Category Archives: Stories of Strength

Brave women telling their stories of incompetent cervix, loss, and the TAC.

Stories of Strength: Marcy’s Story

Marcy is well-known to everyone in the Abbyloopers community. Here is the story of her beautifully imperfect TAC journey leading to her perfect TAC miracles (cross posted from Abbyloopers).

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

 

Marcy 1

 

Marcy 2

 

Just to forewarn you all, my story is very long and complicated, lol. This is the very first time I’ve ever written it out. My “TAC journey” is not picture perfect, but it did result in my sweet boys. It begins with my 1st born son Joshua, back in 1998. It’s before I knew what a cervix was, and just how important and critical it is. I got pregnant with my first baby within 3 months of TTC, and assumed I’d have a normal pregnancy, like everyone else I knew had. Little did I know that my whole life would soon drastically change.

During the entire pregnancy, I had bright red bleeding and spotting. I saw my doctor several times, only to be blown off. At one point, the doctor filling in for him even went as far as to tell me that “my uterus had too much blood in it and this is why I was bleeding, to get it out of there.” I know, crazy! I knew that didn’t sound right, but it was my first pregnancy and I didn’t know any different. We didn’t have the internet as a resource back then.
So fast forward into 2nd trimester. In addition to all the bleeding and spotting, I was also having knife-like stabbing pains in my abdomen. This happened every day and would literally stop me in my tracks for a few minutes each time it happened. I told my doctor about it, but again was blown off. Later, I would find out that this was all due to my placenta slowly abrupting.

After my first ultrasound scan at 20 weeks, I decided to switch doctors. I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously with my pregnancy. Just 2 weeks later at 22+0 weeks, I woke up with what seemed like a full-on period. It scared me to death, I knew something was very wrong! I called my new OB. He said to come in immediately. Of course the weather was bad. I had to clear the mountain of snow off my car and get gas on the way (I was on empty with the light on). Then once at the hospital, the only parking spot I could find was in the very back of the lot, so I had to walk quite a ways to get there. When it rains, it pours. Finally, at my new OB’s office, he examined me. A look of panic and shock came over his face. He told me that I was dilated between 6-7cm, with membranes bulging through. I thought he was joking, but he said he was not.

They rushed me into a room downstairs and started steroid shots for baby’s lungs right away, and also got an IV started. They also called my husband, and he sped from work (an hour away) as fast as he could to the hospital. A neonatologist from another hospital came to talk with us before we were ambulanced over there, where they had a Level III NICU. We were told it was too late to try to place an emergency cerclage. I had dilated too much. We were devastated. We were also told that our son had NO hope, that he would be born within the hour, and he would not survive. They even went so far as to tell us if he were born and they didn’t feel he could survive, they would not try to help him . . . even if we wanted them to help him. They also told us if by some miracle he did survive birth, then he would have a lot of problems. They gave him a 50% chance of possibly surviving birth, and only a 9% chance of surviving without big preemie issues. All I can say is thank the Lord that He intervened when the doctors had no more options and no good answers for us!

After I was ambulanced to the other hospital, they found that I had dilated the rest of the way to 10cm, just on the way there. No contractions, just cervix falling apart. They admitted me on SHB (bedpans, head down – feet up, etc.), put me on IV antibiotics to help protect me from infection, and they STOPPED the steroid shots for my son. They said the shots were not effective that early at just 22 weeks. I have to say looking back, I really appreciated my new OB’s response when everything fell apart. He didn’t know if the steroids would work that early or not, but told me if there was even the smallest chance that they would work, he would start them. So fast forward, at 24+0 weeks, the nurse came to check on me and found that I was hemmoraging. So even though I was still dilated to 10cm, it was off to the OR for an emergency c-section, classical incision since I was having him so prematurely. Amazingly and miraculously, my water-bag never broke, I never got ascending infection, my son DID survive, being born at 24+0 weeks, weighing 1 lb. 4 oz. and 12.5” long. God protected him and brought him through everything during his 3.5 month NICU stay. He went from being the sickest, most critical baby in the unit, to actually surviving and coming home! And he miraculously fell into that 9% of preemies who survive without big preemie issues! We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our son is only here because of God bringing him through it all. My son Joshua is a healthy, strong 19-year-old young man today!

On to my 2nd pregnancy. We decided to start TTC 3 years later. We struggled with secondary infertility for over 3 years. After having a laparoscopy surgery to remove endometriosis / scar tissue / adhesions, we finally conceived! We were so thrilled! We really didn’t think it would ever happen again. My OB sent me to a high-risk perinatologist in town, and I was given a preventative McDonald transvaginal cerclage (TVC) at 12 weeks. After it was placed, the peri asked me if I had ever had surgery on my cervix before because it was very short and looked damaged. At that point, I had never had any surgery on my cervix, and my CL was 3.0cm. In spite of bedrest and P17 shots, I was funneled to my TVC by 15/16 weeks and was leaking amniotic fluid. Then at 19+3 weeks, I kept feeling like I had to have a BM, but nothing would come. This progressed into horrible back labor. My husband drove me to ER. He ended up carrying me in because the pain was so bad that I wasn’t able to walk. This was the beginning of our nightmare. Once examined, it was discovered that my TVC had failed, my water-bag had fallen halfway through, and I was dilated between 2–3cm, with pPROM and infection (chorioamnionitis). One of the nurses in the room had to excuse herself to go throw up. She left the room crying after seeing what was happening. She came back later and apologized. I wasn’t upset with her at all. We were all devastated. We tried to hang on with SHB and IV antibiotics. But by 20+3 weeks, all my amniotic fluid had finally leaked out completely, and I was bleeding due to the TVC tearing my cervix apart. We had to deliver him, there was no choice. It was an experience I can’t even put into words, just too deep . . . too much heartbreak and devastation. Our worlds were completely and utterly shattered. Our precious baby boy, Philip, was born at 20+3 weeks, and lived for 1hr 50min. We never got to see him alive, which haunts me most. We were told he passed away after he was born . . . he never even got his momma when he needed me the most. This was our little miracle baby that we had TTC for soooo long. Our son was finally going to get a little sibling to grow up with. But instead, we lost him and we were all left trying to pick up the pieces of our hearts. The hardest part of it was not knowing what happened, why my TVC failed, and why we lost our son. He was healthy and strong, so how in the world could this have happened?

Thankfully, 2 weeks after we buried our precious son, I found Abbyloopers on the internet. I had NO idea how much this would change our lives. I know this might sound silly, but I started reading all of the files, and following some of the girls’ TAC pregnancies, just waiting for them to get into their “critical CI weeks,” and wondering if they were going to lose their baby, like I had with my TVC. Oh my goodness, to my amazement, they stayed pregnant!! Their cervix did NOT give in. The TAC was actually holding strong and keeping them pregnant, and beyond those critical weeks! After I saw this happen over and over, I decided to set up a consult with a surgeon listed in the Doctor List.

At that time, I think Dr. Mason was the only TAC surgeon listed in Michigan. I consulted with him and he was so kind and compassionate. He reviewed all of my medical records. He agreed that my cervix was a mess. After examining it, he found that it was permanently dilated between 1-2cm in a NON pregnant state, and that half of my external cervix was missing and flush—badly damaged from my failed TVC. But he also wondered if I had more going on in addition to my cervix. Red flags for him were my placenta abruption with my 1st son, and then the pathology report with my 2nd son showing the placenta being all clotted up. After running many labs, he found that I had 2 clotting issues going on and said I would need to be on blood thinners for future pregnancies. I ended up also setting up a phone consult with Dr. Haney. After much confusion and feeling so torn emotionally, I finally decided to go to Chicago and have Dr. Haney do my TAC, pre-pregnancy. After making this decision, it was the 1st time in months that my husband and I felt peace in what we needed to do.

My TAC surgery went well, no complications. Dr. Haney also checked my tubes and for any possible endometriosis / adhesions, and everything was clear. My husband and I had decided that we would start TTC in 6 months following my TAC surgery, mostly because we were still grieving terribly. To be honest, we wanted another baby SO much, one to raise on this earth, but we really didn’t believe it could happen for us. We were looking at the TAC as a “safety net,” just in case we ever got pregnant again. And to our shock, we unexpectedly conceived just 6 weeks after my TAC surgery, with our 1st TAC baby!! It was a complete surprise, since we had struggled for so many years with secondary infertility. When I took the HPT, I remember we were both so focused on the “negative” window that neither one of us noticed the BFP staring us in the face, LOL.

