When doctors told Nicky Soto that her baby was growing outside her womb, the Arizona mom was stunned and scared. Soto was told that her life would be at risk if she opted to continue with the ectopic pregnancy — and no one held out much hope that the baby would survive.
But Soto, 27, had struggled for five years to become pregnant. After some soul searching, she decided to take the risk, fearing that this might be her last chance.
On Monday her gamble paid off: Soto gave birth though Caesarean section to a healthy, albeit small, baby boy named Azelan Cruz Perfecto. Her doctors say they’ve never seen or heard anything like this miracle birth.
Soto got the disturbing news about her ectopic pregnancy when she was 18 weeks along. She’d been referred to a specialist when her regular physician detected a problem. On ultrasound images it was clear that Soto was carrying a boy, but that the baby was not in the normal spot. What the specialist couldn’t tell was exactly where baby was growing. If the baby’s placenta was attached to a vital organ, that would be extremely dangerous.
“It was really scary,” Soto remembered tearfully. “Just because we didn’t know where the baby was and what he was attached to and what could happen.”
Still, Soto figured it was now or never.
“There was the fact that this was maybe my only chance to carry another child,” she told TODAY’S Meredith Vieria. “If this didn’t go right and we had to remove the uterus, I wouldn’t be able to carry again. I was hoping for the best.”
Specialists told Soto that serious complications – or even death – might be the result if she continued the pregnancy.
“Our biggest concern was what it would be attached to and where the blood supply came from,” Dr. Curtis Cook, Soto’s surgeon explained on TODAY.
Even with MRI scans, it was impossible to see whether any of Soto’s vital organs or blood vessels were wrapped up in the placenta, said Cook, a physician at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
To keep an eye on Soto and the pregnancy, doctors advised her to stay at the hospital till they delivered the baby. She’s been there since March.
Though she tried to stay in good spirits, sometimes Soto worried about what would happen to her 7-year-old son if she died trying to give him a brother.
“Every day the concern was in my mind: Is everything going to go well like I’m telling myself it will?” she told Vieria. “It was concerning, but I took the risk. I just stayed in the hospital and I tried to stay as safe as I could.”
She kept those concerns under control until Monday morning, the time doctors had scheduled for her surgery to deliver the baby at 32 weeks.
“Up until Monday morning I was fine,” Soto told Vieria. “That’s when I started panicking.”
But ultimately, there was some good luck in Soto’s bad fortune. The placenta, it turns out, wasn’t attached to any organs after all. It was attached to the outside of the uterus.
Still, Curtis and others in the 25-member team that delivered Soto’s son are amazed at how well everything turned out. Baby Azelan is considered low-birth weight, but has no major complications.
For her part, Soto is deeply grateful to everyone who helped.
“I’m so thankful for all their hard work,” she told Vieria. “They didn’t give up on my son. They followed my wishes to continue the pregnancy even though it was risky. It was something we all had to go through together.”
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Linda Carroll is a health and science writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Health magazine and SmartMoney. She is co-author of the forthcoming book, "The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic."