Friday, October 19, 2012
Becoming a New Mommy: Finding Your Inner Superhero, Part II
Becoming a New Mommy: Finding Your Inner Super-hero, Part II
By Alexis C.
The Journey Continues…
Pregnancy, a word that most women think and dream about, myself included. From the moment you get those test results, your body starts the process of transformation from just a regular person, to this superhero charged with the power to guard and protect this growing being inside of you. As I mentioned in “part 1,” the journey to becoming pregnant was filled with ups and downs, but surprisingly easier to accomplish than I originally anticipated. And although I had some “scares” with spotting and was told to take it easy during the first trimester, I operated as usual. However, nothing could have prepared me for what was waiting just ahead of the halfway mark…
For those who know me, they can attest that I am like the energizer bunny, always on the go, and always multi-tasking. And being pregnant was not going to limit me (or so I thought). I was lucky to have a pretty mild first trimester and the timing of it was perfect as I was off for the summer. The fall came, and I was back at work, teaching, and also planning a move into a home, gearing up for the Jewish holidays, and getting my ladybugs (step-daughters) back on the school routine. Since I worked far from my house, I chose doctors and a hospital to deliver at closer to work, as my plan was to work until it was time for the baby.
“Moving week” was here and so was my 20-week ultra-sound at the perinatal specialist. We were so excited to see the baby, even though we had been four weeks prior to finish the integrated testing for chromosomal abnormalities (which were all normal results). My mom was joining us for her first peak at her first grandchild, and we all agreed we were not going to find out the baby’s gender. The technician began the appointment by doing an internal ultrasound. Being the “reader” mom that I am, I asked why she was doing this as I had read that after 12 weeks gestation internal scans were not normal. She replied with this is standard practice for this doctor, no matter where you are in the pregnancy he likes to measure/check the cervix. The scan finished and we were all elated seeing the baby and ready to see the doctor and get back to work. We were sent to the waiting room; which if you happen to know this doctor, is the place where pregnant women gather to talk and complain about the insane wait time. My mom left and my husband and I sat there for what felt like an eternity. Just as I was going to the nurse to find out how much longer we would be waiting (already at the two hour waiting mark), they called my name and we were taking back to a small office to wait, yet again, for the doctor.
Finally, the doctor came in and sat down cheerful and very friendly. He put the images of the baby on the screen and showed us how everything was measuring great on the baby and it looked like all is normal with the baby. We were picking up our stuff and ready to go and he said to me, “so what do you do for a living?” I thought to myself, ah, small talk, I just need to get out of here. I replied, “I’m a teacher.” He followed up with, “do you walk around a lot? Do you sit on the floor with kids? Do you exercise?” I answered his questions and told him, “I’m like the energizer bunny, and I’m everywhere.” His tone changed, and he said (and I remember it word for word), “okay, you are going to go back into a room and I am going to do another internal scan myself. There will be one of two outcomes. The first, you will leave here and go straight to the hospital, check in, and I will be performing an emergency surgery to try to save the pregnancy, and then you will be on bedrest. The second outcome is that you will leave here and go home and be on bedrest for the rest of the pregnancy and we will monitor you closely.” I was in utter shock. As I sit here writing this now I actually feel the same anxiety filling my body that I did then. I started to cry, and said, “bedrest? What? Why? I can’t, I work, I have to work!” He explained that according to the initial scans I had at weeks 13 and 16 my cervix was measuring normal (4.3 cm in length). However, at 20 weeks, the cervix was at 1.8cm and on the verge of exposing the bag of water that surrounds the baby. I was in a complete panic. Surgery? What the hell happened to cause this?
We went back into the room and he did the scan and found that the cervix measured less than 1 cm. He turned to me and said, “it’s off to the hospital for you. I will meet you there later today.” I could not believe it. I turned to my husband and said, “Now I want to know what we are having. I can’t even fathom surgery, possibly loosing the baby, and not knowing the gender.” We agreed it was time to learn and give us some hope and something to look forward to. We were facing at least 17 weeks of bed rest. The technician did another ultrasound on my belly and showed us we were having a boy! We were experiencing all kinds of emotions but knew how wonderful this would be for our family to be complete now that we were going to have boy.
There was no time to waste and the doctor explained the procedure I would be having was called a cervical cerclage, or literally suturing the muscle together to keep it from shortening any more. He further told us that I would need to lay for at least five days in a position known as trendelenburg (your head is down and your legs are elevated) to help gravity pull the baby towards my chest instead of putting pressure on the cervix, especially since he was very low. I would be hooked up to a fetal heart rate monitor as well as the contraction monitor while in the hospital so they could make sure I did not have any contractions or go into labor as a result of the procedure. All of this was incredibly overwhelming, especially since this was my first pregnancy. When I asked what caused this he said the condition was called an “incompetent cervix.”
