My baby girl turned 6 months this past weekend and the journey of my complicated pregnancy with her has been on my mind a lot.
It was a high-risk pregnancy and I have wanted to share this story since she was born but every time I have written it, something didn’t feel quite right. But I feel ready today and though it is not going to be perfect I will share it anyway.
The day I found out I was pregnant, I wished for it to be a girl. I wanted a mini-me, a little sister for my son, and one more girl for hubby to love on.
Imagine our excitement when at our 20-week appointment we found out that we were having a girl. It was the sweetest feeling ever. A dream come true.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the news because at the same appointment they discovered that my cervix was shorter than would be expected at this point. I was put on meds and I asked to come in for weekly Ultrasound visits to keep tabs on my condition. It was such a bitter-sweet moment for us.
I was hopeful that the meds would work so I wasn’t too worried. However, after one more ultrasound that did not have any improvement, I realized I was having more appointments scheduled at the Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) department than with my regular OBGYN.
I had never heard of MFM before this but I quickly learned that these are the doctors who take care of women with a high-risk pregnancy. This was the first sign that this could be serious, but on the bright side, I knew I was getting care from the very best specialists. That was encouraging.
At around 22 weeks, I was still going for my weekly scans, but on this day things were different.
As soon as the sonographer started looking at the screen, the look on her face changed. And not in a good way.
I knew something was wrong, but she was working very hard to hide it and act like it was all good.
I tried to inquire if everything was alright but she deflected the question and told me that she will get the doctor to go through the results with me. That’s another bad sign.
Typically, when everything is going well, she would have said something like, “Everything looks good but the doctor is going to go through the results with you in detail.”
But this time she was deflecting. I knew bad news was coming, i Just didn’t know how bad.
A few minutes later, the doctor came in and I remember his first sentence.
“I am sorry to have to tell you this but I don’t have good news for you.”
He went on to explain that the meds were not working and the situation had got so much worse, there was little hope of saving the pregnancy at this point.
Nothing can really prepare you for this moment.
To imagine that the baby you have been waiting for so eagerly may not make it to your arms alive and well. It is heartbreaking, you don’t want to be in that position.
The next week would turn out to be the most difficult week of the entire pregnancy and thinking about it still gives me shivers. The fear, the emotions, the unknowns. My heart aches for every mama who has been through or going through such a difficult experience.
I was given three options to pick from, the first was to do nothing and likely go into premature labor in the next few days, possibly hours. Since the baby had not hit the first viability milestone yet, she would likely not survive.
The second option was to terminate the pregnancy. He said something about this being the safest option and getting the chance to start over and blah blah blah…This was not an option in my mind so I was not really listening.
What assurance did I have that my next pregnancy (if I even got that chance again) would be any different from this one? None. I wasn’t about to give up on what I already had.
The third option was to have a cerclage placement. The doctor made it clear that the chances of it actually working were minimal because my condition seemed extreme. It was so bad that though he was qualified enough to perform the procedure, he would not do it himself because the chances of success were too low.
For the first time in this entire journey, I could not stop my tears. I just wanted to have the ups and downs of a normal pregnancy. No complications. I did not mind experiencing the pain of labor. I just hated being in this position. But if wishes were horses…
I was here now and this was my cross to bear. I was going to do everything in my power to meet my little girl and exhaust every last opportunity before giving up.
“Which one of these options gives me a chance of meeting my baby girl?” I asked.
The odds were against me and there were a thousand ways a cerclage placement in my condition could go wrong, but if there was any chance of saving the pregnancy, that would be the only way. I was ready for the risks. My maternal instincts had kicked in and I had to try.
There was only one other doctor that would be willing to take on as high-risk a case as mine was. Now I only had to pray that he would be available within the next day to do the procedure.
The best thing ever happened. He was not only available, but he also reviewed my case online immediately and squeezed me in for an emergency appointment the next morning.
There was hope again. I was reassured that if there was any chance of saving my pregnancy, Dr. Michael Katz, an MFM Specialist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, would be the man for the job.
His nurses would later tell me they consider him the ‘god of cerclages’. Being on his schedule was a miracle in itself, and I will forever be grateful.
The next day we drove an hour away to meet Dr. Katz and to take the last chance we had to save the pregnancy.
