I will start my story with a little bit of history leading up to my complicated pregnancy. I experienced a miscarriage (at 10 weeks) in October of 1999 which was not "expelled" naturally, so I had to have a D&C. Two months later I had pre-cancerous cells removed from my cervix by way of a LEEP procedure. Needless to say, my cervix took quite a beating in a short period of time. I had concerns at the time about the two traumatic procedures to my cervix effecting future pregnancies. I had read a little about what an incompetent cervix was in pregnancy books while pregnant the first time. My OB/GYN brushed my fears aside and said that my ability to have a successful pregnancy was not compromised at all by either surgery. Boy was he wrong!! I of course believed him though, (as he had been my doctor for many years) and just looked forward to getting pregnant again.
OK, so fast forward a bit to May 2000 where my second pregnancy begins. My husband and I were in the process of moving into a new apartment when I took a home pregnancy test and was absolutely THRILLED when it came out positive. My excitement was a bit guarded this time however because of the previous miscarriage. The worries about my LEEP causing problems where all but forgotten and I just focused on getting out of the first trimester so I could relax a little. I saw my doctor to have the pregnancy confirmed. I had an exam and an ultrasound and saw my baby's little heart beating. I got an EDD of January 8, 2001 when I was about 7 weeks along. I was on my way and things were looking good! I had terrible all day sickness starting about that time and could barely eat a thing. Other than that things, were good, no spotting or cramping like with the first pregnancy.
I was in my sister's wedding in July, was popping out a little belly in my bridesmaid dress and couldn't have been happier. A week later my husband and I were in a minor car accident. I went to the hospital and was monitored for a few hours and didn't have a single contraction or a spot of bleeding and baby's heart rate was great. I was starting to truly believe that this was going to be a "without a hitch" pregnancy. And on a Sunday in August, along comes "hitch" . . .
I was 18 weeks along when I started to have some odd, heavy sensations in my lower stomach. It wasn't really pain, but it was uncomfortable and I hadn't felt it before. It felt like the baby had dropped down and was sitting too close to something. I was also having trouble urinating all of that day. I called my doctor and he said that I was probably feeling ligaments stretching and maybe I had a urinary tract infection and to call back in the morning. I told him I felt that something was really wrong and insisted on going to the ER to get it checked out. I probably appeared paranoid at the time to my doctor and my husband. All I can say is, Thank GOD for paranoia!!
At the ER they suspected a UTI also and took a urine sample. They were routinely checking for the baby's heartbeat and could not get it with the Doppler. This of course freaked me out. My first baby had died in-utero and was discovered on ultrasound weeks later. I had not yet felt the baby move so I feared the worst had happened again. I was sent for an ultrasound right away and was terrified of seeing a still baby on the ultrasound screen. As soon as the ultrasound tech touched the wand to my stomach I started to cry and asked if my baby was dead. She was very kind and said she couldn't even see the baby yet and to try and relax. (yeah right) What seemed like hours, but was actually seconds later, there was my baby's heart beating strong on the screen! I was sooooo relieved that our baby was alive I paid little attention to the rest of the ultrasound and just cried tears of joy with my husband.
I was wheeled back into the exam room filled with joy at seeing my sweet baby dancing around on the screen. I decided in my head that the doctors were right all along, I was fine, the baby was fine and I was just worrying too much. That lasted until the ER doctor came back into my room and told me the news that would change the rest of my pregnancy. She told me that they had discovered by the ultrasound that the length of my cervix had changed significantly. I asked her what that meant. She explained that my cervix was measuring quite a bit shorter than it had been on my last ultrasound and that the baby was in fact sitting right on top of it. She said that with my cervix changing so much that I could be going into preterm labor and if I did, and they couldn't stop it, I would lose the baby. I was completely floored by this and basically in denial. I told her that the baby was fine and that all I had was a UTI. The doctor uncomfortably told me that, that did not appear to be the case and I needed to follow up with my OB first thing the next morning and that I should go home on total bed rest until then. She decided not to do an internal exam, so as to not "upset things" inside.
Feeling helpless and scared I went home and straight to bed. Needless to say I got very little sleep that night. 8:00 the next morning my husband and I arrived at my OB's office with a million questions about what was going on. He told me that I may have an incompetent cervix and that I needed to go see a perinatologist that afternoon to be evaluated. He explained to me about the cerclage that could be placed in my cervix to save the pregnancy. He, himself, had only placed 2 cerclages in over 20 years of practice but both had been successful. The next thing he told me reaffirmed my faith in God and especially in my own intuition. He told me that in most cases, an incompetent cervix is not diagnosed until after one or more second trimester losses. My insistence to go to the ER and the UN-cooperation on my baby's part with the doppler, (resulting in the ultrasound) may have saved my pregnancy. I was still very afraid of what might happen, but felt as if the baby and I were really being looked out for.
