My name is Avital.
I had a complete molar pregnancy with a viable co-existing twin.
I gave birth to a healthy baby girl on September 7, 2016.
This is my story:
Ever since my husband and I decided to have children, nothing came easy. We struggled for years before conceiving our first child—with the help of doctors—and another 2 years before conceiving our son, and again, neither of us was in the room at the moment of conception, in a test tube in some lab. When I turned 38, realizing that I would not get too many more chances, I convinced my husband to try for a third, and final, child. We did eight rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) over the course of a year, and because I was producing only one egg each time, the hormone dosages kept going up and up and up until I felt actually insane. None of them worked. I was about to turn 40. Despondent, my husband and I decided to give up trying. I mourned my third child that was not to be and tried to move on.
Then, a day after my 40th birthday, I randomly took a pregnancy test, not imagining for a second that it would be positive. But it was!! I sent a photo to my husband, and it was so unexpected that he didn’t even understand what the picture was of. He thought I had sent him a photo of a USB device. He was confused. He called our fetus Jesus, because the conception was so miraculous (FYI, we are Jewish and don’t actually believe in Jesus). I was elated.
At 8 weeks, we met my family for brunch and told them the exciting news. My sister was also newly pregnant, and it was very festive. But like so much of this pregnancy, the joy quickly turned to horror when I began bleeding heavily. I rushed to the emergency room, crying hysterically, imagining that I could feel my baby slipping away. I was inconsolable. At the emergency room, a novice doctor gave me a vaginal ultrasound and informed me that my baby’s heart had stopped. He then went into the whole rehearsed text about how it was for the best, there must have been something wrong with the fetus, blah blah blah. I couldn’t hear a word he said and felt as though nothing would ever be good again. I would never get another chance. Having my prayers answered and then dashed was so much worse than just not getting what I wanted.
I cried in bed for 3 days. Couldn’t even face my children. I asked everyone not to call or visit. I watched stupid television shows for days on end to keep from sinking into a deep hole. After 3 days I went to a prescheduled doctor’s appointment to figure out what to do next. I was sobbing in the waiting room, sitting among women with swollen bellies, feeling so desperately jealous. I had to run out at one point to loudly wail behind a trash can, I just couldn’t contain my grief.
The doctor repeated the spiel I had heard at the hospital, about miscarriage and how it was for the best, and then asked to do an ultrasound. I couldn’t look, but suddenly the doctor said “Hey, I see a heartbeat.” What???? Come again???? Right there, he pointed to the flickering dot. “Look. Your baby is alive and well, and right on track.” In an uncontrollable impulse, I kissed my gynecologist. Yes, I kissed him. I could not believe what had happened. My husband was even more skeptical. But sure enough, the baby kept growing, and her little heart kept beating.
I was back to being overjoyed. This setback had only intensified my joy, making me appreciate it even more than before. Nothing could bring me down. Nothing except what was to come a week later, at 11 weeks, when a routine blood test came back indicating an extremely high risk for Down’s syndrome or some chromosomal disorder. The doctor suggested a fetal DNA test, so that’s what we did. The week before the results arrived was harrowing. But after a week, we got the news: no Down’s, and we were having a girl.
I let myself feel joyous again, but with caution. I was bleeding the entire time, and no one could figure out why. I have an emergency women’s center near my house, and I went there almost every day to have an ultrasound, just to make sure my baby was still there, still kicking. The bleeding was stressful, but I became used to it.
At 14 weeks, on one of my many visits to the emergency center, a technician said something looked strange. She didn’t want to elaborate, but sent me to speak with the on-call doctor. Looking grave, the doctor said the technician had spotted an irregular mass, and that he suspected a partial molar pregnancy. I immediately went home and googled this term I had never heard before, and sure enough, my ultrasound pictures looked disturbingly similar to everything google had to offer. A giant cluster of black bubbles, way bigger than the baby, right there in the middle.
“What is the prognosis?” I inquired. “Not viable,” was the answer. And here we go again on the roller coaster ride. Another sharp drop, making the pit of my stomach feel like I’m going to die. I have NEVER liked rollercoasters.
It was a Friday, and where I live, everything closes on Friday evening and only opens again on Sunday. Doctors don’t work. Hospitals don’t work. Labs don’t work. But the obsessive thoughts certainly do. They don’t take weekends. It was probably the longest weekend of my life, waiting for Sunday for a specialist to tell me if this was or wasn’t molar.
Finally, after what felt like 100 years, Sunday came. I went to the hospital and the doctor examined me. He called in a colleague to examine me as well. The colleague called in another colleague, and so on and so forth until there were nine doctors in the room, none of whom could agree on what they were seeing. I got a booklet of diagnoses, with endless options, none conclusive. Sunday failed to bring the answers I had hoped for. But all the doctors agreed not to intervene. They said “Let’s monitor this thing and see what happens.”
And when they said monitor, they weren’t kidding. I was extremely closely watched.
I went to a private doctor for a comprehensive scan, and he offered the most logical theory—complete mole with a coexisting viable twin. According to the literature, which is horrifically scant, this condition comes with near-certain early labor, pre-eclampsia, blood loss, and likely fetal death. I was told the facts, but for some reason, having never encountered such a case before, the doctor was optimistic. He kept saying that he thought everything would turn out well. He inspired optimism in me as well, and I began to believe that my little fighter would survive all the obstacles that had been thrown at her at terrifying speed. I began to believe that she was invincible. She could handle anything. She had overcome so much already, and she wasn’t even born yet. I became so in love with her that I don’t think I could ever have let her go.
At 26 weeks, contractions started, along with a heavy bleed. Here it is, I thought, the early labor they all warned me about. I was way out of town, at my parents’ house for a holiday meal, and I was hospitalized near them, far away from home, from my kids. I was attached to a monitor and not allowed to move for 4 days. I got a celestone injection to mature the baby’s lungs, and waited to deliver. After 4 days, I didn’t deliver. The contractions stopped, and I begged to go home. After the heavy bleeding stopped as well, I got to go home.
The molar mass stopped growing at 12 by 5 centimeters. The baby quickly outgrew it, making me feel as though there was a battle of good and evil in my uterus, and good had clearly won. I was told I wouldn’t make it to 34 weeks, but I made it to 35, and 36 and even 37. At 37 weeks my doctor said he wanted to induce. “Let’s not push our luck,” he said, and scheduled the procedure. But my girl, never having been one to do what doctors say, came just hours before the procedure was supposed to start. She was perfect. Zero complications. My easiest birth yet: 20 minutes in the delivery room. She truly is a miracle.
Today, my Nina is a strong-willed, hilarious, shockingly smart toddler. I still think that she can overcome anything, because she dealt with more adversity in the womb than most people deal with in a lifetime. I am so grateful for all my children, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to repay the good fortune of having Nina.