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I already gave birth to my son — but will birth him again in 11 weeks

I already gave birth to my son — but will birth him again in 11 weeks

After giving birth to her son Levi James last Wednesday, Jaiden Ashlea is due to give birth to him a second time in July.

It’s all part of an elaborate plan to save the baby’s life.

When the 23-year-old mom-to-be had a prenatal anatomy scan at 18 weeks of pregnancy in March, it showed that her son had spina bifida, a congenital defect that adversely affects a fetus’ spinal cord during gestation and can lead to learning and developmental disabilities and paralysis. (Each year, roughly 1,427 babies are born with spina bifida, according to the CDC.)

“I was in shock. I couldn’t even speak when the doctor was telling us this,” recalled Ashlea, who works in digital content creation and real estate.

Initially, doctors in her hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., told her and fiancé Noah Detrick, 23, that their first child would be born “brain dead” and would have no chance at leading a quality life.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘This isn’t real, this isn’t happening,” Ashlea said, adding that the physicians encouraged her to terminate the pregnancy. “It was a nightmare.”

But after getting second and third opinions from specialists in Orlando, which is just over two hours away from her home, Ashlea learned that there was hope for her son. She could potentially undergo a cutting-edge surgery to repair his spine while he was still gestating.

Ashlea's unborn baby was diagnosed with spina bifida at 18-weeks.
Ashlea’s unborn baby was diagnosed with spina bifida at 18 weeks.
TikTok / @jaiden.ashlea

She underwent a barrage of medical tests — only a few hundred expecting mothers and their babies are deemed well enough to withstand the invasive treatment each year — before being approved for surgery at Orlando’s Winnie Palmer Hospital. Ashlea was the 31st mother ever to have the surgery at the hospital, one of just 12 medical facilities in the country that perform fetal surgeries. Such procedures typically cost upwards of $25,000, and Ashlea’s was covered by insurance.

After doctors warned her that her child would be born with severe health issues, she ultimately learned that about a life-saving procedure that could reverse the diagnosis.
After doctors warned her that her child would be born with severe health issues, she ultimately learned about a life-saving procedure that could reverse the diagnosis.
Instagram / @jaiden.ashlea
Since the surgery, Ashlea  has been placed on strict bed rest to ensure the health of her and baby Levi James until he's ready to be delivered in July.
Since the surgery, Ashlea has been placed on strict bed rest to ensure the health of her and baby Levi James until he’s ready to be delivered in July.
Instagram / @claresanbornphotogr

Roughly six weeks after the troubling diagnosis, Ashlea went under the knife. Doctors made a cesarean incision along her stomach, broke her water and successfully repaired the sizable lesion, or abnormality, plaguing the L2 vertebrae in the baby’s lower back. Then, they repositioned the tot inside Ashlea’s tummy, sewed her up and put her on strict bed rest until the baby will be developed enough for an actual C-section delivery at 37 weeks. The procedure involved full anesthesia and took roughly six hours. Ashlea is now about 27 weeks along and has noticed her baby’s health has improved.

“Since the surgery, [doctors have] seen so much more movement and signs of any malformation in his brain are reversing,” she said, adding that physicians now expect her son to have almost no issues walking.

He will, however, likely need to undergo physical therapy from birth until he’s at least 18 years old. But his post-op progress is promising nonetheless.

“He’s kicking his legs, and twisting his ankles in there,” the mom-to-be gushed. “I can feel him moving.”

Ashlea and her fiance Noah are anxious to tell their son about his birth journey.
Ashlea and her fiancé Noah Detrick are anxious to tell their son about his birth journey.
Instagram / @claresanbornphotogr

Ashlea originally shared her story in a viral TikTok video captioned: “Birthing my baby for him to be put back in and 11 weeks later be born again.” The post, which is set to the trending “Oh my God, she’s insane” audio clip from Taylor Swift’s hit “I Bet You Think About Me,” has garnered over 2.2 million views.

She’s scheduled to be discharged from the hospital early next week, and will continue her recovery at a Ronald McDonald House in Orlando, part of a nationwide nonprofit haven that provides health care for families and children in need. Then, she’ll return to Jacksonville for the duration of her gestation.

She looks forward to one day telling Levi James about his live-saving journey.

“I’m excited for him to realize how many people were rooting for him, and how loved and special he is,” said Ashlea. “Not everyone gets the chance to have this surgery. And I want him to know that God was on his side.”

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