My second pregnancy was anything but ‘normal.’ Unlike my first pregnancy, conceiving our second baby took several months – eight to be exact. But much like my first, I had planned on delivering via natural birth at a birthing center. My husband and I had a wonderful experience with our first daughter delivering naturally, and I knew that’s exactly what we wanted with our second. What was unplanned was discovering at 10 weeks gestation that a routine blood test showed that our baby had tested positive for Triploidy, a condition that is nearly always fatal.
It’s important to mention that during the eight or so months of trying to conceive, I had developed a pretty strong itching sensation on my legs. Each passing day, the itching became more intense and eventually spread to my other extremities, and finally, my entire body. According to my doctors, the itching was essentially a medical mystery – possibly food related, possibly a newly developed allergy. But nothing definitive. Nonetheless, we conceived, and I continued to itch.
As we tried to stay calm with the possibility of our second child having Triploidy, my midwife transferred my care to the University of Washington. The goal was to nail down whether or not the Triploidy test was a false positive, and what we should do as we moved forward with the pregnancy. Several ultrasounds and another blood test later, we were relieved to be told that our baby was healthy. My husband and I were so happy knowing that we would be transferred back to the care of my midwife and spend the next few months knowing that we were back on the road to a ‘normal’ pregnancy.
The night after the U of W released me back to my midwife, everything changed. I woke up around 11:00pm, having problems breathing. My chest was extremely tight and severely achy. Thinking that it wasn’t anything too severe, I took a few Tylenol and was able to sleep the rest of the night. When I woke up the next day, my chest pain lingered, but I had decided to head to work while my husband made a call to our naturopathic doctor. While at work, the naturopath called me and told me to immediately head to the ER. I left work reluctantly, but the ER visit ended up saving my life.
The ER doctor ordered a chest x-ray, which led to a CT scan. Hours later, the attending doctor returned to my room to explain that there was a grapefruit-sized mass inside my chest cavity. After came a surgery to perform a biopsy, I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This diagnoses explained all the crazy itching – something extremely hard to catch as related to cancer. A few short days after my diagnoses, I was referred to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to discuss our treatment plan. The doctors implanted a porta-cath to administer my chemotherapy. At the end of these scary few weeks, I was just 28 weeks pregnant.
As you can imagine, I was terrified. Undergoing chemotherapy while pregnant seemed insurmountable. Many tears fell, not only due to fear, but out of frustration in knowing that my birthing plan was slipping farther and farther away. The probability of me being far too weak and sick for a natural birth was extremely high. I had to adjust my plan, so we scheduled my birth for July 19th, 2016.
Chemotherapy was a case of trial and error. We had to be extremely careful due to my pregnancy, so I was closely monitored by my team of doctors. The first round seemed to go as expected, which was a good sign. However, my second round of chemo kick-started pre-term labor. Needless to say, we had to make many adjustments and stay countless long nights in the hospital to keep the contractions away. The doctors finally found the right balance and baby #2 stayed safely put.
The team at U of W was so supportive and amazing. They knew my first choice was a natural birth and tried everything to help me reach my goal. I am so happy to report that our second daughter was born (naturally and non-assisted!!) on 7/19/2016, happy and healthy – 7.5lbs and 19.5 inches long.
To say my birthing story is anything but complicated would be an understatement. What I’ve learned is that I am so much stronger than I could have ever imagined. Delivering our daughter, despite all the odds stacked against us, was as close to perfect as I could have asked for in such dire circumstances. I am happy to report that we are both doing well and I am now cancer free.
Submitted by Samantha Chipps-Freeman.
Photo by Angela Welsh Photography.