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A Long IVF Journey

Matt and Allie Zeck were a healthy couple with unexplained infertility. They had tried for years to become pregnant naturally, but when their efforts failed, they turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman’s ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova from her ovaries and letting sperm fertilize the egg cells in a laboratory culture medium.

The couple’s journey began at Kamm McKenzie with infertility counseling, a workup and referral to Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility. Their care included intrauterine inseminations (IUIs). This was followed by four attempts at IVF transfer, starting in January 2020.

Allie says, “I’ve always wanted to move the needle on infertility and share the truthfulness behind our story. It was not rainbows and butterflies, but it was worth it.”

The couple became pregnant on the third transfer in 2022, but the pregnancy did not last. Allie had developed a subchorionic hematoma which disconnected the placenta, causing a miscarriage. They were heartbroken but undeterred. They tried again. After a long process, fraught with uncertainty, they finally experienced a viable pregnancy seven weeks later in June 2022.

“I was very much on edge during the process,” Allie recalls. “It was traumatic to lose a pregnancy. Then, physically, the hormones made this season tougher. When we became pregnant with Madison, I was excited, but I was also worried. My biggest fear was that I’d lose this baby, too, and never become a mom.”

A Pregnancy Full of Surprises

Despite her fears, the pregnancy went smoothly — for the most part. Their baby, a girl, thrived in utero.

Allie visited WakeMed Maternal Fetal Medicine during her pregnancy to receive an anatomy scan and fetal echo, which would determine if their daughter had a heart defect — more common in babies conceived via IVF.

“We were cleared after both tests. There was no issue.”

Allie also experienced morning sickness over the course of the pregnancy. She was prescribed multilayer, extended-release tablets which provided ongoing relief from morning sickness symptoms.

Allie recalls, “It wasn’t too bad. I figured out foods I could eat that wouldn’t upset my stomach much, so I was on a pretty bland diet. I also developed a meat aversion though I’m a big meat eater. Still, I gained an adequate amount of weight during the pregnancy — about 30 pounds.”

An Uncertain Labor

At 38 weeks gestation, Allie began to leak light fluid.

She says, “Early Monday morning, February 20th, I woke up at 1:30 am unsure if my water broke. It seemed like I had a leak. I called Kamm McKenzie and was told to come in at 10 am that morning.”

The obstetrics team found that there was still plenty of amniotic fluid around the baby. The obstetrician also conducted a nonstress test, and the baby was thriving. Allie and Matt were told it was likely prodromal labor, but they were urged to call if anything changed.

The symptoms intensified.

“Contractions started that night,” says Allie, “but they were sporadic and not close together. My pain tolerance is very high, yet I was doubling over in pain. Tuesday, my contractions got stronger but would vary from 8-10 minutes apart. They’d randomly stop for two hours and pick back up again. By Tuesday night, the contractions were causing me to throw up from pain. I was contracting 5-10 minutes apart.”

That evening, Allie and Matt decided she was likely in labor, so they took the 40-minute drive to WakeMed Raleigh Campus Emergency Department.

An Unexpected Birth Story

“We went to WakeMed Raleigh Campus at 1:00 am, and I was one centimeter dilated. An hour and half later, I was three centimeters dilated. Turned out, Monday my water likely did break, but it was a slow leak — so slow, it wasn’t really visible. The baby’s head was blocking some fluid from coming out.”

Soon, the couple was admitted to a private hospital room, and Allie was administered an epidural. This came as a welcome relief after she’d spent numerous hours suffering with excruciating pain.

“I got the epidural at 4:45 am,” explains Allie. “At 5 am, I was finally able to relax, and I wanted to cry for the moments of rest I was getting.”

Support at WakeMed Raleigh Campus

Not soon after Allie and Matt settled in to watch a little television while they awaited the time for delivery, two WakeMed Labor and Delivery nurses ran into the room. Then two more entered. They lifted Allie into different positions as the baby was suddenly in distress.

The nurses explained to the couple that the baby’s heart rate had suddenly dropped to 90 beats per minute, down from a safe range of 120 to 130 beats per minute. The nurses placed an oxygen mask over Allie’s mouth and nose and called for the obstetrician, Caledonia Buckheit, MD, of Kamm McKenzie who was on call that night.

“The obstetrician mentioned this was an unforeseen event,” explains Allie. “She told us we needed to discuss a possible caesarean section.”

Concerned about their daughter, Allie immediately retorted that their only real birth plan was the safe delivery of their baby.

“You make the call; I won’t fight.”

The care team determined that with the heart rate back to normal, it was safe to allow Allie to continue in labor with hope that Allie would be able to delivery naturally. A few hours later, the baby’s heart rate fell again.

“At 9:53 am, I was getting ready to watch game shows with Matt. Suddenly, six nurses ran into the room. Matt was asked to stand back, and we were told her heart rate had dropped below 50 beats per minute.”

An Emergency Cesarean Section

The team began to prep Allie for an emergency cesarean section as nurses continued to turn Allie in an effort to get the baby’s heart rate back up.

