A mom who risked her life to bear a child with spina bifida looks back on a road “riddled with uncertainty” and knows she made the right choice—in the face of pressure, and ridicule from doctors urging her to abort.
Her beloved baby girl, now 1 year old, continues to defy the odds.
Surviving heart failure after giving birth to her third baby, then-25-year-old Victoria Pampanin Reyes was warned that she couldn’t bear children again: the risk of relapse was too high.
It took Victoria two years to recover. “I was in remission,” she wrote, sharing her story with Love What Matters. “I had the second chance at life that I begged, pleaded, and went to war for.”
Yet the brief calm heralded another storm when Victoria fell pregnant again.
“I felt as though I had swallowed a brick,” she shared. “I had promised myself if I ever got pregnant again I would terminate. It wouldn’t even be a question, but there I was questioning everything.”
Fearing for Victoria’s life, her husband Carlos, her family, and doctors implored her to end the pregnancy. The mom-to-be recalled feeling “intensely ridiculed” by her cardiologist; she left his office in tears.
She booked an abortion but found herself unable to attend, immobilized by a thought, “It’s a girl, and all will be okay.”
Despite immense anxiety, Victoria continued with the pregnancy. But at their first anatomy scan, Victoria and Carlos, who had lost their very first child to stillbirth, were delivered more heartbreaking news: their baby had spina bifida.
“Our daughter’s back had not closed,” Victoria explained, “the nerve endings of her spine were exposed and she was leaking spinal fluid, causing her brain to herniate. We were told she would likely never walk, she would need a shunt, and she may have brain damage. The list went on and on.”
Shocked but steadfast, the couple rejected termination again in favor of exploring options, reaching out to other parents of children with spina bifida for support. They agreed to raise their baby to be strong and confident, no matter what.
Then, Victoria’s high-risk obstetrician invited her to take part in a trial in-utero surgery. After undergoing numerous tests and being told they qualified, Victoria and her baby became the fourth mom and baby in the United States ever to receive the procedure.
Terrified yet hopeful, Victoria went into surgery at 25 weeks.
Both mom and baby made it through.
Victoria’s recovery was challenging; she had suffered a collapsed lung and was in immense pain. But an ultrasound confirmed that the procedure had helped her unborn baby. Victoria and Carlos returned home, ecstatic.
Just three weeks later, on July 9, 2019, Victoria woke with contractions and bleeding. She and Carlos rushed through L.A. traffic to the hospital where the laboring mom was sent for an emergency caesarean section. Her placenta had detached and she was losing blood fast.
“Being only 28 weeks pregnant, the doctor warned me the baby may not survive,” Victoria recalled. But baby Amelie Lucca announced her arrival when her cries filled the operating room. Weighing just 2 pounds (0.9 kg), she was whisked off to the NICU.
Needing multiple blood transfusions, Victoria met her baby girl for the first time at the local children’s hospital four days later.
“I could hardly contain my excitement … I could not believe how small she was,” she recalled. “We made the drive back and forth each day for three very long months … I cried both tears of heartbreak and of joy.”
Weathering triumphs and setbacks, Victoria and Carlos watched their daughter consistently beat the odds stacked against her. The day before Amelie’s initial due date, they were finally able to bring her home.
One year on, Amelie is thriving.
To help cover medical equipment, bills, and therapies not covered by insurance, the family started a GoFundMe page. Victoria also posts updates on family life and Amelie’s progress on Instagram @our.exquisite.normality.
Using a walker and support sling, Amelie is exploring her mobility as she grows.
“I know we made the right choices,” her mom reflected. “Our once two-pound baby is now a strong-willed, beautiful, and charismatic one-year-old.
“Despite being three months premature and having spina bifida, she is right on track for her age and has even begun taking steps,” she continued. “The little girl they said would never walk has full movement down to each and every one of her 10 tiny toes.”
Amelie, said her mother, is the little girl she imagined from the very beginning.