2 lb. 14 oz. Aubrey Schlater could’ve come into this world in an emergent, chaotic situation, but thanks to the care of UofL Health – UofL Hospital – Center for Women & Infants and UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health, her mom, Natalie, says it was “peaceful and calm.” Now, at almost two months old, Aubrey gets to go home to meet her five siblings – and just in time for Mother’s Day.
At a routine 19-week ultrasound, something didn’t look quite right. Natalie was diagnosed with a condition that could be life-threatening to her and baby Aubrey. Maternal-fetal medicine physicians Drs. Edward Miller and Vernon Cook put all the options on the table – Natalie chose to wait it out as long as possible until the baby needed to be delivered.
Dr. Miller said, “I had never seen anything like what was going on with Natalie. Her uterus had thinned so much that the placenta was basically holding Aubrey in the uterus. This is rare and can be life-threatening if you’re not in the hospital at the right time with a team prepared to care for you and the baby.”
At 22 weeks, Natalie was admitted to the Center for Women & Infants and planned to stay until Aubrey was born. She said she and her family took it a day at a time. With five kids at home, it was tough on her and her husband, but their support system helped them through. The older kids helped the younger kids, and they supported one another.
Meanwhile, a large care team of doctors at UofL Hospital all got to know Natalie and her situation so they would be ready when the time came. The team included anesthesiologists, maternal-fetal medicine, gynecologic surgeons, neonatologists, and the nursing and bedside staff from the Center for Women & Infants. “Even the food/nutrition and music therapy staff were cheering me on and rooting for us,” Natalie said.
Natalie was prepared to have an emergency Cesarean section and knew she may need additional surgery following delivery, but her main priority focused on keeping Aubrey in as long as possible to give her the best chance. She was encouraged when she heard that even some of the doctors on her team were born prematurely.
At 29 weeks, she started bleeding at 1 a.m. Natalie needed a Cesarean section and she said the team went right into the action. “I could tell this is exactly what they were made to do. They were prepared, knew exactly what to do and that made it easy for me to stay peaceful and calm.”
Dr. Miller brought Aubrey into the world at 5 a.m. on March 16, seven weeks after Natalie was first admitted. Thankfully, Natalie’s only surgery required was a repair to her uterus, done by Dr. Daniel Metzinger, a gynecologic surgeon.
Despite the usual challenges and milestones for a premature baby, Aubrey has done really well during her stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at UofL Hospital. Now almost two months later her daughter is going home, just in time for Mother’s Day.
Natalie has been able to visit Aubrey every day since and her husband comes at night after the kids’ sporting events. “I have five kids at home, so it’s been brand new learning how she is supposed to develop and what’s normal for a premature baby,” Natalie said.
While Aubrey’s siblings, ages 14, 12, 11, 7 and 3, haven’t been able to visit, they’ve been able to watch their baby sister via the NICVIEW cameras, a live video monitoring system.
“The cameras have been a great addition to our NICU,” Dr. Tonya Robinson, medical director of the NICU, said. “It allows family to see the baby from afar when they can’t come visit in person. It’s hard on our families to be away from their baby and this is one we can reassure them that their baby is well taken care of.”
While Natalie has been recovering at home from surgery, taking care of her kids at home and visiting Aubrey every day, she says it’s been stressful and emotional. “But I know Aubrey has been in great care here in the NICU. The nurses reassure me I can call up here anytime to check on her, and now we’re just excited that she soon gets to meet her siblings. The kids have been fighting over who gets to hold her first.”