The pregnancy, though complicated, went better than my other 2 pregnancies. I actually stayed pregnant through my “critical CI weeks” and ventured into UN-charted territory for the first time in my life! And even though my cervix shrank quite a bit at 18 weeks, my TAC held rock solid. I never funneled through it. Starting at 23/24 weeks, I began struggling with contractions. At this point, my MFM put me on tocolytics and moderate bedrest to try and help keep things calm. The contractions complicated things with my previous classical scar on my uterus. At 29+5 weeks, my MFM wanted me to come down for a “mag wash,” (magnesium sulfate) so I would be “re-sensitized” and hopefully start responding better to my tocolytics. When I arrived, my contractions kicked in out of nowhere, and were just minutes apart, so it became trying to stop them. After a combo of meds (and a round of steroids for baby’s lungs), the contractions finally stopped and I was sent home on tocolytics again. Just 2 weeks later, contractions got the better of me, minutes apart again, and my MFM decided to deliver my son. He was worried about possible uterine rupture with my scar, and the fact that I did not respond well to the magnesium sulfate last time. Ryan was born at 31+5 weeks, weighing 3 lbs. 10 oz. He spent 5.5 weeks in the NICU and did really well. He is a healthy, smart 12-year-old today.

Fast forward almost 7 years, and after having a 2nd lap surgery for endometriosis / adhesions, we had a surprise pregnancy. This was our 2nd TAC baby. I was 39 years old this time. It was a complicated and difficult pregnancy, mostly because of contractions—again. Only this time, they began earlier with a couple each day starting at 15 weeks. At 16 weeks, I funneled to the level of my TAC. I was really scared at first, but then, after messaging Dr. Haney and talking to my MFM about it, I felt better. They were not surprised and said they expected that to happen with true CI and that it only proved that I needed my TAC. As long as I didn’t funnel through my TAC, then I was in good shape! For the contractions, I was put on P17 shots again, and started on tocolytics at 20 weeks as needed, and was on moderate bedrest. By 23/24 weeks, contractions were pretty bad as I was having 2 an hour, almost every hour. In spite of all my contractions and my short cervix length (averaged 2.2cm but had measurements as low as 1.7cm), my TAC held rock solid for a 2nd time. I was given a round of steroids for baby’s lungs at 24 weeks this time, given my preterm delivery history.

At 30+5 weeks (on Christmas morning!), my contractions got really bad again. They came on quickly and were 3 minutes apart. My MFM admitted me to do a 2nd round of steroids for baby, and to put me on magnesium sulfate. He wanted to do the mag for the contractions, and also for baby – just in case baby came early (neuro-protection). My contractions slowed down significantly, so the plan was to keep me in the hospital to buy more time for baby. However, the next day, they decided to deliver baby because they found that he was having heart decels on the monitor and was not recovering well from them. This was the first time I had ever seen the look of panic on my MFM’s face. He told me that if they didn’t deliver baby now, we would lose him. They thought the cord was around his neck. We were so upset and so scared for our baby. So off to the OR we went. To my MFM’s surprise, once he had me opened up, he could see my son’s face through my uterus. It had become paper thin and I was on the brink of uterine rupture. And they also found that the heart decels were not due to the cord being around his neck. Instead my placenta was partially abrupting. My MFM thinks it was because I had an anterior placenta (on the front wall), and it had implanted on my classical scar. My little Roman was born at 30+6 weeks, weighing 3 lbs. 12 oz. He did really well in the NICU, and is a healthy little 4-year-old today.

I know my story may scare some people, and it’s definitely not “picture perfect.” But I know without a doubt that without the TAC, my last 2 miracles would not be here today. I’m so thankful to the Lord for leading me to Abbyloopers! It brought our wonderful Dr. Haney, the TAC, my amazing MFM, and my Abbysisters into our lives. And most importantly it helped us get our precious little miracles here. My oldest son was able to have the gift of getting 2 little siblings to grow up with. I will forever be thankful to Abbyloopers, for helping me through the most devastating time in my life when we lost our son, and for giving me hope in being able to possibly have another baby with the TAC.

Marcy

Marcy 3
 

Stories of Strength: Brynn’s Story

Brynn shares her story* from over the rainbow. Despite a short NICU stay, her TAC twins, Aislyn and Grayson, are happy healthy 6 month olds. Women often wonder if the TAC is effective for twins. As Brynn and many others know first hand, this “magic band” can handle multiples.

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

Nothing about our journey to parenthood has been easy. After years of fertility treatments and losing our angel twins, getting to 37 weeks with our rainbow twins felt like such a blessing. Little did we know we were in for another roller coaster ride.

As we neared the birth of our twins, it began to come up that I had hired a birth photographer. I got a lot of weird looks and awkward questions. To ensure a safe pregnancy, I had surgery to place magic bands around my cervix, necessitating a C-section. I know people were thinking, “Who wants pictures of a C-section?!” I am very thankful that Neely was able to participate in our journey. I trusted her to take pictures of everything and the pictures are tasteful and beautiful.

Our birth experience did not go as planned, but that makes me even more grateful for these amazing pictures. (PSA to other mamas-if you go into labor hours before your scheduled c-section and go to the hospital early hoping they will give you drugs, they won’t. No matter how many times you ask!)

For any parent the words “We have to take your baby to the NICU” is devastating. For us, those words created a nauseating sense of deja vu. Less than two years before, we lost twins at 23 weeks and the NICU was the scariest place on Earth. My whole pregnancy, I told people my goal was healthy babies and to never set foot in the NICU again.

Our NICU journey was cathartic in so many ways. We had amazing doctors and nurses who have such a heart for the tiniest babies. They kept us sane, answered a million questions, didn’t laugh at our attempts to dress the munchkins and were just as excited as we were at each milestone towards getting released.

Because a c-section is major surgery, I had to remain in the OR while the babies were whisked away to the NICU. Seeing the slideshow Neely compiled, showed me so many beautiful moments that I missed due to the c-section. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have these moments captured.

Our journey to have a family has been a walk of faith. Aislyn and Grayson are an answer to many prayers. We are so blessed to have these rainbow babies; Isaiah 61:3, they are truly beauty for ashes.

*This was first published on Ker-Fox Photography.

Stories of Strength: An Incredibly Strong Mama

The amazing mama who shared this story wanted to tell it anonymously. It’s such a horrible shame that she KNEW she needed a TAC and couldn’t get one because of her insurance. It’s a story I hear way too often. No parents should have to lose a child – let alone TWO children! – to satisfy their insurance. Thanks for telling your story, mama. I can’t wait to hear about your rainbow baby.

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

 

On April, 2008, my husband and I welcomed a healthy baby girl at 40+5 weeks. It had been a fairly easy pregnancy. I was induced and she was born eight hours after the induction. I refused an epidural until the pain became unbearable. At that point, I was told it was too late to get it. I got a dose of narcotics, but that didn’t help much. Though I had an episiotomy, baby turned her shoulders on her way out and tore my perineum. It took about a month to heal, but things got better with time. Five years later, we decided to try for baby number two. I had my Mirena IUD removed and I conceived that month. Everything had been going well except for a couple of episodes of unexplained spotting. I had also been having some pressure in my lower abdomen. Each and every check and ultra sound had shown that baby was fine, but that he was low lying. My cervix was also said to be friable; nothing serious.

However, on 7/15/13, I went for an anatomy scan and no sooner had she started the scan than I noticed her tense. She asked if I have fibroids; I said no. She asked if I was having contractions; I said I had been having Braxton Hicks Contractions on and off but that my OB had said it was normal. By this point, I was beginning to get worried. I mean, why all these questions? The tech kept asking me to change position and also kept pressing my tummy so hard it was somewhat painful. Eventually, she mentioned that the baby was very low. So low that she couldn’t get a good view of his toes. She soon excused herself and came back with Dr. White, Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM). He asked if I had been having any pain. I told him that I had spotting and bleeding 2 times in this pregnancy but ultrasounds showed that baby was fine. Each time, nevertheless, they didn’t check the cervix. 15 weeks was the 2nd ultra sound due to bleeding, and the tech had said that baby was fine. She did mention, however, that he lay a little low. Nothing to worry about. After that U/S, a nurse practitioner had done an internal check and said that my cervix seemed inflamed but also mentioned that some people just have a lot of blood during pregnancy. I told Dr. White that about two weeks after the nurse practitioner had checked me, I had started having some pain on my right hip and around my groin – right side only. They were about one to two minutes apart and about ten seconds long. They started about 10 pm and went on till the next afternoon. There was no bleeding / spotting. I called my OBGYN in the morning and she had no idea what that would be. She mentioned I may have kidney stones or round ligament pain, but asked me to give a urine sample to check for the kidney stones. I never heard from the doctor’s office, so I assumed that I was good to go.

