You guys! I am so incredibly excited to share with you the FIRST guest post of a vasa previa survivor! I am planning on collecting as many as possible to share here, so that when other women face the same situations as us, they have hope. These stories are ONLY of survival. We all know how vasa previa can end… what we need on Dr. Google is more survival.
Jennifer and I were connected through Soul Cysters. We emailed a lot during her hospital stay and really connected because our stories are so very similar.
I hope you enjoy her guest post. Please leave her some love in the comments, and be sure to check out the Vasa Previa Success Stories page here on Life Abundant! If you know someone who has survived a vasa previa pregnancy, please have them contact Life Abundant to be featured!
My Vasa Previa Success Story:
Defying the Odds
by Jennifer Morovic
To fully understand the true success story that this is, I have to start at the beginning of our journey to have a baby.
Jessi and I have more in common than our vasa previa pregnancies–we both have PCOS as well. PCOS symptoms vary, but for me it caused long, non-productive cycles. We tried naturally to conceive for over a year. After learning more about fertility and my health issues, we decided to speak with a specialist. After a barrage of uncomfortable tests, we proceeded with treatment. Our first cycle was a bust. I didn’t respond to Femara. I was crushed but we looked to the future. Our second attempt with Femara worked, and because I so desperately wanted this cycle to be successful, I took Ovidrel and we underwent IUI. I found out I was pregnant in November of 2012. We were overjoyed! After 2 plus years of trying, we were pregnant!
We lost that pregnancy at 10 weeks but didn’t find out until I was 12 weeks along. I had two healthy ultrasounds so it was a complete shock. I will never forget seeing my baby no longer alive on the ultrasound screen. It broke my heart and I grieved for months. We named our angel baby Frances. I wanted to miscarry naturally but after weeks of little progress, the medical team decided I needed a D&C. I had the D&C around 15 weeks pregnant. Luckily, it was a pretty pain free procedure and I came to terms with losing Frances. We were never given a reason why I miscarried, but was told it isn’t uncommon.
I worried that I was never going to have a “normal” cycle again. I wasn’t getting a period and it had been 50 days since my D&C. I was prescribed Provera to induce a period. It barely produced anything and I felt truly broken. I didn’t know if it had restarted my cycle at all, but I kept charting. After 20 something days, I noticed a temperature spike. I wasn’t sure if I had ovulated but after a few days of high temperatures, I was cautiously optimistic. Then my chart went triphasic. I was 15dpo before I took a test (which is pretty “late” to test for an infertile lady!). There was NO denying the positive test. I couldn’t believe it. I was truly in denial–I took two tests and then had to make sure the box of tests weren’t expired! I couldn’t believe that on Metformin alone I was pregnant (along with eating healthier and exercising more frequently).
I won’t lie. It took my husband and I awhile to connect with my pregnancy. I was incredibly guarded. I refused to get emotionally involved in case I would have another miscarriage. Everything was looking good until I hit my 9 week ultrasound. We were thrown a curve ball when the doctor said they found a subchorionic hematoma (SCH) near the baby. At the time, I was seeing my Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). I immediately switched to an OB and requested further monitoring. I had bi-weekly doppler scans/ultrasounds. Around 14 weeks, I started feeling more optimistic about the pregnancy. I let my guard down enough to announce my pregnancy to the world. And when I started feeling movement, it totally felt real!
Just when I was starting to feel comfortable, my 20 week ultrasound came (in case you were wondering, I had opted out of the 12 week ultrasound). My OB had warned us that the techs often talk about low lying placentas and heart abnormalities, and if they do mention these, to stay calm until we discuss the results. We found out we were having a little boy! But of course the dreaded “low lying placenta” talk started towards the end. And then they had a specialist come in to further investigate my placenta and cervix (I had no idea at the time, but they switched to the color flow doppler, which was how they detected the vasa previa). At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was told to take the “low lying placenta” comment with a grain of salt after all.
I met with my OB soon after and he threw me another curveball–he was leaving the practice! I really liked him and was sad to hear the news. Worst of all, he said the low lying placenta comments were founded. He said that it usually resolves itself, however. I liked him a lot because he wasn’t an alarmist. He told me that if I have ANY bleeding, I need to get myself to a hospital ASAP. “Turn off the oven but don’t run any red lights” were his words. He also suggested I put myself on pelvic rest at 30 weeks. Grumble.
My first OB suggested a new one who had a similar style of care as him. At my first prenatal appointment with my new OB, he started discussing placenta previa AND vasa previa. Wait? Where did vasa previa come from? He explained that the notes from my 20 week ultrasound indicated “possible vasa previa”. I was slightly blindsided. After reflecting on my previous OB, I realized that he simply didn’t want to scare me. To be honest, it was probably for the best. I thoroughly enjoyed the few weeks while I was in between OBs. Both doctors weren’t alarmists and both seemed to think it may have been an error while doing the 20 week scan. Yep, vasa previa is rare enough that doctors think it’s a mistake!
