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Hi! I’m Jill, a stay-at-home-mom to William, Andrew, Daniel, and their big sister, Lucy, who is not here with us. Back at the beginning of 2012, I had never heard of an incompetent cervix, a cerclage, Trendelenberg, rainbow babies, etc. Now, since losing my daughter, I have learned this whole new lexicon to describe the nightmare that we experienced.
My husband and I tried to get pregnant for a year and a half, seeing a reproductive endocrinologist and doing fertility treatments. When I finally conceived, we were absolutely thrilled that we hadn’t needed to try something more aggressive (IUI or IVF). After a rocky start, I made it into the second trimester without any problems, and felt optimistic that we would bring our baby home at the end of July. That all changed when I went into labor at the end of March, over 4 months early. I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix (also known as cervical insufficiency), and though they tried to stop labor, my beautiful Lucy Anne was born several hours later at 23 weeks gestation. She weighed just barely over a pound and was 11.5 inches long. Despite her extreme prematurity and tiny size, Lucy surpassed all expectations, and two months later we were planning on taking her home around her original due date. In May, however, everything changed overnight. My beautiful, strong, stubborn girl was finally overwhelmed by a drug-resistant yeast infection she’d been fighting, and after a day and night of trying to turn things around, her father and I were forced to make a decision no parent should have to make. We had to choose to remove her from life support, knowing that she wasn’t going to get better this time. It was the most difficult thing I hope to ever have to do. We held Lucy, talking to her and kissing her, as she drew her last breath on May 21st, 2012.
Having Lucy forever changed our lives. We knew we still wanted more children, as we would have had Lucy survived. As I started to research cervical insufficiency, we began to slowly make plans for how to proceed. My doctor had offered me the standard protocol for diagnosed incompetent cervix for the next pregnancy: a transvaginal cerclage (TVC – where they basically stitch your cervix closed close to the bottom, working from inside your vagina) placed at 11 weeks, then bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. That didn’t sound fun, but of course I would do whatever it took to keep the next baby safe. It didn’t take me long in my research, however, to come across an alternate solution, the TAC – transabdominal cerclage. It is a band tied high around the top of the cervix where it joins the uterus, and it is placed surgically through the abdomen. It is meant to be permanent, unlike the TVC, which is snipped late in pregnancy to allow a vaginal delivery. The TAC requires cesarean sections for any future deliveries. The more I researched, the more clear it became that the TAC was what I needed to give any future babies the best chance.
As I was preparing to schedule a pre-pregnancy TAC, out of the blue I discovered I was pregnant! This came as quite a shock, since we weren’t really trying and hadn’t followed any of the previous fertility protocol. I have to be honest. I was happy and relieved (that it was so easy), but I wasn’t excited. I was terrified. I had gotten pregnant 6 weeks after Lucy’s death, but didn’t find out (because of my irregular periods) until I was almost 8 weeks pregnant. I knew I had to have the TAC, but now I was facing an in-pregnancy TAC, which are typically placed between 10-12 weeks. I hadn’t booked an appointment and time was running out. Fortunately, I was able to get in with one of the top TAC surgeons, Dr. Davis in New Jersey, and David and I flew out there when I was 13 weeks pregnant to have the TAC placed.
The pregnancy was rough and stressful, and I never was able to feel truly excited about it. We saw a therapist throughout the whole thing, and continued to attend our bereaved parent support group. It was difficult navigating a new pregnancy while our grief was still so fresh. I spent a not-insignificant part of every day sobbing. I was so sad that I started to be afraid it would somehow affect my baby. It was a difficult pregnancy anyway. The TAC did its job beautifully, and kept my big baby safe inside. But at about 23 weeks, I started contracting, and by 28 weeks the contractions were constant. At that point I had to go on bed rest anyway, and stayed on bed rest until William was born by c-section, a perfectly healthy 8 lbs 7 oz and 21 inches, at 39 weeks exactly. He was born ten days before Lucy’s first birthday. Our time since then has been filled with joy while we still grieve for Lucy.
In 2015 we welcomed our second TAC miracle baby after another stressful and difficult pregnancy. Andrew was born at 39 weeks 1 day, a robust 9 lbs 4 oz and 20.5 inches. The pregnancy was difficult, but went full term and the c-section went well. In 2017, Daniel joined us at 39 weeks, another big boy at 8 lbs 12 oz and 20 inches. Another difficult pregnancy, but this one was my best to date! We’re thrilled and beyond grateful to have our three boys home with us. None of them would have been possible without the TAC.
Throughout this experience, I have been continuously learning more about the available options to treat incompetent cervix. I have talked to hundreds of women about their experiences, and have learned so much from them. I’ve written a lot about my experience and what I’ve learned on my personal blog, mybigthirty.wordpress.com, but I finally decided I should create a new one to be a better resource for all the women who have gone or are going through what I did. I’ll be continually updating as I can with three little boys, and I hope this helps somebody.