Musings of a Marfan Mom

Jennifer’s Birth Story #1


Awhile back I invited readers to submit their birth stories, to be posted while I take a maternity leave. Since Baby J is here, it’s time to post them! Some of the women have Marfan syndrome like me, but not all. If you have questions for the authors, feel free to leave them in the comments section; I’ll also try to email them any questions I see (as soon as I have time).

Jennifer L, 38
Diagnosed with Marfan at age 12 -inherited from father
Mother of two

At 29 years old I got pregnant with my first child. My husband, Randy, and I were thrilled. We spent many hours discussing having children. Most married couples discuss the possibility of children, but we spent a little longer contemplating the idea because I have Marfan syndrome. I was diagnosed when I was 12 years old. I had some orthopedic problems, but no significant cardiac concerns. My aortic root was a little big for my size, but it was not considered dilated. My husband and I met with my cardiologist at Mass. General twice to discuss the possibility of me being pregnant. The doctor was very pragmatic and straight forward. He told us the facts and said that it would be rare for me to have any cardiac complications, but that it could still happen. The doctor did not make the decision for us, but we could tell he did not think it was a good idea.

Since my aorta was not dilated I felt pretty confident that I would be able to have a successful pregnancy. My husband and I really wanted a baby. If I would have had a dilated aorta or had other complications, I can honestly say that I would not have tried to have a biological child, but I thought my chances were pretty good.

In November of 2001 I found out I was pregnant. I was very excited, but also very nervous. I hoped we made the right decision. I had a pregnancy filled with morning sickness. I don’t mean just the first 3 months or just feeling nauseous. I was sick for the entire 9 months. I had to bring a plastic bag with me every time I left the house. My husband, parents, some of my friends and even my mother-in-law were witnesses to my morning sickness. Other than vomiting every day I felt good. I had frequent echocardiograms and my heart and the baby were looking great. I enjoyed being pregnant and I loved wearing maternity clothes.

In the early hours of July 18, 2001 I woke up suddenly with very strong contractions. I had contractions on and off during the day. I was in pain, but I was also very excited. I really wanted to wake up in the middle of the night in labor. I know it sounds funny, but when I imagined going into to labor I was hoping it would be in the middle of the night. My contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart. I called my doctor’s office. The doctor I spoke to said to wait to come in when the contractions were 3 minutes apart. I tried to wake up my sleeping husband, took a shower and had a small snack. The contractions were still 5 minutes apart. I told my husband to start the car. We had a 45 minute drive to Boston and it was almost 5 in the morning. I did not want to get stuck in the morning traffic.

After arriving at the hospital the nurse checked me and I was 4cm dilated. I was wheeled into a room and shortly after 8am I was given an epidural. I knew that I wanted an epidural. I had spent 5 hours with contractions and I was looking forward to not feeling them.

After the epidural, I felt great. I felt like my husband and I were on vacation, except I couldn’t eat anything. I relaxed in the hospital bed watching morning TV and then listening to music. My husband called everyone he knew and kept coming in the room with really good smelling food. I wasn’t even mad at him. I was so happy to be comfortable.

Finally around 3pm the doctor checked me and I was fully dilated. The time had come to get this baby out. We did not know if the baby was a boy or a girl, but I had a strong feeling it was a girl.

I pushed and I pushed and I pushed. I pushed for an hour and a half. When I think about this now it bothers me. Why would a doctor let a woman with Marfan push? I didn’t question anything. Finally, Meghan Grace Levesque was born. She was a beautiful, healthy baby. My husband and I were so happy.

Everything worked out for me. I was healthy, the baby was healthy, so of course I thought I can do this again. I’m fine.

(Stay tuned for Jennifer’s 2nd birth story!)

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  1. Congratulations on your healthy birth! Women with Marfan like you usually have no increased risk during labor. (Assuming your aorta is less than 4 cm) There are increased risks with C sections too.

    I have Marfan similar to you, muskuloskeletal issues, no real cardiac issues and was encouraged to have a vaginal birth-though we did have the discussion.

    what happened in the second birth? I hope you are ok.


    marfmom Reply:

    I do want to note that yes, vaginal birth is encouraged for those women with aortas under 4 cm. We still do have an increased risk of aortic dissection though…about 2% of us with normal aortas will have a dissection during pregnancy or the 2 months following. Labor itself and the immediate postpartum period, when blood volume and estrogen levels are high, is the most risky time.


  2. Wait, did you have your baby?! Who is this baby J and when did I miss that?! Hoping things went well…

    (And thanks for lining up birth stories during your maternity leave. I love reading ’em!)


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