It’s a surreal feeling to leave the hospital, with no baby in your arms. It’s one of those terrible things you hear about happening to other women. You never imagine you will be the one telling the story.
It was our first pregnancy. My husband and I waited 10 years to actually start trying to expand our family (we got married young). Learning I was pregnant with a baby was another surreal feeling. Remember . . . 10 years of just the two of us. We had the first ultrasound and received a due date. This was really happening.
We did all the things you do when finding out you’ll soon be first-time parents. We had a small gender reveal for the grandparents. We cried happy tears. Everyone knew about our bundle of joy and preparations were being made for our baby boy. We were so ecstatic to be having a boy.
Hello, second trimester—week 18 came around, almost halfway there. I was noticeably showing. I should have been able to begin feeling movement soon. At this point in the gestation process, a baby is about the size of a large avocado. (Truth is, I feel these week-by-week fruit comparisons we often use are a bit modest, but I digress.)
March 21. I was at work and started not to feel well. Mostly body aches, flu-like symptoms. Nothing too alarming. However, I left work early in the afternoon to go home to rest.
March 22. 3:00 a.m. I awoke and got up to visit the bathroom. Not unusual in the middle of the night for me or any other pregnant mom. Everything seemed normal. I went back to bed.
March 22. 3:30 a.m. I awoke again. Just 30 minutes later. A strong pressure to go again. “This is weird,” I thought since I just went. But, out of bed I got. I sat down to use the toilet again and . . . this wasn’t supposed to be happening. By this time, my husband heard my calling and was out of bed. He stood in the bathroom with me.
“Something is wrong,” I said. I knew I was not supposed to feel what I was feeling at that moment. That was it. That was the moment I lost my baby. The end of he and I, growing together.
You hear stories of women who have babies at home, or in public restrooms even, who didn’t even know they were pregnant. How in the world can that happen? Are these stories even real? As I learned in the wee hours of that Wednesday morning, it is very raw and very real.
I sat there for a minute before getting up. Then, I couldn’t really get up. The cord had to be cut to separate myself from the fetus who was now outside my body. Some situations in life you can never prepare yourself for. I will spare the remaining details. The next several minutes were full of fear and frenzy in realizing I needed to get to the hospital—soon.
We were about 20 minutes from the hospital. Though my husband minded no speed limit, I don’t know if that drive felt like it took two minutes or two hours. I’m not even sure if we spoke much on the way there. This is about the only vague remembrance I have of the entire thing. Everything else is so clear.
A few minutes after arriving at the ER, I found myself skipping the wait and being taken straight to a room in that unit. I don’t know how many people were in that tiny room. But I do remember a female nurse talking to another and hearing the words “incompetent cervix.”
Incompetent cervix? The phrase was foreign to me at this point. I sure didn’t realize how many times those two words would be repeated over the next few days and how much those words would haunt my thoughts for the next several months. At that moment, I didn’t even ask questions about what I had overheard. I just lay there trying to take in all that had just happened. A state of shock is only how it can be described. I didn’t know it would take the next several hours to even begin the recovery process. My body still had a ways to go. I calmly just lay there.
My OB doctor paid a visit during that hospital stay. I learned I had in fact suffered from cervical weakness, something the medical world has given the term incompetent cervix or cervical insufficiency.
This occurs when the cervical tissue is too weak to carry the baby past a certain point during development, usually between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. The cervix begins to open early causing preterm birth or miscarriage. In a normal pregnancy, the cervix should slowly change through the months, softening and shortening in preparation for delivery.
A miscarriage occurs when a fetus is lost before the 20th week. Fetus. The word seems so impersonal. This wasn’t a fetus to me, this was my baby. I held him for the first time in that hospital bed. The nurse placed him in my arms clean and tightly wrapped—so peaceful. Though he was tiny at eight inches long. Little bitty hands and feet. All body parts were present and visible but so delicate. He was precious.
