accreta experience: Kate McMeekin
Gaining control and finding peaCe with an accreta diagnosis
My accreta story goes back much further than my delivery. Nine years, in fact. At the age 25, I delivered my first son via emergency C-section at 29 weeks gestation due to preeclampsia with HELLP syndrome. Throughout the pregnancy I had complained of swelling, headaches, and just the overall feeling of malaise. One night the pain got so severe that I had to leave work to go to the emergency department. Within the first hour of being there the ER physician said I had preeclampsia and needed to be transported by ambulance to a hospital in Denver, about an hour away, for a higher level of care.
After 9 attempts to induce and no success, I was taken to the operating room for an emergency C-section. My son Jack spent 7 weeks in the NICU. I was not able to see him for 24 hours and it wasn't until about a week later that I was able to hold him for the first time. He was so small. Only 3lbs and connected to so many monitors. It was extremely overwhelming but I just held him in my arms and cried. I knew we had a long road ahead of us. After that experience, I didn’t think I wanted to have any more children. I was a bit traumatized by my pregnancy and experience as a mother to a premature baby. However, the NICU experience did lead me to become a nurse. I believed that the only way I could truly give back to the medical community that helped save my son and me, was to join forces.
Jack’s dad and I were not married and ended up splitting up when Jack was 2. Shortly after I started nursing school when Jack was 5, I met my future husband. He wanted children and I also really wanted Jack to have a sibling, but I was scared to become pregnant. I did my research and found one of the top OBGYNs in my area. My husband and I met with her and she confirmed that I could try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Oddly I became instantly excited to get pregnant because that was the one thing I felt cheated on in my first pregnancy. I never got to feel a contraction! I so badly wanted to have a vaginal delivery. She also explained to my husband the seriousness of my past pregnancy and he then understood why I was so scared. However, I had already made up my mind. We were doing it.
It took several months to get pregnant but as soon as we were, we were over the moon excited! At 9 weeks I went in for an ultrasound and they could see my son and hear his little heartbeat. At 12 weeks, they discovered that I had placenta previa. At 28 weeks the placenta had not moved at all. My OB was concerned that I may have placenta accreta and that the placenta may have attached to my c-section scar. At 32 weeks an MRI confirmed placenta increta.
I had a lot to think about. Being a nurse, I had access to so much information, maybe too much information. I researched and read accreta stories every night while I laid in bed not sleeping. I even watched youtube videos on cesarean hysterectomy deliveries. The fear of dying consumed all my thoughts. Most nights I fell asleep with tears in my eyes. I knew I had to somehow regain control. I made the decision within my heart first, but then with my husband, that the best plan of action was to deliver our son at 35 weeks via planned c-section and then have a hysterectomy to remove the uterus with the placenta attached. I would not leave my 9-year-old son, infant, and husband without me. As hard as it was giving up the idea of a VBAC, a non NICU baby, and losing my future fertility, I realized I had to do whatever it took to increase my chances of survival.
Having no control over my diagnosis I looked to find any and everything I could have control over. I worked in the pre and post-surgical unit and I knew many anesthesia providers. I was able to pick the anesthesiologist who would be with me as I delivered, which was reassuring to me as I knew there was a possibility for transfusion. I spoke with a nurse I knew who worked in the NICU to get the run-down on what a 35 weeker NICU stay would be like. I spoke with many nurses on the L&D floor about what to expect before and after my delivery. All of this helped but did not take away the fear and sleepless nights.
I finally decided I need to talk to a therapist. She did something for me that no one else had done. She asked me to close my eyes and imagine myself reaching into my son’s crib and picking him up to rock him. She then asked me to picture myself holding him on Christmas Day. I immediately started to cry. For the first time in months I felt like I might live. The one thing I had not done since hearing the word accreta, was picture life if I lived. I imagined his sweet little face looking up at me, his hand wrapped around my finger, and I could smell that new baby scent as I embraced him in my arms christmas lights twinkling all around us. This gave me a strength and perspective I had not had in months. It was my turning point to stop worrying about dying and to start living.
I walked into the hospital on Friday August 12th, 2016 at 8:00 am, and at 10:23, Knowles Patrick McMeekin was born. They lifted him over the curtain and tears streamed down my face. 6lbs 1oz and 24 inches long of perfection at 35.5 weeks gestation. He went straight to the NICU as expected and my husband chose to stay with me through the hysterectomy. There were three high risk OBs in the room, all of which were well known in the community for difficult deliveries. I received only 2 units of blood and never went under general as we had discussed. The worst thing that happened was my bladder was nicked and needed repair. They apologized that I would have to go home with a foley catheter for a week. I did one of those funny laugh/cries and said “I am just thankful I am going home.”
I was able to hold Knowles shortly after recovery. I was determined to be up and in the NICU as much as I could. I was alive and doing well, while he still had a bit of a journey ahead of him. I didn't want to miss a second of it. I was discharged on Monday the 15th of August, our first wedding anniversary, so I could sleep in my own bed with my husband. It was not romantic at all. I had a bag full of urine attached to me and was a blubbering hormonal mess. Less than 2 weeks later we brought Knowles home. We were all home safe. Together at last. Looking back now I am able to laugh at myself and my hormonal breakdown because in the grand scheme of life, through the fear and tears, we persevered and survived. I am forever grateful to have found the beauty in that struggle.
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Kate McMeekin lives in Fort Collins Colorado with her Husband Patrick and two boys Jack and Knowles. Kate works part time as a nurse while going to school full-time at the University of Colorado to further her career as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. She hopes to continue to help guide and inspire women through their pre and post-partum journey. When not studying, you can find her enjoying the fresh Colorado mountain air or at her cabin in Minnesota on the lake with her family.