Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A difficult anniversary

I wrote this post to share with you the details concerning my difficult pregnancies, but also to encourage those of you who have also experienced high-risk pregnancies due to a small cervix. The post is long, but I hope those of you who need it are encouraged by my experience.

Today is an anniversary of sorts. Not a wedding anniversary, but one that changed my life just the same.

A year ago today, I was 31 weeks pregnant with my son. Despite the fact that I was feeling larger by the minute, I had been having a really great pregnancy. I had all the normal pregnant-woman-type things happen to me throughout my pregnancy - strange cravings for hot dogs and Cheetos, exhaustion, soreness - but this one was certainly not going the way it had when I was pregnant with my daughter.

Me 5 months pregnant with Haley and dressed up as a baby for our office Halloween party in '08

For those of you who probably don't know (because I started this blog after I had my daughter), I found out several years ago when I was 11 weeks pregnant with my first that I had a smaller than usual cervix. In order not to bore you or talk to much about girly parts, the cervix basically keeps the bun inside the oven while he/she bakes, then the internal timer goes off at 40 weeks and ding, the baby is done. For someone like me who has a short cervix, the oven door has been broken and the bun could come out of the oven way before it's done baking. This is especially a problem when you're only 11 weeks pregnant.

When I was told this information, I was laying on the exam table getting my first look at my little wiggling fetus on the screen. I wasn't prepared to deal with a faulty cervix, it didn't run in the family as far as I knew. All I knew at the time was that I was having my first child and I was over the top excited about it. My body was supposed to know what to do, I couldn't be bothered by this nonsense about a short cervix. Where was the receipt for this thing anyway? I didn't sign up for a faulty cervix.

As the days went on, I went in for visits every 2 weeks to monitor my cervix to make sure the baby wouldn't be born too early. I loved each visit because it meant that I got to see my little developing baby wiggle and squirm on the ultrasound with each visit. Before we knew that Haley was a girl, we called her Babby, a nickname that stuck with her even for a little while after her birth.

Haley at 22 weeks
Things went well for awhile and little Babby continued to grow, but as we neared Christmas, my faulty cervix had had enough. At one of my routine visits right before a planned road trip to visit my in-laws for Christmas, it was discovered that my cervix had begun to dilate. At only 27 weeks pregnant, I was admitted to the hospital for some tests which proved that I was contracting. I was devastated. There were tears (and a cancelled road trip) and I was told go home on bed rest and to restrict my activity to showers and sandwich making until the baby reached a safe level of maturity to warrant more activity. 

At the time, I was upset to know that I couldn't go about life as usual. As a young, very active person, I hated knowing that I had to be chained to the bed for at least 7 weeks with people waiting on me for all of my needs. This may sound like vacation to you, but believe me when I tell you weeks and weeks of watching TV with no option for any other activity gets pretty old. Looking back, I should have kept my mouth shut and been more thankful for the breakthroughs we've had in medicine that help to prevent people like me from going into labor well before the baby is at a mature level of development.

For someone like me who has a shortened cervix, there is a very real possibility of losing the baby or for the baby to be born too early and have developmental issues. How lucky was I that I had a doctor who knew enough to tell me to shut up, take my medicine, and think about the health of my child?

So I did just that. Except for the one time my in-laws came to town and wheeled me around the outdoor shopping mall in a wheelchair.

Thankfully, my body cooperated a little longer and Haley was born at 35 weeks, perfect in every way. She was tiny at 6 pounds, 2 ounces, but she had no issues whatsoever and was able to leave the hospital after a routine length of time in the hospital.

When I became pregnant with my son, I was prepared for the same song and dance. Every doctor's appointment was nerve wracking as I waited for the nurse to look at the screen and tell me "Your cervix is dilating again, to the hospital with you!" but those words didn't come. My appointments were still more frequent than most because of my previous complications, but by my 25 week check up when I was again told that nothing was wrong, I relaxed with the thought that I was in the clear.

At 30 weeks pregnant, my friends threw me a "baby sprinkle" (a baby shower for someone who has already had a baby before and has most items she needs). I had a great time, and felt completely blessed by all my friends who came. While I was there, I kept feeling what I thought was just the baby repositioning himself. Nothing painful, it just felt like he was poking his head hard into my abdomen.

Me at 30 weeks (photo courtesy of Christan Yarger)

I returned to my appointment several days later for a routine check up and while laying on the exam table getting the ultrasound, I saw a familiar image on the screen. The look on the nurse's face confirmed it. A dilated cervix. After confirming the diagnosis, the nurse left me in a room to wait for my doctor. "How could this happen again?" I wondered, "Everything has been fine." I was again wheeled over to the hospital and plugged up to multiple machines to check my vitals. It was confirmed that I was contracting again. The roller coaster ride began again.

The next 2 days are probably 2 of the worst days of my life. I was put on a high dosage of magnesium right away. If you've never been on magnesium before, it's horrible stuff. It's usually meant to treat seizures and kidney problems, but it's commonly used to stop contractions as well. What it does is relax your muscles, which of course stop the muscles causing the contractions in my case, but it not only relaxes those muscles, it relaxes ALL of your muscles. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open and when I was able to keep them open, I had double vision because my eye muscles were too relaxed. To simply roll over in bed, I had to muster all the strength I had to grasp the handle on the opposite side of the bed and heave myself to the other side. It also makes you nauseous. The only way I can describe being on magnesium is to tell you that it makes you feel like you're drunk, on muscle relaxers, and have the flu at the same time.