Allie remembers, “My obstetrician calmly said, ‘Call anesthesia and get the operating room ready.’ I had seconds to say bye to Matt and yell ‘I love you.’ I was placed on all fours by a team of nurses in an attempt to move our baby, and I was wheeled out of the room.”

As Allie took in the immediacy of the situation, she began shaking. Overwhelmed, she took in the reality of what was happening and her feelings about the surgery. An emergency caesarean was not what she had envisioned for their birth story.

“I started to panic and cry and asked my nurse to please just hug my baby when she was born. I wanted her to feel immediate love.”

Within two minutes, Allie was in the operating room and ready for surgery.

She explains, “I was wheeled into an operating at 9:55 am with 10 of the strongest providers I’d ever seen. All were working together to prepare for my daughter. There was communication about anesthesia. I was flipped onto my back. Two nurses held up a blue sheet and gathered tools while my stomach was prepped. I kept hearing an urgent call for anesthesia. I was mentally preparing for a cesarean section without general anesthesia just my epidural. I needed them to get my daughter out and save her life. I didn’t know what was to come, and I was panicking. I couldn’t lose my daughter.”

Seeing her distress, a nurse went by Allie’s side and held her hand. She said, “Mama, you’ve got this, and we have Madison [the baby].”

Allie says, “Anesthesia ran in with a gas for me to breathe in. I started coughing, but the anesthesia team gently calmed me and encouraged me. I breathed in the strongest breath I could.”

A Safe Arrival Into the World

Madison Zeck arrived at 9:57 am on February 22, 2023. They moved her immediately into the NICU to check her vitals and went to get Madison’s dad, Matt. They allowed him to cut the cord, and he asked about his wife, Allie.

Smiling, Allie explains, “My absolutely amazing obstetrician came in and told Matt I was fine. I was stitched up and waking up. We aren’t sure what happened or what caused this plummet in her heart rate. Potentially she kinked the umbilical cord, but our daughter was fine; she didn’t even need cardiology! I, too, was fine. I had been taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).”

The First Unforgettable Moments

In less than an hour, around 10:40 am, Allie got to hold Madison in her arms.

Allie says, “I wish I could say I remembered this moment. Matt told me I was pressing buttons on my hospital bed to sit up and saying I want to hold my baby. I want my baby. They allowed me two hours of skin-to-skin time with Madison, completely supervised as I was still on oxygen with tubes everywhere. They knew my journey and wanted me to have these moments.

“Bailey, my labor and delivery nurse was a rockstar. I had my phone in my bed, and after Madison was born, she took pictures using my phone, so I have the most sacred pictures of my daughter after birth which is a moment Matt nor I got to experience. I can’t describe what it feels like to hold her after years of waiting for this moment. All I prayed for was the safe delivery of my daughter.”

Nurse Bailey, too, has fond memories of this couple and their time at WakeMed.

She says, “She and her husband were the sweetest people. I absolutely loved being her nurse. I was happy to do whatever was needed to make their stay as special as possible.”

Amy, the night nurse also showed the couple great compassion and care.

“My husband and I were having trouble swaddling the baby. Amy, would come in and swaddle Madison for us. She was very attentive to so many little things like that. She made sure I had everything I needed. And, when I was trying to nurse Madison, I was still unable to sit up. Amy would help me in a way that was just, again, a very human touch. She made sure I was okay and helped me because I couldn’t help myself in a lot of ways.”

Matt and Allie are grateful to their entire team of providers and nurses, including those who offered them support at WakeMed and Kamm Mckenzie.

Overwhelmed by such exceptional care, Allie says, “You put my daughter first and allowed me the experience to be with her those first precious hours of her life. And from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for supporting Matt and me on our journey to parenthood. We are smitten, in love and cherishing these new moments with our daughter.”

About WakeMed Labor and Delivery

At WakeMed, Labor and Delivery means it’s show time! Our WakeMed obstetrics experts have thought of every little step in this process, so you can feel comfortable and excited about your big day.

We provide a flexible, family-centered environment with modern, tasteful décor aimed at making you feel comfortable and relaxed. Most importantly, we have the latest technology necessary support you and your baby.

About WakeMed Maternal Fetal Medicine

Our multidisciplinary team of maternal fetal physicians, genetic counselors, sonographers and nurses provides a wide range of specialized services for women who have a high-risk pregnancy. You can rely on the expertise and experience of our team — which includes 9 board-certified Fetal Echocardiography sonographers — to provide you the best quality care. This includes women who are at increased risk for genetic disorders due to advanced maternal age or family history, women who are experiencing or have a history of pregnancy complications and women with preexisting medical conditions that might adversely affect a pregnancy outcome.

About WakeMed Urology

WakeMed Urology offers an outstanding team of urologists and urology surgeons who offer the most advanced urological services at locations throughout Raleigh, North Raleigh, Cary, and Garner, NC. Josip Vukina, MD, has a clinical interest in male infertility.

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