Dr. White asked the tech to do a vaginal ultrasound. At that moment, Dr. White announced the bad news. My cervix was open. I was so naïve that I didn’t understand the implications of his news. He very gently explained that the cervix is supposed to remain closed until the baby is close to term. However, mine was already fully effaced and dilated at only 18 weeks. He said that this was very serious and that I would lose the baby as he wasn’t viable. He diagnosed me with an Incompetent Cervix and sent me to a hospital one hour away from home with hopes that I would be given an emergency cerclage. At the hospital, I was checked and was told that I was already 2cm dilated with bulging membranes. They kept me for observation. Luckily, I wasn’t having contractions. Later that night, one MFM came in to check me and she said that she might attempt a vaginal cerclage, but that she couldn’t do it that night. She said to wait until the next morning then the next doctor would do it for me.

The next morning, the MFM on duty checked me and said that he wouldn’t do anything at this point. It was too risky. My membranes had already been exposed to the vaginal bacteria for God knows how long. There was no way he was going to try to push back the membranes and attempt a suture. It was too late. I was definitely going to lose this baby. He told me to terminate the pregnancy or go home and wait for the baby to “fall out.” He tried to “console” me that I was still young and that I would be able to carry another baby to term with proper care. He even went ahead and narrated a story about a young woman who got a stitch after her membranes had bulged. How she got a bad infection that had her in the ICU for weeks before finally killing her. He said even if the infection didn’t kill me, it would definitely kill the baby and that I would possibly lose my uterus . . . meaning no more babies! I hated this doctor. I never ever wanted to see him again or be in the same room with him.

That midnight, my waters broke and the next day I was induced and delivered my sleeping son. He weighed 240 grams. He was so perfect and handsome. He looked just like his daddy. We were totally shattered. It’s as if our world came to an end. I had always heard of women miscarrying but I had never thought it would ever happen to me. I felt like a failure. My body had failed to do the one thing it was made to do. I felt so guilty. As if I had murdered our baby and destroyed my family. How could this be happening to us? Did we really deserve this? The MFM said that my next pregnancy would be high risk. That I would be followed closely and do a Trans Vaginal Cerclage (TVC) at around 16 weeks. We left the hospital empty handed and left our baby at the hospital, so cold and lonely.

I went back home and threw myself into research. I wanted to know what an Incompetent Cervix was. I wanted to know what my options were. I joined Facebook groups where I heard about other women who had been in my shoes. Though I felt relieved that I was not alone, the overwhelming sadness and guilt lingered. Through the Facebook group, I heard about Abbyloopers, an online group that advocates for a much better stitch than the TVC, the Trans Abdominal Cerclage (TAC). Needless to say, I joined Abbyloopers and delved into further research. As soon as I read about the TAC, how high it’s placed, its success rate, etc., I was sold. I immediately knew that a TAC was my antidote. I was going to get a TAC. I felt relieved and so very excited. Finally, I was going to have my rainbow. No bed rest needed. YAY!

A week after my loss, I saw my regular OBGYN. He told me he had no idea why my first pregnancy went well and this one didn’t. He also suggested doing a TVC at around 13 weeks of gestation and be closely monitored. He also mentioned possible bed rest. I told him I didn’t want a TVC. What I needed was a TAC. He was surprised I even knew what that was. He discouraged me saying it was overkill. It was too invasive, and that a TVC would work just as well. I wasn’t about to let him convince me otherwise. I had to get the TAC whether he liked it or not. He had no idea what I was going through, so to hell with him and his TVC ideas. I looked up a TAC doctor near me and found Dr. Ivar Einarsson at Brigham and Women’s. I scheduled a consult with him and I was so hopeful that this was it for me. Unfortunately, he told me that the kind of insurance I had would not cover the TAC until I tried a TVC and/or had a second loss. What? I almost went insane. How could this be? I was so sure I was going to get my TAC and now this man was telling me I couldn’t until I lost another baby! I called insurance but they refused to authorize a TAC saying it was not necessary at this point. I couldn’t afford to pay $20,000 out of pocket to pay this doctor. I also couldn’t afford the $5,000 needed to have this surgery done by Dr. Davis in New Jersey. This TAC route was looking bleak at this point. It was not going to be a possibility. We had run out of options. Due to this sad fact, my husband and I decided to try the TVC, our only option, and hope and pray for the best. Worst decision ever, needless to say!

In October, 2013, about three months after my loss, I got pregnant. Things started going downhill really early. I had bleeding at around 9 weeks. I went to the Emergency Room and baby was fine. My cervix was checked manually and it was said to be closed. That night, I had a lot of discharge that looked like my mucous plug. At this point, I was in the middle of changing OBGYN, so I had to wait about a week and a half to be seen by my new doctor. She checked my cervix and said that it was so low and open at the external os. She referred me to an MFM who was said to be the best at the area. The next day, I met this new MFM. Ultrasound showed that the cervix was indeed open at the external os but closed at the internal os. She also did a manual check and mentioned that my cervix was bad, that she could easily put a speculum through it. She put me out of work and on moderate bed rest until a week after my cerclage surgery. She also prescribed progesterone suppositories.

At exactly 13 weeks and one day, I had my TVC placed. I continued bed rest at home. A week after placement, I went in for my cervical length check and the doctor mentioned that she didn’t like how my cervix looked. It was tilted backward and she couldn’t see the cerclage too well. She told me not to go back to work until further notice. Each week I had vaginal ultrasounds, things kept looking better and better. My length was always between 4 and 5 cm. However, at 19 weeks, I was told that I was funneling past the stitch. I was given a pessary and put on hospital bed rest with bathroom privileges. Unfortunately, I continued funneling a week later and membranes budged. I was denied an emergency TVC due to slight fever; but was put on strict bed rest. The foot of my bed was elevated, trendelenburg position, and I had to eat, drink, pee, and poop in that position. I was miserable to say the least, but was very determined to do everything in my power to keep baby cooking. I religiously stayed in this position for about a week, but still, my membranes kept bulging to the point that I could feel them with my hand!

Unfortunately, my water broke and my pessary and cerclage had to be removed. My MFM explained that these were foreign objects and that she did not want to risk an infection. I was checked every few hours for infection. I was informed that as long as I did not develop an infection, then baby would stay in until 32 weeks. I had hopes. My doctor came in one morning and gave me important dates. Dates that included when steroids would be administered, when baby was viable, when baby would be 28 weeks, and finally, 32 weeks, delivery day. I was so hopeful. I prayed and prayed. Sadly, that same day, my cord prolapsed. The pregnancy had reached an end. I had to be induced. The next day, February 27, 2014 @ 21+4, we lost yet another perfect baby boy. We were beyond devastated, but then my husband and I decided not to lose hope; to look into the TAC once again.

I called up Dr. Einarsson, the TAC doctor I had met after my first loss and after consulting with him it was decided a TAC was my only option if I wanted to have more babies. My MFM was also 100% on board with this option. Luckily, or let me say ironically, my insurance covered my TAC, no questions asked. On 4/20/2014, while the Boston Marathon was taking place, I had my TAC done. It was bitter sweet that I finally had the one thing that I had needed from the word go. I felt relieved and hopeful that at last, our nightmare was at an end. My husband and I felt like we had another much safer chance at having our rainbow. We now have hope. Hope that eventually, we will put this TAC to work and that it will help us finally bring home a sweet and healthy, full term baby.

Stories of Strength: Felicity’s Story

Felicity is an Australian TAC mama! She has written from the other side of this whole TAC experience – from over the rainbow, I guess you could say. She has two gorgeous, healthy girls. Note that her TAC is not mersilene, but IV tubing; an interesting variation from most TACs placed in the US. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Felicity!

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

 

The Delight a Cervical Cerclage Promises
The story of Australian mum, Felicity, and two very different pregnancies.

Pregnancy One: Baby girl, Allegra, born by c-section on 09/09/09 at 39.5 weeks.

