“When I first found out I was pregnant I was in absolute disbelief! I had been told by doctors that I would need fertility medication to fall pregnant. I even had the script in the bathroom cabinet, and I had decided to start the following month. I’d had 2 surgeries the previous year to remove a very large mass from my uterus and I almost ended up with a hysterectomy, but I was incredibly lucky the surgery was a success and I was given the opportunity to have another baby. I already had two sons aged 13 and 9 from a previous relationship but my husband didn’t have any children and although he treated my sons as his own, we really wanted to have a baby to complete our little family.
I got pregnant almost immediately and even though I am very well aware we were participating in acts that could lead to a child, I was still incredibly shocked to find out I was actually pregnant. I remember seeing two lines on the pregnancy test and thinking, ‘It must be a faulty test, there’s no way I could naturally fall pregnant.’ I didn’t even want to tell my husband at first because I was sure it would just be another disappointment and we had been through too many of those. The longer that I stared at that faint second line on the test, the more excited I started to get – but I was so hesitant to get my hopes up – so I did what any sane woman would do… I went to the store and spent $50 on pregnancy tests and took nearly all of them in a day. Every single one said I was pregnant! I couldn’t believe it. My husband and I were finally about to have a baby and I was so in love with whoever was already growing inside me.
My pregnancy went pretty smoothly. I suffered from terrible all-day sickness (I refuse to call it morning sickness!) and struggled to eat, but I’d experienced that with both of my previous pregnancies so I expected it. I found out at 13 weeks that I was having a girl and I was in absolute shock! I had the strongest feeling from the beginning that I was going to have another boy and I was okay with that because I had been a boy mom for 13 years and I felt pretty confident in raising boys. I didn’t mind either way but I was used to boys. I knew how to change boy diapers, how to teach someone to pee standing up, how to build cars out of LEGOs… I didn’t know how to be a girl mom, but after my initial shock wore off, I was SUPER excited to learn!
My pregnancy was pretty uneventful. I worked right up until 39 weeks. Every ultrasound and OB appointment was perfect. I was measuring on time, my blood pressure was great, I even had a late term ultrasound just to make sure everything was going smoothly. As far as anyone could tell I was in perfect health and so was my baby.
My due date came and went but both of my previous children had been born after their due dates, so I wasn’t surprised at all. My oldest was 9 days late and my second was 6 days so I expected to go over and wasn’t anxious at all. When I was 41 weeks pregnant, I went to my final OB visit to schedule my induction as it appeared this baby wasn’t going to come on her own. The OB took my blood pressure, checked my urine and gave me a quick ultrasound at the clinic to make sure everything still looked fine. When it came time to do the ultrasound, I could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t good news. ‘I can’t find any amniotic fluid,’ he said. My heart sunk. I didn’t have any signs that something was wrong so I was completely shocked.
I was diagnosed with Oligohydramnios. Before this pregnancy I had never even heard of it and had absolutely no idea how serious it was. I left the OB’s office and went immediately to the hospital (it was a Friday) and they ran a bunch of tests and I had another ultrasound. The second ultrasound showed that I did have very low amniotic fluid but they were able to locate some fluid pockets which was such a relief. The baby was really healthy on the monitor and had a great heartbeat and I was experiencing lots of movement, so I was booked in for an induction for the following Monday.
I woke up Sunday morning and something just didn’t feel right. The baby was moving but the movements felt different, like they were slower. To this day I can’t explain it. I put it down to mother’s intuition. I just knew I had to go to the hospital urgently. I called my doula and she said she would meet me there within the hour. I wanted to be excited about meeting my baby but I was so worried.