Meeting Dr. Katz was encouraging. He inspired just as much hope as any other hospital staff who heard that I was his patient. They all seemed to be convinced that he had miracle-working abilities and they made that well-known. There’s nothing as comforting as knowing that your doctor is the best there is.
It was supposed to be a brief procedure and if all went well, we would be back home later that evening.
I was wheeled into the operation room with a bit more hope but anxious nevertheless. The only thing I had at this point was faith. And cling to my faith I did. Hubby prayed over me and we trusted and waited.
A couple of hours later,
I came out of the operation room alright. The cerclage placement was a success BUT he had discovered during the procedure that my condition was in fact DIRER than he had initially thought.
Now I had to be admitted to the hospital for a couple more days for observation until it was safe for me to be discharged from the hospital.
Turns out, no going back home for us today.
It was made clear that we were not out of the woods yet and the next few days would determine what happens.
Worst days of our lives: The storm before the calm?
The first night at the hospital, I had contractions all night. I was so scared that I was going to go into labor and end up with an extremely preterm baby. I was 22 weeks 5 days at this point.
A neonatal specialist was sent in to talk to us in the morning and let us know what would happen if I were to deliver at this point. He gave us all the statistics – what are the chances of baby surviving if they were born at 23 weeks, 24 weeks, and so on and so on.
The facilities here could only handle babies born after 23 weeks and even then, the chances of the baby surviving were extremely low. Even worse, even if the baby were to survive, they wouldn’t have much in terms of quality of life. He gave us the statistics; statistics that filled us with hopelessness, statistics that no parent should have to consider.
Should the baby come before the 24-week mark, we would have lots of decisions to make. Decisions that would determine whether our baby lives or dies. Whether we would want them to be put in the incubator or not. How would we want them to pass on if it came to that? Boy, I hated that discussion. I hated that we had to have it. I couldn’t believe that some parents have to have such heartbreaking discussions about their babies. I appreciate that these are necessary but my heart still aches at the thought of how impossible those decisions are.
As the neonatal doctor left, hubby and I looked at each other in complete shock and we decided, “ We just have to make it to 23 weeks first, then we will see what happens after that.”
We kept hope alive, cautiously. My trust was that the hope that had held us this far would hold us through it all.
We were there waiting and hoping for the best but also ready for the worst. Thankfully, the days came and went, the contractions stopped and we hit 23 weeks. Our hope had not been cut off.
I spent 15 weeks on bed rest. It wasn’t easy but the ball of energy that is my baby girl was all worth it. I was actually inspired to start this blog during that period, so it was all worth it 🙂
I found that the best way to approach being on bed rest for such a long time was to give myself brief goals and celebrate every time I hit one. Take it a week at a time.
For example, I started by looking forward to making it to 24 weeks. I was so excited when I woke up to my Ovia app letting me know that we had hit the first viability milestone. I had to screenshot that so that I will always remember how far we came from.
The next goal was to make it to 27 weeks, and then 30 weeks and then 32 weeks, 36 weeks, and the ultimate goal was to make it to 37 weeks.
It got worse before getting better
It did. I ended up developing gestational diabetes while still on bed rest, but that’s a story for another day. Poking my fingers with a needle 4 times every day to test my glucose levels wasn’t fun. But we made it through.
I was released from bed rest at 37 weeks because at this point the baby is pretty much full term. My cerclage was also removed and we were all ready for the baby at this point.
My lovely friends threw me a baby shower the weekend after I was released from bed rest and it was the best thing ever! There was no better way to celebrate the difficult journey that had led us to this moment. I am eternally grateful for these girls.
My sweet little girl was born at 39 weeks via induction and she has been the greatest blessing in our lives ever since.
I am thankful that my story had a happy ending. But I can’t help but think about all the moms whose stories don’t have a happy ending.
To the ones who went through difficult pregnancies and still didn’t get to meet their lovely babies.
The moms who have had to actually make impossible decisions. Having to make choices where whichever decision you make you lose. My heart hurts for you mama.
I cannot begin to fathom your pain, I can only get a glimpse of it from my own journey. From the days I lay in bed not knowing whether today would be the day that aI lose my baby.
You are still a wonderful mom.
And you are brave mama,
You are stronger than you know.
And I pray that though your story may not have had a happy ending, your hope will stay alive.
May your faith be rewarded and may you find healing in your difficult path.