Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Situation

The Story

3.5 years ago, Erin had a perfect pregnancy with our only child Lauren. The day before her due date she had some blood. We rushed her to the hospital. The Dr.'s checked her and Lauren out and everything seemed ok, so we proceeded with natural labor. She labored for 25 (pushed for 3.5) hours before there was a nurse shift change. The new nurse concluded that Lauren was "cockeyed" and wasn't coming out naturally. A non-emergency C-section was conducted without incident. Soon after she returned to her room she hemorrhaged. Before it was over she was transfused 10 units of blood & had emergency surgery where they did a "B Lynch suture" which stopped the bleeding, saved her uterus, and her life. Erin was in the hospital for 10 days after delivering Lauren. She didn't have any complications once she was released.

Erin saw specialists in Chicago, Seattle, and Portland to determine if she would ever have get pregnant again. All concluded that she would not. The surgery that saved her life also "obliterated" (what Drs said) her uterus (so they thought).

As we really wanted to have 2 children, we went through surrogacy a couple years ago. We found an angel of a surrogate mother. We tried once, got pregnant, but then sadly, the baby miscarried at around 7 weeks. Surrogacy is freakishly expensive (we spent at least $25K) and emotionally taxing. The fertility consultants told us that Erin's egg count was low for her age and hypothesized that this may be related to what she had been through. Based on the cost (financial and emotional) we decided to discontinue the surrogacy approach.

We looked into adoption next. I love my wife dearly and am open to whatever she would be comfortable with. At this stage, Erin was pretty drained. We decided that there were a lot of benefits to having 1 child and over the last year have gotten used to and happy with that idea.

A couple months ago, Erin started noticing strange symptoms that indicated that she was pregnant. She didn't believe this given her history so she feared some sort of problem. She went to her Dr. and they did a test and discovered she was 7 weeks pregnant. My parents were in Portland for Thanksgiving. They shared the shock with us. Erin and I got a last minute appointment with her Dr. before Thanksgiving and saw the apparently healthy 7.5 week old baby.

Given Erin's history and anatomy, she was referred to a high risk OB. Upon examining her and understanding her history, her HR OB determined that her cervix was very short. He and another Dr. attempted a trans-abdominal cerclage. They were able to do the operation laparoscopically. It took 6 hours. They removed a lot of scar tissue that will make future operations easier (potential C-Section or hysterectomy), but unfortunately, they were unable to place the cerclage. They discovered that the lower 1/3 of her uterus is 20% as thick as it should be. Placing the cerclage risked puncturing her uterus and terminating the pregnancy.

After the surgery, Erin's Dr. said we are in uncharted territory. There is no data to guide the Dr's or us in making decisions (e.g., 100 similar cases). Apparently, until a couple years ago, a woman in Erin's original situation (the hemorrhage) would have been given a hysterectomy and we wouldn't find ourselves in this situation. Another Dr. we met recently told us that only now are cases like Erin's starting to occur more regularly (there are more women out there like Erin). Erin's Dr. told her that at this point, he can't advise us to take any path - that we have to choose to either continue the pregnancy with risks to Erin and the baby or terminate the pregnancy (also has some risks given her anatomy). He proscribed her progesterone to see if it can help thicken her uterus/cervix. Over the next 2 weeks, they will learn a bit more about how the placenta is doing. That will likely be the deciding factor in determining if we can continue. If she has placenta accreta, risks will likely be too high for us continue given her history and the other risk factors involved. The Dr. said that our situation is the type of situation that comes up with abortion arguments of "except in the case where it affects the mother's life". He said that Erin is on the low end of that spectrum right now and it currently is not reckless to continue, but it could become that way in the coming month or so (or the situation could improve). There could be innovative ideas out there depending on how things emerge (another HR OB mentioned perhaps a pessary).

So here we are. Erin is 11 weeks 3 days pregnant. Baby looks great, but serious questions remain about his/her viability.

Needless to say, this is a fairly intense time in our lives. Luckily we have great Dr's. Great friends who are Dr's. great non-dr friends, and a great family who love us dearly. We will be struggling with a lot regardless of where this goes over the next few months and ask that you pray to any God you believe in or just hope for us if you are a non-believer to give us strength and wisdom to face this situation and make the right decisions.

We'll update this blog as we go as we are feeling up to it. If this type of situation is getting more common, it might help for us to share our story. It might help us or those that are dealing with the same thing now or in the future. And of course, if you have any opinions, ideas, etc. please share them!


  1. We love you guys and stand behind whatever decision you make.

    K, J, and Stella

  2. I think it's wonderful you guys are being so open about what has been going on, because it truly will help people - people in your situation, people who want to help & be there for you, and most of all yourselves. We're here to be brave with you, and help in whatever way we can. Love you to bits - N&B

  3. We're praying for everyone's safety and we are here for you guys at any hour of the day.

  4. Wow. We are thinking about you guys, Lauren and the cats. Lots of positive energy being put out into the universe for you...

    the Ingalas

  5. Your family is in our prayers.

  6. I pray everything turns out well for your wife and baby.

  7. Baby Herrick, Lauren, Erin and Mike - whatever happens, God will be with you, always. May this year's celebration of the Incarnation bring you very, very special blessings.

    larry mulligan

  8. Wow...I think I remember you telling an extremely shortened version of the story of Lauren's birth, but didn't realize it was quite that bad.

    We're in a similar boat. Hong also had the "B Lynch suture" procedure. We too are hoping for a second, but are still a little unsure given our experiences with the first and Hong's age.

    Thanks for being open...we'll keep you in our prayers.

    M. Davey

  9. Mike,
    Through personal experience I know these are difficult times for you and your family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.


  10. Michael and Erin...we are definitely praying, thinking and hoping for you. There are many unexplainable miracles in life we are praying this is one you can hold at the end. You are wonderful people each decision will be the right one. Love, Jane & Kevin Fitzgerald

  11. Praying for strength and comfort for both of you, as well as positive progress each day for your miracle baby and for Erin.

    Sending all our love to each one of you,

    Courtney, Mark, Hailey and Paige

  12. Thinking, praying and missing you guys right now. Wish I could be there in PDX to help out!!! Love the blog Mike. Big hugs being sent your direction. Love ya tons.

    Rhonda (Peter and Hannah too)

  13. sarahriznyk@yahoo.comDecember 21, 2008 at 8:30 PM

    Wow. What strength you exude as a couple and family. It is truly amazing that once you accepted that one child would be all, you then became pregnant! I pray that you will continue to be blessed with gentle, compassionate, and informed health care providers that give you all that you need to make the best choice for you and the baby. I pray that you and the baby feel the love being poured from all of us toward you. I pray that your uterus is thickened to sustain this little-yet big- life! Stay strong and rested and united. With love, Sarah

  14. What an emotional roller coaster you guys have been through. And it appears to only be the beginning. Although it is such a cliche I do believe that what is meant to be will be. You guys are in our thoughts and prayers every step of the way! XOXO Tha Patton Family

  15. Mike and Erin,

    The pictures on the right tell as much of a tale as what you've written. It's obvious that you are strong and loving parents, and that Lor-Lor is a very lucky child. And while I can offer little but platitudes during these difficult times, my thoughts are with you all. And if I can help out in event the smallest way, let me know.

  16. Mike and Erin,

    You are and will remain in my thoughts and prayers.

    Martha Gross

  17. thank you for all this guys are in our thoughts and prayers ALWAYS!
    Matt, Becky, Wade and Chase