My OB said that vasa previa is much more serious. He tried to explain vasa previa to me–he even drew a few photo diagrams. It was kind of overwhelming, to the point that I didn’t fully “get it.” He laid out some possible options for the future. Best case scenario, my uterus would grow enough that my placenta would “move” (it doesn’t really move, but your uterus expands) and the vessels that currently sit over my uterus would migrate to the correct location. Worst case scenario, I would have complete placenta previa along with vasa previa. He broke the news that if the worst case scenario came to fruition, I would require a lengthy hospital stay. Also, I would require a cesarean section at 34 weeks. My OB tried to stay positive. He said, “I think it’s unlikely that your placenta will move [I had complete placenta previa at the 20 week scan, which means the chance of it moving was lower] but I am optimistic that you won’t have vasa previa.” He reassured me that he had dealt with a few vasa previa cases in his career. My OB also confirmed the pelvic rest at 30 weeks. I pried further, seeing if I should be on modified bed rest or if I should take any further precautions and my OB was positive that I didn’t need to change my lifestyle until 30 weeks. We scheduled a follow up ultrasound at 32 weeks and I went about pregnant life as normal.
We scheduled a few things early, just in case. My husband and I tried to get things ready a little sooner than normal. We prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. We didn’t get everything completed but managed to get both baby showers completed in time. We ordered the last items from our registry which we considered a “must” just in time for our 32 week ultrasound. Honestly, I felt great, both physically and mentally. I had a few nasty pregnancy symptoms but overall, I felt a good energy and positivity regarding my pregnancy. I had no further complications with Louis. Looking back, you would have NEVER known there was an issue of that magnitude. No bleeding. No braxton hicks. No gestational diabetes or blood pressure issues.
And the day came: the day of my dreaded 32 week ultrasound. Like I said, I tried to prepare for the worst but I could not bring myself to pack a hospital bag in case I needed to be hospitalized that night. I was just hoping so much that it would just be complete placenta previa and I could go to 38 weeks and have a c-section. I was incredibly nervous all day and had butterflies in my stomach. I was remembering all the things I wanted to do before our baby arrived.
The ultrasound tech did some measurements first and confirmed that our baby looked healthy. We got another view of the goods and the smallest doubt that “he” would be a surprise “she” disappeared. The ultrasound tech tried to figure out the vasa previa diagnosis herself but checked the paper work and called in the specialist. It was the same man as before. They both looked together and toggled back and forth between the regular ultrasound mode and the color flow doppler. The specialist left saying he “didn’t think I had vasa previa”. I was elated. We were so happy we started tearing up there. He did confirm the complete placenta previa diagnosis, however.
After 15 minutes, the perinatologist walks back into the room and delivers the bomb that he changed his mind, that I DO have vasa previa. My happy tears quickly turned sour. The worst case scenario was happening. I left feeling frightened, confused, and angry. My OB called me on my way home and I couldn’t hold back. I tried to maintain my composure but I knew he was going to tell me that I needed to pack my bags and get back to the hospital. He gave me three hours. In your last month of pregnancy, the LAST thing you want to do is sit in a hospital with unfamiliar surroundings and people. I wanted to enjoy sleep (I was still sleeping great at home despite being 32 weeks!). I wanted to organize. I wanted to finish Lou’s nursery. I wanted to enjoy my cats. After all, it would be the last time they were my number one focus. Quite simply, I wanted to nest. I think that’s a natural feeling most pregnant women feel as they are approaching their due date. I felt robbed of that experience. Unselfishly, I was frightened for my baby.
When I arrived at the hospital, my eyes were so swollen, red, and puffy from all the crying I had done. I had no idea what I was in for but I got a taste of hospital life right away. First, I had an IV put in. I was informed that I needed an IV in at all times, just in case I needed an emergency c-section. Emergency as in, baby needs to get out of me within 10 minutes. Sadly, that’s how long Louis would have lived if he were to have burst the vessel coursing over my cervix. I was told to “not look” at the steroid shots I had to receive. I learned that I needed twice daily NSTs and doppler checks. I wasn’t on bed rest but I basically only traveled to the cafeteria. I took the hospital tour I had planned because I wanted to see the L&D floor but I felt some braxton hicks afterwards and decided to not move as much from there on out. On a good note–I had the best room in the post partum floor! My room was huge and the building was recently remodeled.
My OB discussed my scan thoroughly with the perinatologist and decided that I could wait until I was 35w5d to have Louis. Most vasa previa cases require earlier planned c-sections. The studies all suggest week 34. I learned that the doctors thought that the vessel, which was dangerous as it is, was in fact an artery, sturdier than a thin vein. So they all thought it was appropriate to wait. I was relieved but knew that meant another week in the hospital. So I waited. NST after NST, 5am blood draw after 2am doppler wake-up check. I had a few questionable braxton hicks on the NSTs but I never felt contractions, and Louis passed all the NSTs with flying colors (despite him moving around like crazy–I swear he knew when I was hooked up!) Luckily there was no blood (if no one ever asks me again “any blood?” I will be a happy camper), no contractions, and no further complications before I reached December 6–the day planned for Lou’s arrival. It felt like an eternity though! My husband was incredible through the process. He stayed with me 3 to 4 nights every week, on those uncomfortable sofa beds in hospital rooms. He took care of so many things at home too. I had lots of visitors. The staff was amazing at Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. I met a few anti-partum expecting mothers as well during my stay (one had been there since 23 weeks when her amnio broke her waters–that made me feel better about being there for a month!). I had moments of weakness but I also had a good routine going and tried to stay positive. I knew the cleaning lady, had my favorite nurses, and began feeling comfortable enough to grumble at the residents coming in at 6am to ask me 3 questions and leave.
