Finally pregnant again
Our journey has been a long road. After going through fertility and having a miscarriage in 2018, we were finally able to get pregnant with IUI in September 2019. The weird thing was that Eleanor and her sibling had due dates that were a day or two apart. It was unbelievable timing, and we were absolutely thrilled.
We had normal ultrasounds all the way up to our 12-week scan. At this time, we found out that our daughter had cystic hygroma, a fluid-filled sac that results from a blockage in the lymphatic system.
We had the common chromosomal testing completed at the OB, along with finding out what the sex of our baby was going to be. It took about two weeks to get the results back. At that point, we had already met with maternal-fetal medicine doctors. Everything for our NIPT testing came back normal. That’s when we found out we were having a GIRL. We were so excited but then taken aback because this testing had been normal.
At week 13, we had an appointment and saw that the hygroma had shrunk, but not by much. We were told that she would most likely have some other kind of genetic disorder and we should terminate. We were absolutely devastated to hear this. All doctors had given up on her, but we never did.
TESTING AND MORE TESTING
We began googling everything about cystic hygroma and nothing good was coming out of it. We wanted to see if she even had a chance at survival. We wanted to read stories of babies with cystic hygroma and the possible outcomes that could arise.
The doctors gave her another week or two before she would pass, but we never gave up hope on her. She fought right alongside with me. Growing at a great rate, her heartbeat was normal, and she was thriving other than the cystic hygroma.
We had a CVS completed at week 16, a prenatal test that is used to detect birth defects, genetic diseases, and other problems during pregnancy. The wait for those results took what seemed like forever. All came back normal, but doctors kept insisting that she had to have a genetic or chromosomal abnormality.
We went and got all of my genetics tested (500 of them to be exact), and we also had a Noonan syndrome test sent out. Noonan is rare, but they were sure that she could have this. We then decided to get a second option at CHOP in Philadelphia. I made the appointment, and they got me in within the week. At this point, we were still in our waiting period for the Noonan testing.
AN ADDITIONAL DIAGNOSIS
At 17 weeks 4 days, we had our appointment with CHOP. That is when our whole world changed with our daughter. They said her entire body had been filled with fluid. She was swollen, and she now had hydrops in four different parts of her body. Her heart was normal, she was still growing completely normal, she was still moving all over, and her heartbeat was strong.
The doctors expressed to us that this was more than likely either because of possible Noonan syndrome, or she had been affected by a virus that I caught during pregnancy. She then stated that I should immediately be tested for the three viruses that can cause issues with a pregnancy, parvovirus B19, toxoplasmosis, and CMV (cytomegalovirus), and go from there. But with them, there was nothing they could do for her at this point.
We left extremely overwhelmed with this new diagnosis of hydrops. We knew she could be terminal, but we thought we could be out of the woods considering she did not have hydrops this entire time.
We got bloodwork scheduled that week from my OB. We got the news back within two days. At this point, we were about 18 weeks six days pregnant when we found out that I had gotten a primary infection of cytomegalovirus during the time right before pregnancy or at the beginning of my pregnancy.
LOOKING FOR HOPE
We of course dove into “HOW” this could have happened. The doctor said that I could have gotten this from anywhere, even touching a door handle at a grocery store. I was definitely on a mission then at that point to see if we could do anything to help save our daughter. I joined Facebook groups for cytomegalovirus and got ahold of a few women who had gone through this whole process.
The fact that we were finding out so late in our pregnancy made me mad. Why wasn’t I tested sooner? Could I have stopped this from happening if I had been tested sooner? Could we have stopped her from being so ill if we had tested sooner? What types of medications could we do or try? These were all questions I was going to have answers to at our 20-week scan, which I was extremely excited and nervous for, since we had not seen our girl for 17 weeks.
We got the diagnosis right around 19 weeks for CMV. Our CVS results all came back normal for all genetic abnormality, yet we were still waiting for the Noonan test. But having this CMV diagnosis, all the doctors knew that this was the cause.
We had a checkup at the OB on January 7th, 2020. We heard her heartbeat (130 bpm), she was moving, and all seemed good. Our 20-week appointment was for the 9th, so we only had two days to wait to see our baby girl again. We were excited to see her again and hopeful that we could maybe pursue treatment for the diagnosis given to us, since we were closer to 24 weeks.
The following day, our daughter’s journey ended. On January 8th, 2020, Eleanor passed away while still in the womb at 20 weeks five days gestation (two days away from reaching 21 weeks). I knew something was wrong. I didn’t really feel her movements that whole day (she was regular by 16 weeks), so we went to the hospital. The nurses came in, attempted to find her on the doppler and couldn’t.
I wasn’t worried though, because we had just heard her heartbeat the day prior. And with everything going on, my placenta hid her before, and due to the increased hydrops, my placenta was sick. They shrugged it off and said that they could get the doctor to come in and do a quick ultrasound. My brain was trying not to panic, especially since this just happened to us last week and she was totally okay. The feeling I had though, I just knew something wasn’t right. The doctor came in, put the monitor on me, and her face went blank. “Your daughter doesn’t have a heartbeat.” I looked, nothing was there. No movement, no heart flickering. Nothing. Our daughter was gone.
GRIEF AND GOODBYES
My heart sank into my stomach. I could feel my anxiety rushing in. I had just heard her. How could this be? Why was this happening to us? Why her? I cried. The nurses were so supportive and understanding. The doctor then said they were going to have the on-call OB doctors come in and meet with us.
Two doctors came in, did the ultrasound again, and this time I couldn’t look. They confirmed that she had passed away and gave us time to digest what was going on. We got our options and went from there. What else could we do? We couldn’t bring her back, and it was absolutely the worst feeling in the world leaving that hospital that night. Having to go back then to have our baby was even harder.
The following few days we got results back that our daughter had passed away from CMV. She did not have Noonan syndrome, she passed that testing. Our daughter passed away because we were not tested prior to pregnancy and/or during early pregnancy. Our daughter passed away due to the fact that the hydrops had filled her tiny body up, and she could not survive any longer because of this virus. The week leading up to her birth, my husband and I were able to say our goodbyes. We were able to grieve a little bit. I took photos of my belly and had her with me as long as I could. On January 16th, 2020, Eleanor Jane Uskuraitis came into this world sleeping. She was 10.5 oz. Our baby girl was loved by so many. We got so much support from our family and close friends.
SPREADING CMV AWARENESS
I am writing this to spread awareness, to make sure that my daughter’s life will continue to make a difference and to start a conversation about cytomegalovirus. I had no idea about this prior to my diagnosis. There are ways that you can avoid getting CMV (cleaning hands, not sharing food with young children). Most women don’t even know that they have had CMV prior to pregnancy. Doctors don’t actively test for CMV unless necessary or asked by the patient. It’s a simple blood test.
Thank you for allowing me to share our daughter’s story! It gives me pride to know that talking about her and sharing our journey with others will open up doors about CMV. We know she is in heaven looking down on us along with her sibling.
With love, Thea and Lenny Uskuraitis