“What if I sneeze?” I asked.
“Yes, that could bring on labour” my obstetrician noted with that calm bedside manner you expect.

And after spending a few nights at the Gold Coast’s John Flynn Private Hospital he then said “it’s best if we transfer you to the Mater. If you deliver now we can’t look after the baby anyway – you’d have to go there.”

That was the third precautionary advice I’d been given in a matter of days. The first was at the scheduled ‘growth scan’ when the sonographer said “I think the doctor will admit you immediately. You may not be going home.” The second, that really stunned me, delivered by the resident obstetrician at the scan sounded much like this – “you really need to get to 28 weeks.” My thoughts immediately jumped to how I was going to control my ‘incompetent cervix’ and ensure it didn’t reduce in length anymore. I couldn’t come up with a plan. After all, I hadn’t even felt it shorten – no contractions, no indication whatsoever.

For a first pregnancy, the detection of a single umbilical artery and a baby with only one kidney at 12 weeks, an amniocentesis at 20 weeks, identification of an incompetent cervix at 25.5 weeks and diagnosis of gestational diabetes at 29.5 was making for an eventful 2009.

By far, the most significant statement though, made on 10 June 2009 read like this: “There is funnelling of the membranes down the internal os of the cervix which is now only 10 mm in length. This may remain like this for several weeks or may result in early PPROM or PTL. In view of the high risk for preterm delivery suggest administration of steroids and bed rest.”

With a new obstetrician, I was to become a patient of Brisbane’s Mater Mothers’ Hospital, the Queensland hospital of choice for high quality maternity services with an unmatched neonatal intensive care unit.

And so it was true. I was administered steroids, prescribed progesterone and nifedipine, hospitalised for 60 days and ordered to total bed rest (with a further 30 days of bed rest at home). Total bed rest meant I was allowed to stand to walk to the bathroom – only. Yet one week earlier I was delivering a large arena event for the Queensland Government which incorporated thousands of students and teachers. In fact, the results of one scan at 25.5 weeks meant life slowed down to the pace of a snail!

At 34 weeks my care was transferred back to my original obstetrician at John Flynn Private Hospital, I was released from hospital and awaited the planned delivery of my baby by elective caesarean at 39.5 weeks.

Finally, she was greeted by two passing statements from that same obstetrician who was so calm many weeks before – “Felicity, you have a girl” and “your cervix is completely blown out.” And so it was, the distress, worry, sadness and anxiety turned to glee, with just one moment of calm to punctuate the crisp, sterile air of the operating suite.

Felicity

Felicity 2

Pregnancy Two: Baby girl, Ilaria, born by c-section on 28/03/14 at 37.5 weeks.

Prior to even falling pregnant with baby number two I set a precedent for this experience by doing the research, followed by the advising. I wasn’t going to put myself in the anxious position of reactive reasoning as I had with my first pregnancy. To my obstetrician at the Gold Coast’s John Flynn Private Hospital I asked what he would do. The reply – a trans vaginal stitch. I knew it only had a success rate around 60%. I wasn’t satisfied.

To Laurie Brunello, a Brisbane-based doctor I had found through extensive online research – “I’m here to find out about a trans abdominal cerclage, and it’s success rate for incompetent cervix.” He replied “a cerclage will enable you to maintain your normal activity level throughout your pregnancy. Just don’t go sky diving.” He added that he’d been doing cerclages since the mid-1970’s, is one of a few obstetricians who do the surgery in Australia, can claim a 90 – 95%+ success rate and believes no woman should have to lose a baby to request the procedure. Dr Laurie Brunello was to be my saving grace.

In February 2012, under general anaesthetic at Brisbane’s Mater Private Hospital he lassoed my cervix with a ring of plastic IV line. I remained in hospital for five days post-surgery as the healing process started for the second cut along my previous c-section scar.

With some sadness, albeit great trust and admiration for Dr Brunello’s specialty, I had to take his advice to have my future pregnancy monitored by Dr Alexander Alexander. The time had come for Dr Brunello to retire. My confidence remained steadfast though – Dr Alexander had been trained in the cerclage procedure by Dr Brunello.

By July 2013 I was expecting baby number two and by September I had seen Dr Alexander for the first time. To my new obstetrician I explained that while I hadn’t lost any children, a shortening of my cervix to 10 mm with baby number one was unexplained by no family history, no previous pregnancies and no surgery. What I did know though was that I simply did not have the emotional strength to go through another pregnancy with forced bed rest from 25 weeks. Sensing my concern and noting my past history his advice was to reduce activity from 18 – 26 weeks. At this point I was reminded of Dr Brunello’s humorous storytelling of sky diving, or lack thereof. I shared this with Dr Alexander and told him I had grate faith in the cerclage, had chosen the pioneer and best specialist in Australia for the procedure, and felt positively able to continue my pregnant life along the same vein as my pre-pregnant days.

Unlike pregnancy one in 2009, 2013 and 2014 presented as a very uneventful ante-natal period. I walked each morning up until 18 weeks gestation then remained relatively sedate until 26 weeks. I did however swim most days during months five and six of the pregnancy, undertook light gym activity post-26 weeks up until 34 weeks and continued working fulltime until 36.5 weeks.

Control would be one way to describe this pregnancy. I felt in control. But also, health, excitement, and energy are words that spring to mind. I was doing this! And with complete elation I heard correctly when Dr Alexander announced he would bring Dr Brunello out of retirement to assist delivery of this beautiful baby on 28 March 2014 at Brisbane’s Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital.

When the day arrived and our bundle of joy cried out for the first time, “Ilaria!” we replied after Dr Brunello asked what her name would be. With a gentle Italian lilt he spelt “I .. L .. A .. R .. I .. A..” and announced “my father is Ilario – names ending in ‘a’ signal the female variant. In Italian it means happy, cheerful.”

Not only were we happy and cheerful, but in the same room for the first time was the complete team that made this pregnancy stress-free, joyful and successful. What a delight!

Felicity 3

Stories of Strength: Tanesha’s Story

Tanesha’s story is so sadly familiar. After losing three beautiful babies, she’s got her TAC and is ready to try again. Thanks for sharing your experience, Tanesha.

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

I’m about 2 days post-op from my Dr. Davis pre-pregnancy TAC and decided to share my journey up to this point. I have not given up hope and I hope that you will not either. I’m 35 years old and I have 2 children from a prior marriage – a 16 year old daughter and 12 year old son. My husband and I married in January 2010. We conceived twin boys January 2013 on our 3 year wedding trip to NYC and were on top of the moon.

Vacation

Tanesha and her husband on vacation, when the twins were conceived.

At my 20 week anatomy scan it was discovered that my cervix was open and I had to be rushed to L&D. Long story short, I had an emergent cerclage, and since my membranes were already bulging, they then ruptured. After Pprom (preterm premature rupture of membranes) of baby A’s waters and 3.5 weeks on hospital bed rest, I had to deliver them due to infection and they were born too soon. After meeting with specialists and all, it was decided that due to my history, my issue was more related to the fact that I had twins and not my cervix. No one thought that I’d need a preventative cerclage and that it was more risky since it could cause infection. I would only have p17 (progesterone) shots and weekly cervical length checks.

Angels Tyler and Taylor

Tanesha’s beautiful boys, Tyler and Taylor. Photo by NowILayMeDownToSleep photographers.

Taylor and Tyler feet

Taylor’s and Tyler’s perfect tiny feet. Photo by NowILayMeDownToSleep photographers.

It didn’t take me long to get pregnant and I did so 4 months after my loss in October 2013, the same month my twin boys were due. I was so excited and thankful for another chance. I stayed positive. Had affirmations that I posted daily. I started a journal. I tried to drown out my fears with faith and hope. February 17th, I went and did a little shopping. When I got home I noticed some brown spotting. I was 17 weeks and had just had my first p17 injection about 5 days prior and my cervical length at that time was 5 cm. I decided to go to L&D as a precaution even though I felt that I was overreacting. Of course, as soon as I was checked out, the sonographer told me that my cervix was open and she could already see my baby girl’s hand. Heartbreak all over again! I had my baby girl within 24 hours and started the process of grief and disbelief all over again.

