At 19 years old, the most shocking news most of us hear involves Becky from down the hall hooking up with Brad, even though he’s dating her best friend Rachel. But for Alison Camp, 19 was the age she discovered she had an exceedingly rare medical condition known as uterine didelphys.
Put simply, she has two uteri, each connected to one fallopian tube and ovary.
Only one to two percent of women are born with this strange condition and it tends to be relatively harmless. Women affected can still conceive; indeed, Alison and her husband Tim Camp already had two wonderful children when they learned she was pregnant again.
“We were joking around with my regular OB that on Grey’s Anatomy there was a woman who had a baby in each uterus, and that could happen to me and we thought that was just hilarious. We joked because it was on TV, not because it was ever a possibility,” Alison said.
The joke was short-lived, however. At her 11 week checkup, her doctor performed an ultrasound, where they discovered that real life does sometimes emulate fiction: “She said well, here’s the baby in the right uterus and here’s the heart beat and everything looks great. So I just scan around, and here’s the baby in the left uterus,” Alison said. “And at that point we both started swearing and I thought [Tim] was going to pass out.”
The result of two separate eggs becoming fertilized at the same time, the babies are fraternal twins. It’s likely they were conceived at the same time, though possible one is a few days older than the other.
Twins are difficult enough for mothers with one womb; having two made this a much more high-risk pregnancy. Compounding on this fact is how rarely such a pregnancy occurs— only one to two cases are reported per year. Alison’s research concluded there have probably only been about 73 documented cases like hers. “Very rare. I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been doing medicine for 40 years,” said Dr. Shailini Singh, the maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Women & Children’s Hospital who was tasked with overseeing Alison’s high-risk pregnancy. She also noted that she wished someone would have advised Alison to elect for a surgery that would ensure pregnancy could only result in a single uterus.
The pregnancy went as best as could be hoped for in light of the circumstances. Like many twins, the Camp boys couldn’t quite hang in until full-term; the decision to deliver the two babies came just past the 25 week mark, 14 weeks premature, after doctors could no longer stave off labor with medicine meant to delay the onset.
Carter and Griffin Camp weighed a mere pound and a half each when they were born. The tiny babies were whisked away to the the NICU immediately. “I couldn’t touch them for the first couple weeks because they couldn’t handle touch,” Alison said.
The boys would spend a little over four months in the NICU, on ventilators, receiving blood transfusions, recovering from broken ribs, and a host of other complications common in premature babies. Carter went home several weeks before Griffin, who had still been experiencing drops in heart rate.
Now, the twins are happy and healthy, and the Camps hope to use the experience to instill self-confidence in the boys as they grow.
“(I’ll tell them), ‘you’ve been through a lot worse, you need to not cry about this. This is nothing,'” Alison said. “So I want them to know that ‘you are a fighter and you’ve already overcome so… the sky is the limit.'”