Parenthood for us did not come easily. Years went by with no positive pregnancy test. After 7 months of fertility treatments, our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Finally, in the 8th month, we were pregnant. The first 12 weeks ticked by, filled with worry as to whether we would lose this pregnancy as well. When we hit the 13th week, we breathed a sigh of relief for a moment, and relished in the joy that we were having a baby. I was considered ‘high risk,’ due to being overweight as well as having the previous miscarriage. I spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office checking to make sure things were progressing normally. We did the standard genetic tests, not because it would sway our decision to keep the pregnancy, but rather so that we would be prepared mentally and medically for anything that came our way.
By 20 weeks, everything was determined to be A-OK and we learned we were having a boy. From 20 weeks on, I floated on a cloud of euphoria that everything was well and I was going to be a mom to a healthy little boy. The doctors had discussed cord blood banking with us and explained that we had the option to bank our son’s umbilical cord blood stem cells if we wished. Being a diligent Googler, I did my research when I got home. After discussing it with my husband, we decided not to bank the cord blood. We didn’t really even discuss in depth the different cord blood banking companies out there. Initially, our thoughts turned to cord blood banking cost. Ultimately though, the deciding factor was the issue that after having such a rocky road to get to this point, we just didn’t want to think of anything negative that could happen to our baby.
Our Firstborn Blessing
Our son, Patrick, was born on August 1, 2010 at 41 weeks, 2 days. He was born via emergency C-section due to decreased fetal movement. The doctors immediately suspected something was wrong, but it wasn’t until the next day that they discovered Patrick was having near constant seizures due to 3 strokes he had in utero. The next 2 weeks were some of the scariest of our lives. The doctors could not give us a prognosis. He was given multiple blood transfusions. He was on a respirator and heavily sedated. He was 2 weeks and 2 days old before we were allowed to take him home. He went home on feeding tubes and seizure medications and appointments for physical therapy and occupational therapy, and appointments with neurologists. It was full speed ahead. And there was nothing we wouldn’t do for our son.
Our Second Blessing
When Patrick was just 4 months old, I discovered I was pregnant. Shock turned to disappointment quickly when the doctors told me they didn’t believe the pregnancy was viable. For weeks I was on a roller coaster. I would spend a week on bed rest due to heavy bleeding, have the bed rest be lifted when all looked okay, and then on bed rest again when the bleeding started again. I started progesterone injections at 12 weeks. Finally, once again, we were “in the clear.” This time, however, there was no time to think about stem cell banking prior to our second son’s arrival. At 24 weeks, my water broke. I was admitted to the hospital for observation with the hope I would make it to 34 weeks. After 3 weeks, my placenta abrupted and our son, Kellen, was born via Emergency C-section on May 19, 2011 at 27 weeks weighing a mere 2lb, 1 oz.
Kellen ultimately spent 163 days in the NBSCU. He also had some brain damage due to his prematurity, as well as breathing and feeding difficulties. The first year of life was filled with appointments and hospital stays due to illness.
When Patrick was two years old (and Kellen was one), Patrick was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. He has significant speech delays, fine motor, and gross delays. He uses a walker to ambulate, has limited use of his right hand, and has a smile that can light up a room. He’s very bright, witty, and loving. Therapists tell me he is the hardest worker they have had. He is very determined. As his parents, we are determined to try everything possible to help both of our boys succeed. Physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, aquatic therapy, horseback riding lessons, sensory diets, feeding therapies, etc. We are determined to do whatever it takes.
Cord Blood Banking
When the boys were 3 and 2 years old, we discovered that we were expecting another baby. Sadly, my initial reaction was fear. I didn’t have a good track record with pregnancies. I would keep a mental checklist of all the pregnancy milestones, and relished each one as they passed. 12 weeks, 20 weeks, 24 weeks, 27 weeks. At around 32 week’s gestation, my mother, who is a midwife, asked me if I was going to bank this child’s cord blood. She had attended a continuing education seminar that had talked about the benefits of cord blood banking and how they are doing a lot of research on using stem cells to treat Cerebral Palsy. I also began to do my own research on the studies being conducted. We decided as a family to bank our 3rd child’s umbilical cord blood stem cells in the hope that they may eventually be able to be used for Patrick.
We looked at cord blood banking reviews and considered cord blood banking pros and cons (there were no ‘cons’ for us). After speaking with employees of Cryo-Cell International, we chose them for our baby’s cord blood banking. They were fantastic to work with, addressed all of our questions and concerns regarding the process. After speaking with different representatives of the company, we were confident in our decision to bank with them.
Our Baby Girl Blessing
On February 25, 2014, our daughter Maeve Elizabeth was born at 38 weeks, 6 days. After an initial scare and a 2 day trip to the NBSCU, we brought our healthy daughter home. Instantaneously, Maeve and her big brother Patrick had an incredible bond. He adores her and she adores him. I know he can’t possibly know the gift she gave to him, but hopefully one day he will understand when a sibling’s cord blood stem cells are able to be used to treat CP.
We, like most parents, would do anything for our children. If I could go back and whisper in my own ear when I was pregnant with Patrick, I would have told myself that banking the cord blood is 100% necessary for the peace of mind that I have done everything possible for my children. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Written by Katy B.