The amazing Melissa DeBiase and Maximus (18 months). Melissa has excessive follicles on her ovaries and was told she likely wasn't ovulating and would need simulation in order to conceive. Because of this, she and her partner weren't expecting to get pregnant just two months after receiving this news. Melissa had a wonderful pregnancy and says that for most of it she didn't feel any different than she had before other than her sons gentle nudges. Around 34 weeks however, she started to feel very pregnant. She had been extremely busy taking care of her partner who just had surgery and was running around a lot, so Melissa reassured herself everything was fine, but decided to go to the doctor just in case. Melissa was surprised to learn she was fully effaced, leaking water and had a paper thin cervix, and even more surprised when her doctor told her she needed to head to the hospital because she was having a baby in the next day or two.
Melissa checked into the hospital and her partner scrambled to join her. She had taken Bradley classes and knowing that she wanted to have a medication and intervention free childbirth began to worry she may soon find herself subject to a cascade of interventions. Her labor wasn't picking up however and she was told they needed to start Pitocin due to her leaking fluid. She ultimately consented and labor progressed very quickly. She labored for 3.5 hours and had to hold off pushing so the doctor could get there which she describes as worse than the labor itself. Once she was able, she only pushed 3 or 4 times before Maximus emerged. Melissa was so relieved and looked forward to being able to hold her baby. She had him on her chest for a few moments while they tried to clean her up before they told her she was hemorrhaging badly and they needed to take him.
Melissa says that everyone became very serious and told her she needed to be taken to the OR as they couldn't stop her bleeding. She asked them repeatedly if she was dying and struggled to understand what was happening before she was put under. Melissa had a 4th degree tear and woke up after surgery to learn that after trying everything to stop her bleeding they had to insert a balloon in her uterus to create pressure from the inside. They let her know that if she began bleeding again when the balloon was removed their only option would be to perform a hysterectomy. Melissa had lost over half of her blood volume and needed blood transfusions before she was able to see Maximus again. By this time he had been taken to NICU so bringing him to her wasn't an option. Soon after she was out of recovery, Melissa, began to pass gas but realized it was coming from a different place. She alerted the nurses and doctors and they told her she had been through so much, they were sure she was fine. Melissa's first bowel movement after delivery caused her further concern and some googling confirmed her fears that she had developed a fistula.
It was a long road to getting doctors to listen to her and she was told more than once that fistula's didn't happen to women in developed countries. While her son remained in NICU, Melissa searched for colorectal surgeons and finally found someone who was able to confirm what had happened. Melissa has been living with a fistula since her birth and while she knows she needs to get it repaired at some point, she doesn't know when the right time will be for her. Fistula repair is very complex and often requires multiple surgeries, including colostomy, before it is resolved. So, for now she has made the choice to manage her symptoms.
Maximus had a 22 day stay in NICU before he was able to come home but is in very good health today. Melissa was able to start pumping for him in hospital and has since successfully transitioned to feeding fully from the breast.
Melissa has had a difficult time processing her birth experience and health complications postpartum. Still, she has found that being open about things with her friends and family and adding a dash of humor helpful in navigating the fact that she almost died giving birth. She has a strong desire for more children and is hopeful that if and when that happens things will go beautifully. Her experience of femininity has changed, the expectations of what her vagina is now versus what societies implications of perfection are, have shifted. It is a sometimes difficult but she's navigating it all with grace. Melissa says that her experience is often used as the standard of what no one hopes happens in their birth and wishes instead to shift her focus into one of celebration. She has survived, she is a mother and her beautiful boy is doing well.