For new mom Leanne Crawley, the delivery of her baby boy should have been a moment of pure joy. But her labor and the weeks following were riddled with unexpected trauma – an unborn baby in her womb was threatening her life.
Crawley, a 38-year-old full-time mom from Kent, England, was set to deliver her son, Louee, in December of 2016. But when she gave birth to the newborn, it wasn’t as beautiful a moment as it should have been.
Instead, Louee arrived “gray and lifeless,” his mother told British newspaper The Mirror. Doctors took the baby away to the antenatal unit, where they ran tests and discovered that the newborn had lost a large amount of blood while in the womb.
Crawley said, “They don’t know exactly what happened but they think that he bled through me. We didn’t know it at the time.” The trauma left her newborn son struggling to survive – he spent three more weeks in the hospital.
During that time, Louee’s organs had begun to shut down from the major blood loss that he had suffered. Doctors put him in an incubator on life support. Eventually, they placed him in a medically induced coma and revived him with donated blood.
That terrifying ordeal wasn’t the end of Crawley’s trouble, though. The happy family made their way home from the hospital but just two days later, she was losing a lot of blood.
When Crawley returned to the hospital, her doctors thought that they knew why she was bleeding. “Medics operated to remove what they thought was part of Louee’s placenta. It was terrifying,” she told Britain’s The Sun newspaper.
Little did Crawley know that that operation would do little to help her. Instead of healing, Louee’s mom continued bleeding for a further two weeks and was eventually taken in to hospital again. Her doctors performed another surgery and found the real root of her symptoms.
Crawley had suffered a molar pregnancy, which occurs when abnormal cells implant in the womb, thus producing a non-viable embryo. The growth inside of the full-time mom, determined to be Louee’s twin, matched the size of a 12-week-old fetus.
The discovery of this growth made it clear that Louee’s delivery was a miracle in and of itself. In most cases, if a woman experiences a molar pregnancy while expecting twins, the abnormal growth consumes the healthy fetus.
Crawley had never known that she was expecting twins despite the fact that mom-to-be undergo routine ultrasounds to check on the health of their growing babies. “They never knew that there were two in there. All you could see on the scan was Louee. But it turned out that he had been hiding it all along, protecting me,” she said.
With a proper diagnosis, Crawley’s doctors surgically removed the growth. “After the operation to remove the molar pregnancy they asked me if I wanted a funeral and things like that for the twin,” she said to The Mirror, adding, “It was a lot to take in.”
Somehow, the shock of finding out that she had been pregnant with twins – and that one of her babies had almost killed the other – wasn’t the end of Crawley’s story. There was one last side effect of the molar pregnancy for her to face.
Roughly 50 percent of the women who experience a molar pregnancy end up with choriocarcinoma, a uterine cancer that develops from the abnormal cell growth. Crawley not only found out that she had the cancer, too, but that it had also spread to her lungs.
Upon receiving her diagnosis, doctors immediately started treatment, as they feared that the cancer cells would spread across her body. “They said they didn’t want it to get to my brain and I started chemo into my veins that night,” she recalled.
From then on, the new mom’s treatment called for chemotherapy for a total of 15 hours each week as well blood transfusions numbering in their 20s. Crawley lost all of her hair, which she told The Sun was, “horrible, a constant reminder that I had cancer.”
During her treatment, Crawley even experienced – and survived – a blood clot that traveled to her lungs. “That in itself is even rarer than cancer,” she told The Mirror. But she continued fighting and, by September of 2017, was cancer free.
Even with the all-clear, Crawley said in April of 2018 that she was still struggling to regain her good health after undergoing such intense treatment. She said that her family had struggled in the wake of her illness, too.
“The whole experience nearly destroyed us all but I had so much support from my friends and family,” Crawley said. She also created a GoFundMe page in the hopes that her loved ones would contribute to a vacation fund so that she and her kids could regain a sense of normalcy.
As for Louee, he will have to continue his fight against the effects of the molar pregnancy. His mom wrote on her GoFundMe page that he is “completely deaf, mildly brain damaged and [has] cerebral palsy in his left leg.” Regardless, Crawley also told The Mirror that every struggle was worth it for her son. “I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone but obviously I would take it all again if it was a choice between me and Louee,” she said.