By Dave Andrusko
Each and every time an unborn baby undergoes prenatal surgery, it inevitably raises the obvious question. This child is either partially or completely removed from her mother’s womb, surgeons work their wondrous ways, and she is placed back inside her mom where she nestles down until delivery time.
Yet a child of a similar age is…what?…when a woman decides she does not wish to “carry her pregnancy” to completion? A “choice”? It’s cognitive dissonance on steroids.
Which brings us to Bethan Simpson, of Maldon, Essex, England, who, at her 20 week scan, learned her unborn daughter had spina bifida. Spina bifida is a congenital defect of the spine, of unknown origins, in which the spinal cord is left exposed through a gap in the backbone which can lead to a variety of problems including paralysis.
Mrs. Simpson wrote on her Facebook page, “Our lives were such a rollercoaster for the next few weeks. We were offered continuing pregnancy, ending pregnancy or a new option called fetal surgery – fixing her before she is born. We had to do it.” She added that the decision to have fetal surgery was a “no-brainer.”
Following a series of tests and scans, the four-hour surgery took place at University College Hospital in London in December, the BBC reported. The operation, the BBC wrote
involved opening her womb and lifting her baby into position to repair the hole, as well as repositioning the baby’s spinal cord.
“I came out of surgery at one o’clock and could feel her moving that evening,” Mrs. Simpson said.
“It was reassuring to feel that first kick after the anaesthetic wore off. She’s bigger now, of course, and her kicks are stronger.”
Mrs. Simpson said she remembered the surgeon telling her on the ward later: “I’ve held your baby.”
“Her lesion was small and she smashed surgery like you wouldn’t believe,” Mrs. Simpson of her daughter, who is due in April. “They took her out of my womb and popped her straight back in to stay there as long as she can.”
According to media reports, Mrs. Simpson is the fourth mother whose unborn child has undergone fetal surgery in the U.K.
She has kept the public up to date using her Facebook page, where she wrote that scans reveal the symptoms of her daughter’s former condition have disappeared. The doctors “are unable to see where her lesion was now since they completed the surgery, which is amazing.”
At the same time Mrs. Simpson acknowledged that most babies prenatally diagnosed with spina bifida are not as lucky as her daughter.
“Sadly 80% of babies in England are terminated when their parents get told their baby has this condition,” Mrs. Simpson wrote. Spina bifida is “not a death sentence. She has the same potential as every one of us.”
Simpson considers her daughter to be “extra special.”
“I feel our baby kick me day in and day out,” she wrote on Facebook. “That’s never changed. She’s extra special. She’s part of history and our daughter has shown just how much she deserves this life.”