I started researching and found Dr. Davis and Dr. Haney. Since Dr. D was less than 2 hours away from me and I had such a good feeling about him I called, did a phone consult, and scheduled my appointment for a little more than 6 weeks from my loss. My husband had this week off already because my stepson is attending Duke this fall and on Monday we had to go down for Duke Blue Devil days in NC. Thankfully Dr. D had the same week open for my TAC. We went down on Thursday for pre-op. It took less than 2 hours and we checked into our hotel, the Hampton Inn on Blackhorse Road, before heading to his office since we were so early. The hospital rate for our stay was $99 and it was nice, clean, and in a good busy area with lots of restaurants. The hospital was about 5 minutes away and easy to find. Dr. D didn’t think we would get GPS coverage in our area, but we did and found it quickly. We used free valet parking and headed up to the 3rd floor for our appointment. We waited about 20 minutes and filled out some paperwork and Dr. D came and got us. We chatted, admired his collection of sodas, and I cracked up at his dry humor and multitasking skills. He asked me what I was going to have for my “last meal.” SMH. That didn’t help my nerves but it still cracked me up. He then walked us down to show us where to come in for surgery the next day. No food or drink after midnight. He gave us some restaurant suggestions and then we were free to go.

Fast forward to Friday. We checked in in the general same day surgery area around 11 am. Be prepared to wait an hour or 2 to actually go back for this part. I paid $100 copay and finally went back. The nurses were awesome in prepping me. They were really sweet and talked to me a lot. They were sweet even though my veins gave them problems (they give everyone problems). They went and got my husband and explained how everything would work, and then I finally went back around 2:30 or so for the surgery. I did not see Dr. D beforehand and I was knocked out almost immediately from general anesthesia. When I woke up, they wheeled me to recovery and I felt pretty good. I was not really loopy after getting to my room. I was a little hungry but not starving and I was on a liquid diet for 24 hours. My husband said that Dr. D came up to him and told him, “Piece of cake” and shook his hand. That was his post-surgery report in true Dr. D fashion. Lol. The next day after having the catheter removed I did some walking around, had a post-surgical ultrasound, and Dr. D gave me a summary of his reports and helped me with aftercare instructions. We then hit the road and came back home.

Post op selfie

Tanesha’s post-op selfie.

I am feeling a lot better than I thought I would. Besides having D&Cs after each loss, I had never had major surgery so I was pretty freaked out and worried. I felt in good hands and I am glad about my decision. I still have worries about conceiving after the TAC, etc., but I feel like this was necessary to move on. I’m 35 now and I would like to have to my rainbow as soon as possible. Dr. D gave us no restrictions. We can start TTC (trying to conceive) as soon as we feel up to it. I was actually ovulating when he did my ultrasound the day before the surgery (which I already knew) so hopefully things will stay intact and I will bounce back to my normal schedule soon. Sorry that this post was so long but I wanted to share my experience. Wish us luck on our new journey of TTC with the TAC and remember to stay strong and never give up on your dreams!

Thank you to Dr. D

Tanesha saying thank-you to Dr. Davis post-op.

Stories of Strength: Polly’s Story, Part 2

When we left Polly last, she’d just seen her precious Gabriel in the NICU for the first time. Sadly, Gabriel was never able to come home from the hospital, like so many other babies born too early because of IC. Thank you again, Polly, for sharing what I know was the most difficult experience of your life.

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

 

After effects of everything didn’t hit yet, until the ride home. It was a 2 hour trip to my dad’s house, a lonely drive alone. All I could think to do was call my best friend, screaming. She didn’t know, hadn’t read, all she knew I was screaming at her. Finally I was able to calm down just enough to tell her, the baby is dead. That is all I know to say. The baby is dead. All I heard from the other end was her screaming and crying. She wasn’t able to meet him. Something I regret so much, you would think my best friend would be able to meet our first child. Nope, she met him 2 days later. The first night was like a blur, all we knew to do was lay in bed and stare off into space. We cried, blanked out, and cried more. One of the worst Wednesdays of our lives.

Thursday is when everything started to hit home, the funeral home. We had to make it official that our son died. We had to choose between this design and that design, like we were picking out carpet color. It seemed so wrong, why are we acting as if this was a remodel? It seemed like hours upon hours being there. Finally we were able to finish things and leave. We were escorted out to where he would be laid to rest. It was a blur again, like a dream that wasn’t real. So many babies were there, just rows upon rows. Some dating back to the 70’s, can you imagine losing a child in the 70’s and still dealing with it? A fear/pain came over me: that is how I’m going to be. In 30 years I’m going to be here, dealing the same way. I’m going to be “that” woman, the one who lost her child. Never again will I be known as Polly, rather that woman.

Everything rushed to me all at once when we got back into the jeep. My first true break down, all I could do was ask why. Why did it have to be me, why did I have to lose my son after we fought for him? So many questions, but so few answers. Then Friday came, the day I will never forget. I was the first one there, the director asked me to come view him to make sure thing were to my liking. My liking? Again, making it seem like we’re remodeling our home. Walking through the far double doors I turn to my left and there he was. There was my son, in a casket. Going up to him, my heart beating, I started to sweat like I was in an incubator. Then I’m there, looking down at him. He is so big, handsome, and peaceful. My beautiful child, my miracle baby, the sole of my existence. All I could do was stare at him, stare at the life I created. The life that was taken away from me, the life that should not even be here right now. That should still be in my belly growing stronger. My baby should NOT be laying here!

The rest of the day was a dreamy blur. Hour after hour I stayed more outside. People coming and going. Giving me condolences, sympathy. The one phrase I heard most that day, “I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t imagine being in your situation.” It was one phrase I could not understand, why would you even consider being in my situation? It’s something no should ever have to think about, or even consider. Then it was time, time to take him to his final resting place. I had to come to terms, he was gone. I was about to let him go forever. I would never see my son again, after this day he would only be a memory in my mind or pictures I have. My son, a memory of the past. Damn it.

Walking to the resting place, it took everything I had not to fall. Not to just give up and fall down to the ground to beat it. We got there, Robby and I sat in the front row. I don’t even remember who we were sitting with. Only thing I can remember is digging my head into Robby’s shoulder. After the preacher man did his thing, we decided we wanted to do ours. We had a particular song that we wanted to dedicate to him. A song that helped portray what we felt, how we felt: Angel’s Son by Sevendust. How he was fighting every single day. . . . During the song, we did something the director said no other parents have done. We sat there and watched him be lowered into his resting place. During the song, he was lowered completely and the fake green sheet put over. My son was gone, there was no turning back now.

As we stayed back to take pictures, again so many came up to me. I don’t remember what most said after the lowering, really didn’t care. All I cared was to figure out how were we going to live? How are you to live after having such a love be taken away? At one point I looked off in the cemetery and wondered to myself, do I even want to? Where would I be at, could I be close to him? So many thoughts ran through my head. I never shared them until now. So many would had taken it so negatively and probably tried to interfere. I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t do anything, but the thoughts were there. Running rampant in my mind, what was the easiest way? Pills? Cutting? I knew that I wouldn’t use a gun; that scared me too much. I had so many scenarios through my head of what I could do, how I could do it, and what letter I would leave. The thoughts seemed so pure, like it was natural. The thought of not having Gabriel with me, never holding him, getting to hear his voice, never getting a kiss or hug from him was something that put the darkest shadow in my heart.

After that we go out with family members to try to start coping, it took our minds off a little bit but it lingered so much. When we got home, we tried to talk. Not many know how hard it is to talk even about the simplest things when you are so traumatized by an event. You don’t know if you want to cry, scream, smile, laugh, or punch the wall. We made it through the next couple of days, holding each other. Trying to be with each other as much as we could. We never knew just how much we loved or needed each other.

We had an OB appointment October 23rd, my birthday actually. We decided we wanted to give Gabriel a sibling. So many were against it, against the thought of us “replacing” Gabriel. Little did they know, you can NEVER replace that boy! That boy is my first born, my first love. Despite what everyone said, we went ahead with it. We got Provera to start my period, and Femara to start again. November came with my period, we were excited. Maybe soon we will be pregnant again, and Gabriel will have a sibling to look after. November cycle came and went, along with December. We were sort of hurt, but we knew it would happen. January cycle came and went. Then February cycle, I had a feeling this was it. I knew in my heart this was it. Amazingly, March 1st, 2013 we found out we were pregnant. I knew it! That was our cycle, we were so excited again. We went to the OB as soon as we got a positive pregnancy test, beta levels were 9. I caught it just after implantation! Progesterone was started, we knew this was it. A week later all symptoms stopped. I got worried, so I took another test. Negative. My heart sunk so far into my stomach I thought it was coming out. I decided that night, we’re going to ER. I told them the story, a u/s was done. Nothing. Nothing was there. Beta came back at a 2. I was no longer pregnant, the miscarriage already started.