INCOMPETENT. BOOM-welcome to motherhood. You (or your cervix rather) are incompetent. Every mother (new or veteran) strives for child rearing perfection, and here I am, 20 weeks pregnant and already being told I’m incompetent (or at least that is what I heard). I survived the procedure thanks to a godsend of an anesthesiologist who massaged my face and used aromatherapy to help with nausea and to keep me calm (I was awake an only given a spinal block since it is the least harmful to the baby). My post-op experience in the hospital was dreadful (we will save all hospital experiences for another post), but after four days I was able to go home, well to my parents’ house.
Since we were amidst moving into a new house (literally the moving truck showed up the day I had the surgery) and the house had stairs no less, I set up shop at my parents’ house to stay out of the way. Welcome to tortureville, population-me. I am not one to sit and watch things happen around me, but here I found myself sidelined for the next 17 weeks until the cerclage could be removed at 37 weeks gestation. I spent each day lying flat or on my side and could only sit up long enough to go to the bathroom or scarf down some food (which when you’re pregnant and have to lay down immediately following eating, you don’t really want to eat). I enjoyed catching up on my favorite tv shows and playing around online, but after the first week, I was over it. I felt like I was watching everything around me move but I was at a standstill.
The holidays came and went, and so did my “maternity leave.” I found myself feeling anxious over would my job be there when I was able to go back, how were we going to get through this? My husband, who is just the best thing that could have ever happened to me, was feeling just as helpless as I was. We shared all responsibilities and now, moving into a new house, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of all four of us was on his shoulders. Very thankfully, we have WONDERful family and friends who stepped in and helped. I had weekly doctor visits to make sure things stayed status quo and since I was not able to drive, my family stepped in and sat week after week (for hours) at each doctor appointment. We were also truly blessed with the help and support of a dear family friend, who luckily for us is an incredibly childbirth educator. Since she lived next door to my parents, she would spoil me with visits to give massages, teach me breathing exercises, and get my husband and I ready for the big arrival. She gave us an in-home birthing class and after much discussion she also helped me figure out my options and created a birth plan. Lusia, thank you again from the bottom of our hearts for everything!
So how exactly did I get through this? I’m asked that all the time. My response is simple, I just kept telling myself, “I am a mother, and this is what mothers do for their children. They sacrifice, they protect, and they put their child(ren) first.” I was determined to hold my son in my arms no matter what. I turned to the virtual world; since it was the only connection I had during the day to the outside world. One of my favorite Bravo-lebrities, Rosie Pope, had posted something on facebook one day posing a question to her followers about pregnancy. I remember responding and saying “Rosie, help! I am on bed rest for the next five months and I am going crazy here all day, any advice?” Not expecting a response, I was shocked that within minutes she replied and told me about an organization called Sidelines. This organization is designed as support for women and their families who are dealing with high-risk pregnancies. I found forums and connections to hundreds of other women going through what I was. Other friends referred me to the forums on Babycenter. I read success stories daily and we all traded experiences and asked questions surrounding our anticipated day when we would get to “ditch the stich,” or have the cerclage removed.
Time seriously flew by, and before we knew it, it was January 12 and I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for this (bed rest) to be over. After a torturous time in the waiting room, I was face to face with the doctor as he laughed about how even he couldn’t believe I was still pregnant at 37 weeks. I held my breath and after about two minutes and a few small cramps it was over. I was free, or my cervix was free to start getting ready for a hopefully impending labor. So now it was game-time and I was ready to roll—literally! I had a “birthing ball,” or yoga ball, and did exercises multiple times a day, walked every day a couple of miles, and started to pack my bags in anticipation of my little man’s arrival.
My “birth story” could be a whole post in and of itself, so let’s suffice it to say it was right on par with the rest of the pregnancy—difficult and nothing went as planned. Needless to say, on January 25, 2012, at 6:00pm I saw my son for the very first time. There truly is nothing like seeing your child, and although I deeply wish I could remember holding him for the first time, sadly I cannot as the pain medication I was on has taken that memory from me. One day I know I will share this experience with my son and hope that from it he learns to be as supportive and loving as his father was to me when it is his turn to become a father.
Motherhood is challenging, and sharing my journey with all of you has given me the release I needed from the whole experience. We are so lucky to been able to bring this beautiful child into our lives and are thankful that he makes our family complete. If you are reading this and you experienced a difficult pregnancy, please share your story with us. If you are reading this and you are currently pregnant and experiencing a high risk pregnancy, please know you are not alone and reach out to others for support and share your journey as well. Thank you again for listening/reading! I promise to “lighten” the mood in my next post!
Cervical incompetence (CI) is relatively rare and occurs in less than 2% of pregnancies in the United States. However, CI is one of the more common reasons for second trimester miscarriages. Since little literature exists on the cause of CI, it is hard to determine factors and reason. However, studies have shown that women who have had internal procedures (such as a D&C) in which the cervix needed to be dilated are at greater risk for CI during pregnancy as the manufactured dilation could weaken the muscle.