This wasn’t a situation where I went in for an ultrasound and the tech said to me, “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.” To me, this was no miscarriage. Ready or not, I delivered a baby. My body just couldn’t hold him any longer. This part was difficult for me over the next several weeks. I wasn’t mad at myself. I knew in my mind there was nothing different I could have done, and if any warning signs were present they were extremely subtle. But I was mad at my body. My body had failed me tremendously.
I was told I could carry the baby with me if we wished to have a memorial of our own or they could dispose of the body for me. Dispose of the body? I didn’t want to hear any more than that. Those words have always stuck with me. I didn’t even want to think of what “dispose” meant. How could I leave the hospital and leave my baby behind? Though eternally sleeping, he was mine. He belonged with us.
My body was unable to pass the placenta on its own. So after a D&C (dilation and curettage), blood transfusion, and an overnight hospital stay, I did leave the hospital that next day—without my baby until we were ready for him. It was heartbreaking.
It took us a few days to plan with clarity. Then later, we returned to the hospital where a special nurse met us with a little wooden box. In the box was our first son.
The hospital nurses and staff were nothing short of amazing. Our baby was so delicately prepared for us. We did have a proper, small family memorial at the gravesite. The local funeral home graciously didn’t charge us for any of their services. Sometimes others just provide what you need. God provides.
My OB suggested I wait three months before trying again. It would have been easy to throw in the towel at that point. It was too traumatic of an experience, and I wanted no part of that ever again. But I trusted my doctor and had extreme faith in our modern-day, advanced medical procedures used to aid women in carrying babies when their bodies need assistance in doing so. My OB brought a great amount of calm to me in assuring this is unfortunately a real occurrence that does happen, though not common.
A procedure in which the cervix is closed during early pregnancy (cervical cerclage or cervical stitch) and other treatments are available for preventing miscarriages and preterm delivery when there is a known risk.
Flash forward one year. One year and six days to be exact. Funny how things turn out sometimes. My water broke at home and contractions began. I arrived again at the same hospital. This time, walking myself into labor & delivery. Much different than before. Roughly 12 hours later, a baby boy was born at 36 weeks and 5 days gestation. Again, in a much different way than before, I was able to finally hold my crying, breathing baby boy. Another boy. Sometimes God provides when we so desperately need it.
It was the last day in the hospital after our answered prayer was born. We were getting ready to be discharged. I took a short walk. I was on the same floor as before. I walked down the hall to the end corner room. Fortunately, the room was unoccupied. I stood in the doorway and stared at the hospital bed where I had sat one year prior. I recalled those events so well. I remembered how I felt sitting in that room—so confused and with so many questions, such uncertainty about the future of our family. I knew without a doubt how extra special this second baby boy was to me. Something that cannot really be explained with words.
Three and a half years after this experience, our family was completed. I am now the proud mother to two children, one boy and one girl. Though in my heart, I will always have three.
Randomly sometime afterward during a dark time, a person reached out to me whose wife (whom I did not know) experienced the same situation and then later went on to have three other healthy children. That particular message was a Godsend to me. Something I so desperately needed to hear on that particular night. I remember it well. I shared the message with my husband, and I went to bed that night feeling more hopeful than ever.
Cervical weakness occurs only in about one percent of pregnancies. Please don’t let my story scare you into thinking you are bound to lose a baby. I share my first-hand experience only so that anyone who has experienced a miscarriage or pre-term birth can find comfort in knowing you are not alone. It does happen, and it is okay to talk about it. It’s also okay not to talk about it—only talk when you are ready.
We don’t always get to choose our circumstances. I often say women’s bodies are a complex thing. We grow babies. We are strong. Sometimes we look back not even knowing how strong we were then. In trying times, you do what you have to do. Whatever we face, we will get through it and hopefully use our experience to help someone else. In doing so, it helps us heal ourselves.
I pray that anyone who has possibly experienced what I did can search out this article and find comfort in knowing things can be so much different the next time.