It started all over again, the pain of losing another one. Most don’t think that you can’t have hurt feelings, you were only pregnant for less than 2 weeks. You don’t even have a chance to bond, but believe it or not you do. You bond with the baby as soon as you see the positive pregnancy test. That put a strain on me, what am I doing wrong? What is wrong with me? I didn’t take Femara that cycle, I let everything pass naturally. The worst feeling is when I passed a clot, I had a feeling that was it. That was my baby. My baby was there, in the water. I had to flush my baby away, I had to see another baby be taken from me. My heart got darker.

In April I went back to my OB that helped us get pregnant with Gabriel. He was saddened by the loss of Gabriel, and I was diagnosed with IC officially. He said he was determined to get us pregnant again. That I will have a baby, a living child to take home. So in the middle of April we started again. In May, I got another faint positive. Oh I was so scared. Then we found out, negative beta. First false positive. Another cycle down. June cycle came, another faint positive. Another negative beta. Second false positive. This crushed me so badly, I wanted to give up. The next few months, all negative. Cycle after cycle I started to feel more crushed and beaten. Every month, my charts showed ovulation. OPKS showed strong surges. Nothing at all. So many questions started to arise, what is wrong? In November, I decided to request another HSG be done. At first my OB was denying it, but after a careful talk finally got him to do it. First of January we were able to finally have one done, hoping for answers. All we got was more questions. My HSG was perfect, they said you could not ask for a better result. Tubes so clear the dye flowed so freely, uterus looking perfectly shaped. Crushed again. No answers to our questions. So we decided to try 2 cycles of Ovidrel a friend had sent me. It was a lower dose, so I wasn’t afraid of OHSS. January cycle we did it, nothing. The only thing I got was a very weird period, one I wasn’t even sure if you could call it one. Then we tried the second one, feeling hopeful. Nope again all negative. I thought for sure this was it again. Here comes my period, very heavy and clotty. Figuring it was from the weird one last cycle.

So here I am now, waiting to start using OPKS. Waiting to track ovulation to see if this will be another failed cycle. You would think that after everything, we would have a child by now. So now we’re deciding, when is it time to stop? When do you finally give up the last pill? Everything has had its ups and downs since October 2012. There are times that I go back to those thoughts, but I have to pull myself out of them. I started back to university August of 2013. I decided that I needed to give Gabriel a reason to be proud of me. Right now I’m in my next to last semester, I graduate December 2014 with my Bachelor’s degree in counseling. Even though I’m lost most days, I’m proving to myself every day that I’m stronger than what I thought the previous day. I hope by this time next year, I will have a beautiful child to love on. That I can hear them cry.

Stories of Strength: Brittany’s Story

Brittany, whose cervical insufficiency was compounded by treatments for precancerous cells on her cervix, had her TAC placed as an emergency procedure late in her pregnancy. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. This is one way that a TAC can fail, and one option for how to proceed when it does. Thank you for sharing your story, Brittany. You’re a strong mama, and we wish you the very best.

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

My name is Brittany and this is my story. I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant and while I was happy to find out I was carrying twins, I also had found out I had pre-cancerous cells in my cervix. Due to a weak cervix, I had my twin boys at the gestational age of 24.5 weeks and they had to stay in the NICU for four months. I had to have two surgeries on my cervix and was only left with 9mm functional cervix and was told I am lucky to already have my kids.

Fast forward to 2013, my husband and I wanted to try for another baby because our kiddos are now 5. Remembering what the other doctors said about my cervix, I told my new doctor I would need a cerclage done. I was about 6-8 weeks pregnant when I started to have some bleeding on and off but my cervix was still shut. But I kept insisting bleeding is not normal and my cervix is barely there . . . Unfortunately, at 15 weeks I went into full on labor and that’s when the military doctors FINALLY believed me and my cervical issues. So they rushed me to a hospital in Savannah, GA. I stayed there over night and all contractions stopped. We were referred to Dr. Davis but had to drive up to NJ to be seen for the TAC (trans-abdominal cerclage). Two other doctors said I was too far along to have it done, but Dr. Davis had hope as long as we could get there.

We made it up there and had an amazing surgery. I got to see my baby, got the TAC, and Dr. Davis was amazed at how well it had gone. I went from 9mm to 3cm. He told me it looked great but we weren’t out of the woods yet. Mind you I had been bleeding and while Dr. Davis was doing my TAC, he couldn’t see why I was bleeding/clotting. Sadly, at 18 weeks my waters ruptured which is known as PPROM (preterm premature rupture of the membranes). The TAC did not fail – my cervix never opened – but since I was bleeding, the blood was like sandpaper and tore my membranes. I was told to abort our baby, but I had faith and had heard so many stories of fellow ladies going through the same thing, so I chose to be on strict bed rest. But, on week 19+6 I went into labor and had to go to the hospital. Since my daughter was not at a gestational age where she could survive, Dr. Davis told my doctor to just go in and cut the TAC instead of having a c-section since a c-section would further damage my uterus. I delivered the next day at 20 weeks. The nylon “string” he used is still around my cervix. I am currently trying to see Dr. Davis again to have it removed and get a pre-pregnancy TAC to eventually try again one day for our rainbow baby. It is not a guaranteed fix but I know it will hopefully help get me to a gestational age of a healthy baby. I hope my story can help in some way or give information on some questions you may have. Thank you for reading my story. Please keep your fingers crossed for us that everything goes well in the future and we get our rainbow we so desperately want.

Stories of Strength: Polly’s Story, Part 1

This week’s story of strength is the first part of Polly’s experience with cervical insufficiency. Polly, like most of us, was blindsided by her incompetent cervix. Thank you for sharing, Polly.

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

 

After 6 ½ years, the morning of February 2nd, 2012 would change our lives forever. We got our first positive pregnancy test. Excited as mess, I called Robby to rush home just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things! Coming home, I sprung the test on him. All he could do was smile, a smile that you could tell had fear in it. After confirming through a local place, we were on the hunt for an OB. Sadly the OB that we were using was too far for us to travel. So we decided to search for one where we lived. A friend I had met in school told me about this OB that was really good; she listened, and cared. Excited, I booked the first appointment. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as it was too early for an ultrasound. Instead all my levels were checked. My progesterone was low and dropping, my body was not producing enough. Easy fix, progesterone suppositories. The next appointment I was far enough along to finally get an ultrasound. I was so scared; what if there wasn’t a heartbeat? What if I was wrong? Thankfully there it was, a heartbeat. 152 bpm! Perfect! Things were perfect, no problems for the next few weeks.

Around 13/14 weeks I started having really bad back pains, bad enough that when one struck it literally brought me to the floor. I was not able to stand, I would fall every time. Going back to my OB, I explained what was going on. It was the first time she told me to stop being paranoid. This pain continued for another 2 weeks then magically stopped. At 17 weeks I started to spot red blood. Not a lot, but enough to notice on tissue. I called again, and again was told to stop being paranoid. All first time moms “see” things. After this I decided that since I was out of school I would take it easy. I just had a feeling that I needed to.

At my 20 week scan we discovered that we were having a boy. Gabriel would be his name. We were both so happy, that is what we were hoping for. We wanted the perfect family, a first born son then a second born girl. You know to have that big brother protection when she gets older. That was our dream, and this was the start of it! The next 6 weeks I rested, relaxed, didn’t do much of anything. At 26 weeks I woke up with the most intense pain I ever felt! I literally screamed waking my husband up from a deep sleep. It felt like something was ripping my insides apart. The pain did not let up until a few hours later. I again called my OB, told her exactly what happened. She told me it was normal to feel pain and that I needed to get used to it. But this kind of pain? Yes that kind of pain she told me. Stop being paranoid! After that I laid around even more. At 28 weeks 2 days I started to spot red again, and I started freaking out yet again. I call her, and again, “stop being paranoid! It’s probably from sex,” but I hadn’t had sex since 26 weeks after the pain I had. “Oh well you’re just stressed/paranoid for nothing.”