Thankfully, the doctors were able to get my contractions to stop and I was eventually able to be taken off the magnesium and have a meal. My friends who threw me the shower came to visit me and brought lots of fun goodies with them to cheer me up (which was my inspiration for The Hospital Survival Kit). One of my favorite things that they brought was a pair of cat socks that weren't very functional, but had great entertainment value.

Cat socks (sorry for the bad quality, it was taken with my phone at the hospital)
I spent the next 4 1/2 weeks on hospital bed rest. I went through a grieving time at first because I couldn't understand how this could happen to me yet again after things were going so well. My doctors had to talk me down quite a few times after begging them to let me go home. As I cried a lot at first, but I eventually understood and agreed with my stay there. I took medications to control my contractions and was constantly monitored. My days were very predictable, but I was also very lucky to have a boss that allowed me to work from the hospital, so that helped me break up the monotony some. I learned to deal with, and eventually tolerate (I can't say like because I would have much rather been at home with my husband and daughter) my stay at the hospital.

I was sent home at 35 weeks, still pregnant and with a good outlook. My son was at a good weight, and he was at a place where his development was not in question. He was born 2 weeks and 2 days after, at 7 pounds even.

Haley meeting her brother for the first time
While it's been hard, I am a better person for all that I went through because I appreciate the blessing that is life that much more. While on hospital bed rest during my last pregnancy,  I heard stories from the nurses of the other girls on my floor who went into labor very early in their pregnancies and gave birth to very small babies with problems, some who did not survive. I am one of the lucky ones who managed to stay pregnant and give birth to 2 healthy babies thanks to God first and foremost, but also thanks to all of the efforts of the doctors and nurses from both pregnancies who took the time to counsel and care for me and my unborn children.

Those who know my history with pregnancies always ask, "Do you think you'll have another?" The answer right now is yes, we have always planned on having a third. We've discussed that topic at length, and our family doesn't feel complete without a third little somebody. All of this of course depends on our financial situation, but we would like to have a third eventually. I know when the time comes, I'll probably have to have a cerclage (where the doctors will sew my cervix closed to keep the baby in until birth), and this is something that I'm nervous about, but I'm more concerned with the health of my future baby.

If you have (or have had) a high-risk pregnancy, I would love to talk to you and encourage you as well as answer any questions you may have to the best of my ability.


  1. Wow, I had no idea this could happen. Thanks for sharing your story with us. I'm glad that 2 healthy children came out of it!

  2. This is such a fantastic post! I was lucky that I had healthy pregnancies and was able to have two home births (I'm scared of hospitals!!). Thank you for sharing and you are indeed blessed :)

  3. My boyfriend (of over nine years!) was born at 30 weeks due to a smaller than normal cervix (and tried to make an appearance at first around 26 weeks!). He only weighed about 3.5 pounds, but other than that he is perfectly healthy today! His cousins we also born really early. So, congrats on being able to deliver closer to you due date and getting to perfect healthy babies! =)

  4. I can relate! I was on BR for 4 months with our last little one. TOUGH! Just made 2 of your hospital survival kits for showers tomorrow night! HUGS!


  5. I have been reading your blog for a few months now and I had no idea. I will tell you from firsthand experience a cerclage is not as horrible as you might think it is; I have a happy, healthy eleven week old little boy thanks to one. And having a cerclage is a very little bump in the road compared to losing a child or in my case two. I wish you all of the best. And I really enjoy reading your blog!

  6. I just found your blog...I can relate! I hear you on the long story. :) The short of mine is, I had a "normal" pregnancy with my first. Then with my second it started going south, at 5 weeks with spotting, followed by contractions at 15 weeks, full labor and positive fFN at 28 weeks plus bedrest and delivery at 34 weeks. All of my issues where due to the ABO factor. I'd be happy to chat more... :)

  7. I found your blog today because of the shirt you guest posted with the fall tree. I also had an incompetent cervix and was put on bed rest, but my dialation occurred at 15-16 weeks, so my bed rest was 5 months! I was told I'd be on bedrest from 12 weeks (6 mo)with any additional pregnancies so we decided to bring our other children to the family through the foster system. What a blessing it has been for our family!

  8. I feel your pain.I was a woman who had terribly sensitive pregnancy's. The first time I got pregnant was unexpected but very exciting. At 14 weeks I started having stomach pain and went to the emergency room and they thought I had kidney stones. The doctor continued to tell me I was further along than I thought. When they did the ultrasound we were surprised with "TWINS?" I was more than thrilled. Around 29 weeks I started preterm labor and for those last LONG 10 weeks I was on bedrest. Two of those weeks were spent in a hospital and on magnesium for part of it(terrrrrible stuff). I made it to 38 weeks and delivered 2 beautiful girls (baby a 6 lbs 15oz, baby b 5 lbs 12oz). I loved pregnancy so much I decided to be a surrogate for a lovely family who could not have a baby on their own. The same time in the pregnancy I began to have contractions again. Magnesium was administered and two weeks of hospital stay as well. I made it to 39 weeks and he was a very healthy little boy(8 lbs 15 oz) I just discovered that I am 5 weeks pregnant and I cannot wait to have that baby in my arms. Hopefully no hospitals stays :)


Thanks for all of your wonderful comments! I try to respond to each of them through email so please make sure you leave an email address or have your profile set up to include your email address if you want me to respond :)


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