The loss of a baby during pregnancy can be devastating. The loss of three consecutive babies seems impossible. Shadarra James knows all too well the pain and disbelief that can follow pregnancy loss. She also knows there’s hope that comes with despair.
Shadarra and her husband lost their first daughter in the delivery room in 2012. When she got pregnant again two years later, the couple was overjoyed. At five months pregnant, Shadarra was at work as a teacher when she felt some pressure in her pelvis. She noticed her water sack was bulging as if she were ready to give birth.
She and her husband Kevin rushed to the hospital. After several days her water broke, and the couple’s baby boy was delivered — but to their devastation he did not make it. It was after this second loss and a review of Shadarra’s medical records that she was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix.
Shadarra underwent a vaginal cerclage to help reinforce her cervix and prevent another pregnancy loss. After her recovery, the Jameses were ready to try again. Even with the surgery, Shadarra’s third pregnancy would be considered high risk and would have to be closely monitored, but the couple vowed to persevere.
“We planned for over a year prior to conceiving and did everything that was recommended,” Shadarra says. “While the pregnancy was physically smooth, I was mentally and emotionally a wreck. I often would be teaching and feel a pain that immediately frightened me.”
During her 4th-month sonogram, Shadarra was told that her cervix had already thinned significantly. She was immediately put on bed rest and scheduled for a procedure to place another cerclage that would cinch her cervix shut. All was good for several weeks, until her water broke. Out of fear of infection, the baby had to be delivered and the pregnancy terminated.
“That third loss was overwhelming,” Shadarra admits. “I did not think I would pull through. Then I heard about the group called Abbyloopers for women who have experienced the same types of losses. Through that group, I learned about a different abdominal cerclage placement that can be done above the cervix to prevent pregnancy loss. I scheduled a pre-op appointment in April of 2017 with Ted Fogwell, OB/GYN on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas. After meeting Dr. Fogwell, I knew I wanted him to be the doctor who would help us bring our rainbow baby home. It was then that we joined the Texas Health family.”
In July 2017, Shadarra’s procedure was done. A year later, she and Kevin decided they were once again ready to take the pregnancy journey. In September 2018, Shadarra was pregnant for a fourth time with her due date set for the following June.
Ready for Whatever Comes
On April 10, 2019, Shadarra walked into her classroom feeling a little off. She attempted to begin teaching but was plagued by pelvic pain and pressure in her abdomen.
“My students went and got the nurse while I called the front office to tell them I needed to go to the hospital,” she recalls. “The nurse rolled me out of the school and to a coworker’s car. By the time I was admitted at Texas Health Dallas, I was having contractions that wouldn’t stop so they gave me a steroid shot for the baby’s lungs. It wasn’t long before I had the mother of all contractions. It hurt so badly, I couldn’t move, and I began to sweat.
My husband signaled for help and a nurse made a call to Dr. Fogwell before getting me moved to an operating room. I was only 30 weeks pregnant. I remember seeing Dr. Fogwell’s kind eyes as he met us in the hall heading toward the OR. The look in his eyes was determined and ready. I was put under and woke up in the ICU. My uterus had ruptured, and my baby was no longer in the uterus when I was opened. It was a serious situation. We thank Dr. Fogwell and nurse Abby for saving my life and that of our baby!”
Baby Deuce was born 10 weeks early at 3.5 lbs. He spent six weeks in the hospital’s Level III NICU to grow and learn to feed. Because Shadarra spent the first few days in the ICU, she wasn’t able to see Baby Deuce in person. Thanks to the hospital’s Peek-a-Boo video cameras, she could use her phone to check in on her little one in the NICU in real-time.
“Our NICU experience was amazing,” Shadarra adds. “I kept a journal tracking Deuce’s growth and progress, plus all of his wonderful care providers. I participated in the parent groups offered by the hospital and Beads of Bravery sessions. The staff and providers were all so kind. I practically moved in while Deuce was there. Now he is big and strong and brings us so much joy.”
Shadarra offers this advice to other families facing a NICU journey: “One day at a time is the only way to tackle the journey. You’ll want to explore all of the what-ifs, but it’s best to just focus on the day ahead of you. Small victories are as monumental as big ones and should be celebrated.”
To learn more about maternal care at Texas Health, visit TexasHealth.org/Moms.