Each Mother’s Day in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Department here at UT Southwestern, we celebrate the brave and inspiring mothers we work with throughout the year.
This year, I’m especially excited for one of our patients to share her story. Because of a complicated medical history, Christine Wright had been advised against having children at all, but she tried anyway. Two successful pregnancies later, she’s given birth to four beautiful children!
Read on to hear Christine’s story in her own words.
A serious illness
My husband, David, and I moved to Texas about 12 years ago to start a life together. Shortly after we arrived, I started experiencing some major health issues. I had a lot of pain in my chest, lungs, and back and a persistent cough. When I started coughing up blood, I knew something was seriously wrong.
I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. By this time, my pulmonary artery had hardened to scar tissue and was blocking the blood flow to my heart. The right side of my heart had become enlarged and couldn’t get blood to my lungs, so my oxygen diffusion was very low. I had to pause for breaks walking up stairs and started passing out.
I was referred to Dr. Kelly Chin at the Heart and Lung Clinic at UT Southwestern, who immediately started seeing me for pulmonary hypertension and referred me to a program in San Diego where I could receive an innovative surgery to treat my condition.
After the surgery, I started working out and pushing my limits. I went from being barely able to walk up stairs to the best physical shape of my life. That’s when Dave and I decided it was time for us to try to start a family.
The first surprise: Fraternal twins
At first, my doctors tried to talk me out of attempting to carry a baby and consider adoption instead. With my medical history, there was a very high chance a pregnancy would not end happily.
But I insisted. Dave and I talked it over and came to the conclusion that I had to at least try, even if the pregnancy ended in tragedy. If I didn’t, I would always wonder what I had missed.
We tried, and I found out I was pregnant. Then, we found out I was having twins! This was exciting news, but it made the risks even higher.
Fraternal twins actually run in my family, but I never seriously thought we would have twins. My husband, however, must be clairvoyant because from the beginning of our relationship he said if we ever had children we would have twins. I don’t know how, but he was right!
From the beginning of my pregnancy, I had complete confidence in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Department at UT Southwestern. My doctor, Dr. Julie Lo, was clearly passionate about her work and regarded highly by her peers. This really gave me peace about my pregnancy, because I knew if anything went wrong I had the very best physicians on my side.
Despite the risks, my pregnancy was textbook. I was fairly nauseous for the first three months, as is fairly typical, but in general I felt great and didn’t experience any additional complications. I even kept up my social life!
I was committed to trying to have a vaginal delivery even though with a twin birth it is far from guaranteed one will be able to deliver without a C-section. With my history of pulmonary hypertension, there was also a possibility I wouldn’t be able to handle labor. But Dr. Lo respected my decision to try to deliver vaginally, and I trusted she would do everything in her power to achieve that goal while keeping all three of us safe.
She did just that, and even my delivery was textbook. I got my wish for a vaginal delivery, and Piper and Sawyer were born just five minutes apart.
The second surprise: Identical twins
According to Dr. Lo, having one twin pregnancy increased my likelihood that I would have another set of fraternal twins if I got pregnant again. Even so, when we started trying for a third child (I’m one of three and always wanted at least three children of my own) we didn’t really think we would have twins again. But surprise!
Shortly after I found out I was pregnant again, I started to bleed heavily. We rushed to the hospital, scared that I was having a miscarriage.
This happened while we were on vacation in Laguna Beach, so I couldn’t see any of my regular doctors. I’ve never felt more relieved than when the sonogram technician said, “There is the heartbeat!” The baby was fine. Then she pointed out a second heartbeat: twins again! But that wasn’t all. The technician noted also that the babies were sharing a placenta, meaning I was pregnant with identical twins.
No, I laughed, she must be mistaken. I had fraternal twins, not identical twins. It wasn’t until I got home and the MFMs at UT Southwestern confirmed the twins were in fact identical that I believed it. The odds of having both fraternal and identical twins are only one in 10,000!
My second pregnancy was rougher than the first. I was constantly sick and uncomfortable, but I still didn’t have any serious complications.
This time, I got to know the entire MFM team. I really liked and trusted every doctor I met and knew if I spontaneously went into labor, I would be in good hands no matter who was on call that day.
I was, however, very happy when I found out Dr. Shivani Patel would be inducing me. She and I just clicked. She joked with us and appreciated my husband’s idiosyncrasies and weird questions.
Dr. Patel was also relaxed with the idea of trying for another vaginal delivery. This time, I came really close to needing a C-section because the babies were not tolerating the contractions well. But with Dr. Patel’s help, I was able to deliver Lux and Ever, my twin baby girls, the way I had hoped.
Preparing for Mother’s Day
This Mother’s Day, I’m thinking not just about myself as a mother of four beautiful children but also about my own mother. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. There is a very real possibility this could be my last Mother’s Day with her.
There is so much vulnerability in motherhood. I sensed it in my mother when I was sick, and I felt it like a switch being flipped when my children were born. Suddenly, my entire heart was being held in these tiny little hands.
For me, this Mother’s Day will hopefully be a celebration of the vulnerability, the beauty, the pure joy, and the wonder that come with motherhood.
At UT Southwestern, we specialize in working with women who think they may never be able to celebrate Mother’s Day as a mom because of medical complications like cancer, cardiac disease and pulmonary hypertension. These pregnancies are not easy, and require dedication, effort and sheer will from both patients and the multitude of doctors who provide care. But after hearing the stories of women like Christine Wright, we understand that the end result of having your own children to celebrate Mother’s Day with is worth it.
For more information about pregnancy, labor, and delivery, sign up to receive Your Pregnancy Matters email alerts when we publish new stories. You can also make an appointment to see one of our specialists by calling 214-645-8300.