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Mom story: I had a miracle baby

Julie Weingarden Dubin is a Michigan-based freelance journalist, blogger and author with three rocking kids, a loving husband and a trashed minivan. She covers parenting, health, psychology, relationships and pop culture for national mag...

I got pregnant while on dialysis

Jennifer Hartzog, 31, of Mebane, North Carolina, knew she might never have kids when her kidney transplant failed three months after her wedding day. Instead of enjoying worry-free newlywed bliss, Jennifer had to go back on dialysis. She never could have imagined what happened next.

I got pregnant while on dialysis

by Jennifer Hartzog
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin

When I was 12, I lost my kidney function due to hydronephrosis (kidney swelling caused by a backup of urine). Both of my natural kidneys were removed. I was on peritoneal dialysis until I got a living donor transplant from my mother three days before my 13th birthday. Two years later, the kidney failed. I was put back on peritoneal dialysis until I got a non-living donor transplant when I was 17.

Finding love

I got pregnant while on dialysis

In January 2004, I met and fell in love with Kevin, my future husband. I was 22 and I had my third kidney transplant on February 12, 2004. We spent our first Valentine's Day in the hospital while I was recovering.

We got married in September 2006 and talked a lot about having kids. As a teenager, my doctors told me that I’d probably have difficulty having children and that it wasn’t a good idea. When I told Kevin that, he didn’t believe me, and he started doing his own research and found that it was possible for me to have children; it would just be a high-risk pregnancy.

A failed transplant

Three months after our wedding day, my transplant failed. I was devastated. I started on traditional in-center hemodialysis until my transplant doctor suggested a new treatment option — home-hemodialysis. I soon started using the NxStage System One hemodialysis for the home.

While I was frustrated and angry that yet another transplant had failed, I was excited that I had the option to take over my own care and be on my own schedule for dialysis treatments. It also meant I could continue to work, which was a relief. I knew I’d be OK since I had done practically every other treatment option out there and now I could have treatments in the convenience of my home.

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But something wasn’t right. I started throwing up during and right after my treatments. At first my nurses and I thought it might just be my body adjusting to the different treatment schedule. But when it didn’t get better, they started asking if I could be pregnant. I was sure I wasn’t. The nurse at my OB-GYN’s office did an ultrasound. She put the picture up on the screen and the first thing that showed up was my 10-week-old little baby. I couldn’t say anything for a whole minute! I had to show the ultrasound pictures to Kevin before he would believe me. I found out at some point that women on dialysis have about a 2 percent chance of getting pregnant.

Doctors typically do not recommend having a baby while on dialysis due to the high risks involved for most patients. Every doctor I came into contact with for a month after finding out I was pregnant asked me if I was sure I wanted to continue the pregnancy. I had to tell them that this child had made it to 10 weeks without me doing anything special so of course I was going to keep her, and I wasn’t going to change my mind.

My miracle baby

My pregnancy was almost completely normal but the doctors kept a close watch on me. I had check-ups bimonthly and then weekly in my last trimester. I increased my NxStage dialysis treatments from six days of 2.5-hour treatments to seven days of 4-hour treatments.

My daughter, Kaylynn, is a miracle. There were so many things that could have gone wrong and didn’t. If I have a bad day, all she has to do is grin at me and my mood changes. I love everything about being a mom, even when I hear “Mommy!” 5,000 times in 15 minutes!

Mom wisdom

Stop and play with your children. They make everything else seem less important.

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