When I got to the hospital, I went straight through to triage. I had to go by myself because my doula hadn’t arrived yet and my sons couldn’t be alone in the waiting room which meant my husband had to wait with them. When I laid on the bed the nurse made small talk while she hooked me up to the monitors, but I could tell she was worried. People came in and out of the room and asked me questions about the pregnancy, the movements I was feeling, etc. The next thing I saw, a nurse hit the emergency button and an alarm started going off and before I could even grasp what was happening, close to 10 people were in the room with me. The baby’s heart rate was dropping and then accelerating, and it was decided that a c-section was the only safe way to get her out and it had to be done NOW. I had people working frantically to try and get an IV line in me, I had other people trying to get me in to a position to get her heart rate to stabilize, I had someone else bringing me paperwork to sign. Finally, an OB came in to talk to me about the possibility of my baby being brain dead due to her heart rate and what to expect from my c-section. They got the baby’s heart rate back into the normal range and immediately wheeled me off to the OR. I didn’t have time to talk to my husband – I was so scared.
I laid on the operating table as the OB performed my c-section and I remember thinking, ‘Please be okay, little one, please.’ My husband was still out in the waiting room with our children and had no idea I was even in surgery. I had both of my sons vaginally, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect from a c-section. Luckily my doula made it in time and was able to come in with me.
After what felt like forever, they finally pulled the baby out and I heard her little cry. One of the nurses lifted her to the plastic viewing window so I could see my baby. All I could think was, ‘She is so tiny.’ I remember looking at her thinking I had never seen a baby so small, but thankfully she was healthy!
She did amazing on her Apgar and I was able to hold her immediately to get skin to skin. I was so relieved! The nurses weighed her and even though she was late, she was only 6lbs 6oz. The OB said that he didn’t find one single drop of amniotic fluid during my c-section and he’d never seen that before.
I named her Winter Josephine.
Once we got out of recovery and back to our hospital room, I just held Winter in front of me and stared at her. As perfect as she was, I couldn’t help but laugh because she looked so angry. If I had to guess what she was thinking at that very point in time, it would have been, ‘I was comfortable in there. Put me back!’ Everyone that saw her said the exact same thing. ‘She looks so mad!’ When my husband and sons came in to meet her, she just stared at them with tensed eyebrows that showed she was incredibly inconvenienced by us.
I don’t think I realized how dangerous Oligohydramnios was until Winter was about 2 weeks old. I was looking for a newborn photographer and one of the ladies I contacted was also a volunteer who went to the local hospitals to take pictures of angel babies for grieving families. I told her about Winter being born with no amniotic fluid and she told me that a lot of the angel babies she photographs are due to the exact same condition. It made me realize how lucky I am to have Winter here and how strong and determined she is.
Every time I look at her little angry face, I think about how close I was to not having her and I am just so thankful she’s healthy and strong. She continues to make the angriest faces and they are absolutely hilarious. I have never met a baby with more personality. Her facial expressions bring us so much joy and laughter. She’s so expressive and she is truly a miracle. She wanted to be here, and I am so thankful that I listened to my instincts and went to the hospital because I don’t think she would have lasted another day and neither did the doctors. A baby born with no amniotic fluid can be an indicator of all kinds of health issues including kidney failure, placenta failure, birth defects and even stillbirth. It’s amazing she survived, but even more amazing that she was perfectly healthy.
I put some photos up of Winter on a Facebook page asking for help on how to photograph her because she always looked so grumpy. She got a lot of positive feedback – people loved her little grumpy face. I had people messaging me telling me that horrible things were going on in their life right now but seeing photos of Winter and her pouty face made their day and they were able to smile. I started Winter her own Instagram because I originally wanted her to be a bow rep and take lots of photos in cute bows, but her angry face has made that almost impossible. No one wants a brand rep looking angry when they’re wearing your bows. But now I use her Instagram to share with the world her amazing facial expressions and make people smile.
For the rest of our lives I will be thankful that Winter made it and that she is healthy. She really went against the odds and I just know she’s going to do big things with her life. She’s the final piece of our family puzzle.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hollie Wallis. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more stories of unique babies at birth:
SHARE this story on Facebook to help celebrate unique and beautiful differences!