All the recent news about the Zika virus has been really scary for me. It’s probably been scary for a lot of moms, but for me it hits too close to home.
During my last pregnancy I was happily expecting baby number four. We had heard the baby’s heart beat and seen the baby developing normally on multiple ultrasounds. Everything was going well.
While on vacation we went for an elective gender ultrasound to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. We were visiting relatives and wanted to include them in our happy moment. As a veteran mom, I knew right away that the ultrasound tech had seen something wrong, but the tech couldn’t say anything and urged us to call our doctor. Since we were on vacation we had to go to the ER. After many days and many tests, we found out that our baby, a girl, was critically ill and had less than 1 percent chance to live.
We learned that I had been exposed to fifth disease (parvovirus B19), a common childhood illness. An illness that, if exposed, a non-immune pregnant woman can pass to her fetus and can cause serious life threatening effects and even death. I was devastated. I felt completely helpless. During my pregnancy I did everything I could to protect my baby, but there was nothing I could do to prevent this virus.
Our baby girl was given less than 1 percent chance to live at 17 weeks gestation due to hydrops caused by the Parvovirus. We were repeatedly encouraged to terminate the pregnancy, but we refused.
At 23 weeks we were told she wouldn’t survive the weekend. We made the decision to try a very risky intrauterine procedure. She made it through the two hour-long procedure and started showing some signs of improvement. At 28 weeks, our baby girl was still alive, yet we didn’t know if we should be planning to come home with a live baby after the birth or not.
Our sweet baby girl was born at 34 weeks. She was a healthy miracle, mostly recovered from the awful virus that attacked her during the pregnancy. We are so grateful to have her; so grateful she is alive and well!
Because of my experience, I’ve been trying to think of a way I can help support moms who get the Zika virus so they don’t feel so alone. While Zika virus isn’t the same thing my baby had, some of what I went through might be of help to any moms dealing with Zika fears. Here are a few of the things my experience taught me:
1. Find caregivers that you trust and who support your choices. (Even if that means finding new caregivers.)
2. Join a support group. Moms who have been in similar situations offer invaluable support. (BabyCenter has great support groups.)
3. Take care of yourself emotionally. That means different things for different people, do some soul searching and figure out what you need to do to take care of you.
4. Make the right decisions for your family. Don’t let anyone else push you into making decisions you don’t feel comfortable with.
5. Be confident in the decisions you and your family have made. Don’t let others make you feel bad or guilty for the decisions you have made.
6. Prepare for the eventual outcome, whatever that may be.
7. Have support for your birth and lots of it. Many doulas are equipped for situations like this.
Katie Hauge is a work-from-home-mom in rural Montana. She grew up in Los Angeles and is now providing services to expectant families as a birth doula and childbirth educator. She is passionate about educating and supporting moms in their choices during all stages of motherhood. Her goal is to nurture families through birth and beyond. In her personal life she has 4 children including two with special needs. Her house is quite full and happy with her husband, children, four dogs, one cat, and four fish!
Feature image from iStock