Welcoming the Rainbow Baby: A Philadelphia Couple’s Journey to Parenthood

October 25, 2017 – Doctors Monisha and Parag Vora are an inspiring couple who are both beta thalassemia carriers and are currently expecting a child. They have decided to forego a traditional baby shower with registry and gifts, and instead launched an online baby shower fundraiser to support thalassemia medical research. CAF thanks Monisha and Parag for sharing their story with the community through this interview, and for celebrating their baby girl by helping individuals with thalassemia. We wish you the very best on your journey to parenthood!

CAF: Where do you live and what are your occupations?

Monisha: We live in the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am an ophthalmologist in private practice just outside the city.

Parag: I am a physician who takes care of kids in the emergency room.

CAF: Could you tell us a little about your story together?

M: We met in August of 2006 at a wedding in Cleveland, Ohio. At the time, Parag was a third-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University and I was just starting my first year of medical school at Stony Brook University in New York. We got engaged in the summer of 2009 and then married one year later in 2010.

P: That’s right. The best thing to come out of my life (so far) started in Cleveland, Ohio, which is something that you probably don’t hear too often. I like to joke that we met at a bar (because that was the first place the group that we were both with hung out together in pre-wedding festivities). Not too long after the wedding, we started chatting online, over e-mail, and on Skype, and eventually upgraded to the phone. I made my first visit to Long Island that October. As a student on a limited budget, I initially endured many long car trips and overnight bus and train rides. Two years later, I matched for my pediatric residency on Long Island, and the rest, as they say, is history!

CAF: How did you learn that you are carriers of beta thalassemia?

M: I knew I was a beta-thalassemia carrier since medical school when routine blood work revealed that I was slightly anemic. With a known family history of the trait on my father’s side, I later had confirmatory testing that revealed I was a carrier.

P: I had a vague recollection that I had been diagnosed as a carrier, and knew it ran in the family on my mother’s side. I had confirmatory testing in 2015, only to later find records from the late 1970s or early 1980s that confirmed it already.

CAF: You must be so excited for your new addition! When are you expecting the arrival of your little one?

M: We are expecting our little girl in early January 2018. She is our rainbow baby and we both feel incredibly blessed.

P: Yes!! I, though, am expecting her to know to arrive in December, slightly earlier than scheduled, so she can be our most precious “tax deduction.” I may or may not have Monisha do extra laps around our apartment starting in mid-December. As I turn 40 in mid-December, it will be difficult to plan a party as we don’t know when our little one will arrive, but her arrival will be a better present than any party!

CAF: What made you decide to have an online fundraiser for CAF as part of your baby shower?

M: After enduring two difficult back-to-back pregnancy losses in less than 18 months, the second of which was affected with beta-thalassemia major, we initially were not sure if we even honestly wanted to have a shower. However, after finding out that our third (and current) pregnancy was not affected, we felt incredibly blessed and lucky. We wanted to honor our first daughter, Asya (meaning “grace”), who was affected, by raising awareness about the disease and supporting the thousands of children and young adults and their families whose lives have been affected by beta thalassemia major.

P: After our experience, we obviously knew the cause that we wanted to support but weren’t aware of the organization until we searched online. In lieu of a registry and gifts, we decided to have our friends and family contribute toward the funds that we will be donating to CAF in Asya’s name.

CAF: Why do you support the work of CAF?

P: With all of the research that CAF supports, we sincerely hope that one day in the not too distant future, couples like us will not have to worry about their children being afflicted with Cooley’s anemia. Although we know that there will be others like us or that have been even more unlucky than us, we wish that no one would have to go through that experience.

CAF: Do you have any advice to give couples who are beta thalassemia carriers?

P: Although it felt at times like the odds were stacked against us, we had to remember that as 2 carriers, we still had a 75% chance of having an unaffected (or carrier) child with each pregnancy. After our 2nd loss, there was not much that anyone could have said or done at the time to make us feel hopeful, other than our reading stories of other couples who had success after having experienced loss. We encourage all couples who are carriers to share their stories as this is what provided us hope, and we hope that our story may provide hope for other couples out there that may be going through a similar experience.

CAF thanks Monisha and Parag for sharing, and we send them our warmest wishes for this special journey! To donate to Monisha and Parag’s baby shower fundraiser, click on this link. If you would like to host your own online fundraiser to support thalassemia medical research, email info@thalassemia.org.

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