"I'd have to say the stars aligned that day," said Chelsy Jannusch.
Jannusch reached out to discuss the relationship she's developed with Dr. Sara Swift of Women's Care of Wisconsin, but she wanted to make clear her motivation for doing so.
"I know there are a lot of women who struggle to conceive or have children," she said. "Knowing there are doctors out there who are not only willing to help but happy to help, well, that just means the world. It's a very vulnerable, sensitive time in your life to try to be pregnant and have a baby, and she was there for me and gave me such peace of mind."
Jannusch's first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage; she got pregnant again soon after. When bleeding occurred, the care she sought would not be based on the provider. It would be a matter of proximity.
"I loved my original provider," Jannusch said. "But once I started bleeding I ended up going to the nearest location and the provider who was on call.
And so she was paired with Dr. Swift.
"She was absolutely wonderful," Jannusch said. "Unfortunately, I miscarried again. But Dr. Swift noticed on an ultrasound that she thought I might have a septum in my uterus."
A septate uterus is a congenital anomaly where a thin membrane (called a septum) runs down the middle of the uterus, splitting it into two parts. Women with a septate uterus have an increased risk of pregnancy loss. The septum is difficult to detect visually, so often an imaging test is needed to confirm its presence.
Swift ordered a CT scan (and successfully advocated for Jannusch when the insurance company balked at covering it). The test would show a full septum running from the top of the uterus almost to the cervix. Swift successfully performed the reconstructive surgery. Several months later, Jannusch was pregnant again.
"Everything worked out this time," said Jannusch. "Sure, there were complications. I developed gestational diabetes, and carpal tunnel-which I didn't even know you could get when you're pregnant-and severe nausea, and at 37 weeks my water broke and I had pretty intense preeclampsia."
A robust list that left off one little nugget: she was in labor for 50 hours.
"I remember Dr. Swift came to me and said, 'Let's talk about your birth plan.' I didn't have a plan. I'd never done this before. I just wanted to have a healthy baby. I told her if it came down to needing a C-section that I was totally okay with that. She tried everything she could for us to have a natural birth. I only dilated five centimeters, and that was the max that we got to."
Her son, Stiven, was born via C-section at 11:59 P.M. Named after his late grandfather, Stiven shared something else with his namesake.
"He was born on his grandfather's birthday," Jannusch said. "With twenty seconds to spare!"
Jannusch is an exuberant and joyful person; her storytelling exhibits these traits. Her positivity is authentic, reflective of an inner strength. She's tenacious, no doubt. Honesty is part of her makeup as well.
"After two miscarriages, I was terrified my entire pregnancy," said Jannusch. "Sara (as testimony to their friendship, Jannusch reverts to calling Swift by her first name) was having me come in every few days during the first trimester, and just about every week after that."
Jannusch thought it had something to do with her age, having turned 36 just before the birth of her son.
Swift knew how nervous Jannusch was, so the extra visits were all about reassurance.
"I've never met a doctor like her. She just makes you feel so heard," said Jannusch. "She looks you in the eyes and listens to you. And you can tell she genuinely cares."
To punctuate that sentiment, Jannusch calls forth a memory.
"The day my son was born, Sara stayed at the at the hospital the whole time and continued to check on me," Jannusch said. "The day after I had him she came in the room and sat down beside me and told me she felt like she failed me because I wasn't able to have a natural birth."
Jannusch held Swift's hand and spoke from the heart.
"Without you, I wouldn't even have this baby. You did everything you could and I'm not upset. He's here and he's healthy."
It was at this point in the interview that Jannusch made clear there were others she needed to thank.
"I've never been in the hospital other than having my baby, but the nurses, honestly, were just earth angels," said Jannusch. "And I had a lot of them-I went in at midnight on a Sunday and went home the following Saturday."
And there was someone else.
"My poor husband," she quipped. "I'm an emotional person. I cried last night when he didn't make a side with dinner. I was crying when I left this morning, I'm crying right now. He just gave me a hug, told me not to worry and stay positive."
Being pregnant, she said, will do that to her.
As our time together drew to a close, Jannusch reflected.
"In the spectrum of things, I'm just one patient of many. But I love that woman. I waited in life to get married and have kids, and then you have complications and you think you're never going to have a baby. I remember after my second miscarriage she sat down with me, looked me right in the eyes and said, 'What do you want to do? And where do you want to go from here?' I told her everything I wanted, and now I've got this beautiful little two-year-old."
Author's Note: Chelsy agreed to be interviewed at Women's Care of Wisconsin's Neenah location, the very place she first met Dr. Swift. Upon arrival she apologized profusely for being late (she wasn't) and then said she needed to have a quick blood draw. We found out later the test confirmed Chelsy was pregnant, although her levels were concerning. She miscarried days later. Her response to us, in part:
"I assure you I really am doing OK. These things happen more than you know and I'm sure it was for good reason. You know, when I had my first loss I felt so alone. So isolated. And I'm really thankful that now I can speak from a place of experience to help others who are going through it for the first time."