Friday, September 14, 2007


Just a few short years ago, The Designer and I were faced with one of the toughest decisions of our lives. We needed to choose whether to enroll in the MOMS study for the slight chance that we would have prenatal surgery on Lil Bug to increase the odds of her being "better."

Obviously the decision was a complicated one. We could not have the surgery and always wonder if we did enough to help her be the most she was made to be. Or, have the surgery and risk her death and the possibility of my death.

Enrolling in the study would mean that we would be randomized (chosen) for one of two different groups. The first is the prenatal surgery group. If randomized into this group, prenatal surgery is conducted before the end of the 25th week of gestation. Essentially, if you have prenatal surgery, they do a c-section, access the baby and close up the baby's spine. Then they close the uterus back up and and stitch up your belly. The hope is that the baby will stay in there until at least week 32, but it is not unusual for baby to come early. If baby comes too early, there is a high risk that baby will not survive or will have significant other issues from such an early delivery.

As mentioned in previous posts, I am thankful that we were randomized into the "control" group, which does not have prenatal surgery, but is still followed to see how the two compare.

As I researched I found a lot of information about prenatal surgery. Some of it was encouraging. Some of it wasn't. One thing that I came acrossed really "spoke" to me. It is an amazing photograph, which you can view down below. When I saw this photo, it gently reminded me that there was a tiny little person in my womb that was counting on me to fight for her. This photo helped seal my thoughts that becoming a participant in the MOMS study was worth it.


Story of the "Fetal Hand Grasp" Photograph

As a veteran photojournalist in Nashville, Tennessee, I was hired by USA Today newspaper to photograph a spina bifida corrective surgical procedure. It was to be performed on a twenty-one week old fetus in utero at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. At that time, in 1999, twenty-one weeks in utero was the earliest that the surgical team would consider for surgery. The worst possible outcome would be that the surgery would cause premature delivery, and no child born earlier than twenty-three weeks had survived.

The tension could be felt in the operating room as the surgery began. A typical C-section incision was made to access the uterus, which was then lifted out and laid at the junction of the mother's thighs. The entire procedure would take place within the uterus, and no part of the child was to breach the surgical opening. During the procedure, the position of the fetus was adjusted by gently manipulating the outside of the uterus. The entire surgical procedure on the child was completed in 1 hour and thirteen minutes. When it was over, the surgical team breathed a sigh of relief, as did I.

As a doctor asked me what speed of film I was using, out of the corner of my eye I saw the uterus shake, but no one's hands were near it. It was shaking from within. Suddenly, an entire arm thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor's finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! It happened so fast that the nurse standing next to me asked, "What happened?" "The child reached out," I said. "Oh. They do that all the time," she responded.
The surgical opening to the uterus was closed and the uterus was then put back into the mother and the C-section opening was closed.

It was ten days before I knew if the picture was even in focus. To ensure no digital manipulation of images before they see them, USA Today requires that film be submitted unprocessed. When the photo editor finally phoned me he said, "It's the most incredible picture I've ever seen."
- Michael Clancy


L L (skyangel) said...

Incredible! Inspiration...without a doubt!

nush said...

I have seen that picture before! Gives me the chills... So awesome!

BlessedWithDaughters said...

I've seen it, too, and I am always touched by it. I've never read the story that accompanies it, though...thanks!


LeeJo said...

Though I've seen it before, that is hands down a fave.

SJ said...

Did you see that House episode where they did a surgery like that? Made me cry . . .

Anyway, that is definitely an inspiration :) Love you tons!