Parents Taylor and Kaleb Mckey were expecting their second pregnancy to be relatively uneventful, much like their first. Will was transverse lie, sideways in the uterus, and Taylor ended up needing to have a Cesarean section (C-section) but aside from that things went as planned and Kaleb and Taylor took home a healthy baby boy.
Fast forward around two years and the couple was pregnant again, but after the first round of checkups, a few concerns popped up that led doctors to start watching for something called placenta accreta. Non-medically put, the placenta grows into or even through the uterus and refuses to detach during birth, causing doctors to have to go in after it, which can lead to serious uterine tearing or a complete hysterectomy.
It’s very rare for mothers who have not had any issues giving birth before, but more likely in mothers who are older, conceived through IVF, or have scarring in their uterus from either a C-section or other uterine surgeries.
“We were hopeful that the doctors were just being extra precautious, taking extra precautions,” Taylor said. “We were told we had to go back at 30 weeks and do another ultrasound…we were both pretty nervous leading up to that repeat ultrasound, just knowing that could affect where we deliver and other potential consequences.”
“We were both pretty nervous leading up to it and finding out,” she said.
After a few more scans over the next few weeks, doctors confirmed yes, it was likely enough Taylor would have an accreta that they wanted to plan for the possibility. The couple, their young son Will, and their dog all moved from their new home in Eagle down to Denver, staying in extended-stay hotels and Airbnbs so they could stay as close to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children as possible, preferably within a 20-minute drive time at ALL times in case they needed the specialized team there.
“It was stressful, to say the least,” Taylor said. “We had a toddler with us, we had our dog living in a long-term hotel, going to doctors’ appointments almost every day. Luckily we have a lot of family and friends.”
Since Taylor was notified, it was possible, she had an accreta (although ultrasounds can show signs, not all of them show up, although HealthOne said it is getting better at detection all the time) she began looking into what the outcomes of this complication would be. The diagnosis comes with a 7% mortality rate for moms due to the incredible blood loss, as well as possibly fatal outcomes for the baby as well, not to mention issues with other organs like the bladder if the placenta has grown into it. There’s nothing you can do until the day of the birth besides prepare for the worst and make sure you have a delivery team ready to go.
“It was pins and needles leading up to it and especially four days before, they ran us through every possible scenario,” Taylor said. “At that point, we were ready, we were like ‘let’s just get through these next few days.'”
Kaleb, while trying to maintain support for his family, was also trying to provide Taylor with emotional support. The outdoorsy couple enjoys hiking and skiing, and in anticipation for when things would get rough, Kaleb suggested Taylor find her happy place on the top of a 14er. Taylor chose Mount of the Holy Cross as her personal choice, a mountain the pair had planned to hike before learning they were pregnant with their second child, and a goal now to not only look forward to, but to push through to summit.
When the time finally came for the delivery, after doctors began the C-section, they were able to tell for certain Taylor not only had an accreta, but a very serious one that had grown through her uterus and was now pushing towards her back. While that’s horrible news as it’s much more invasive and difficult to work on and remove, it did not create more common complications like growing into a bladder, which then has a more complex recovery path.
In the hands of the specialized team at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Taylor was able to survive the operation, and baby George was born healthy, if not a bit early. Taylor was released from the hospital before the newborn, but George was able to go home with them soon afterward. Taylor then began the extensive path to recovery, including counseling from the trauma she experienced in the operating room, and the days of her pregnancy. She credits her quick healing process to focusing on both body and mind.
Finally, after being cleared by their doctors, Taylor was able to summit the mountain she and Kaleb had planned to make it up to before this whole thing started, with two sons waiting for them when they got back.
“It was something that was very special for both of us,” Taylor said. “It was a moment that we realized life is still going to go on, we are going to enjoy the things we used to enjoy, we are still here, we are still happy healthy, still enjoy like we did before. And we get to have George with us too, to enjoy all those things in the future.”
As for lessons learned, Taylor said had she known she potentially had more options with her first birth, she would have chosen to give birth vaginally, not through a C-section. That scarring from her first C-section is likely what led to her accreta in her second pregnancy, and data shows women who have had at least two C-sections are 40% more likely than the average mother to have an accreta. She said she knows it’s not always possible, but for moms to at least ask the question.
“If there is no medical necessity for a C-section, I would 100% recommend having a vaginal birth, if able to.”