Warning: This is going to be long. A one-stop-explanation of what happened when I was pregnant with Zoey. I guess it can be considered her birth story.
Yep. Three-and-a-half years late. Better late than never, right?
I think it has taken me this long to process what happened—between the initial diagnosis and her birth—it was a whirlwind in my life. It’s a time that is difficult to recollect, but I feel like I don’t ever want to forget it. I blogged some at my old blog location on the whole thing, but not as much as I probably should have. It’s time for a recap.
Grab a cup of coffee (or tea if that’s your thing). It’s going to be a long one.
My Walk Through Vasa Previa
When I was 18 weeks pregnant with Zoey, I had the big ultrasound that every expecting mother looks forward to the most – the anatomy scan. We found out we were having a little girl and were ecstatic to be able to call HER by name. We named her Zoey Elizabeth, which means God’s Promise of Life. The scan showed that she was healthy and perfect, but my placenta was not. I had complete previa and my doctor had decided that I should return at 24 weeks to see if anything changed, but explained that the likelihood of a natural birth was pretty slim because this was absolutely 100% complete previa. The placenta was in the bottom of my uterus right on top of my cervix. I was so bummed, but she was encouraging and told me to not assume the worst yet, that it might move out of the way as I grow, and that we would check back at 24 weeks.
24 weeks came and the ultrasound showed things were a little different. The tech wasn’t quite sure that she was seeing things correctly, so she called someone in for a second opinion. My doctor also took a look and it appeared to be two placentas or possibly “vasa previa”. I had no idea what that meant. They told me that I would need to go see a perinatologist for a color doppler ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. They told me to “stay off Google”.
The Google part didn’t happen. Word of advice: if your doctor says to stay off Google, STAY OFF GOOGLE.
26 weeks, I got in to see the perinatologist and they confirmed that what I had was a “medical mystery”. I never had twins, but I had two placentas. The placentas were connected by a blood vessel sitting right on top of—you guess it—my cervix. This meant that if my water broke, the vessel could rupture and I would bleed out and possibly lose Zoey. The placentas were anterior and posterior (front and back). Zoey was connected to one half, the half that seemed to be functioning normally (thank you, Jesus).
From there, I had weekly ultrasounds to make sure I wasn’t dilating. At each appointment, I was told that my cervix was “thinning out” (I guess this means I was effacing). In fact, between my 27-week and 28-week ultrasounds, it went from 3.2cm to 2.5 and I was warned that 2.4 meant automatic hospital bedrest. I was told to take it easy and to not do house work. I didn’t have to be on bedrest yet, but I had to relax.
30 weeks, everything changed. I went in for my weekly check and sure enough I had thinned out to 0.8cm and was dilated (I have no idea how far, the tech was too freaked to measure). My cervix was funneling and my membranes were dipping into my cervix. I did not go home that day. I was put into an ambulance and sent to another hospital to live until delivery.
There were times towards the end where I was attached to this thing for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not a great way to sleep.
The first two weeks in the hospital were fine. I was asked to sign some papers giving permission for the hospital to study my placenta after the birth. I agreed, hoping that whatever they do find will help someone else facing the same diagnosis. During those first two weeks, my cervix bounced back a little bit to 1.1cm, but Zoey dropped the day after I was admitted, so when doing ultrasounds it was really hard for them to accurately see what was going on with my cervix. Her head was sitting right on it (every hiccup she had in utero at this point felt like she was punching my cervix).
33 weeks, things took a turn. I started contracting every 2-3 minutes late in the night. Nurses were frantically trying to stop it, but my body seemed to be set on evicting Zoey that evening. I will never forget the fear in their eyes as they tried a shot of terbutaline that didn’t work, then doubled it, then having to settle on a heavy dose of magnesium sulfate in an IV. Once they got it under control, my contractions were pretty irregular. They never 100% stopped, but they were contained. (Side note, has anyone seen the SCARY new information on terbutaline? And to think, I was on a LOT of that stuff!)
34 weeks, everything kicked back into full gear. Contracting every 3 minutes, increase in terbutaline, increase in magnesium sulfate, nausea, headaches, intense pressure on my cervix, fear, tears.
There is only so much hard medication your body can handle. I spent two weeks on the magnesium sulfate. If you’ve ever been on it for 24-48 hours due to an induction or pre-eclampsia, just let that sink in a minute. Remember how you felt like death? Yeah. Two weeks of it was no Saturday in the park. I was tired, my body was weak and shaky, my pelvis was bruised from Zoey being so low (and so active). I was ready for her to come out, even if it meant she would be in NICU. I felt like she was safer out than in. I was constantly told that if I bled even a little bit, I would be rushed into an OR around the corner for an emergency c-section. I didn’t like the idea of my husband missing her birth, so we decided that keeping her in was risking her life. She was safer out than in.
Just a few days before delivery.
35 weeks, we did a c-section. I had two IVs going, one for normal meds (I did get nauseated on the table) and an extra for blood, in case things went sour. I will never forget the day she was born. I will never forget the way the placenta looked (yeah, I asked to see it, I needed to know what it looked like). I don’t want to forget the journey it took to get her here. From what I can gather, vasa previa is not genetic. It is very rare and repeat occurrences are even rarer. We both survived something that we may not have if this had happened 20 years ago. This is where I am so thankful for modern medicine!
Our crazy journey after birth wasn’t quite over, as she did spend nearly a month in NICU, but today she is a healthy little (err—big) girl and I am extremely blessed to have her in my life. I would do it all over again for her. She will always be worth it.
I don’t know why all this happened, but I thank GOD that He was there through all of this. I hope that our story encourages someone else who is facing a vasa previa pregnancy and helps them through, as I know all too well that it can be a very dark time. Too often on the internet you find stories of death when vasa previa is the headline. I wanted this one to be different. It’s not a story of death, but of life! If you are facing vasa previa, you are not alone and can make it through!