The phenomenal JoAnn Hepler with her daughters Ellie Jo (2) and Everly Ann (4 months).
JoAnn and her husband had been married for about a year before they decided to try to expand their family and she was able to conceive just two months after going off birth control. Her first pregnancy was very healthy with no problems. At 40 weeks she went in to the hospital because she thought her water broke but was told it hadn't. She was sent home but as she was leaving contractions started to become more intense. She went back to the hospital when contractions were 3-5 minutes apart as she was instructed but she was only 1cm dilated so they sent her home again. She labored for another day of contractions 3-5 minutes apart, with no sleep and was sent home again. And finally, JoAnn went back after 48 full hours of labor and refused to leave. At the 72 hours mark she received an epidural. A resident tried to place it first but was not successful so she had to have it done again and it only took on half of her body. She got to sleep for 20 minutes and she was finally complete. She pushed and her daughter started to crown but a doctor was trying to make her race with another woman in labor and told her she could move her bones because she preferred vaginal deliveries. She continued to push and her mother finally found an attending physician as she'd only seen residents to this point. She explained that she had the same problem and had a cesarean.
JoAnn says she was put in horrible, degrading positions to try to have her baby and had been up for three days with no sleep before they took her for an emergency cesarean. She was terrified. The anesthesiologist told her to let him know if the medicine numbed up to her chest because that was bad, almost immediately she couldn't feel her body up to her face and her mouth started going numb. He gave her a shot to counteract it but she could still feel her abdomen because they had used her epidural site. Ellie had become stuck in JoAnn's pelvis and the doctor was swearing, saying he had to cut her again. He cut horizontally and vertically and they had to push Ellie back up through her vagina as they tried to pull her out. JoAnn kept passing out from the pain and it was an all around horrible experience. Ellie had swallowed a lot of her blood and had to be taken away to NICU. The attending left and the residents stitched her up, but when the overseeing doctor came back they had to completely reopen her and because they'd put her back together incorrectly. JoAnn had worried about her daughter throughout her pregnancy but it had never occurred to her that it could be her to lose her life in the process. She had to receive two units of blood and left the hospital after 5 days but was still throwing up and passing out. She came home but soon developed a spinal headache and had to come back for a blood patch which was a horrifying experience in itself. They didn't have a tourniquet so they used a glove and pumped the blood out of her hand. She also noticed her incision was very red so she made an appointment and went in. The doctor who had attended her birth refused to see her and just sent her back to the ER for treatment. 10 days after her surgery she returned to have to staples out and the doctor just started reopening her vertical incision. He stopped to say, "I sure hope you have your Percocets with you". When she said she did, he said, "Good, take one, I'll be back in 30 minutes." She had not healed and had pockets of fluid inside so she had to pack her wound for two weeks. It still wasn't closing, so she fought to get a wound vac and with it, her incision finally healed 8 weeks later. Through all of this, she had to be away from her newborn quite a bit but she said Ellie was her light. She struggled the first few weeks to establish breastfeeding and was ultimately able to continue to nurse Ellie until she was 16 months old.
JoAnn had PTSD from her first birth experience and when she learned she was pregnant again unexpectedly, she was very scared and nervous. She decided to take her pregnancy day by day and try to not worry about things. She found a new doctor who suggested they deliver a little bit early since things were going well. She enjoyed her time with Ellie and wrote notes and letters to her in case anything happened to her during childbirth. JoAnn delivered Everly via scheduled cesarean at 37 weeks and it was a very healing experience. It only took 20 minutes and she was able to see her daughter right away. Her vertical incision on her uterus had begun to tear so it's great they delivered when they did. Everly is a champion breastfeeder and things are going well, she brought into her life things she didn't know she needed and she is so incredibly grateful to have her.
JoAnn has struggled with her body image, particularly after having yet another scar from Everly's birth but realized she needed to start focusing on the things that made her feel beautiful. Her stomach never made her feel beautiful but her children do, and they are the reason she has her scars. She wants to remind herself and other women to always hold onto hope.