Madeline’s Story

Madeline Rose O'Melia

I had pretty much wanted children my whole life, back as far as I could remember.

I was the neighborhood babysitter, the nanny, the girl who dressed up as a pregnant nerd one Halloween. (No, I’m not kidding.)

I loved kids. I was drawn to them.

I loved their honesty, their energy, their imaginations, and their lack of social etiquette.

Kids were so refreshing.

Kids were raw.

There was nothing to figure out about them. That’s what I liked most.

I never questioned or wondered if I would have kids, it was only a matter of when.

I wanted at least three children, maybe more.

I had always envisioned myself with many kids, but people warned me that I would change my mind after I had a couple.

When we tied the knot, Duff wanted two…maybe three children. And he definitely hoped to wait a few years.

“Maybe when we’re about thirty.” he would suggest.

Our first baby came in the form of a yellow labrador retriever named Murph.

Murphy taught us all about responsibility.

Potty training.

Sleepless nights.

Play dates.

Vet appointments.

Destruction. (carpets, shoes, boxsprings,…)

Honestly, in the first 6 months of his life, we found ourselves at a class for strong-willed pups. I’m totally serious.

It turns out, if you give your pup a good nip on his muzzle, he will totally respect you. ;)

Murphy quickly outgrew the weight limit in our apartment complex and it wasn’t long before we purchased our first home.

The house was in a small neighborhood in Northeast Raleigh.

It was the cutest neighborhood, full of young couples and adorable children.

Everywhere I looked…there were soft, chubby babies.

Oh, how I wanted a baby!


I was in nursing school and I really wanted to finish the program before starting a family.

I just needed something to fill this baby void.

Something to distract me.

Sooo, I came home one day with the ingenious idea that we should adopt a dog from the local shelter.

I visited the shelter first, with a friend, to check out our options.

I came home with the perfect pooch in mind.

I mean if one dog is good, then two are better. Right?

Duff however, did not really go for the shelter idea.

The flea-infested mutt that I introduced him to…ummm, let’s just say she did not win his heart.

He didn’t want to get an unpredictable older dog that might not be good around children.

He wanted to get a predictable breed of dog from a reputable breeder.

That’s how we ended up with our second child…

A golden retriever pup named Bella.

(The above pic is not actually of Bella, but a look-a-like.)

She was just beautiful!

She was affectionate.

She was loyal.

She was intense.

She was mischievous.


She was NOT a baby.

It was now the fall of 1998.

We had been married almost two years.

I was in my final semester of nursing school and Duff was working as a consultant making software.

It was then that we had a little “scare”.

I was secretly disappointed by the outcome. The idea of a baby really had me sooo excited.

But, I didn’t want to pressure Duff into having kids before he was ready.

And besides, I really did need to finish school first.

A couple of weeks later, Duff and I were having a deep philosophical conversation. (Imagine that! ;) )

It began with the question-

“If you died tomorrow what would you regret the most?”

There was no hesitation or need to reflect on my part. I just blurted it out.

“Not having had a child. I would be sooo sad and disappointed. It’s what I want more than anything.”

“Really. I had no idea it was that important to you. Well let’s get started then!” Duff decided.

Two weeks later, we headed out with Murph and Bella, to meet friends at the park for a doggy play date.

It was my normal routine to grab a large mug of coffee with cream and sugar for my breakfast and not really eat anything until lunch time.

On this particular day, as we left the park late morning, I was unusually ravenous.

We were driving home, and I was feeling a bit green.

I attributed my nausea to lack of food.

The following day, I again felt slightly nauseous.

The sensation of having anything around my neck, made me ill.

I was a day late, so we thought perhaps a pregnancy test was in order.

After a quick trip to the pharmacy, we came home and tore open the package.

Wow. We were nervous.

This is that crazy moment that you watch in movies.

That silly moment you laugh about on sitcoms.

But this was OUR moment, and we had to figure out how to proceed.

We needed a plan.

Okay. It was decided.

I would pee on the stick, leave it on the counter to “develop”, and then we would come back into the bathroom together to read the results.

The stick was saturated in urine, and we now stood in the kitchen waiting for the prescribed amount of time to elapse.

My stomach was all butterflies. My head was dizzy with possibility.

We stared wide-eyed at each other, smirks at the corners of our mouths.

The timer beeped.

It was time.

We walked down the hallway wondering, if our lives were about to be forever-changed.

We arrived at the doorway and struggled to position ourselves so that we would enter the little bathroom at exactly the same moment.

“Now what am I looking for?” Duff clarified.

“Two lines means pregnant.”

“Okay, because I just want to make sure I’m reading the results correctly.” he explained.


We busted into the bathroom and there before us, our fate lay clearly written.

Two pink lines.

I immediately had images of a swollen belly and a sweet chubby baby.

Duff on the other hand…

well his head seemed to go straight to the finances.

Now I had always imagined pregnancy as a time when you feel great and walk around wearing a healthy glow.

I had never really entertained the idea that I might experience all day nausea.

It began in November.

I don’t believe pregnancy hormones and the stress of my final months of nursing school, really mixed that well.

Picture me driving to Rex hospital before sun-up, in my little blue Toyota Corolla.

Picture me holding a gallon Ziploc, and somehow managing to shift gears between the cycles of heaving.

Okay, sorry about that. Not pretty. I know.

Not what I had expected, that’s for sure.

It was during this time, that I found myself declaring that this baby would most certainly be an only child.

Have I mentioned that we were the young ignorant couple yet?

Well we most certainly were!

We found this out when we called BCBS to add maternity coverage to my plan.



