A cervical cerclage, or stitch helping to close the cervix, can be one way to help a high risk pregnancy. Here’s one mama’s story about her own experience.
The day I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, I wished for it to be a girl. I already have a son but I have always wanted a mini-me.
Imagine our excitement when at our 20-week appointment we found out that we were having a girl. It was the sweetest feeling ever.
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 asked to come in for weekly scans. It was such a bitter-sweet moment for us but we were hopeful that all would go well.
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 trying hard to hide it and act like it was all good. Bad news was coming, I just didn’t know how bad.
A few minutes later, the doctor came in and his first sentence was, “I am sorry to have to tell you this but I don’t have good news for you.” That stung. He went on to explain that the meds were not working and the situation was much worse. My cervix was open and 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.
I was given three options, none easier than the other.
I could either have a cerclage placement (whereby a stitch is placed to hold the cervix closed), terminate the pregnancy, or do nothing and let nature take its course. 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, no difficult choices. I did not mind experiencing the pain of labor. I just didn’t want to be in this position. But if wishes were horses…
I was here now and this was my cross to bear.
The only question on my mind at this point was, “Which one of these options gives me a chance, even a slight one, of meeting my baby girl?” I was going to do everything in my power to meet my little girl and exhaust every last opportunity before giving up.
I chose the cerclage placement.
The odds were against me and the doctor made it clear that the chances of it actually working, in this case, were minimal. But if there was any chance of saving the pregnancy, this would be it. In my mind there was no other way, risky or not, I had to try. Though the doctor I was seeing at this point was qualified enough to perform the procedure, he declined to do it himself because the chances of success were too low. He let me know that there was only one other doctor that might be willing to take as high-risk a case as mine was.
Now I only had to pray that he would be willing to take me on as a new patient and be available within the next day to do the procedure. But what are miracles? Or is it stars aligning? 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, a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist in San Francisco, would be the man for the job. His nurses would later tell me they consider him the ‘god of cerclages’. The next day we drove an hour away to meet Dr. Katz and to take the last chance we had to save the pregnancy.
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 some hope but anxious nevertheless. The only thing I had at this point was faith. And cling to my faith I did. A couple of hours later, I came out of the operation room alright.
The cerclage placement was a success but they had discovered during the procedure that my condition was in fact more dire than initially thought. My cervix had dilated way more than they thought and though they managed to stitch it closed, I had to be admitted to the hospital for a couple more days. We were not out of the woods yet. The risk of pregnancy loss or extreme preterm delivery was still very high.
The first night at the hospital, I had contractions all night.
I was 22 weeks 5 days at this point. It was terrifying. A neonatal specialist came to speak to us in the morning. He told us what to expect if the baby were to be born at this point – what are the chances of the baby surviving if they were born at 23 weeks, 24 weeks, and so on and so forth.
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, which is the first viability milestone, 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 kept in the incubator or not. What quality of life would they have if they were to live? 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, my husband and I had no idea what we would do.
The weight of such decisions has the potential of destroying anyone. We decided to keep hope alive. Cautiously so. The next 2 days at the hospital were the longest 2 days of our lives. We were there waiting and hoping for the best but also ready for the worst. Thankfully, the contractions stopped after the second day and then we hit the 23-week mark. That was wonderful. Our hope had not been cut off.
I was discharged from the hospital with instructions to be on strict bed rest. I spent 15 weeks on complete bed rest. It wasn’t easy and there are many days that my anxiety went through the roof. But I made it. We made it.
I took it one week at a time I started by looking forward to making it to 24 weeks. Waking up to a notification from my Ovia app that we had hit the first viability milestone was exciting. I had to screenshot that to always remember the difficult journey we were on.
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.
To my surprise, we made it even beyond that.
My sweet little girl was born at 39 weeks and I could not trade her for anything in the world. 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 the happy ending. The ones who went through difficult pregnancies and still didn’t get to meet their lovely babies.
Every time I look at my precious baby, I am reminded of the ones that did not make it to this side.
My heart hurts for you mama. I cannot begin to fathom your pain, I can only get a glimpse of it. From the days I lay in bed not knowing whether it would be the day that I lose my baby.
To the mama who had to let go of their baby,
You are still a mom. A wonderful mom.
And you are brave mama,
You are stronger than you know.
I pray that although your story may not have had a happy ending, your hope will stay alive. May your faith be rewarded and may you find healing on your difficult path.
Do you have experience with a cerclage?
Share your story in the comments below.