Defying the Diagnosis: A Journey to First-time Motherhood at The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial

By: Miranda Torres
“You probably will never have children”, are words Richardy Blanchard, 40, heard in her early 20’s after being diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. After two decades of irregular menstrual cycles, she was shocked to discover she was pregnant.

Due to her diagnosis and age, Blanchard began seeing a high-risk maternal fetal medicine doctor along with her OB-GYN to create a prenatal care plan. During a routine check-up at 18 weeks, the ultrasound tech discovered Blanchard had an incompetent cervix, meaning her cervix was too short to support a pregnancy.

The doctor told Blanchard, “This is an inevitable abortion and you’ll be lucky if he survives another week. But we’ll catch it next time for your next pregnancy.”

“He didn’t know everything it took for me to get to this point to be a mom,” Blanchard said. “It was so dismissive.”

Blanchard sought a second opinion and found The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial. After reading a patient testimonial about a mother who gave birth to two healthy babies after having a cervical cerclage, or procedure to help keep the cervix closed, she knew The Women’s Hospital team would be equipped to care for her and her baby.

At 19 weeks, Blanchard began having unusual discharge and visited the emergency room at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The doctor explained that because of her open cervix, her amniotic sack was protruding, posing a risk for sepsis, a potentially lethal reaction to an infection that can lead to organ failure. The options included inducing labor, which would mean the baby would be stillborn, or leaving the hospital because her pregnancy was not yet viable. It was then she met Devita Price, APRN, director of professional practice at The Women’s Hospital.

“As a healthcare professional, I empowered her to listen to her gut and her body and reminded her we are here to help along the way and keep her educated on ALL her options,” Price said.

Blanchard decided to go home and trust that God would make a way for her to have this baby.

During her ER visit, Blanchard also met Pouya Abhari, MD, FACOG, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at The Women’s Hospital. Dr. Abhari promised that once Blanchard reached 22 weeks gestation, the earliest stage of viability for a baby, he would admit her and care for her until it was time to deliver her baby.

Once she was admitted at 22 weeks, Blanchard’s cervix was already 3 centimeters dilated.

The high-risk team was monitoring her and her baby daily for signs of preterm labor and infection.

Additionally, a counsellor was brought in several times to speak with Blanchard and address her mental wellbeing. Maternal mental health is a priority at Jackson, especially among Dr. Abhari’s team at The Women’s Hospital.

“We want mothers to feel like they are still being focused on and taken care of as a person, outside of being an expectant mom,” Dr. Abhari said.

At 30 weeks, Blanchard’s water broke and she went into labor naturally. The Holtz Children’s Hospital NICU team was present during the labor to ensure her baby would receive the necessary care from the moment he entered the world.

“The synergy between the delivery and NICU team was something I had never seen before. It was perfect, I couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect birth,” Blanchard said.

Samuel Gerdes was born healthy, answering all of Blanchard’s prayers.

“When I held my son, I felt God was with me,” she said. “I was holding him while he was crying, and I felt so grateful for the gift of being a mom.”

While in the NICU, Samuel never required oxygen and took to bottle feeding quickly with donor milk, allowing him to gain weight and reach his milestones. Blanchard spent every available moment by his side.

“Being a first-time parent and this being her miracle baby, she was a great advocate and had thoughtful questions,” said Rebecca Jones, MD, a NICU hospitalist at Holtz Children’s. “For us it’s something we do every day but for these parents, it’s something they experience just one in their lifetime, so it’s important for us to give them time and space to take it all in and answer all their questions.”

Two months later, Samuel was discharged, finally going home to be surrounded by his family.

“Throughout this journey, I have experienced the best and worst of the healthcare industry,” Blanchard said. “Thank you to every doctor who answered my questions, celebrated every day with me, learned my son’s name, and embodied God’s love.”

Pouya Abhari, MD

Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology

Rebecca Jones, MD