I had unfortunately lost my faith in my OB though. I clearly remembered him dismissing my worries of this exact same thing happening. I was very relieved to be going to a high risk specialist who saw cases like mine on a daily basis. My local hospital didn't even have anything close to a NICU. Becoming a "high risk" case is scary, but knowing that I was going to a place where it could be dealt with was the closest thing to comfort I could feel. The nurse at my OB's office called and made me an appointment for 2:00 PM that afternoon. They gave me copies of my medical records to take with me and wished me good luck.
Off I went to see the perinatologist an hour and a half away. My mother came with me and of course my husband, who drove us. I was very nervous but felt lucky to have their support. A nurse checked all my vital stats and then I was given a transvaginal ultrasound by the technician.The one bright spot was that during the ultrasound we discovered we were having a girl! Then I met the perinatologist. She read the ultrasound measurements and told me that my cervix was indeed short but that she was not convinced I had an incompetent cervix. She thought that maybe it was just a short cervix. I asked her about it changing again overnight and didn't that mean something. She admitted that it could, but could really see no reason as to WHY I would have an incompetent cervix. I thought this was strange as she had my medical records in hand and surely she must have seen about my D&C and LEEP procedures. Once again however, I was the trusting patient and I listened to her thoughts and her plan without question. She wanted to send me home on bed rest for one week and then have me come back for another transvaginal ultrasound to check my cervical length and go from there. I left the office not feeling very confident in "the plan". I still had a nagging feeling that something bad was going to happen unless there was some intervention by the doctors I was trusting. As I look back now, I think I just wanted to believe things weren't as bad as they were and that is why I kept quiet about my thoughts.
God and my own intuition decided against the plan the next day. I woke up with quite a lot of discharge and the heavy feeling had gotten heavier. I called the perinatologist's office and explained what I was feeling. I also pretty much explained that wild horses couldn't keep me from making the trip back up to her office no matter what they thought it might be. I was going to see what was going on or die of worry! So off we were again. I got another ultrasound and sure enough, I had hardly any cervix left and there was starting to be some serious funneling. The doctor said that it definitely looked like I had an incompetent cervix, she was just stumped as to why an otherwise healthy 23 year old would have this problem with no history of trauma to the cervix. WHAT?!?! I asked her hadn't she read my medical records from my original OB/GYN. Of course she had, but they had no mention of anything but my current pregnancy. Talk about INCOMPETENT! My doctor had suspected an incompetent cervix and had failed to send the records that would have explained WHY I would have one. As soon as I told the specialist about my D&C and LEEP procedures, things became a lot clearer to her and within an hour I was admitted to the hospital right across the street for a cerclage to be placed in my cervix to save my pregnancy.
I was put on a monitor to check for contractions and the baby's heart rate. I was having some mild contractions that were showing up on the monitor so I was put on a Magnesium Sulfate IV. UGH, horrible stuff, but I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my baby safe. My mother had come with us to the doctor's office and she was still with us at the hospital. In fact she and my husband stayed with me the two nights before my cerclage was scheduled to be put in. I was incredibly lucky to have the 2 most important people in my life with me at such a scary time!
On August 10th, when I was 18.4 weeks I had my cervix "stitched" closed. I had a spinal anesthetic which I didn't particularly like and the whole procedure took about a half an hour. I went to recovery for about an hour and then back to my room to see my husband and Mom. I was put back on the Mag because my uterus was pretty irritable and contracting a bit. I was also given IV antibiotics to prevent an infection to set in around the stitch. Because I was still having mild contractions occasionally, I was kept in the hospital on the IV meds for 3 days. I was then sent home on STRICT bed rest. I had a prescription for Brethine and was to take it if I had anymore contractions. Over the next few weeks I was totally confined to bed. I was allowed up only to use the bathroom and to shower 3 times a week. I had to take the Brethine a few times for contractions. I tried to take it as little as possible as it is another nasty drug.
This was the point in my pregnancy where I started to get a little stir crazy knowing I had to stay in bed for probably the rest of my pregnancy. I was completely fine with it because I knew it was what I needed to do to get my baby out safely, but it was tough! My husband had to work of course, so my dear, wonderful mother moved herself in to our apartment and waited on me hand and foot. She did our laundry, cleaned the house, cooked us meals and kept me sane all day long. She really helped me keep it together during a very uncertain and sometimes maddening time. I know I was very fortunate to have not only a loving and supportive husband to see me through this time, but my mother who put her life on hold to help me and her unborn granddaughter. For all of the women who are reading this and are going through similar things. I pray that you have even half the love and support I had.
