Getting To The Heart Of The Matter

Annabelle Pike’s journey to motherhood starts and ends with the heart – quite literally.

A mother of three, Annabelle has experienced more than her fair share of heartache along the way with several miscarriages, all of them leaving painful scars.

After announcing she and her husband, Rhyan, were pregnant with a baby boy in August of 2016, the pregnancy was going fine up until about 12 weeks when Annabelle had a placental abruption and lost the baby. During her DNC surgery, she learned she had a condition called bicornuate uterus which means her uterus was shaped like a heart instead of a pear.

“We had just announced the pregnancy to all of our friends and family,” said Annabelle. “We were devastated to learn the placenta had tried to grow around the area of the uterus called the horn where the dip in the heart is in the uterus leading to the placental abruption.”

The only silver lining is that she now had a diagnosis and could take this knowledge into future pregnancies.

“You either have the condition, or you don’t. And there’s no treatment for it,” said Annabelle. “The issue of having a bicornuate uterus is not getting pregnant, but staying pregnant, but it can lead to recurrent miscarriages and other pregnancy issues. So, if I wanted to continue to conceive, I would need to see a high-risk specialist.”

This was Annabelle and Rhyan’s third miscarriage in a short time. Determined to have the family they always wanted, Annabelle and Rhyan tried for another baby and got pregnant right away.

Fortunately for Annabelle, she stayed pregnant and carried her baby, Allison, now 4 years old, to term. A couple of years later, Annabelle was pregnant again with a little boy, Richard.

With both pregnancies, Annabelle and Rhyan were hesitant to become too excited for fear their excitement would turn to sadness with her history of miscarriages. They never wanted to share the news or plan too far in advance for fear their dreams would be shattered.

After Richard was born, Annabelle experienced heartache once more, losing yet another child. So, when she became pregnant with baby Eleanor, she decided to transfer her care to Dr. Emma Rodriguez, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at CHRISTUS Children's.

Annabelle Pike praises Dr. Emma Rodriguez for providing compassionate care that helped relieve her anxiety and stress during a complicated pregnancy.

“There was something special about Dr. Rodriguez. Right from the start, she understood my anxiety, and I felt like she really listened to me,” said Annabelle. “I don’t ever feel like there was a time I went there and wasn’t completely heard or taken care of.”

Annabelle’s pregnancy started a bit rocky in that Eleanor had developed an echogenic bowel – a condition where the fetal intestines appear brighter than expected. When a baby has an echogenic bowel, they are at risk for bowel obstruction and other infections.

Dr. Rodriguez also discovered that Annabelle had a circumvallate placenta, with a fold or shelf in the placenta, leaving her at greater risk for placental abruption, a condition she was well aware of since she dealt with it before.

“The first 12 weeks of this pregnancy, I remember feeling really anxious and leaning on my family and friends. I concentrated on moving forward and reminded myself continuously that this was a new pregnancy that would have a different outcome,” said Annabelle. “And having Dr. Rodriguez by my side was so reassuring. She never made me feel like my emotions or questions were unwanted or unjustified.”

Annabelle got through her second and third trimesters, and thankfully Eleanor’s echogenic bowel cleared. Anabelle also concentrated on her own mental and physical healing, even participating in a 5K race in honor of the pregnancies she had lost.

While pregnant with Eleanor, Annbelle and her family participated in a 5K in memory of the children she lost due to miscarriages. She was joined by husband Rhyan, son Richard and daughter Allison.

Everything with this pregnancy seemed to be headed in the right direction. Annabelle breathed a sigh of relief.

This feeling went into the delivery day. Knowing that Annabelle was high-risk, Dr. Rodriguez, along with Dr. Mallory Thompson, her obstetrician at the Women’s Center at Westover Hills, decided it would be best to deliver her at CHRISTUS Children’s in case there were any complications. Doctors performed an uneventful C-section, and Eleanor was born healthy, weighing 8 lbs. – which is incredible due to Annabelle’s bicornuate uterus.

Dr. Mallory Thompson holds newborn Eleanor moments after she was delivered via C-section at CHRISTUS Children’s.

About 12 hours after giving birth, just when she thought everything was right in her world, Annabelle’s journey took a scary turn.

Annabelle had just sent her husband and older children home after a joyful visit when a nurse noticed that Annabelle was hemorrhaging. Soon, a team of doctors and nurses at CHRISTUS Children’s gathered and started prepping her for surgery to stop the bleeding.

“I cannot tell you how thankful I am about how quickly all of them reacted,” said Annabelle. “They knew exactly what to do because they prepare for these types of scenarios all the time.”

Annabelle was in surgery for about two and a half hours. Because of the unique shape of her uterus, doctors had to physically fix the hemorrhage and then place a balloon in her uterus to stop the bleeding. After her surgery, she was on bed rest and anxious to get home to her family.

“Annabelle was in bad shape and the surgery was a complicated one,” remembers Dr. Rodriguez. “The good news is that she delivered at Children’s where we have a simulation center that practices for these exact types of situations which is why we were able to pull a team together so quickly and get Annabelle safely through the surgery.”

When she talks about her experience, Annabelle is extremely grateful to the entire team at CHRISTUS Children's for taking such great care of her.

“I definitely felt cared for by everyone there. Everyone on the team was incredibly supportive. If it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would have been able to safely deliver my daughter and be here today to enjoy my kids,” she said.

Eleanor is now 3 months old and loves seeing her siblings, smiling all the time and melting her mommy’s heart. Annabelle’s heart is full of love and life instead of fear and anxiety, thanks to Dr. Rodriguez, Dr. Thompson, and the team at CHRISTUS Children's.

If you have a condition that puts you at risk for miscarriages, the maternal fetal medicine specialists at CHRISTUS Children's are here for you every step of the way.