(Kansas City, MO) – When Robin Schneider gave birth to her little girl ‘Ellie’, she says it unnerved her to look at the little bundle of joy. The size of a coke can, Ellie was born at just 21 weeks after what seemed to be the perfect pregnancy.
All that changed however when she went in for her first routine ultrasound and found out that her cervix was shortened. Normally, the cervix shortens and gets thinner and softer as a pregnancy progresses, so that the baby can pass through the birth canal during labor. But it was happening way too soon for Robin.
Robin says, “My cervix was about a tenth of the length it was supposed to be. The next day when I went back for a more detailed emergency scan, it had shrunk completely. This meant that I could have gone into labor at any second which would have been terrible because the doctors couldn’t have helped her and she wouldn’t have survived. It was a massive shock to us because I had thought me and the baby were healthy.”
Doctors inserted a small ring shaped device or cervical pessary into Robin’s cervix in the hope that it would ‘plug’ her up and prevent premature labor. But at 20 weeks, when Robin went into St Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City to have her pessary checked, it failed and her water broke.
Robin says, “It was absolutely terrifying. I was put on 24-hour bed rest and intravenous antibiotics, which were known to actually prevent labor.”
Robin hung on for almost two weeks but by mid-June, the premature dilation caused when her water broke had developed into a premature pre-partum rupture of the membranes (PPROM) which led to an infection and with that, there was nothing the doctors could do. Robin had to deliver her baby.
So Ellie, who was supposed to be born on November 1st, made her entrance mid June. After two-and-a-half-hours of labor the little girl arrived. Weighing just 13.6 oz.
Robin says, “I did not think that a human being could be so tiny. She weighed a little less than a can of soda and to be honest, it was scary to look at her. Ellie was like this tiny bird. She had not developed any body fat so we could see all her veins.
Her skin was like parchment paper and her arms and legs were so small and bony. It was hard to see how she could possibly survive. Her lungs weren’t properly developed so she was intubated to help her breathe.
I cried and cried as soon as I saw her. Joel tried to be strong for me but I know that later he broke down. We didn’t know if our baby would survive the night, let alone the coming days and that was a horrible place to be”
But little did Robin know that a miracle was brewing. It would be another 10 hours before the young mom was able to get a good look at her daughter because she had to have emergency surgery to remove her placenta. When Robin finally got to spend some time with her newborn daughter, she was amazed.
Wrapped-up in her incubator, Ellie was feisty already. Usually premies barely move but Ellie had somewhere to go. She was so active that the doctors had to sedate her because she kept breaking her fragile skin open.
“When I saw her moving around, I knew that we had a fighting chance,” says Robin. “If she was literally fighting so hard to survive, then I believed that she would.”
With that hint of hope came points of despair. Robin and Joel almost lost Ellie twice when she developed infections and her heartbeat dropped dangerously low. But being the fighter that she is, Ellie rallied back each time.
Overt time Ellie got stronger and stronger. 13 oz turned into 2lbs. But she was still obviously fragile. Robin says she was terrified that she would drop her or break her if she wasn’t careful. She says, “It was like holding the smallest kitten in the world but as time went on and she grew stronger, so did my confidence.
Elijah was allowed to hold her when she reached 35 weeks gestationally because by then her immune system was stronger.” Elijah was ready to be a big brother and finally Eliora Schneider or “Ellie” was released to go home just in time for Christmas. Ellie now weighs 9lbs 9oz, but is still under careful watch and care. She has chronic lung disease caused by her underdeveloped lungs, so she still has oxygen. But as her lungs mature, her need for the help will decrease.