The Transabdominal Cerclage

Okay, here goes.

Cervical Incompetence is a condition where the cervix, because of injury or congenital issues, can’t handle the weight of a pregnancy to term. Labor starts because the cervix fails. I don’t think I ever had a doctor say the words “you have cervical incompetence” to me, but….I knew there was something terribly wrong with my body. There are two little graves that prove that. [Ooh, self-blame rears its ugly head again. Like I said in other posts, some days I’m better at fighting it than others, and I won’t delete that sentence because that’s how I feel today.]

After we lost Elijah, we had a consultation with a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor in the hospital where we lost both our babies. The hospital staff was fantastic, so very caring and gentle, to us. I have no idea if I can ever set foot in that building again though. He raised the idea of surgical intervention to prevent another loss, and gave us info on a specialist in Chicago who does Transabdominal Cerclage [TAC]. I knew about transvaginal cerclages, where they stitch your cervix shut from below, but the TAC is a full surgery where they come in through your stomach and completely, permanently, tie the cervix shut at the top. The doctor said we had options: my next pregnancy could have a TVC higher up on my cervix, or we could get a TAC.

All I could think was, “Oh Doctor Whatever-Your-Name-Is, cause I’ve forgotten it in the five minutes since you introduced yourself, I don’t want to talk about “options for the next time”–what a joke!–I’m just trying to not break down here.”

I’d rather burn down my house than go through another loss. I’d stand in the street holding the box my husband made for our babies’ things and watch this house go up in flames, rather than have another funeral. If you’ve lost your baby, you know how this feels. LITERALLY ANYTHING, ANYTHING, to not have this happen again, please God, not again.

Eventually, though, we decided that IF we wanted to try again, IF we were willing to take that risk again, IF–we absolutely didn’t want the same outcome. We decided to go ahead with the TAC, and found a doctor in Indianapolis, Dr. James Sumners, who does the surgery as well. There are about 3-4 surgeons in the whole US that do this surgery. People come to these doctors from all over the world, and TWO of them are within driving distance of our house, which just seems miraculous to me.

We don’t have health insurance, but we decided that if this surgery took all our savings, we were doing it. Dr Sumners was very kind, and the surgery went well. It was an out-patient, laparascopic surgery, since I wasn’t pregnant, and lasted for a few hours. I have four small scars on my stomach from the ports for the camera and robot arms. [Let me just repeat that: ROBOT ARMS! Tiny robot arms! In my stomach! It’s gross and cool all at the saaaame time.] We had the surgery done in March of this year, literally days before COVID shut everything down. My recovery was really simple: I had the surgery on Friday and was back to work Monday. The worst part of the process, honestly, was the shoulder pain! Apparently a high percentage of people who have abdominal surgery report shoulder pain. I’m a huge baby about pain, so I’m grateful that’s all there was.

A side note about doctors: you never want a medical professional to look at your body/x-rays/whatever and say “Huh!” because immediately all you can think is “WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME! WHAT DO YOUR ELF EYES SEE?!”

But, far more importantly: I can’t lose a baby the same way I lost Faith and Elijah. My cervix is closed, permanently. I can still get pregnant naturally, but the synthetic band tied around my cervix will take the weight of any future pregnancies. I can’t give birth naturally anymore, so I’ll have to have c-sections. That’s fine; I am so chill about potentially being cut open like a damn Thanksgiving turkey YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

As they say in the military, we have things squared away. My cervix [stupid, stupid cervix that didn’t work and let my babies down] is fixed.

The hospital, Ascension St Vincent, FORGAVE THE SURGERY BILL. Y’all. They FORGAVE about $14,000 of medical debt. We asked for a payment plan and they SO KINDLY bumped our bills over into their charity column. If I ever have a big ol’ chunk of change I’m going to donate to their charity fund. We know that this is a blessing from God. We got a whole, specialty surgery, for about $2500. Unreal. We take it as a sign that we did the right thing.

Of course if I get pregnant again, the chance of loss exists, especially in the first trimester; if I get pregnant again, the baby could be sick, or disabled, or literally ANYTHING could go wrong, and the thought of that makes me wonder if trying again is worth the risk, because I’m still high-risk and will be forever given my pregnancy history and I CANNOT lose another baby. We’re still trying to conceive though. I don’t know if this is stepping out in faith or the triumph of hope over experience. So far, no dice. I know it’ll be difficult for me to get pregnant again due to my PCOS. I had a blood draw last week to check my hormone levels, but I don’t feel pregnant and so I don’t have much hope that this month was our moment.

Part of me longs for another baby, and another part of me is unwilling to go through all that risk and heartache again. These two parts of me have fistfights on the daily. I’m not sure which side won today.

Maybe my two perfect, lost babies were all the babies I’ll ever have. It’s a sad thought but I’m trying, and mostly succeeding, at accepting it. I’ve always dreamed of being a mom and raising children; I think I’d be good at it. Unfortunately, the past 2 years have been so painful that I have loosened my grip on that dream. Not completely, obviously. But I’m consciously trying to be at peace with the notion that my dreams might need to change.

I still think we did the right thing in getting the TAC, though. If I get pregnant, on purpose or on accident or something, we’ve protected any future babies. Fertility is a bitch, y’all.

I hope, if you ever get to the point that you’re ready to try for another baby, you have great success at conceiving again! If you never reach that point–that’s completely okay. Losing my babies has changed me forever; it makes sense that it would also change what I want from life. I’m just trying to do my best, and I know you are too.

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