Things were going along pretty uneventfully until I hit 22 weeks. On September 2nd I was having contractions that weren't going away with the Brethine and I was having a lot of watery discharge. I called my new OB, the perinatologist, and told the nurse what was going on. She suggested I get there ASAP as it sounded like my water may have broken. Of course not news I wanted to hear!
We made it back up to the hospital in record time. I was admitted to Labor & Delivery and told by the cruelest Resident doctor I ever had the misfortune of meeting, that my water had probably broken and there was nothing they could do to save my baby. Mind you this is before anybody even checked me or the discharge I was having. I lost it completely. I was begging her to stop my labor. She insisted that if my water was broken I would have no choice but to deliver. Well, a MOST wonderful and compassionate nurse told me that there was no proof of my water breaking and that I was only having mild erratic contractions and she would not let me lose my baby. They tested the fluid which turned out NOT to be my amniotic fluid at all. Then they did an internal and my cervix was still closed and they put me back on the Magnesium Sulfate which stopped the contractions. As soon as I was calmed down I told the wonderful nurse that if I saw the face of the doctor who had been so crass and brutal with me that I could not be held responsible for what I may say to her. I never did see her again.
They moved me out of Labor & Delivery to the regular perinatal floor for observation. That made me really happy! My own doctor came in and saw me and ordered another ultrasound. They discovered that I had no cervix at all left on the inside of my cerclage. I had a lot of funneling and my daughter's head was sitting right on top of the only thing that was keeping her in, that little stitch! That did not make me very happy. In fact it made me very nervous. It also made my doctor nervous. So nervous that she decided to keep me in the hospital on bedrest for an "undetermined" amount of time.
My home for the next almost SEVEN weeks was the hospital. I was monitored at least 3 times a day for contractions. I was put on the Magnesium 2 more times. I had transvaginal ultrasounds once a week, which was kind of cool because I ended up with a WHOLE LOT of pictures of my baby girl! I was moved from room to room until I finally got a private room the last 2 weeks I was there and I got pretty sick of the revolving menu of hospital food. It was certainly NOT an ideal pregnancy to say the least. However, my baby was growing inside where she belonged and once again my mother came to my rescue. My amazing mother spent every day and night with me in the hospital!! She played cards with me, watched movies with me, talked with me, she did anything and everything to keep my spirits up. I was so afraid I was going to have to spend all of that time an hour and a half from home all by myself, but my wonderful mother wouldn't leave me. My poor husband had to work, so he drove almost 3 hours round trip every day and stayed at a Ronald McDonald house a couple of blocks from the hospital. When I finally got a private room, my husband stayed at the hospital with me and my mother got a break, but she wouldn't leave me. She stayed at the Ronald McDonald house until I left the hospital. Other family and friends came to visit me during my hospital stay and I got flowers and cards and prayers and well wishes from everyone I knew. I had incredible support. I cannot stress enough how lucky I was.
I also had a fabulous doctor and the nursing staff was almost perfect. My pregnancy was not at all what I envisioned but as bad as it was I still feel as if it was the best it could be. My whole focus was keeping my daughter inside and every sacrifice I made was very small considering the reward I was working towards!
On October 16th I hit 28 weeks and I was allowed to go home. This was one of the best days I can recall having. It was also a little scary. I would no longer have the medical staff on hand and the monitor to check my baby's heart rate or contractions if need be. I had gotten used to the security of the hospital, but I had certainly had enough of a hospital stay to last me a lifetime! All in all I guess it was a bittersweet day.
Once home I was back on strict bed rest, at least for a few more weeks. My Mom came back to stay with me again. I was getting bigger and bigger and my daughter was VERY active. I was finally starting to relax and feel happily pregnant again. I made the trip to the perinatologist every 2 weeks, just like a "normal" pregnant woman, for weight and blood pressure tests, measuring my belly and all that fun stuff. I had no problems whatsoever with any of those things and my baby was always right on target and perfectly healthy. As my dear doctor had once put it, "I just had a bum cervix".
During the remainder of my bed rest I kept my sanity with the help of my Mother and husband of course, but also with the help of my best friend (and neighbor). She was also pregnant and due 5 weeks before me. She was having a normal healthy pregnancy but she was very sympathetic of all I had to endure. She did one of the nicest things for me. She made up a "Bedrest Survival Guide." It was a binder full of articles, stories, jokes, poems, statistics, facts and pictures that she had put together from different web sites about pregnancy in general, incompetent cervix, other women on bed rest and how they dealt with it etc. It even had a homemade countdown calendar and a place to write my thoughts and feelings down, which I often did. I must say again, I truly was blessed with such caring and supportive people to get me through the most trying situation I have ever been in. My daughter was so loved before she was even here.
