Yesterday was the big day before the Big Day: Cerclage Removal Day. After 21 weeks and 6 days of relying on two small pieces of surgical twine to hold our son inside of me, we were scheduled to show up at my OB’s office at 9 AM to have the training wheels removed. I have never been so nervous, though I’m sure I’ll be more nervous when I have to announce to Dan that it’s time to go to the hospital to have a baby – because I’m still pregnant. Cerclage-free, 36w1d, and still pregnant.
Last week, it started to really hit me that we had made it to all of our goals. I’d wake up every day and after I got over my initial 20 minutes of grumbling discomfort (it turns out it’s really uncomfortable to get out of bed, walk around, etc when heavily pregnant, who knew), I’d sit there and think god, I’m STILL PREGNANT. As in, how is this possible, how wonderful, how lucky we have been this time. I can’t wrap my mind around my new status of, as my doctors called it, “normal pregnant lady – well, except for the heparin.” They always throw in that little parenthetical, but yes, except for the heparin, I’m now just like any other 36 weeks pregnant lady walking around. I’m not supposed to be monitoring myself for a million possible symptoms of preterm labor or shortening; if something happens, it happens. I’m only supposed to call L&D if my water breaks or when I start having contractions that are 10 minutes apart. (okay, this part isn’t quite normal – normal pregnant ladies are supposed to call at 5 minutes apart, but my cervix overachieves in the dilation department as we all know.) Anything else, no one cares, doesn’t matter. Or rather, it is supposed to happen at this point. Because I’m 36 weeks pregnant, and that’s what happens. Your body prepares for and goes into labor. You have a baby. You hopefully get to bring it home.
And if you’re reading that and thinking, “well yes, of course,” then you’ve never spent the first 8 months of a pregnancy in fear of going into preterm labor. Because yes, of course, but that position is about 1 million miles away from the pregnancy we had up until yesterday. Dan asked me this morning if I ever thought, if we hadn’t lost Amy, this pregnancy and these complications might all have felt less traumatic. And I think that’s probably true. But we’d also appreciate it all a lot less. And then there is also just the simple truth that Amy has changed us and our lives forever. We won’t ever see pregnancy, children, our family the way we would have if we hadn’t lost her. We’ll always wish things were different, but we will also always know how incredibly lucky we are to be in a position to bring this child home with us. In, you know, a car seat.
Some details on the cerclage removal, for those of you reading this knowing (hoping) that one day you’ll be doing this too. I read a lot of other peoples’ removal stories going into this, and people seem to fall into two groups. One group goes in, comes out, reports that it “wasn’t that bad” and was “mostly just discomfort.” The other group reports it was the most painful thing in the whole world and maybe they ended up in L&D with an epidural to finish, and the doctor had to cut the stitch into a million pieces and they thought they’d pass out and the whole rest of the day was awful. I was hoping really hard to be in the first group, and I think mostly I was. It seemed like it went about as well as you could possibly expect.
The procedure is more or less the same, from your end, as getting a Pap. Insert giant speculum, which I have found to be pretty uncomfortable in and of itself since becoming pregnant. Then I got a warning about some discomfort and she went to town with the scissors. I don’t want to downplay this part – it really was pretty painful, but not constantly. Mostly it is was uncomfortable, but when she was actually grabbing the knots and cutting (I had two cerclages in place), it made me cramp and it really freaking hurt. But the entire procedure took less than 3 minutes, and I felt an immediate lessening of cervical pressure as soon as she clipped each knot. I felt crampy and uncomfortable for less than 5 minutes afterwards. The only part that was more unpleasant than I expected was the bleeding – they tell you to expect “some” bleeding but this was a lot more blood than I realized, it’s far more than spotting, but it settled down to spotting within 30 minutes or so.
After the cerclages were out, she did a manual cervical check to see what my cervix did as a result. I was dilated 1.5 cm and she estimated about 60% effaced, perfectly normal at 36 weeks. Then they had me sit on the monitors for about 30 minutes to make sure I wasn’t having contractions (I didn’t) and baby was still active (he is), then walk around for a few more minutes, then hop back on the table for a second manual check to make sure my cervix wasn’t going to just immediately go crazy. Everything was still exactly the same, so they sent me home!
Here is what was more pleasant than I expected – after about 32 weeks, baby got so big and my cervix got low enough that my cerclage was actually pinching me a lot, like a wire scratching in a very unpleasant location. All the doctors said this is kind of to be expected in a cerclage patient late in the game and said after removal that would disappear, which it did. However, a lot of OTHER discomfort I’d been having also disappeared. I can go about twice as long without having to pee now, and it’s not nearly so uncomfortable when I do have to go. I’d also been having a lot of tightness and soreness in the lower part of my bump which I thought was just growing pains, but I think now was actually my cerclage pulling just a bit too tightly for being so far along, because that disappeared too. Sitting upright is more comfortable and I’m just generally less sore. And the better bladder thing means I am suddenly getting a lot more sleep, so I’m a lot less cranky, too.