24 weeks. The point at which a fetus becomes viable. Before 24 weeks, most hospitals will not take any kind of life saving measures for babies born that early. I was at 20 weeks. I had to stay pregnant for a minimum of 4 weeks to even give my sweet baby a shot at having a life outside my womb.
The stark realization of what we were up against was starting to sink in as we headed into the hospital. We got there in record time and headed straight to Labor and Delivery. Labor and Delivery. This is where I was being sent. I neither wanted to labor or deliver that day. I wasn’t even supposed to be setting foot in this hospital for another 20 weeks. We got up to the third floor and quickly checked in. The receptionist joked that I didn’t look like I was supposed to be there for a few weeks yet. I told her “I’m not, please pray for my baby.” She looked me in the eye and with such compassion and sympathy said, “I most certainly will dear, I certainly will.” A nurse escorted us to a room and told me to change into a gown. As I walked in and inspected the hospital room I couldn’t help but notice all of labor and delivery equipment. It suddenly hit me. All of it. The horror of our situation, how scared I was, the possibility that I could go into active labor at any moment, the fact that I was in a room where they could deliver my 20 week baby if need be… all of it. For the first time since we were told I was “miscarrying,” I allowed myself to cry. I sobbed hysterically and just kept saying “I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to be here.” I pulled myself together enough to change into a gown and sat myself on the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever plopped my booty on.
As everyone in the room attempted to calm me down, in walked a very handsome doctor. Oh great, I’ve always wanted a good-looking guy inspecting my hoo hah and chatting with me about my cervix. And that’s exactly what happened. Dr. Lantz quickly “got to work” and examined me. He didn’t give us any indication if what he was seeing was “salvageable” or “beyond repair.” I held Keith’s hand and just kept praying “Please God save our baby.” With the exam portion of the visit over, Dr. Lantz moved on to another ultrasound. He asked us if we knew the gender of the baby. We told him that we were supposed to find out that day, but our plans obviously changed. He said that he would let us know what we were having if he could tell on the ultrasound. Even though he had given us no real answers, this was the first ray of hope that we had been given since the day started. Knowing the gender of our baby, to me, meant that there was still a possibility of having a healthy baby boy or girl when all was said and done. For the second time that day I was able to see our wiggly, squiggly baby. Dr. Lantz pointed out different things on the ultrasound. We saw hands and feet and an itty bitty face. He checked the anatomy of the baby and told us that the brain and organs were developing normally. When he went to look for female/male organs he told us that the baby was crossing his/her legs and he couldn’t see what he needed to see. For months all I wanted to know was if we were having a boy or girl. It’s amazing how quickly priorities change. All I wanted to hear from Dr. Lantz that day was “we can save your baby.” He then continued the ultrasound and measured my cervix. He told me that I was only about 3 cm dilated. Well, so far the news is better than at my doctor’s office! We breathed a SMALL sigh of relief and I didn’t hesitate to ask Dr. Lantz what our options were. He told us we didn’t really have option(s) if I wanted to keep this pregnancy. He would need to do an emergency cerclage and sew my cervix shut if we were going to give this baby any fighting chance — this was our ONLY option. There was no reason for him to feel that there was anything wrong with the baby, and no apparent reason that I should be miscarrying, so in his professional opinion, a cerclage was feasible and could work. Keith and I immediately agreed and I told him to do whatever he needed to do to save the baby. He told us that he would come in at 7am the next day to do the procedure. He wanted to give me about 24 hours to make sure that I wasn’t miscarrying and if all looked the same in the morning he would put in the cerclage. We just had to make it to Thanksgiving and this baby had a shot.
After the longest night of my life, we had made it. 7am. Dr. Lantz came in and smiled at us and asked if we were ready to go. I told him I was more than ready and thanked him for being there on Thanksgiving day. He did a quick exam to make sure everything was still the same as the day before, and then told the nurse it was ” go time.” Everything was happening so quickly I didn’t really have time to be nervous. Keith was allowed to come into the OR with me, so I was comforted knowing that he’d be holding my hand through all of this. I was wheeled in to the OR where I was given a spinal block, and a run down of all the possible risks and complications of the procedure, including having my water accidentally broken a potentially going into labor. After informing me of all conceivable issues that could arise, Dr. Lantz reiterated that this really was the only shot my baby had. I took a huge deep breath and said, “ok then, let’s do this.” The procedure was, well, super awkward. It was quick though. I was out of the OR in half an hour and back in the hospital room to recover. Dr. Lantz came in to debrief us on how the procedure went. He said that I was about 3cm dilated and 80% effaced. Since the cervix was so thin he didn’t get the suture in as securely as he had hoped. For now, however, my cervix was closed. Dr. Lantz told us that he was unsure that the cerclage would work for long, but told me that he did everything he could for us and we should go home. He then concluded with important post op instructions. In order to give the baby the best shot at getting to viability, I was instructed to adhere to strict bedrest. I was to lay completely flat on my back and only get up to use the restroom.The only other time I could get out of bed was to shower every other day. I asked Dr. Lantz how long he thought I would need to be on bedrest. Couldn’t my cervix just heal itself with lots of rest? No. He informed me that I would need to be on bedrest for the duration of my pregnancy. For some reason, after everything we had just been through, this might have been the biggest bomb dropped on me. 5 months in bed? How was I going to manage that? It was Thanksgiving… was I supposed to spend the holidays in bed? I knew I would do anything, ANYTHING to save this baby. But 5 months of bedrest seemed like the most daunting thing to ever be asked of me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.
I had to quickly accept that this was going to be the hardest thing I’d ever done, but if it meant that I would be holding a sweet baby when all of this was over, I would lie in bed for as long as I possibly could. I envisioned a healthy, crying newborn being placed on my chest. I envisioned rocking and singing to my beautiful child. I envisioned a house full of young laughter. I envisioned loving a little person more than I had ever loved anything in my entire life. These thoughts and my incessant prayers would get me through… but I knew this was not going to be easy.
**Special thanks to all of the people who supported us through our scary hospital stay over Thanksgiving. My cousin Sarah who made sure Keith and I got to the hospital and then stayed with me and kept my spirits up the whole day. To our amazing nurse, Gail, who was the most comforting and wonderful nurse I could’ve ever hoped for. To my Aunt Trina and cousin Mandy who drove all the way from VA to come be with us on the day of the procedure. And of course, the biggest thank you of all, to Dr. Lantz, who is solely responsible for saving sweet Kaleb’s life. A lot of doctor’s would not have gone forward with a cerclage with the state of my cervix, but Dr. Lantz did. We owe him so much. We will be forever grateful for the support, love and comfort you all brought to us during one of the hardest and scariest days of our entire lives.