It appeared that if I wanted to get maternity coverage for this pregnancy and birth, I needed to let BCBS know before I became pregnant.

Who knew!

Since it was too late for that nonsense, I needed to find myself a job.

I finished nursing school in December, passed my boards in January, and began looking for my first job as a nurse come February.

About this time, I was beginning to feel a whole lot better. I was 4 months pregnant.

I had always loved the cardiovascular system, so I decided to apply for a position on the cardiac floor at WakeMed.

When I went for my interview with the floor manager, I still wasn’t showing.

When she expressed her interest in hiring me, I decided to be very open about my present “condition”. I didn’t want to surprise her in another month when I would surely begin growing by leaps and bounds.

She was unphased by my news and wanted me to start right away.

It looked like I had my first job as a registered nurse.

The stress of being a nurse began on day number one. I was receiving report, when my patient’s cardiac monitor began alarming. I rushed into the room to find him coding. After trying to resuscitate the man, for what seemed like hours, I had my first dead patient.

Yup, I was pretty sure I had picked the wrong career.

Meanwhile, Duff and I were very excited to have baby’s very first ultrasound at 18 weeks. We could not, for the life of us, decide whether or not to find out the gender.

We went back and forth, wracked with indecision, until finally the technician tired of our antics.

She handed us an envelope with the answer written inside.

As if this envelope is going to stay sealed for the next 4 months!

We got as far as the building’s lobby before ripping the envelope open and reading the words “It’s a Girl!”. Woohoo!

We knew immediately this child would be named Madeline, after my paternal grandmother, affectionately known as “Grammy”.

After all, naming our first-born daughter Madeline was pretty much part of our pre-marital contract. Pretty much.;)

Working 12 hour shifts was great, because it meant I had more days off. But as my due date of July 19th approached, my ankles would swell from the long hours spent on my feet and I would return home and collapse onto the couch.

On one particular morning, after returning home from working the graveyard shift, the freakiest thing happened.

I was on my way to the bathroom and the alien child in my stomach suddenly turned so that she was sticking straight out.
I woke Duff up screeching, pointing at the unnatural contours of my stomach. He witnessed the flip, so I knew I hadn’t imagined things, when she just as quickly flipped back to a more normal position.

The following week however, I began to have a lot of cervical pressure.

An ultrasound revealed that baby had assumed a footling breech position, with only 2 weeks remaining until my due date.

The obstetrician recommended we proceed with a version (attempt to externally flip baby) or schedule a cesarean. My medical brain went into overdrive. All I could remember from nursing school was- full-term breech baby is a red flag for anomalies.

Microcephaly, anencephaly, chromosomal abnormalities…

my brain scoured medical textbooks as I sat in my OB’s office.

The doctor reassured me.

I asked about the risks of version vs. cesarean. I feared all the unknowns.

I was not a believer. There was no higher being in my life. The fate of this child rested entirely on my shoulders, and so I chose what we were told was the safest choice.

We scheduled a cesarean for the morning of July 15, 1999.

My mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law, we’re all in town for the big day.

Duff and I arrived at Rex Birthing Center early in the morning, so excited to meet our daughter.

They stuck us in a labor and delivery room to complete paperwork and prepare me for surgery.

Duff was a bit jittery that day and found himself being scolded by my nurse before long, for bouncing around on the birthing ball and performing various acrobatic tricks.

We headed down to the OR where Dr. Pritchett and Dr. Buckley were prepped for my routine cesarean.

Baby girl was safely delivered and looked perfect, aside from her one foot, which appeared to have a positional deformity from her footling breech presentation. The doctors assured us this would most likely resolve on its own.

Baby was whisked away to the nursery, and Duff quickly followed to keep her safe. Honestly, he had seen one too many of those “Baby gets swapped at birth” movies, because his overprotective ways were in full swing.

It was then that my shoulder pain commenced. Moderate right shoulder pain. It was intense enough that I mentioned it to the nurse anesthetist, who quickly assured me that I was probably experiencing some referred pain.

He instructed me to let him know if it worsened and before he could finish his sentence, I was writhing in excruciating pain. Only I couldn’t really twist or squirm, because I was strapped to the table and completely numb from the chest down.

Staff rushed into the operating room. My heart rate and BP were falling.

They opened my lines wide.

The anesthesiologist grilled the nurse anesthetist with questions.

He listened with his stethoscope and discovered a harsh systolic murmur.

His conclusion- an air embolus had entered my uterine vein and traveled into my heart.

The OR staff called for a bed in the ICU but later stabilized me enough for transport to the regular PACU.

I was instructed to remain flat for the next 12 hours to allow the air to dissipate.

I would need to remain in post-anesthesia care for longer than anticipated, until my vitals returned to a more normal range.

Picture an already frantic first-time father, and now add an air embolus to his plate.

He headed back upstairs to inform my family about the latest news.

Instead of “embolus’, the word “aneurysm” tumbled forth out of his mouth.

The untrained, lay person would have asked for further explanation, but when my mother, the registered nurse, heard “aneurysm”, she flipped. Mixed messages abounded that day and emotions flew high.

When I finally made it back to the labor and delivery floor, we had one hungry baby girl on our hands.

I held her in my arms for the very first time.

She was just beautiful.

She had a small amount of dark hair.

Her skin was deeper toned than I had expected, with a radiant pink glow.

Her grey eyes were almond shaped and very bright and alert.

She looked right into my eyes and studied me.

I was completely in love.

Happy Birthday, Madeline Rose O’Melia!

Speak Your Mind