Life After Perinatal Loss
Mark and Anndrea hold their son, Gus.
How St. Luke’s helped one woman deliver after a miscarriage and the death of her second baby
After their first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, Anndrea and Mark Johnson were understandably anxious when they became pregnant again. However, they made it past 12 weeks and their anxiety gave way to excitement. They started to make plans for the birth. “I decided to go outside the hospital system for our care,” said Anndrea. “I wanted to do a home birth.”
Soon it was time for Anndrea to deliver their son, River. She pushed for five hours at home before she was rushed to St. Luke’s Emergency Department. There, she was met by OB-GYN Dr. Melissa Miller who had incredibly difficult news: their baby had gone too long without a heartbeat. When River was delivered, he wasn’t going to be alive.
“No mom ever expects the worst,” said Anndrea. “But how Dr. Miller cared for us is something we’ll never forget. She was calm, cool and direct, while also being so compassionate and respectful.”
Dr. Miller helped deliver River with vacuum assistance. Anndrea and Mark left the hospital a couple days later without their son, but the team at St. Luke’s continued to support them as they healed from their loss.
Grieving for River and Postpartum Care
“The death of a child is the lowest of the lows. It’s terrible,” said Anndrea. “On top of everything, my body didn’t know my son died, so I still had all my postpartum things to deal with. But through it all I felt so supported by everyone at St. Luke’s.”
St. Luke’s Birthing Center Lactation Specialist Jenny Nylund, RN, connected with Anndrea about her breastmilk. They made a plan for how Anndrea could donate it to another mom and baby in need. Dr. Miller also met with Anndrea regularly to see how she was doing mentally and physically. Eventually, they started to talk about conceiving again.
Six months after River’s death, Anndrea was pregnant. This time she knew she would be receiving all her care at St. Luke’s. “Everyone remembered our story,” said Anndrea. “It was so helpful. I didn’t have to explain our tragic past over and over again.” After nine months, Anndrea was ready to deliver.
Braving a Second Delivery
“With all the anxiety I was feeling around the delivery, Dr. Miller recommended I be induced,” said Anndrea. “I’m so thankful for that. I was able to mentally prepare for the day and it made everything much calmer for me.”
Knowing her story, Anndrea’s labor and delivery team did everything they could to make her feel comfortable throughout the process. “Everyone who cared for us was at the top of their class, especially my nurses,” said Anndrea. “They kept me in the loop with everything that was happening. They were so respectful and kind, to each other and to us.”
On a snowy day in late December, Gus was born. “Mixed with all the anxiety, I started to finally feel some relief,” said Anndrea. “Dr. Miller put him on my chest. I got to look into his little eyes and hear his voice. I knew he was safe.”
Labor and Delivery Care at St. Luke’s
It has taken a lot of grieving, support, and therapy for Mark and Anndrea to keep moving forward – as individuals, as a couple, and as parents to their deceased children.After everything they’ve been through, Anndrea has committed herself to becoming an advocate for laboring and delivering in a hospital setting.
“A hospital birth is safer – period,” she said. “Things can happen when you labor at home that you, as a patient and a mom, just don’t think or even know about. In a hospital, they’re prepared for the worst case scenario.”
Anndrea feels so fortunate to have chosen St. Luke’s. “There was so much compassion in how I was cared for. That is definitely one of St. Luke’s strengths,” said Anndrea. “Most importantly, I knew I was safe at St. Luke’s. I believe that if moms knew they could have an empowered and safe birth like I did, they would choose that over delivering at home.”
To learn more about maternity care at St. Luke’s, visit slhduluth.com/baby