Why Blood is the Ultimate Gift for Moms

3% of mothers need a blood transfusion after delivery. Donating blood can help give moms a second chance at life.

Diagnostics Testing|Apr.29, 2022

An estimated 3% of women who give birth need a life-saving blood transfusion following delivery. Based on the most recent birth data, that's more than 100,000 moms each year. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, blood donations plummeted to historic lows. Thousands of blood drives were canceled in the U.S. in the first months of the pandemic, resulting in a loss of more than 130,000 donations. That's especially true for Millennial and Gen Z donors. A study analyzing the world's blood supply showed that out of 180 countries, 107 had insufficient blood to meet their need. Each blood donation can save up to three lives. Here’s the story of one mother whose life was saved by a blood transfusion.

Moth∙er. [məT͟Hər]. Noun

1.     Selflessness in human form.

When we describe, celebrate or reminisce on our moms, the word "selfless" is likely to come up. It's a defining characteristic of good moms everywhere.

Cate Aylesworth always wanted to be a mom, and she fits the part. From playing "house" as a kid and nurturing her imaginary children to devoting her career to helping underserved seniors and veterans find housing, she’s selfless by nature.

Marrying Chris was the start of building the family she'd always hoped for. By July of 2020, Ava Valentine — named after Cate's grandfather John Valentine, who was born on Valentine's Day — was ready to make an appearance at 36 weeks.

On a Sunday, Cate entered her 58-hour labor. "I knew not to make a birth plan. I have family in the medical field, so I knew not to plan on anything," Cate said. "The only thing I wanted was for Ava to have skin-to-skin contact. That was so important to me."

She was right not to bother with a plan, because she couldn't have foreseen the delivery she'd experience.

After receiving two rounds of Cervidil for induction, high doses of Pitocin to strengthen her contractions, a Foley bulb induction to dilate her and an epidural for the pain, Ava dropped to a perfect position and was delivered after an hour of pushing. That moment Cate had dreamt of for as long as she can remember quickly devolved into chaos.

Blurs of specialists ran into the room — some for Cate, due to her POTS Syndrome making her pregnancy high-risk, and some for Ava, since she "didn’t feel like crying," according to Cate, and caused a stir of doctors to question whether she was breathing.

Before Cate could process what was happening, Ava was carried across the room for examination. Ava was fine, but the next (and last) thing Cate remembers is suddenly feeling very warm, hearing a doctor say, "we're losing mom," and turning to Chris to tell him that one, it'd be okay, and two, to rip off his shirt and hold their daughter. "I really wanted that skin-to-skin for her."

In the scariest moment of Cate's life, her mind was on Ava.

After that, everything went dark. Her blood pressure was plummeting. She was hemorrhaging.

When she came to, the first thing she heard was Chris telling her not to look at the floor. Cate lost so much blood in such a short time, that the Marine veteran, who had fought beside and lost a Marine brother in Afghanistan, considers it one of the worst things he’d ever seen. He thought he'd lost her.

Thanks to the fast action of the doctors and nurses around her, two life-saving blood transfusions and the selflessness of blood donors, he hadn't.

By the next Sunday, mom and baby were out of the hospital, but Cate's journey didn't end there.

"I was just waiting for everything to be perfect. I’d always dreamt of becoming a mom," she said. "I felt like, when looking at Ava, I should just be happy. But my delivery was traumatic."

She grieved the experience while remaining grateful for the donors who gave her a second chance at life.

"It's important to talk about the impact of blood donation. For me, it turned out OK, but it could've not been that way," Cate said. "My daughter could've not had her mom. My husband could've not had his wife."

But Ava has her mom and Chris has his wife.

"I don't know how something so perfect could come from something so imperfect," she said. "I can't imagine loving anyone more, and I can't imagine not getting to love her."

Cate will be the first to tell you, blood donation saves lives.

So, as we honor, celebrate and reminisce on our moms, consider making mom proud by giving the ultimate gift to that 3% of mothers like Cate.

It's the ultimate selfless act.