessa once again started contracting – sometimes having contractions for eight hours straight. And all the while, the team at CHRISTUS Women’s Health and The Children’s Hospital were checking on her and delivering outstanding care at every turn.
“They would ask how baby Jayne was and how I was feeling,” said Vanessa. “And if I were in pain, they would hold my hand or hold me completely in my loneliest and scariest of times. They were all angels.”
Life is Fragile. Handle with Prayer.
At about 25 weeks into her pregnancy, Vanessa had her first appointment at The Center for Maternal and Fetal Care. This doctor expressed his concern that Vanessa’s uterus was at risk of rupturing. They reviewed her images at the hospital and the radiologist recommended to Dr. Schechtman and her team that Vanessa deliver baby Jayne that night. The nurses began prepping her for a C-section and a trip to the operating room.
Vanessa did not want to do this, and her doctor could see it on Vanessa’s face.
“They were not forcing me to do anything,” said Vanessa. “They told me they were going to do what I wanted to do, what was best for Jayne and me. They told me it was my choice: to deliver Jayne that night or allow her to develop further. I remember the doctor saying, ‘you are really tough and I’m going to be honest with you. If you are ready to go right now, we have every reason to deliver this baby for you right now. If you feel that you can’t, we can keep her in. Every moment that you keep her in counts.”
Vanessa started crying knowing this was a momentous decision. Right then, the hospitalist grabbed Vanessa’s hand and started praying, and the rest of the care team – Dr. Schechtman, the anesthesiologist and everyone in the room joined in.
“It was perfect in that one moment, and when she was done praying she looked at me and asked me what I wanted to do,” explains Vanessa. “I’m going to try to keep her in, even if just for one more day. I’m going to try to give her more time. Even with the pain, even with everything, I can take it, for her I can do this.”
Vanessa would go on to carry Jayne for eight more weeks – miraculous considering everything her body had endured. It was a long road with multiple-week hospital stays and occasional breaks at home to see her other four children. The pain was unbearable at times and the contractions unrelenting. All the while, the team at Children’s, including the countless nurses, chaplains, housekeepers, cafeteria workers and more, continued to serve as an extended network of support.
“I literally would walk all around the hospital and everyone would wave at me and ask about baby Jayne. They even had a therapist begin to meet with me to make sure I was able to mentally get through everything,” said Vanessa. “I keep a list of names of the people that were there helping keep Jayne in and keeping me safe during my stay.”
Even Dr. Schechtman’s partner, Dr. Tracy Lyon would visit Vanessa in her room and brought her sticky notes to use for a countdown to when it would be safe to deliver Jayne. She came in with markers and handed them to Vanessa to mark the days off the calendar. Each hard day that passed was one day closer to Jayne.
At 31 weeks pregnant, Vanessa was tired and had resigned herself to God’s will. She spoke to the physicians on staff that day and expressed that God had taken her this far and she knew he would bring Jayne safely into the world whether she stayed in the hospital or not. Her doctors agreed to let her go home to spend the last few weeks of her pregnancy close to her family.
Superwoman Vanessa Finally Meets Her Miracle Baby
On March 30, 2021, at 33 weeks, Vanessa went in for a routine ultrasound to learn her amniotic fluid was low. Dr. Schechtman immediately sent Vanessa to Labor & Delivery where she met with Dr. Susan Rivera, a partner of Dr. Schechtman at CHRISTUS Women’s Health. As a team, they felt the time had come to deliver Jayne and Dr. Rivera delivered the news that she was scheduling a C-section.
Hospital Chaplain Darren Bennett prayed with Vanessa and Jeffrey for a safe delivery. And prayer was exactly what she needed because the delivery proved to be a complicated one that would end with the care team having to put Vanessa to sleep to be able to get Jayne out safely and save Vanessa’s uterus.
Vanessa’s miracle baby had finally arrived and she was able to meet her late that evening after she was out of recovery. “Because it was a traumatic delivery, I had to be closely monitored after the birth and I didn’t get to see Jayne until after midnight,” remembers Vanessa. “I only got to see her because a nurse named Leonor came over to me and said, ‘Let’s go mama, let’s meet your baby.’”
She brought Vanessa, the superwoman, to see what all her hard work was for.
“She wheeled me down to the NICU and I held her little hand and she was perfect. She was absolutely perfect,” said Vanessa.
Baby Jayne would remain in the NICU for a month since she was born with a heart murmur among other concerns and needed to be monitored.
“The team at Children’s treated Jayne and me like we were family,” said Vanessa. “It was like they held us throughout our entire journey, and there are no words to describe how they took care of us. Those NICU nurses, every single one of them is what every nurse should be, nothing short of amazing.”
As Vanessa reflected on her long journey, she told Jeffrey, “I think miracles really do happen in this hospital. I can’t explain how much I already loved working at CHRISTUS, and I really mean that. But, to know that I work for a hospital system that I feel was a huge part of God’s plan to save my baby is amazing. I am 100 percent convinced that every single person I came across at this hospital was a part of this big plan to get Jayne here. She’s here and she’s healthy and I couldn’t ever imagine that happening anywhere else. I truly witnessed a miracle and couldn’t be more blessed and appreciative of all the people who witnessed it with me!”
If you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, talk to your obstetrician about a referral to our experienced team of Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Visit our website for more details.