Saved three. A year ago today, I went in to have a short procedure done. For those of you who have been on bedrest or pregnant with multiples, “cerclage” is not an unfamiliar word to you. Shortly after finding out we were having triplets (story here) I quickly became aware that this event would most likely buy our babies more womb-time…with their “womb-mates.” =) Sure enough – early July (at 21 weeks) we found out that my cervix had shortened in half from a month ago, from 4 cm to 2 cm. It should have looked like a “Y” but was beginning to look more like an “I.” Not good. Dr. Al-Malt recommended we have the procedure two days later. That shook me up since I wasn’t prepared for it to be such an urgent issue.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment when I asked the nurse as we were leaving his office what kind of anesthetic would be used. She matter-of-factly said “an epidural.” My heart sank and my eyes filled up with tears. I was torn. I wanted so badly to deliver these babies with as little medical interference as possible. I longed for a natural childbirth experience, welcoming my children into the world after screaming them into it. And now they tell me that at 21 weeks, my spine will need to be injected with an epidural in order to (hopefully) buy me more time?! I cried. The poor nurses thought it was the big, long needle I was upset about…hardly.
We made the necessary preparations, though, feeling this was God’s wisdom for us – medical intervention would allow our babies a better chance of remaining in the womb and continuing to form (Psalm 139). Wednesday morning we arrived at the hospital. I was still unaware (unprepared?) for what exactly this would look like. The doctor had explained it as an out-patient procedure that took 15 minutes. And I was being prepped for surgery. Surgery?! I guess I didn’t know the questions to ask, so wow was I scared. Birthing babies didn’t scare me but the epidural did (and lest you think I’m naive, I’m not completely unaware – I’ve been a part of several births so I know what goes on =). It didn’t dawn on me to ask if David could go back with me and I was absolutely terrified during the process. The anesthesiologist actually couldn’t find the “space” to put the needle so he had to keep moving up my spine. Yes. It’s true. It was a nightmare of terror for me. I just kept breathing, “Oh God, help me. Protect my spine, protect my babies.” Finally, the epidural was in. Horrid thing. (Oh, did I mention that they take the cerclage out WITHOUT any pain medication? Yes. And after he cut it out, he told me how great I did since I didn’t say a word – and the nurses agreed – and that usually women just about kick him over and toss out curse words. Wise of him to wait till afterwards to tell me this. Very wise. Very, very, verrry wise.)
Once the epidural was set, they laid me flat on the table and tilted my upper body towards the floor. My arms were straight out. The room was very cold. Oddly, my doctor and I joked a bit. He also told me it was very good that we went ahead with the cerclage since my cervix had shortened to less than 1 cm from two days ago! And then all of a sudden…he was done! Afterwards, I was unprepared for how I would feel. I began having contractions that increased to only a few minutes apart. This was anticipated, but not a good thing, obviously. My body was reacting to the procedure that had just taken place. Therefore, more medication was required. .sigh. And then medication to counteract some of the side effects of that medication. .sigh. See why I dislike medical intervention? It always involves some kind of “counteracting.” Anyways, I also thought I’d be able to go home that afternoon (after all, isn’t that what “out patient” means??). But no. I was contracting too much and needed to be kept for observation. This meant constant fetal monitoring. No biggie, you say. True. Until you have three babies and they strap three fetal monitors to you and spend hours trying to find the heartbeats and babies’ positions.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I realized sleep was going to be impossible (not so for my dear husband sleeping on the couch next to me =). I began feeling serious pain in my chest. It felt like a piano was sitting on top of me. We kept telling the nurses and doctors but none of them could understand. One just automatically got me some Percoset. Seriously?! No thank you, Dr. Then he ordered an EKG to make sure it wasn’t my heart. That came back clear. Then he wanted to send me downstairs to get some kind of ultrasound done on my legs (???) that would rule out something that wasn’t likely. Ooooohkay. While David and I were deciding what to do, I figured out what was wrong. Because I was tilted back with my head toward the floor during the procedure, the weight of my pregnant body put so much pressure on some muscle in my chest. And because the epidural had been moved up higher, it was just now wearing off completely. Thus the tears-in-my-eyes pain. Huh. Yay, me! I figured it out.
At that point I’d been up for about 24 hours and finally fell asleep. I woke up and felt fine. But they wouldn’t let me go home till the doctor had seen me. So we waited. And waited. They wanted (and tried!) to do an internal US to check the status of the cerclage. Well, let’s just say that was NOT going to happen. Not that day. No way. Finally my INCREDIBLY patient husband had used up his thinning patience and was getting ready to just pack us up and walk out (I thought that was pretty hott =). The doctor (whom we truly do love) came in and said, “Ok, looks good – we’ll see you on Monday.” Poor David. So we headed home – with a very nasty sandwich from the cafeteria – at about 11p. (Ok, it was a nasty sandwich to this pregnant woman…still makes me gag to think of its smell.)
The moral of this story is, I am ultimately grateful for medical intervention when truly necessary. Even more than medical intervention, I am grateful for the wisdom God gave us to make the decision to go with a cerclage (rather than just bedrest) as I continued to carry our babies for another 11 weeks, delivering at 32 weeks and 4 days. Because of the cerclage, they were only “feeders and growers” in the NICU and had a very short stay of 29-30 days. Thank you, Lord!!!