Guilt is a powerful emotion, especially as a parent. “What’s wrong with me? Why is my body failing our family?” These are questions Katie Wilton asked herself throughout her pregnancy, as she experienced complications. And while Katie (and many other moms) may feel there was something she could have done, there really wasn’t—it wasn’t her fault.
Katie and her husband, Kevin, found out they were pregnant on their one-year wedding anniversary. “This was not an enjoyable pregnancy from the beginning,” Katie says. “Around six weeks gestation I was vomiting every day, and that continued until about 19 weeks.”
Katie hemorrhaged for the first time when she was 22 weeks pregnant while in the buffet line at a wedding in Maine. She and Kevin rushed to a local hospital where they were kept overnight to have Katie’s hemoglobin levels monitored and were discharged the next morning, being told that everything was fine. That was the beginning of a frustrating eight weeks of doctors not having answers for them.
Once back home in Phoenix, Arizona, Katie continued to hemorrhage. “From about 22 weeks until I was admitted for preterm labor we were in and out of the hospital once a week,” she says. “About 25 percent of the blood in my body I had lost from all the hemorrhaging.”
While Katie was experiencing guilt regarding the “failure” of her body, Kevin was faced with a different set of questions: “What can I do to help my wife in this situation? How can I be supportive? How do I fix this?” The hardest part for him, on top of having no answers, was not being able to do anything.
After having two hemorrhages three days apart, Katie was brought into triage to be assessed—that’s when doctors discovered she was in preterm labor. “Our providers still had no idea what was going on with me,” Katie says. “They had no idea what was causing the bleeding. Nothing was showing up in the ultrasound.” Five days later Collette was born at 30 weeks, weighing just three pounds, one ounce. It wasn’t until after Colette was born that it was concluded that there were multiple placental abruptions.
March of Dimes played an important role in saving Colette’s life. She received surfactant treatment that was funded by March of Dimes research. Katie says, “Colette would have had greater pulmonary issues than she does had we not had that to protect her lungs.”
For the next 63 days, Katie spent 12 hours a day in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) by her daughter’s side. “Some of the guilt that I carried was that when I'm away from her, that's not fair to her,” she says. “It was my job to be there with her, and Kevin's job was to be at home, making money, providing for our family and preparing to bring our child home.”
Colette was finally ready to come home in December 2019.
Today Katie volunteers with March of Dimes, and she advocated on behalf of the health of moms and babies on Advocacy Day for our March for Change campaign. “I realized that hanging onto any guilt or any of those residual fears are not going to serve me as a parent,” she says. “There are other ways that I can work through things, like through service—through working with March of Dimes and working with women's health innovations of Arizona.”
After Katie got involved with March of Dimes, she realized just how many parents in Arizona (and across the country) are struggling with access to care. “I’m extremely passionate about advocating to get all parents access to the specialized maternal health care that they need,” she says.
March of Dimes’ work advocating for policies that address the nation's health equity gap and increase equitable access to care—such as increasing Medicaid postpartum extension coverage from 60 days to 12 months—is as critical as ever. Together, we can continue protecting the health of families by funding research, providing resources and programs and advocating for policies to help parents throughout their pregnancies.