Music of Motherhood
A heartbeat. A cry. A laugh.
They're three of Morgan Schroeder's favorite sounds, and they all come from her baby boy, Keilty Patrick Schroeder.
The heartbeat came first, when she was only a few weeks along in her fifth pregnancy. The cry came next when 38-year-old Schroeder gave birth after experiencing four miscarriages in two years, and spending a month on bedrest at Cedars-Sinai. The laugh is brand new to Keilty, who is nearly 4 months old.
Schroeder had a few complications going into pregnancy. She has a bicornuate uterus, meaning that shape of her womb has less room for a fetus to grow and develop. She also has a seizure disorder.
"We seem to get pregnant really quickly," she says. "It was just keeping the baby that was difficult."
Schroeder was nearly certain she couldn't be pregnant last spring. She'd just miscarried a few weeks before. When her period was late, she turned to her stash of dollar store pregnancy tests and took one just to be sure.
The two bright blue lines on the test stick shocked her.
"This time we weren't even trying, and here he is," Schroeder says. She woke up her husband and gave him the news. She remembers the swell of hope mixed with fear and doubt.
Not one of her previous pregnancies made it past 12 weeks. Several of those pregnancies progressed far enough that she had an ultrasound, and though everything else seemed to be developing beautifully, the fetus had no heartbeat.
She hoped for the best as her 12-week check-up approached. During that appointment, she had her first ultrasound for this pregnancy. The ultrasound wand was pressed to her belly, and there it was. The galloping whoosh of the fetal heartbeat. Schroeder sobbed with joy at hearing the unmistakable sound.
"I was just so excited," she says. "For the first few times I heard that heartbeat, I cried. It was so emotional."
Schroeder's pregnancy was considered high risk. That meant in addition to her trusted longtime obstetrician-gynecologist, Harvey Richmond, MD, a specialist was needed. Sarah Kilpatrick, MD, PhD, chair of the Cedars-Sinai Obstetrics and Gynecology Department and a specialist in maternal fetal medicine, handled the high-risk aspects of Schroeder's pregnancy. Because Schroeder has a seizure condition, Kilpatrick worked with her neurologist. She also oversaw tests to monitor how the fetus was developing.
The Schroeders celebrated Thanksgiving tucked into a room in the Cedars-Sinai Maternal-Fetal Care Unit. At 34 weeks, Schroeder was showing early signs of going into labor and was placed on bedrest.
Keilty Patrick Schroeder was born a month after his mom checked in. 7 pounds. 13 ounces. 21 inches long. Perfection!
The strong, piercing cry of their newborn baby was the sound the Schroeders had been waiting to hear. They cried joyfully with him, welcoming these tears after several years of painful ones.
Schroeder doesn't shy away from talking about her miscarriages.
"People will stop me and tell me what a beautiful baby he is, and I'll say that he was my fifth pregnancy," she says. "I just want women to know that it's OK. You're not alone."
She's found the more she opens up, the more women she finds who share her experience. She wishes she'd known how common her experience was.
Kilpatrick says that as many as 40 percent of all conceptions miscarry, including those that occur so early a woman might have never known she was pregnant.
"Nearly all these early miscarriages are due to a chromosome problem that is not genetic or repetitive, just bad luck," she says. "Having three or more miscarriages in a row is less common and warrants a work-up to look for a reason. But even in these women, like Morgan, we usually do not find any specific problem."
Many women will go on to have a baby after several miscarriages.
The family lives across the street from the beach, and Keilty is already taking to the sun and the sand. He sleeps easily at night, even though he doesn't like napping during the day. His favorite sound is the squeak of his toy giraffe.
Schroeder's favorite part of motherhood so far is easy to pin down.
"It's listening to him laugh and seeing his smile," she says. "It just warms my heart up. I love his warmth and happiness, and just everything."
Keilty Patrick is named after his grandmother. Schroeder grins when she points out the similarity to Kilpatrick's name—and says it's not entirely a coincidence.