“Don’t panic.” I told myself. “They are just being thorough. I remember having this a few times before with my other two.” Then, the nurse called the doctor in from the hall to confirm the heart rate of 60 beats/min. “We need to do an emergency C-section.” How could a healthy pregnancy at 35 weeks suddenly go wrong at a regular check-up? There were never any concerns on the ultrasounds. Surely, I’m far enough along! People have healthy babies all the time this early.
There was no time to process more. I was rushed in a wheelchair down stairs. The gurney bumped into walls as a team of nurses hurried me to emergency surgery. I was alone, but surrounded by at least 10 strangers trying to save my baby. I was overwhelmed by fear and emerging panic, having to go forward before my husband could get there. A doctor I had never met saw the look on my face, “The best thing you can do for your baby right now is take some deep breaths and try to go to sleep, so we can get the baby out.” I nodded, trembling, but breathing as deep as I could, and I drifted off.
NICU and Diagnosis
I woke up hours later. “How is Ross?” I asked my husband. He answered slowly and carefully, “I think he is going to be okay, but he is in the NICU.” Then the neonatologist came in with a full report on our son. He had organ damage and a brain injury severe enough to cause motor problems from an acute placental abruption; the placenta had somehow ripped away from the wall of the uterus, decreasing his oxygen and nutrient supply.
How?! How could my healthy baby, from all of those perfect check-ups, now have a severe brain injury and organ damage? I went to see him in the NICU. Impossible! He was so small and so fragile! He had a breathing tube, IVs, and monitors, with cords and tubes coming from every direction. Why was our sweet boy so sick? What had I done wrong? Rollercoasters of hope, fear, and worry carried us through three and a half days of critical care in the NICU, but ultimately our son passed away. Questions of how and why plagued my mind for months after. It didn’t make sense, until we found out about cytomegalovirus (CMV) from the autopsy.
CMV is a virus very common in preschools and daycares that can cause cold symptoms or even be asymptomatic. When it spreads from children or other adults to a pregnant woman, it can cross the placenta and affect the baby. CMV is not dangerous for most toddlers and adults, but for unborn babies it can cause hearing loss, vision loss, brain deficits, and in severe cases, like ours, multiple organ failure and infant loss.
We were so shocked! How had we not heard of this before? As we continued to research, we found out that there are many things pregnant women can do to protect their babies.
- Don’t share food, drinks, utensils, etc. with your toddler/child.
- Only kiss your toddler on the forehead, never near the mouth or even slobbery cheeks while pregnant.
- Don’t hold a child’s pacifier in your mouth.
- Wash your hands after changing wet diapers/pull-ups or toys your child has put in their mouth.
With all my heart, I wish I had known these things!
Now, trying to help other women protect their babies and stop the spread of CMV has become a passion very near to my heart. Knowing about this virus and how we can prevent it is the first step to stopping CMV. As I continue on this journey to spread the word about CMV and share our story with other women, I’m reminded that often the most difficult things to share are the most important.
Anna lives with her husband and 3 daughters in Birmingham. Not to worry, they add a little balance to their house with a male dog and a male hamster. She is a physical therapist, but for now
those skills mainly help her take care of her little ones’ aches, pains, and scrapes at home. When she’s not tackling a little yard work, house work, or taking care of kids, Anna enjoys walks
with friends, reading, hiking, picnics, and kayaking.