The amazing Mary Hazen, mother to Paige (17), Jacob (14), Zoehy (11), June (05/27/2011), and Ayden (2).
Mary was just 19 when she first became a mother. Her son Jacob was born and joined their family along side her daughter Paige who was born to her husband from a previous relationship. Paige arrived at just 28 weeks and faced both developmental delays and life long heath complications as a result. She was a tiny child and Mary says that when Jacob arrived they grew together, almost like twins, as they were at similar developmental stages. But before they knew it Paige was walking, talking, and doing all of the the things they were told she never would.
Jacob was born via cesarean after 24 hours of labor in which Mary did not progress. Her contractions became more intense, but not more productive and before she knew it she was asked to sign a consent form and taken to surgery. During Jacob's first year of life he faced respiratory issues which coupled with Paige's needs led she and her husband to feel their family was complete.
Mary's conception with Zoehy came as a complete surprise but it was by far her easiest pregnancy and birth. Zoehy arrived via scheduled cesarean and was the most relaxed baby. Mary says that she was quiet and smiling and made the transition as easy as it could be. Mary and her husband had always had their issues and ultimately they decided to end their relationship but to co-parent in every sense of the word, with her children spitting their time evenly between them.
In the years that followed, Mary found herself in a new relationship and eventually pregnant with her daughter June. June's pregnancy was difficult from the start and from their first scan which was meant to be a happy time, Mary knew that something was terribly wrong. June had severe hydrops and a halo of fluid around her body. Both of her lungs were all also 90+% covered in cysts. Mary was referred to a specialist and further testing revealed that there just wasn't anything that could be done for her daughter. Mary was given the option to have a therapeutic abortion or simply wait for her daughter to pass on her own. As Mary contemplated what to do, her sister who is a nurse, called her to say that she was able to get her in to see another specialist. Mary's care was transferred from Indiana to Cincinnati Children's Hospital where she was met with a team on which there was one doctor willing to try to intervene. They began steroid injections to attempt to interrupt the growth of the cysts and to her surprise it began to work. They had daily injections that week and then decided to revisit things on Monday. If things still looked good, they would send Mary home and continue care. She sat through the weekend and returned on Monday, hopeful. Unfortuntanately, they quickly learned that all of the progress they'd made had been lost over the weekend.
Mary was given one final option at intervention which was open fetal surgery to try to remove the cysts on her daughter's lungs. They decided to go for it and Mary was taken into surgery understanding the risks. While the operation was risky for both of them, it was successful and everyone was amazed at how well both she and June had done. Following the operation, Mary's doctor tired her best to keep her pregnant and she was heavily monitored. When her water broke prematurely, Mary wasn't sure what would happen but she was admitted to the hospital and with the help of magnesium and other drugs they were able to keep her pregnant for 12 more days. Unfortunately, infection set in and June had to be delivered emergently. Mary felt as prepared as she could be for the fact that her daughter would not be able to survive outside of the womb and was told that it would likely she would live for just minutes before she passed.
Mary recalls the moments of her daughters birth and says the silence in the room was deafening. No one was talking, or saying anything as her daughter was born. They took her quickly to the NICU to put her of heavy ventilation and closed Mary and got her to recovery as quickly as possible in hopes that she would be able to go see her baby before she passed. Amazingly, June lived for 6.5 hours in which she was able to be held and surrounded by those who loved her. Mary and her family headed home in the days after and fought to get their daughter's body back across state lines so they could have a proper service for her. 10 days later, they were finally able to do so.
Coping with loss and grief was difficult for Mary and she admits to not being the best parent to her other children in the months after. She threw herself into her work and just tried to move forward with her life. While having more children was not anything she ever expected, Mary found herself pregnant with her son Ayden a few years later. From the beginning they knew that this pregnancy would be difficult due to her past history, and now the scaring from her fetal surgery. They knew that there was a risk her placenta could could grow into the scar tissue on her uterus but they did not anticipate the extensive placenta percreta that occurred. Mary's placenta grew through her scar tissue and into her intestines, bladder, and abdominal wall. Pregnancy was closely monitored and a plan was made to deliver at 34 weeks via cesarean with a full hysterectomy and reconstruction. The day of her sons birth, Mary says that she had never seen so many doctors in one room. They expected her operation to take about 2 hours and it was only later that she learned that it had taken over 8. The damage was so extensive that removing her placenta and rebuilding her bladder, abdomen, and intestines took much longer than anticipated. Mary lost a lot of blood, her lungs filled with fluid and she was clinically dead for 60 seconds at one point during the operation. She recalls how helpful her anesthesiologist had been going into the operation and says that it was only days later, when he came to see her in ICU and asked her how she did it, how she survived that, that she understood just how bad things had been.
Amazingly, Mary made a recovery that doctors still don't have any explanation for and was able to leave the hospital a week later. Her body is forever changed and she still faces some complication with her bladder and intestinal hernias as a result but she's here, healthy, and alive. Ayden spent some time in NICU but is doing well today and Mary says that his birth has changed her life forever. She is a single parent again, and at 34 says that she has come into her own and is living life with a fierceness, independence and joy that she never could have imagined.
"Dying is the best thing that's ever happened to me. It's so refreshing. If loosing your life doesn't make you stop and revaluate how you're living it, I don't know what will. I now live every day by making choices that make me happy. Happiness is everything."
Mary chose to participate in this movement not only to document her journey, her loss, and her triumph but to share with other women how crucial your own happiness and self love is. She has a new found confidence that is infections, a joy that is contagious, and an positive outlook on living every day to the fullest that you can't help but champion. Modeling this positivity for her children and for herself has been transformative and Mary hopes that others know that living each day authentically happy is possible.