At 35w3d, I had my final ultrasound. The perinatologist, ultrasound tech, and resident were in the room at one point during this hour long ultrasound. They measured Louis at about 5.5lbs. He was thriving. But they really wanted to get a good look at my cervix, placenta, and all the mishap in my uterus. It was quite amazing to see them all at work, mapping where all the cords and vessels were. The resident used a surgical marker to make where everything was. It was interesting to see in the mirror where Louie’s vessels were running. Because I had complete placenta previa, they needed to make sure they weren’t going to accidentally cut through any important tissue. They also mentioned that they saw a piece of placenta in another location within my uterus. I’m not sure what came of that and I was never offered any solid clarification on that matter. But, I was elated to learn that I could have the “hip to hip” horizontal incision. My OB used stitches which I was happy to hear, too. At one point, to get a good look, they nearly inverted me upside down while doing the ultrasound. Being 8 months pregnant and inverted after laying in an uncomfortable position for 45 minutes of fun, let me tell you! I felt more confident for the surgery in a few days. And it felt more real!
We made it to December 6! The night before I barely slept (who could?) and by 5am they had me up and showering. My c-section was planned for 8am. My doctor wanted me to be the first of the day so I didn’t get bumped back and possibly require a different doctor. I got prepped and walked to the OR. It took FOREVER to get ready for surgery. My poor husband thought they did it without him. My IV was too old (I had them changed every 8 days because I was there for so long and they were so thick) so he needed to get a new one going. It’s freezing in the OR and I was nervous so that took a while. The spinal took 5 attempts. I had zero left until he was calling it a day and putting me under. That was terrifying. I knew I didn’t have any chances left. I felt nauseous at first but my anesthesiologist got it under control and I only felt the need to heave once. I’m so glad I had an experienced anesthesiologist because I required a lot of expertise. I distinctly remember at the beginning they said “A LOT of fluid!” I had been retaining extra fluid towards the end.
At 35w5d gestation, and at 8:58am on December 6, 2013, Louis Wilson Morovic was born! He weighed 5 lbs 11 oz and was 19 in long. I heard him cry when they first pulled him out but I didn’t get to see him. My husband was going back and forth and showed me a picture. The first thing I said was “He has your blonde hair!” (funnily enough, it was just vernix and he actually had dark hair BUT it turned light after it fell out and grew back in) Louis started having issues breathing fairly quick and after 5 minutes they made the call to send him to the NICU. I was crushed, confused, and downright scared. I got to hold his hand in an isolette once I was finished and Louis was carted off. My husband got to cut his cord and spend a few moments with him though. I went into recovery where my mom visited me. My husband went straight to the NICU with Louis and was so amazing with him while I couldn’t be there. I am so thankful to share this parenting gig with such a dedicated father. As for myself, I felt absolutely numb. I don’t even know how to describe the feeling of being alone immediately after you have a baby. After an hour, one pump, and lots of crying, I was finally able to hold Lou. I only was able to hold him for 2 or 3 minutes–and I didn’t get to hold him again for 2 days. I think the picture speaks for itself. I tear up every time I view this photo.
Louis spent 2 weeks in the NICU. He had breathing issues at first, despite the steroid shots I received when I was admitted to the hospital. The team tried to let him work on maturing his lungs for 2 days but things were sketchy. He worked so hard but just couldn’t do himself. On night 2 they decided to incubate him and give him surfactant. It was a miracle drug and he was off breathing assistance within a day or two completely. He developed jaundice. After 24 under intense treatment, he was jaundice free. Our last hurdle was eating and growing. Slowly but surely, he began eating more and gaining. He didn’t make it home for my birthday on the 17th but he did make it home for Christmas!
Louis is a BIG sturdy and healthy boy. He’s now 13 months old. He weighs 27.5lbs and is almost 33in. He is the size of most 2 year olds (95th+ percentiles for weight and height)! He hit milestones on time, sometimes even early. He started crawling at 7 months and began walking at 11 months. In the thick of it, of parenting, I often forget about his crazy journey into the world. I’m reminded of it daily though, in so many ways. Without modern medicine Louis wouldn’t be here. I’d be dead as well. I’m so thankful for the awesome team of doctors at Meriter, for my loving husband, and awesome family for helping me get through some of the most difficult days of my life. I feel grateful that I got the chance to be Louie’s mom.
All content and photography is property of Jennifer Morovic and is not to be reused without written consent from Jennifer. Please contact Life Abundant if you want to get in touch with Jennifer to use any portion of this story or images.