There are many women who struggle with trying to become pregnant or suffering miscarriages. Cindy Belk can identify with every emotion a mother could face. She is familiar with the empty feeling deep inside longing for a child and she knows the grief-stricken agony of burying a child. Through the terrifying moments and excitement of becoming pregnant again, Cindy was certain she was meant to be a mother.
As little girls play ‘house’ pretending to be a mommy, Cindy was a major tomboy growing up with an extended family of brothers and sisters, so there were always children around.
At one time, Cindy thought she never wanted to have kids, as she saw both sides of the spectrum with her mother working two jobs and struggling to spend time with her children. Cindy later witnessed her stepmother being a stay-at-home mom and she knew she wanted to do that.
“I wanted to be a pediatrician. I liked anything science. My mother caught me in the front yard dissecting a frog with her good silverware when I was about eight or nine. I always wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to cut things apart and know how they worked,” Cindy says.
When Cindy graduated, she took a break from school and worked at Cleveland Bank and Trust. Her supervisor encouraged her to go to nursing school and she did. She met and married Jamey Belk while in school at Tennessee Tech, and, after obtaining her nursing degree, began working at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital.
“That was as close to a pediatrician as I could be at that time,” Cindy says. Jamey and Cindy tried to get pregnant, but the years went by with no conception. Cindy had medical issues and wasn’t sure she could get pregnant. At age 15, she contracted a fever so high, the doctors had feared it would result in brain damage and conducted an MRI to rule out that possibility. Cindy learned she had a septic kidney and had to have multiple surgeries. She was told her chances of having children were slim.
As Cindy’s desire to conceive a child tugged at her heart, the secret hope was buried deep within her even though she and Jamey discussed adoption and the possibility that she may never conceive.
Without knowing how long her right kidney had been struggling to make up for the dysfunctional left kidney, having a baby could put Cindy’s life in danger.
“I have a strong faith in God and I believe He only gives us what we can handle. I really wanted children and if God gave them to me – I knew He would bring me through it all,” Cindy insists.
Cindy went for a checkup to see Dr. Kent Childs and found she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which made it hard for her to get pregnant. Dr. Childs was always encouraging and told Cindy and Jamey that there were several things they can do and the couple talked about exploring other options.
Cindy had faith God was leading her toward motherhood, though she wasn’t certain how He would make that happen. She and Jamey found a baby up for adoption and prepared for that child. When the adoption process fell through and the baby was given to an older couple who matched better ethnically, Cindy was discouraged.
“It broke my heart and I wanted to give up. I thought maybe I wasn’t supposed to have a child,” Cindy says choking on her words.
In 2004, Cindy had the last of her surgeries and Dr. Childs happily informed her that in six weeks ‘they will try again’. Dr. Childs was as much a part of this process as the couple who were trying to conceive. He witnessed the deep desire for Cindy to have a child and he was determined to exhaust all efforts on his part before deciding there were just no options left.
In exactly six weeks, Cindy was pregnant. She enjoyed a happy and healthy pregnancy until July 13,, 2005, when she was at work and knew something ‘wasn’t right’.
Six weeks from the baby being full term, Cindy went to the doctor and found that her son was lifeless inside her.
Cindy cries as she says, “We delivered a stillborn baby boy,” and she didn’t want to try any more. The hope to conceive a child was now buried even deeper as she felt that was her only chance.
Just a few months later Cindy knew she was pregnant again – something medically unadvised, but God knew something the medical team couldn’t foresee.
Cindy laughs through her tears and says, “Just eight weeks later out of the blue! I was nauseated and everything was exactly the same as with Trey. I knew immediately …I knew I was pregnant.”
Her pregnancy with Trey helped them learn that Cindy had another medical issue against her.
“We found out that I had MTHFR - a clotting disorder and it caused a clot at the base of the umbilical cord. So now, I not only had a condition with my kidneys, but I had a condition that was dangerous for me and my baby,” Cindy says.
“I was excited… yet terrified. I told Dr. Childs that I was pregnant … but I knew so early, they wanted me to wait until it would show up on a pregnancy test. I took a test each day until it showed up positive. The day it showed up positive I said, ‘told ya so’,” Cindy laughs.
Her second pregnancy was healthy in the beginning, even though it was high risk. She was given Lovenox injections which is a blood thinner and she went back to work at Children's Hospital..
“Everything was fine, but I was seeing my doctor more often. I had just delivered a baby two months ago and they want your body to heal for at least a year. I was more tired, but things seemed to go well until we got to the 19th week. My fluid levels were low and she was measuring a little small,” Cindy says.
While Cindy was at work, her friend Pam told her that her hand looked a little swollen along with one of her feet.
“As a nurse, I knew that one foot swollen and not the other was not a good thing. I said, ‘it will be okay, I will prop it up and see Dr. Childs tomorrow’ and Pam said, ‘I think you need to see him now’,” Cindy remembers.
Wearing the proverbial nurse’s hat, Cindy knew it was the end of the day and her doctor would be busy with patients. She didn’t want to bother him, but she knew she needed to call. She spoke with his nurse who asked Cindy to take her blood pressure. When Cindy complied, she saw that her blood pressure was extremely high. She was told to come to labor and delivery immediately.
After having a stillborn child just eight months earlier, Cindy was very frightened. She was only 24 weeks along and knew that the chance of her baby’s survival was minimal.
She called her husband and told him to come to the hospital. After tests showed that Cindy had preeclampsia, she was told she would need to be in the hospital for at least 10 weeks. As she settled in her room for what she thought would be a very long time, the next day her doctor came in and told her that her daughter was having some trouble. The monitors had stopped detecting the unborn baby girl.
The high risk physicians were brought in on the case when they couldn’t get Cindy’s BP to lower. Dr. Childs made the call that they needed to go ahead and deliver the baby and Cindy notified her family that the plan was to take the baby at 6:30 that evening.
At 5:15 they lost her baby’s heart rate completely and couldn’t find it again. The nurse grabbed the end of Cindy’s bed to lead her to labor and delivery immediately. Cindy screamed out, “My mama is not here! My mama is not here… I am not doing this!”
A Cesarean section was performed and at 5:29 Cindy gave birth to a baby girl who was 12 inches long and weighed only a single pound.
The doctors gave no hope of survival, but Cindy recalls the nurses were more hopeful and… so was Cindy. Through tears and sobs she recalls, “They told me she probably wouldn’t make it through the night. Jamey got to see her and they put her tiny feet prints on Jamey’s scrub shirt and put her in the incubator. I didn’t get to see her. My kidney was shutting down because of the high blood pressure. My body had been pulling fluid from wherever it could and it pulled all of the baby’s fluid causing her to suffer. It was very dangerous for her if they didn’t deliver her – she was going to die and… I could have died too,” Cindy breaks off.
At 11:30 the evening, Cindy finally got to lay eyes on her baby.
“It was terrifying and overwhelming… but the greatest joy in the world because she was alive. She was my baby and I was going to do whatever I could do to help her,” Cindy affirms.
To be continued.
Look for part two of Cindy’s story soon in the Happenings section of the Chattanoogan.com.