When Bea Smith discovered she was pregnant, she and her husband, Aaron, set out to find a doctor they could trust completely.
That felt important to them at the time. Months later, on their day of an emergency C-section, it proved crucial.
Smith called her pregnancy “really easy” — except for a scare when she felt sick during a work trip to Los Angeles. “I seriously thought something was wrong,” Smith said.
Unsure of what to do or where to go, Smith called her clinic 1,600 miles away in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Dr. Mueller had the day off, but a nurse let Dr. Mueller know about Smith’s concern.
“All of a sudden, I had a call from Dr. Mueller on her day off from her personal cellphone, just walking me through the symptoms, what I should do and ultimately calming me down,” Smith said.
Find a doctor: Women’s health specialists at Sanford Health
“She saved the day and really calmed down a first-time pregnant mom when I thought that I was going to have to go to a California emergency room.”
The pregnancy went well again after that. Then about four weeks before her due date, Smith felt really tired and laid down to take a nap.
“Then my stomach pains, which I thought were contractions, began to get worse,” she said.
Smith’s husband drove her to Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center as the pains worsened. But they learned that the pains weren’t actually contractions — and that their daughter’s birth wouldn’t go according to their birth plan at all.
Two operations instead of none
An ultrasound revealed fluid and pus in Smith’s abdomen, and she found out she needed an emergency cesarean section.
Smith and her husband didn’t feel ready for a new baby. “We didn’t have anything prepared at all,” she said. “Basically, all we had was a crib and diapers.”
They had diligently attended birthing and breastfeeding classes, where they were told to “expect the unexpected.” Still, Smith confessed to only half-listening to the part that talked about C-sections, since she didn’t expect to have one.
Then suddenly, she needed one, even as she worried that her daughter’s lungs might not have developed enough. “She’s too early. She can’t be born yet,” Smith thought. And what if her daughter needed a transfer to a neonatal intensive care unit in another city, leaving Smith behind?
“But we knew that we were in good hands. … We were in the right place,” Smith said.
After her daughter arrived, it was discovered that Smith’s appendix “had basically burst,” she said. But it had held off long enough to keep the baby safe in utero. Smith ended up having an operation on top of her C-section operation.
Care for the whole family
Baby Stella, as it turned out, weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces, and had no need for a transfer anywhere else. Smith spent five days recovering in the hospital.
“We knew going home as first-time parents that we were well-prepared for the adventure that we were about to embark on. The care team and the labor and delivery nurses at Sanford set us up for success,” Smith said.
Unfortunately, Smith developed an infection and had to return for a second hospital stay. But the hospital placed her on the labor and delivery floor again so Stella could stay with her.
“I was able to have these amazing nurses, who knew firsthand what I needed to do as far as continue my dream of breastfeeding my child,” Smith said.
Learn more: Lactation help for moms and babies
“They cared about me, but they also cared about my husband and what his experience into this new venture was like,” she added.
Smith learned how important trust can feel to a patient, and she encourages that as an important consideration when choosing an OB/GYN.
“Make sure that this is somebody that you trust with your whole heart because they’ll have your life in their hands,” Smith said.
She also urges people to visit the hospital beforehand and to “take every class they can.” Through classes, Smith and her husband met many of the nurses who ended up taking care of her.
Stella may have arrived with an unusual birth story, but “bringing Stella home was the best thing,” Bea Smith said.
“You don’t really know what you’re doing as a first-time parent. But it was the most exciting adventure, I think, both my husband and I have ever experienced.”
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