A 23-year-old mother who has given birth to five premature children says she always blamed her own body, but was stunned when doctors discovered she has two uteruses.
Jodie Hollis-Tobin, from Brisbane, and her partner, Christopher Swan, learned of her extremely rare condition after losing their son, Vladimir, at just 16 weeks old earlier this year.
The couple, who met in 2017 at a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Queensland while caring for their children with previous partners, were struggling to piece their lives back together following the tragic birth when they quickly fell pregnant again.
Desperate to avoid yet another premature birth, the grieving pair reached out to Dr Renuka Sekar, clinical lead of maternal and foetal medicine at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
Ms Hollie-Tobin told Yahoo News Australia she was aware she had an incompetent cervix, but was not expecting what she was going to learn next.
“It wasn't until Hudson, my third premature baby, did the doctors tell me I had an incompetent cervix, however, there was a lot more to it,” she said.
“After losing Vladimir, I had lots of ongoing tests, including an MRI and ultrasounds, which then confirmed the two uteruses with a septum down the middle.”
Women who have two uteruses have no symptoms at all or trouble becoming pregnant. However, the condition does often lead to miscarriage or preterm labour.
The 23-year-old said she was stunned the medical condition had gone unnoticed in her 11 total pregnancies – but was relieved she finally had an answer.
“We never would have known and I would’ve kept blaming myself as I still do struggle to this day,” she said.
Dr Sekar told the couple to trust her and that she would help get them as close to full term as she could.
“She said to trust her and to have hope – she was determined to get it right,” Mr Swan, 37, told Yahoo News Australia.
Despite her promise, Ms Hollis-Tobin said she struggled to enjoy the following months.
“Life after loss is so tough. You want to be prepared and excited, but at the very same time you’re terrified to even buy an outfit because you’ve been on the other end of the stick where your baby doesn’t get to come home with you…” she said.
On September 24, the couple’s “rainbow baby” Velora Renuka – named after Dr Sekar – was born at 27 weeks.
She has been held in an incubator at Ronald McDonald House in Herston ever since and will likely not leave the hospital until next year.
“We got to spend seven precious minutes with Vladimir before his heart stopped beating for the final time in his daddy’s arms… although he is so dearly missed, I’m so grateful we have Velora,” Ms Hollis-Tobin said.
“We went through so much to have her here and I truly believe he kept her safe for us.”
Throughout their struggles, the pair have become dedicated volunteers for Preterm Infants Parents Association and are often found dropping off furniture, baby pumps, strollers and other supplies off to other families in the NICU.
Ms Hollis-Tobin also works as a bereavement counsellor with fellow parents and provides regular updates about her children.
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