That Thursday night, at 28 weeks 3 days, I felt funny, just a feeling that was jerking me. This feeling wouldn’t go away, it just kept growing. I decided that night just to go to bed, maybe I am just being paranoid. I started to believe that I was being a pest, and I was paranoid enough to make myself feel/see these past things. I woke up around 1 am Friday morning hungry as normal. That feeling was still there, but I ignored it. After I drank some milk, I started to vomit. Why was I vomiting? My morning sickness stopped around 16 weeks. Every time I would vomit, that feeling got intense and I felt something weird. After about the 5th time, I decided to hell with my OB. I’m going to the hospital. So I woke Robby up and told him we gotta go now. On the way to the hospital that feeling, it grew so intense my anxiety started to rise. I was close to having an anxiety attack, even though I didn’t know what the feeling was.

After we arrived at the hospital, they wheeled me up to L&D. Since I was up walking, joking, cutting up, they didn’t check me right away. They went ahead and hooked my belly up to the contraction monitor, but no contractions were shown. They thought Gabriel was just swimming around, and that was the reason they couldn’t keep his heartbeat on the screen. It was actually an hour before they checked me. The nurse and I were joking about something keeping a smile on her face. She told me she had to check my cervix, that it was required, and that was fine by me. The smile on her face turned into the most lost, afraid look I’ve seen. After taking off her gloves, she literally ran out of the room. My heart sank, and I knew then that those feelings were telling me something was wrong with Gabriel. Oh my god, the first thought was he died. Next thing I know, a doctor and a slew of nurses rushed in. All talking to and over one another, next brought an ultrasound machine in. I couldn’t breathe; I just knew something was wrong. When I was able to hear his heartbeat on it, I could breathe again.

That is when we got the news, he was head down engaged in my birth canal, and I was 7 cm dilated fully effaced bag bulging out. There was no time left, he was coming that morning. My baby boy would be here within hours. NO I can’t believe this. He’s not ready, I’m not ready. They told me there was nothing they can do, I was too far along. The fear I felt before was nothing compared to what was in my heart then. After breaking my water, he told me they were putting me on Pitocin to speed things up. After it was started, a new OB walked in. It was my OB, the one who kept telling me I was paranoid. The one who made me feel like I was being a pest to them. She looked shocked that I was there. After everyone left, all I could do was cry. I cried for myself, I cried for Gabriel, I cried for Robby, I even cried for the nurse who said she was hungry! I was so upset, I was not ready for him to be out.

At 11:15am, Gabriel Aiden Marion Swafford was born at 2 pounds 10 ounces, 16 inches long. My perfect baby boy, but he wasn’t crying. I didn’t hear him, “what is wrong with him” I kept screaming. Why is he not making noise? He was rushed away shortly after, and I was wheeled into my room. I didn’t know if he survived, if he was alive or not. When I got into my room, the nurse would not tell me anything about Gabriel. She acted as if he didn’t exist. At 1 pm my OB came in to ask me what hospital I wanted to send him to. Finally at 2 pm, I got to see my son for the first time. After 3 hours, there he was. There was the baby that was growing inside me. He was so small, but oh he had some of the longest legs I’ve ever seen. The nurse and the lady from the hospital kept hounding me about paperwork. Every time I tried to look at him or ask about him, they would redirect my focus back into filling out form after form after form. Finally when I was done filling out forms they took him away. I wasn’t even fully introduced to him and they took him away! I begged them not to, just another 5 minutes. No they told me, that I can see him when I’m discharged out of the hospital. He was transferred 70 miles away from me.

That night was one of the worst nights of my life. Not knowing what was going on, not knowing what was wrong with him. The only reason I could sleep that night was narcotics. Finally it was sunlight, it was morning. Time to get out of here and haul butt to Tupelo! At first my OB refused, she wanted to keep me an extra day. I told her bluntly and rudely, either discharge me or I’m walking out. I WILL GO SEE MY SON! Finally she agreed, and I was discharged around 12 pm. We went home, packed what we could and left to Tupelo. When we got there a new set of fears came over me. What if he died over the night? What if he’s so sick that he won’t make it? Did I fail him? Why did my body fail him? So many questions came in my head as I walked through the lobby into the elevator. Second floor, NICU. A place I had never been, nor did I ever want to be. Front desk clerk said more paperwork before we went back there. Finally done signing our life away, he gave us the tour. Instructed on what we needed to do every visit, where we needed to go. He escorted us to his room. There he was . . . in a weird box looking thing. I was so scared to go into the room. Tears came pouring down violently. It was so hard to breathe, but I went in. There he was. My perfect baby boy.

Gabriel - Polly's Story

Stories of Strength: Colleen’s Story

My second Story of Strength is from Colleen. These are two posts from her blog, nvoutbackwoman.wordpress.com. Colleen is currently 16 weeks pregnant with her rainbow baby and doing well. Thanks for sharing, Colleen! I hope you have an uneventful pregnancy, and will look forward to an update when you have that baby!

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

Broken Hearts

Well, it’s been a while since I posted, and a lot has been going on in our lives since July. Shortly after my last post, and before we moved into the house, we found out we were pregnant. We were both so excited and a little bit nervous. Though my intuition told me earlier, at 18 weeks, we found out we were having a little girl. Besides a little nausea and some heartburn, my pregnancy was going well. We picked out the sweetest bedding at Pottery Barn, a neutral tan color with little owls, and planned a shower for February. I read about the best ways to prepare for a baby, and cut out anything remotely questionable out of my diet. I talked to her all the time, telling her how beautiful and smart she was and how much fun we would have together.

However, on December 8th when I was 23 weeks pregnant, I started not feeling well. I felt cramps, similar to menstrual pains, and saw a tiny bit of blood, so I decided to go to the hospital just to ease my fear. B was at work, so I drove myself. They told me everything looked good. The baby was kicking up a storm, and her heart rate was perfect. The nurse told me I was probably dehydrated, and they discharged me.

All that night the cramping continued, and started to become more painful. Around 6am I returned to the hospital, feeling like there was still so,etching wrong. The nurse finally checked my cervix, and ran out of the room. Another nurse came in and while she rapidly hooked me up to an IV, she told me I needed to call my husband and he needed to get there ASAP. With tears in my eyes I asked her if I was dilating. She told me I was completely dilated and was going to have the baby soon. I was not prepared for this.

After that, everything happened quite fast. B and a friend of mine arrived shortly after my OB, who gravely told me this was not good. He said he suspected that I had a condition called incompetent cervix, and would need a cerclage in future pregnancies. Basically my cervix could not handle the weight of a growing baby, and opened prematurely. He did an u/s to see how our baby was positioned. She was breech with the cord around her neck. The hospital called a special neonatal team to fly in from out of state, and they delayed her birth until after they arrived. Suddenly there were people everywhere, talking to me about viability, asking how much we wanted done. They said they would life flight her to Utah, but that I couldn’t go, though B could. I prayed that God would let me keep my baby.

He did not. After a few pushes, my beautiful baby girl was born. I remember the second they cut the cord and she was forever separated from me. B followed her to the room where they tried to get her to breathe. A few minutes later a solemn woman came in to talk to me. She didn’t have to say anything, but she told me they did all they could. My heart was ripped in two. I hated my body, my doctor, and the nurse that sent me home the night before.

They brought her in to us shortly after, I was not ready to see her and was crying hysterically. She was so perfect, I did not understand how this could be happening. Her skin was still so warm and she was bigger than I thought. She had long legs and fingers, downy hair, and her daddy’s ears. We named her Addison Grace.

The next several days were a blur. We learned how to make funeral arrangements, post an obituary, and how to tell people our daughter was dead.

She will always be our daughter, our firstborn child, and I will always think about the beautiful little girl, and then woman, she would have become. When we have more children, God willing, they will know about their sister.

Proud New Owner of a Bionic Cervix

We left for Chicago on April 12 and spent the weekend enjoying the city before my surgery Monday morning. We checked out the Bean, the Art Institute and had cocktails on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building after a cubs game.

Monday morning we took a cab to the hospital, driving by the incredible Museum of Science and Industry. We really need to go back, there’s so much to do there! The hospital itself was beautiful, brand new, and very modern. I checked-in at a huge white desk and the lady gave me a little buzzer…I joked we must have gone to the Cheesecake Factory by accident. They also had a large screen your loved ones could track your location with (like the airport arrivals board). Pretty cool, but a little impersonal too. We waited quite a while before my buzzer buzzed. Another lady’s had at the same time and as we walked back, she showed me pictured on her phone of her car, which had just been squished by a pile of bricks that randomly fell off of a building. “You never know when it’s your time,” she joked. Thanks….

