My name is Jessica Shafer. I am 30 years old, married to the love of my life (Brad) and gave birth to our miracle and my hero, Luca James. We live in Livonia, MI where I grew up and most of my family still lives. I went to Michigan State University and I work at Make-A-Wish Michigan.
At 27 years old I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I had known for years something wasn’t right with my body, hormones, and menstrual cycle but no one would listen. I rarely have a menstrual cycle, have trouble losing weight, have acne and oily skin. The PCOS became much more apparent when my husband and I started trying for kids. In December 2017 when I went in for my yearly exam at my OBGYN I asked the doctor about it and we began a set of tests which determined I do not ovulate on my own, have little to no progesterone in my body and would need to see an infertility doctor in order to get pregnant.
In April 2018 my husband and I had our first appointment with a fertility doctor. I had ultrasounds, bloodwork, hysteroscopy and my husband had a semen analysis completed. We found out that the problem was not only with me but also with my husband. He had a low sperm count and low motility rate. Our doctor informed us that the combination of issues would mean we could not get pregnant on our own, infertility medication (ex. Chlomid) would not help us, our chances of a successful IUI were less than 4% which left us with IVF as our only option. We were devastated. A few months later in August 2017 I randomly got my period on my own, so we decided to try an IUI because we thought that maybe it was a sign it could actually work! Well, we were wrong and the IUI was unsuccessful. For the rest of 2017, we did more testing and talked to the office about IVF options and cost. In January 2018 we started the medications for our first round of IVF. This did not go as planned. I overproduced eggs (50+) and my hormone levels went crazy. It was hard to walk and had to go in for daily IV fluids. After this, my body needed a break we ended up doing an ERA cycle which led to another setback! We discovered I had numerous polyps in my tubes and they would have to be removed before we could implant an embryo. In April 2018 we started medications again and we had a successful egg retrieval! The doctors retrieved 17 eggs and 9 matured in the first 24 hours and were still growing on day 3!! Day 5 came and we waited all day for an updated. We had a feeling something wasn’t right. Late that afternoon we got the call that none of our embryos were looking promising. They were still going to keep an eye on 3 of the embryos overnight but we needed to prepare ourselves for another failed cycle. The next day a miracle had happened, and all 3 embryos grew overnight!! They removed a cell from each of the embryos, send that off for genetic testing and freeze the embryos. A week later we found out 2 of our embryos were genetically normal! We had a chance to have 2 babies!!! The third embryo had numerous genetic abnormalities and was not a viable embryo. In late June 2018, we prepared ourselves to implant one of our frozen embryos. The implantation went well and two weeks later we found out we were officially pregnant with our miracle baby!
For Christmas 2018 I decided to get Brad tickets to a Butler basketball game because I knew after Luca was born we would not be making the trip down to Indianapolis, IN any time soon. So, on December 15th we saw IU beat Butler in the Crossroad Classic basketball game. There was the first time I felt uncomfortable but just thought it was “normal” pregnancy symptoms. The next morning on December 16th I woke up and started having contractions. At first, I thought they were Braxton Hicks contractions but quickly realized the contractions were happening 10 minutes apart. I woke Brad up and called my doctor. He told me I could not make the drive home and we needed to get to a hospital right away. We were terrified. I was only 27.5 weeks along and knew how dangerous it was to have a baby that early in a pregnancy.
We check into a hospital in downtown Indianapolis around 11 am where a nurse examined me and realized I was 3cm dilated and she could feel Luca’s toes!
They gave me numerous medications to stop the labor but there was no stopping Luca! By 3 pm I was 4cm dilated, 4 pm I was 6cm and 5 pm fully dilated! It went from we will have the baby tonight to an emergency c-section because I started bleeding. I was wheeled off to the operating room and at 6:33 pm Luca James Shafer was born. He was 2 pounds 13 ounces and 15.75 inches long. He was the tiniest thing we had ever seen. We were so grateful he was alive and doing okay but we knew we had a long road ahead of us.
Luca was born with a level 1 brain bleed, 2 holes in his heart (PDA & ASD) and chronic lung disease. The first couple weeks of Luca’s life he progressed well. He had some rough days where he needed a blood transfusion or required more oxygen than normal but overall the doctors were happy with his progress. On days 20 and 21 of Luca’s life things changed. We almost lost Luca numerous times in those 48 hours. Thank goodness for doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and modern medicine/technology! Luca had an infection that was attacking his system and causing him distress. He was on antibiotics for 7 days and slowly gained his strength back. A week or so later Luca started having trouble with his breathing. He would retract when breathing which would cause his respiratory rate to increase. He had a few echocardiograms to determine the PDA in his heart was not closing on his own and it was causing his heart to work extra hard.
We met with a cardiologist to determine Luca would need heart surgery. On day 39 of life, Luca had PDA ligation surgery. It was a successful surgery, but man is it hard to watch your baby go through and recover from surgery. It took him a little longer to recover then the doctors had anticipated but we saw an improvement in his numbers very quickly after the surgery! In the weeks since his surgery, we have seen a great improvement in Luca. However, with every step forward, it does seem like there are two backwards. This past Friday Luca was able to go down to a nose cannula and try bottle feeding for the first time. The first couple of days went extremely well. Luca started sucking right away and he kept his numbers right where they were supposed to be. Unfortunately, that did not last long. Luca has since started breathing much heavier and is having numerous events a day requiring stimulation. He is back on opti flow for oxygen and is no longer bottle feeding. Even with the steps back, Luca is doing really well and we are so proud of him. The strength he has continues to amaze us. Luca is now 8 weeks old (35.5 weeks), 6 pounds 4 ounces and 18.5 inches long. We are hoping we can take a few baby steps forward in the next couple days and head home within the next month!
Be ready for a rollercoaster! You never know what life is going to throw your way, but you will get through it. There are going to be some really tough moments. Moments where you think you are going to break, moments you could never prepare yourself for, moments you never knew existed and moments that you will never forget. But there are also moments that will bring you more joy and happiness then you can imagine. These moments are usually the little things. Little things like your child opening their eyes for the first time, seeing them smile or pooping! Cherish the little things, cuddle with them a little longer, overuse I love you and never give up.
We were gifted a blanket from Audrey & Bear in a bag from Project Sweet Pea and we loved the blanket. We loved how soft and stretchy it was so I googled Audrey & Bear because we wanted to purchase another one! Once we saw they had a swaddle 4 swaddle program we purchased a blanket and donated one to another NICU family. We think your mission is fantastic and will continue to support Audrey & Bear!
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Rainbow mommas, you made it and your baby is such a blessing and miracle. For those of you still going through the storm-keep going. I promise you all the tears are worth it when you hold your baby for the first time...