My heart was racing. Never before had I driven so fast in such treacherous conditions. With thunder booming overhead, lightning flashing in front of me, and heavy downpour hitting the windshield, it was a treacherous time to be driving over the speed limits, yet I had no choice. As I dodged around cars and slipped through red lights with wipers ineffectively swatting at the rain on the windshield, I could not stop praying: God, please help us get to the hospital in time!
My wife Janelle was pregnant with our second child. The first was born at a maternity center surrounded by midwives. She is such a strong woman that she gave birth to our daughter without any medications to numb the pain of labor. Our daughter was born perfectly healthy and my wife recovered quite rapidly afterwards. We hoped that this second pregnancy, a bit over two years later, would be a similar experience, so we had signed up with a local midwife and planned to have a homebirth. With the chaos during the latter stages of the Covid19 pandemic, we especially wanted to avoid hospitals as much as possible. Since our firstborn was successfully born out of hospital, we easily qualified as a low-risk pregnancy for the second.
While the discomforts of the pregnancy were a bit worse than the first, nothing serious or out of the ordinary was noted. Our 20-week anatomy scan told us that we were having a boy and that the placenta was positioned on the anterior of the uterus. Absolutely nothing was amiss to anyone’s knowledge; however, Janelle still had doubts. On a few occasions, she would worriedly say “I just know something is going to go wrong with this pregnancy.” There was no logical basis for these premonitions at all. They were shrugged off by both of us as the result of fluctuating pregnancy hormones. Little did we know that they were actually quite prophetic. Usually, most major issues in pregnancy are caught early on, which was why I was quite confident that our little man was past all danger when week 39 arrived. That confidence was shattered at what we thought was a regular checkup with our midwife.
I was playing with our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter during my wife’s checkup at the midwife’s home office while Janelle was on the exam table. Our little boy was not getting his head into position in the pelvis properly to be ready for delivery. The midwife was trying to check on his position and how dilated Janelle was in an attempt to predict how close to labor she might be. Since it is actually quite common for the second child to not engage in place until right before labor starts, we were not too worried about that. But the delay in his positioning, in hindsight, was not his fault: there was something in his way, making it impossible for him to take that next step towards birth. So here we were with the stage set for a very dramatic entry, one that almost didn’t happen.
The onset of bleeding was so sudden that it took a few seconds for me to register the severity. Something had accidentally been punctured during the examination and Janelle began to hemorrhage on the exam table. The midwife immediately went into emergency mode and had us begin the rush to the hospital. Her home was too hidden for an ambulance to find quickly, so I grabbed our daughter and rushed out to get her buckled in the car. Still bleeding, Janelle made her way out to the car with the midwife—supplies hurriedly gathered—jumping in with us. It was then that the storm began in earnest, pouring torrents of rain down on our car, as if we were in a climactic scene of a Hollywood film.
With my wife bleeding beside me, the midwife crammed in the back seat, trying to get an IV into Janelle’s hand. Our daughter Phoebe, normally put on edge by thunder and lightning, was mostly curious, yet not comprehending the urgency of the situation. She saw the midwife attempting to hang the lV on the handhold over the door and remarkably asked if she could help by holding them. There was our toddler daughter holding the IV bag and tubes up from her car seat as we sped towards the hospital. After calling ahead to the hospital to have nurses waiting, the midwife kept up constant checks on the baby’s heartbeat, each time, hearing the steady thumping just like every other check before. Again, I prayed: God! Keep Janelle and the baby safe!
The account of the intense drive has already been told, but suffice to say, we finally arrived at the hospital and Janelle was rushed into an emergency cesarian section. The midwife and Phoebe were not allowed into the hospital (due to Covid19 regulations), so I sat alone in a hallway for a nail-biting half an hour before I could hear the shrill, yet glorious cries of our son being delivered.
The question is, what was the problem? What had led to the dangerous bleeding in the first place? We discovered that the 20-week ultrasound report had been in error. The placenta, the temporary organ that acts as an interface between the mother and baby in utero, had not actually been in the anterior position of the uterus as claimed. Instead, the placenta had grown over the cervix, the opening to the birth canal. This mass of blood vessels had effectively sealed off the path the baby would have needed to be born. This rare event is called a placenta previa and occurs only in about 0.3-0.5% of pregnancies. In such a pregnancy, birthing naturally, as we had planned, is simply not an option. Bleeding or not, a cesarian section was the only way for the baby to get out. Normally, such a placement of the placenta is caught on the 20-week scan and an early c-section is scheduled because, if labor begins, the pressure of the uterus pushing the baby into the placenta would surely lead to catastrophic bleeding, seriously jeopardizing the lives of both mother and child.
During that routine checkup of the cervix, the midwife had accidentally punctured the placental tissue, causing the serious hemorrhage. Because of the inaccurate scan report, she could not have known any better; however, in puncturing it then, she inadvertently saved both Janelle and our son. Had the placement of the placenta not been discovered until the onset of labor, blood would have been lost at deadly amounts, starving the baby and risking Janelle’s life as well with massive blood loss. It was an act of God to have the bleeding occur at that moment instead of later.
That was not the only act of God we experienced. His hand is clearly seen in this entire story. One such example actually took place about a week or two before this event: our car got new tires. While this might not seem all that amazing, realize that we had no idea that our car’s tires were basically bald until our mechanic had mentioned it during a routine oil change. We nearly said no to the new tires so we could find a better deal, but decided to simply get it done. Without those new tires, I have serious doubts that we would have made it to the hospital without hydroplaning and crashing during the storm. Those new tires gave us a much safer drive than bald tires ever would have.
Another miracle seen in hindsight was pointed out by the midwife. During the driving, Janelle’s bleeding actually slowed to nearly a stop. The midwife, a certified nurse with over 40 years of midwifery experience, said that it was miraculous that it slowed. She later mentioned to us that she has no clue why the heavy bleeding stopped, but she was incredibly glad it did. Even more amazing was how Janelle replenished her blood levels faster than anyone expected, avoiding any need for a transfusion and surprising us all. Such steps would have been absolutely necessarily had she continued to bleed during that long, arduous drive.
Even the timing of all this was miraculous. In the typical placenta previa case, the c-section is scheduled well before labor is likely to occur. This obviously would have meant a premature birth, and several weeks in the NICU. Such early births can lead to complications due to underdeveloped lungs and other organs. Because of the missed placenta previa diagnosis, our boy made it all the way to 39 weeks. This is considered full term since the lungs are pretty close to fully developed by that point. He was indeed fully developed and ready to come out, yet amazingly had not triggered labor. The timing was perfect for the discovery of the placenta previa: not too early, and not too late.
My desperate prayers during the drive were answered far beyond anything I could have imagined. Not only did we make it to the hospital safely, but God orchestrated many details for the ultimate safety and health of our entire family. Clearly, there were far too many to be attributed to simple luck: this was the divine hand of Providence guiding our steps. May our family remember this story, setting it as an “ebhen ha‘azer” (stone of help) of biblical times, giving praise to our Savior for His gracious protection. It is no coincidence that our son is named Felix Elisha— “fortunate because God is my salvation.”