On November 19th, at 33 weeks along, I had a baby shower. I was on modified bed rest then. I was up, out, wearing cool maternity clothes. It was great, I was surrounded by all of my friends and family, I was VERY pregnant and finally got to show it off to everyone, and most importantly, I felt like a normal pregnant woman. I didn't think I would see the day come when I would be able to be a part of something so special and wonderfully NORMAL!! I got everything I needed and more and had a perfect day. That same week I was given the best gift by my doctor. I was finally allowed off bed rest, modified or otherwise!!!
My cervical situation had not changed in the past weeks and my doctor felt that I could continue the pregnancy with some normalcy. I wasn't running any marathons or doing any aerobics, but I was going shopping, walking around, visiting people again. It was fabulous!
The plan was that my cerclage would be removed at 38 weeks and we would let nature take it's course. However, my daughter was running the show and she had other plans. At 5:00 A.M on December 12th my water broke just as my husband was leaving for work. I started having contractions every 5 minutes immediately. I called my husband on his cell phone and told him to come back home. He had only made it down the street! I took a quick shower and called my doctor. There was some concern about the hour and a half long trip to the hospital where my wonderful perinatologist was. I was contracting hard and fast and she was concerned that my labor would progress too quickly and my cerclage would tear my cervix. I was told to go to my local hospital to be checked and then it would be decided from there whether I could make it or not to her so she could deliver me. I hoped she could, however, I doubted I would make it. I was right.
By the timeI got checked into my local hospital, my contractions were less than 5 minutes apart. Then by the twisted hand of fate, my original OB from the beginning of my pregnancy, walked into my room. He checked me and said he strongly suggested I let him take out my stitch and deliver there for fear of further damaging my cervix. That was the very last thing I wanted to happen. I resigned myself to having come full circle and letting him deliver my baby. He removed my stitch, which was very uncomfortable and seemed to take forever. It was finally out though and I was already 3-4 cm dilated and completely effaced. I was 36 weeks and 1 day so the chances of my baby having any problems breathing were slim, so I was finally confident and ready to have her OUT! I figured on a fast labor and for her to practically fall out of me. After all, she had been hanging on just by a stitch for months. Boy did I figure wrong!
I was in labor for hours and hours and everytime I was checked I was never dilated past 4cm. I was put on Pitocin which only intensified my contractions and still did not change my cervix. I walked, and walked and walked and still no change. I could not believe it. I had spent nearly 9 months trying to keep this baby in and now she wouldn't come out! I was offered an epidural about a dozen times and kept refusing. I was trying to go as natural as I could. The pitocin was turned down that night and I was given a shot of Demerol to help me sleep. I got 3 (near) peaceful hours of rest and awoke to more fierce contractions. I spent the next day exactly as I had spent the first. Pitocin, walking, showers, contractions like crazy and NO cervical change. My OB finally started talking about giving me a C-Section. I refused. I wanted so badly to have a natural childbirth. He gave me a few more hours and then checked me again. I was only 5 cm, I had made virtually NO progress in 36 hours. He explained that it was dangerous to me and the baby to have my water broken for so long with no progress. I had been on IV antibiotics the entire time, but I was starting to run a slight fever. I knew I would not get to push my baby out. I was disappointed, but after all I had been through, I just wanted her out safely. I agreed to the surgery, had an epidural and was prepped.
My husband was in the room with me and at 6:55 PM, December 13, 2000 our daughter, Isabelle Pearl Clegg was born via C-Section. She was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. She was pink and crying and just perfect. She weighed 6 lbs 15 oz. and was 19 1/4 inches long. Her apgars were 9 and 9 and she has no problems breathing or otherwise. She was in a face up position when delivered. That, and some scar tissue on my cervix from the stitch were believed to be the culprits behind my not completely dilating. It was all good either way though, she was out. My husband went to the nursery with her and on her way she was greeted by a hallway full of my friends and family. She was finally here and safe and everybody sighed a collective sigh of relief. I just cried and thanked GOD profusely for seeing me through my pregnancy and keeping a hand on my precious child, holding her inside my womb until she was ready to make a healthy entrance. I got to hold my daughter about an hour after she was born and she consumed my heart immediately.
Faith in GOD, my family, my friends, having faith in my self and the miracle of modern medicine made it possible for me to get through my pregnancy. It was a long rough road, but it ended in the happiest place I have ever known. Isabelle is going to be 2 years old in less than 2 weeks. She is smart and happy and healthy and beautiful and I love her more than I thought I could love anyone.
I hope that my story gives another woman hope and encouragement to get through their complicated pregnancy. No matter what sacrifices you may have to make during your 9 months, they won't even compare to the joy of one moment holding your healthy baby.God Bless and Good Luck to all.