“Is this the baby that caused so much trouble?” people ask in disbelief upon meeting my Brayten. Brayten, with his big blue eyes, is always happy, always smiling and completely oblivious to all the trouble he caused. My first pregnancy and delivery was nearly textbook perfect, so I assumed that my second would be the same. I followed my doctor when her practice became part of the Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, never dreaming that we would actually need to call upon their advanced expertise.
During the routine anatomy sonogram at 18 weeks my doctor discovered that I had an extra placental lobe, and its placement near the birth canal was something to monitor. We returned in the third trimester for another sonogram. This is when we got the diagnosis of vasa previa, a condition where fetal blood vessels cross the birth canal and are at risk of rupturing when the mother goes into labor. If these vessels rupture, the baby quickly loses blood, which is almost always fatal. If this condition is detected early and the proper precautions are taken, the infant survival rate is almost 100%. We were surprised in our research by how few cases are actually diagnosed early simply because many facilities do not have a blood-flow Doppler sonogram. Because the Pavilion for Women is a state-of-the-art hospital, there are 10 of these machines in use for routine patient care.
Becoming the Pavilion for Women’s first mom was a complete fluke! Brayten’s original due date was mid-April, but typically a vasa previa diagnosis results in a C-section at 35 weeks. After much monitoring by an expert team of doctors (including modified bed rest and an extended hospital stay), we decided to deliver by C-section at 37 weeks in order to give Brayten more time in the womb, but before my risk of going into labor naturally increased. Our name went on the schedule and it wasn’t until our appointment the following week that we realized our 37-week mark was the same day the new hospital opened its doors and we were first on the list. We were a bit hesitant initially, but quickly realized what an amazing opportunity this was and what a fun story it would be to tell Brayten when he was older.
The birth date arrived with much excitement and anxiety on our end; we were looking forward to meeting our son but were worried about potential health complications for a baby born three weeks early. Once at the hospital we were met with all the hoopla that a grand opening of such a landmark facility can bring, which helped take our minds off the possibility that our new baby might end up in the NICU. My husband loves to tell the story of standing outside the operating room while they finished prepping me and hearing someone say that they would not have wanted to be first. When he was finally allowed into the room I was close to full panic mode. I remember everyone around us trying to reassure me, but none of that mattered until I heard our son cry out. After seeing him briefly, Brayten was moved to a nearby incubator where he could get a thorough check up. The video camera above him and a screen near my head meant I didn’t have to miss a moment. Being able to watch him crying and kicking was an amazing comfort and the relief I felt leaving the operating room with a healthy baby in my arms was indescribable.
Over the past year, hearing all the amazing things the Pavilion for Women does for families makes me realize how “easy” my condition was for them. Regardless of the many miracles the doctors and staff are capable of performing, we don’t take for granted the expertise, care and attention that brought our Brayten safely in to the world. As we celebrate the first anniversary of his birth and the Pavilion for Women’s opening, I cannot help but reflect on how much our lives have changed in such a short time. My once snuggly little boy now squeals with delight as he quickly crawls across the floor chasing his big sister. No doubt he’ll be walking soon and life in our household will change again. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Michael Belfort, Dr. Susan Leong-Kee, and Dr. Wesley Lee, as well as countless other doctors, nurses and staff at Pavilion for Women for all they did to ensure my son’s safe arrival and the endless moments of joy he has given us. I cannot imagine our world without Brayten and I am fortunate to be the first of many grateful moms who are cared for by the experts at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.