Premature Birth and Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome: Ash Luna Shares their Birth Stories
Ash Luna’s Birth Stories
Ash is a photographer, feminist and storyteller currently living in Chicago. Mother to Xavier (10) and surviving identical twin Nova Emery (3) and Aurora Eisley (stillborn due to complications from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome). You can connect with Ash on Instagram @ashdluna or @4thTriBodies as well as Twitter and Facebook.
In today’s episode Ash shares the stories of their three children’s births.
28 Week Premature Birth
Ash went into the late stages of labor unexpectedly at 28 weeks, arrived at the hospital within an hour of realizing what was happening to find out they were fully dilated with bulging waters. They had a traumatic birth with the hospital staff screaming at them not to push and to lay on their back when they knew they needed to be in a different position. Ash was able to briefly see Xavier before he was taken to the NICU and even though he was 12 weeks early he was healthier than expected and spent a total of 46 days in NICU, improving each day. Ash struggled with feeling of empowerment and being on a high from giving birth while facing the fear of their son’s health.
When Ash found out they were pregnant again they and their almost husband met with a team of midwives and planned on having the homebirth they’d missed out on the first time. Again, Ash was the picture of healthy but was measuring a bit ahead of dates so their midwife asked Ash to have an ultrasound which they and their fiance had on the morning of their wedding day when they found out they were having twin girls! They were overjoyed and named both girls while on their honeymoon.
Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome
When they returned home they had a follow up ultrasound and 2nd Trimester screen and were told they had a stuck twin and that their daughter’s were suffering from TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome). They were referred to an MFM (maternal fetal medicine doctor) where they were told the girls were stage 4 of 5 of TTTS (5 meaning they had both already passed) and were given three options – terminate the entire pregnancy, selectively abort one of their girls in hopes the other would do better or immediately travel from Chicago to St. Louis for a laser surgery that was our only chance to save them both by separating their placental vessel connections. The surgery was the only option they could accept so they drove to St. Louis and 72 hours later were in the operating room.
The surgery was deemed successful; they severed the girls’ vessel connections and drained 3+ Liters of excess amniotic fluid. Ash rested around hourly ultrasounds and felt at peace and relieved that they were going to be OK.
In the morning they had one final ultrasound before being discharged and within seconds of the wand hitting their belly, Ash knew something was wrong. The doctor who had performed the surgery grabbed their hand and told them that Aurora had no heartbeat. After having been told the surgery was a success, it was such a shock to learn they’d lost one of their babies.
Ash was left to deal with the process of grieving the loss of one baby while growing their other baby. They were told that Nova was doing well and that there was no reason Nova wouldn’t make it to full term. Ash had long ultrasounds each week to check on both girls, Nova’s growth and Aurora’s body. Ash’s fluid levels were still very high (polyhydramino’s is a side effect of TTTS) but everything else was stable until they woke up at 3am during their 24th week in labor and felt the same way they had when they went into labor with Xavier.
24 Week Premature Birth
Ash rushed to the hospital but despite all of the medications they gave them, nothing would slow down their contractions. They removed the cerclage and Ash’s MFM, knowing how important natural birth was to them, encouraged Ash to push but Ash had been given a spinal block rather than an epidural and couldn’t control their body well enough to push effectively. Nova’s heart beat dipped, and Ashlee was soon in the OR being prepped for a crash cesarean and at 11:11am Nova was born, with Aurora following a minute later.
Nova was taken to the NICU and Ash, who had been put under completely for the surgery woke up alone. Ash was concerned for Nova and didn’t know where Aurora was. Aurora was brought to Ash and they were able to spend some time together while Nova was being stabilized.
It was determined that the girls came so quickly due to a rampant E-coli infection that must have happened during the initial surgery performed to separate them.
After Nova suffered from a brain bleed, they were told that Nova would likely never talk or walk but they sought second opinions and took Nova to a neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital in Chicago when Nova was 5 weeks old where they had a surgery to help their brain. Nova spent 100 days in the NICU, developed hydrocephalus and eventually came home with a VP shunt and an NG tube. They fought hard to exclusively breastfeed and are still going strong at 3 years old. Nova is now exceeding all expectations – beautifully healthy and extraordinarily happy today.
Since giving birth, Ash struggled with feeling like a failure and hating their body for not doing what it was supposed to do. Being able to breastfeed was a healing process and a way for them to connect with their body and their children as they navigated their new role as a mother. They took the first picture of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project as a self portrait and has since photographed over 1500 people and heard their stories. You can read more about my experience participating in the project here.