Grey and Zeyn’s Birth Stories

I had the privilege of meeting Kelli while her family was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Kelli has such a wonderfully optimistic personality, and I’ve enjoyed keeping up with her family and their travels via Facebook over these last couple of years. Her boys are just too cute for words, and I love being able to call their mama a friend! ~Michelle W.

My Boys’ Birth Stories

Mama: Kelli D.

Type of Birth: Vaginal

Birth Stats: Both boys were 7lbs and 21 1/2 inches

Birth Location: Hospital

Primary Care: Obstetrician & Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist, plus a rheumatologist & internist for mama’s lupus.

First, a little background:
Lupus is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

Lupus can affect people in many different ways but for myself it manifests primarily in my liver, my kidneys, and my blood clotting during pregnancy. My kidney function had a large decrease towards the middle of the second trimester and so both my boys were induced between 33 and 35 weeks. Not full term by any standard but with lupus the concern is any vitality in the baby. At least it was that way for my husband and me.

We had had several miscarriages before and through process of elimination we discovered a low level of progesterone and a very lupus-specific clotting factor. My blood would form clots around the baby as a form of attack. The fetuses were being placed at risk because of my disease. The disease that hindered us from getting pregnant in the first place was now playing an even bigger roll in my ability to maintain the pregnancy.

I began taking progesterone daily as well as Lovenox shots (a blood thinner) twice a day. I looked beaten up from all the injection sites but it was beyond worth it. Both boys were born with some complications but they were ALIVE. My disease didn’t win!!! One of my doctors was a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (MFM) who helps take care of women having complicated or high-risk pregnancies. These doctors are obstetricians who also completed three extra years of training in high-risk pregnancy. They are also called perinatologists or high-risk pregnancy doctors.

With each birth they monitored me closely and the babies even closer. I had weekly blood work as well as weekly ultrasounds to monitor growth and a battery of other tests to sustain the pregnancies. I’d say every bit of it was worth it! To give you a more comprehensive description here are a few medical descriptives from the Mayo Clinic that explain what my body was going through during my pregnancies:

  • Antiphospholipid antibodies

Antiphospholipid antibodies (which include the lupus anticoagulant, anticardiolipin antibodies, and antibodies to B2 glycoprotein I) can interfere with the function of the placenta, usually during the second trimester, by causing blood clots that prevent the placenta from growing and functioning normally. This can slow fetal growth. If you have antiphospholipid antibodies, you may need to have an early delivery.

  • Impaired kidney function

The presence of lupus kidney disease also increases the chance of having complications during pregnancy. When kidney function is impaired due to active lupus, excess protein can spill into the urine (proteinuria), causing swelling (edema) in the feet, ankles, and legs.

  • Preterm delivery

You do not have to worry if you deliver before 40 weeks: 37 weeks is still considered in the normal range. However, the chance of giving birth before 37 weeks does appear to be more frequent in women with lupus than in otherwise healthy women. Women with lupus are always encouraged to arrange for their baby’s delivery at a hospital with a NICU.

  • Fetal loss

Loss of the fetus can occur in any pregnancy; however, spontaneous miscarriages and stillbirths are more frequent in women with lupus. The two greatest risk factors are a history of previous fetal loss and high levels of antiphospholipid antibodies. The risk of fetal loss also may be increased if: Lupus nephritis is active at conception; there is evidence of proteinuria, antiphospholipid antibodies, lupus anticoagulant, or hypertension; or the serum creatinine level is high.

Now, on to my boys’ birth stories:

With my first son, Grey, he was born at a military hospital in Okinawa, Japan. We went into the hospital at 6am on the 17th and started the induction process. In Japan things are a bit outdated. I was hooked up to monitors and an IV was attached. They started me on a “steroid” to soften my cervix that we later found out is used as a horse tranquilizer, as well as a slow Pitocin drip.

I remember being checked every hour for progression and having a balloon dilator, called a foley bulb, placed in my cervix before they decided to break my water.

After 19 hours of laboring, they allowed me to start pushing. After pushing for more than four hours they stopped the drip and had me rest on my side. Whatever I was doing was causing the baby to go into distress. After consulting the MFM (who happened to be in Italy at the time) they decided to turn the Pitocin back up and start trying again. Grey’s heart rate dropped rapidly, as did mine. They stopped labor again and hooked him up to an internal monitor to get a better read on his heart rate. They noticed that his umbilical cord was wrapped around him and that when I pushed it was basically pulling him back in from the birth canal. They needed to get him out and fast!

It had now been 25 hours and still no baby. They were prepping a room for surgery, my O2 levels were dropping and my heart rate was well below the norm. I wanted -and had requested- a vaginal delivery. I just needed to be a part of the birth for some reason. My husband managed to talk the doctor into letting me try one more time, to push as much as I could, and see where it got us.

With the NICU team standing by, a forceps and vacuum extraction were what helped get my little guy into this world. Grey’s cord was wrapped around him and he wasn’t breathing. They cleared his airway, but he was intubated and had to have his heart monitored in the NICU for the next three days every 30 minutes.

On Day three his heart rate finally held steady long enough for them to release him from NICU and into the postpartum ward (with a nurse monitoring him around the clock). This is where my little guy’s life as a fighter began.


With Zeyn, I was in the comfort a labor and delivery suite at one of the best civilian hospitals the state of Texas had to offer, with my sister-in-law and her NICU team standing by. We went in for the induction at 8pm the night before, just after I ate dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.

Believe me, if you had been living overseas for the past 10 years you would understand what a HUGE deal this is.

We strolled in and I was given a nice set of laboring pajamas and anything else I needed. They placed a Dinoprostone vaginal insert to allow for cervical ripening. If I remember correctly it looked similar to a tampon; easy placement and absolutely no pain. The foley method used in my first induction was extremely painful! While waiting for my cervix to soften I was not hooked up to any monitors and was allowed to walk around. In fact, it was encouraged! Again, very different from big brother Grey’s birth.

The morning shift clocked in and I was hooked up to a monitor at roughly 9 a.m. and checked by the OB. My cervix was looking great so they started me on a drip of Pitocin and broke my water. I told my doctor that I bet we would have the baby by 11 a.m. He said in his vast experience it would be more like 1 or 2 p.m.. He was wrong.

At 11:07 my second little man entered the world with minimal pushing and hardly any complications.

His body temp would not regulate, but other than that, this 6 week 3 day early baby was doing fantastic!

I had a full tear with both boys (more with my first than my second). The tear was both internal and external, but nothing amazing icepacks couldn’t fix.

For anyone in my situation I couldn’t recommend the induction of my second child more. Minimally invasive and easy as could be expected.

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