Once they pulled me back, they made Brady wait in a smaller room while I was prepped. I had to change into the gown and stash all of my stuff into a garment bag. They took my vitals and placed my IV, then let Brady back in. The anesthesiologist came in and asked me a million questions and made me so much more nervous. I was terrified of going under general (thanks to an episode of Grey’s where Mandy Moore never wakes up) and we discussed a spinal instead. They explained the risks were comparable with both and I finally decided to go ahead with the general. The residents also came in and talked to me, and one, Dana, I think, was super sweet and helped me relax. The resident with the anesthesiologist was in ortho and I jokingly forbade him to touch my bones. He was kinda cute and I realized he (and everyone else) would see me naked and unconscious soon…. lovely. Dr. Haney came in there at some point and lightly chided the anesthesiologist (who was actually starting to grow on me) for making me nervous. He explained the whole procedure again and told Brady I wouldn’t remember much for a while after I woke up.

They then started to wheel me into the OR. Brady got to walk a little of the way before they shoo’d him away. Then they had me move to the table and “spread my arms like Jesus.” That part is a little hazy. Then the anesthesia resident put the mask over my face, but it was all weird, like crooked and over my eye. I was making faces so Dana was like, “No dummy, put it this way” and fixed it. Haha she didn’t say that exactly, but you could hear it in her voice. It was much more comfortable and I took a few deep breaths and next thing I know I’m waking up in recovery.

Everything was unbearably loud to me. The monitors beeping, other people talking, the enormous lady they wheeled by that kept hollering. The recovery nurse noticed I was wincing and apologized for how loud the lady was. She then started asking me how I was feeling and explained the PCA pump (push button pain meds). She told me to push it and let me know how it felt. It made me nauseous almost instantly so she unhooked it and called over the anesthesiologist. He was annoyed they gave me the drug they did (dilaudid) as I told them Vicodin makes me feel sick, and it usually reacts similarly. He also asked me if I’d heard about the Boston bombings (which happened while I was out). I was like “ummmmm no… I was unconscious?” It took forever to get a new PCA and then when it finally came, the nurse couldn’t get it to work. At this point poor Brady was wonder what the heck was happening to me. Dr. Haney had come and told him the procedure went well right after surgery, but no one told him why I was stuck in recovery for so long.

Finally they got me to my room. I was thrilled to be somewhere quiet, and Brady was finally called to come up with me. The room was quite large, and had a small room with a computer and a sink attached that made it even more private and insulated from the hallway. The view of the skyline was lovely. Nurses came in and out all evening and I slept most of the time while Brady watched movies. I was excited to eat as there was a Jamba Juice downstairs (we dont have one in our town), so he got me one and I drank a good deal of it. The next morning they said I should try and get up, and they removed my IV and catheter (super fun). The first time I sat up I thought I might throw up from the pain. It was intense

I was discharged that afternoon and we took a cab back to the hotel. There was a beautiful fruit arrangement waiting for me courtesy of my wonderful aunt. It tasted great to me, despite the crazy gas pains I started feeling. Apparently air builds up in your stomach when they open you up and it’s not so fun. We headed to bed early, as we had a flight early the next morning. I told the airport I needed assistance and popped a Percocet when we got there, so the airport is a bit of a blur.

I’ll post more regarding my recovery later, this is enough for now 🙂

Colleen

Colleen & Dr. Haney

Stories of Strength: Meghan’s Story

This is the first story of (hopefully) many I will share here, of how cervical insufficiency has affected women and their families. This story shows how important it is that doctors be aware that IC can be acquired through trauma – it doesn’t have to be congenital. Meghan, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re one strong mama.

If you’d like to share your story, please send it and any pictures to tac.questions@gmail.com.

I am very “lucky.” My daughter and I survived ten weeks of unmonitored preeclampsia before it finally became severe enough that someone looked back at my labs and blood pressures and symptoms and induced me. My first child (second pregnancy after an early miscarriage) was born 51 hours later, after many intrapartum complications, on my 35th birthday.

My daughter got stuck in my pelvis at about 1.5 hours of pushing. This was after two episodes of severe drops in blood pressure after an epidural for me that rendered me unconscious, and my baby bradycardic (low heart rate). Despite a vacuum assist after 4 more hours of pushing after she crowned, (thanks to the fact I ran 20 miles a week until I got sick at 26 weeks gestation, I did have stamina), she was not coming out vaginally. This was a surprise to me because my mom birthed three 9.5 pounders and me, with her longest labor 4 hours!

So we went to csection, where a third OB gave a “push from below” in order to disengage my daughter’s head from my pelvic inlet, to deliver her. After my OB saw me post-op the next day, I knew I had a small tear (the lucky part), however at 6 months postpartum, I finally dared to feel it and discovered my cervix was ripped all the way through and still open at 9 o’clock longitudinally. So I knew I had a huge(!) problem – this was no “small tear.”

As a pediatric nurse practitioner working in family birthing/nicu, I know things happen. I see it every day – especially if the mother works in medicine – something invariably goes “wrong.” What pisses me off though is that 1) the OB made it sound like the tear was no big deal (watch and wait next time?), 2) by six months postpartum, she had already done two exams and had not found this, 3) she would have let me go ahead and get pregnant if I had not been one to feel my damage in the first place.

It turns out that my rip was from the lower uterine segment all the way down through, not a “small tear.” In my job I see the “push from below” all the time and I want to yell at the OB to put that in the OP note (thankfully mine was, but the extent of the damage was not accurate), and gently write a letter to the patient (to be opened 3-6 months postpartum when they have their feet under them again) to make sure they become aware that this could be an issue later on, but I cannot.

My husband and I were going to go ahead with another severely monitored pregnancy with only the preeclampsia over our heads. When I found my injury, I knew I would have an incompetent cervix and had already researched my options and had found Dr George Davis online, so when I was finally referred to him a year later, after discussions between the OB and MFM, I already knew what I wanted. I had a hysteroscopy and consult with him. As my OP note was unclear and my damage so severe, Dr Davis could not tell us exactly what was to happen, but theorized that I would need a transabdominal cerclage (TAC) for cervical competence and a transvaginal CervicoIsthmic cerclage (TVCIC) to keep a mucus plug in my open cervix to ward off ascending infection (the TVCIC is different than a normal transvaginal cerclage – TVC – in that it is much higher up the cervix and has no free strings that could allow an ascending infection). Dr Davis also recommended delivery early at 34 weeks, as my lower uterine segment was probably also going to be weak. I think the early delivery was the part I could not get over – an early delivery because of in-pregnancy issues is one thing in my mind because we are doing the best thing for the baby at that point, but planning for an early delivery was different – I was planning and choosing to put my child at a developmental disadvantage and it was a hard pill to swallow for me.

That was exactly two years ago, but my husband decided that between the early preeclampsia and my incompetent cervix, an attempt at a sibling for our daughter was not in the cards. I grieved this – I was not done. I was angry.

Fast forward to this summer and I was giving away my baby stuff (not just loaning out, as I had been doing), and my husband became concerned that this was the end of our possibility of having another child and mentioned another baby. He had always wanted another, but was too scared for my health and for our daughter potentially not having the same momma around if the preeclampsia was severe and early again, but me giving away our car seat was too permanent for him.

I called Dr Davis, who previously had been understanding and supportive of our decision to not go ahead and get the TAC. I told him we wanted to go ahead and get the TAC and investigate my actual damage. He was absolutely on board with this plan. I was TACed last month. Whether it was the 3.5 years since my delivery, or an incomplete and incorrect operative note, I don’t care – my body had done the best job of healing itself and my TAC went on beautifully, with a thick lower uterine segment and still approximated upper cervix – all this allowing no TVCIC needed and delivery at 39 weeks if we choose to get pregnant.

I am now awaiting my husband to digest all of this and come to his own conclusion that it is ok to get me pregnant with lots of monitoring for preeclampsia. My IC is now fixed. My broken heart will be fixed with another pregnancy and sibling for my beautiful daughter once my husband has battled his anxieties and fears. If my husband cannot come to that conclusion, I will most certainly grieve again, but will be thankful for my daughter and will continue to spread information about preeclampsia and IC.

For more information about preeclampsia, or to register as a woman or family member affected by preeclampsia for long term study, please see www.preeclampsia.org and for an IC support group and options, google Abbyloopers.