Every pregnancy is truly different

It’s so true, every pregnancy is different.  Even with uterus didelphys! And who knows why.  It finally looks like my morning sickness is starting to go away! I’ll go several days now where I don’t throw up in the morning, before having another sick day.  At 20 weeks I’ll count that as a win.  I was sick through 24 weeks with my daughter Hannah.

My last doctor’s appointment went really well, too! Every week I’ve just been waiting for that other shoe to drop.  But so far, nothing.  It was around this time with my last pregnancy that I had my cerclage put in.  And it’s not like we’re dealing with a different side.  This is the same uterus I was pregnant in last time.

At my appointment, the perinatologist said, “Your cervix is not the longest in the world, but over the last 3 weeks it looks the same.  So I’d say it’s stable.” Honestly… that’s shocking news to me.  I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.  My pregnancy with my daughter was just SO different.  But I’ll take it… it’s holding strong at 2.6 cm.  

When I asked her why it’s so different this time around, she said because every pregnancy IS truly different.  We don’t know why.  We can guess… but we really will never know why.  I also readdressed my concerns about getting past the 24 week mark, and then not being able to have surgery.  My doctor told me that there’s a lot of evidence that suggests that making it through 24 weeks without your cervix giving way is a sign that it’s not going anywhere until that baby is ready to come.  

If I do make it to that 24 week mark, then just like last time, I’ll count my milestones as I get them.  Celebrating as I make it to 28… 32… 36 (hopefully). 

All of that being said, we still have to get to 24 weeks.  I hit 21 weeks in a couple of days… so we have a little ways to go.  But this is promising news!  

It’s also very nice having doctors who have been through a tough pregnancy.  They get it.  I feel like they truly understand my feelings, because they’ve been there.  And for me, when they’re not freaking out, it’s easier for me to not freak out. It’s not that I don’t trust the other doctors that I’ve seen… I just trust these people more, because I can relate to them.

So here’s to another week! Maybe this time around will be a lot different form the last.  Goodness only knows I could bear a pregnancy that had a little less drama! 

Oh, one last crazy fact I recently learned… My next huge milestone is to make it to 24-25 weeks.  That’s when my baby will have a chance to survive, in case he decides to come early.  In other places, babies have a chance of survival as early as 22-23 weeks, because they’re at sea level.  Even with all the special equipment, we just don’t have enough oxygen to support those little guys here in Denver, CO.  

Disappointed watching “Discovery Fit and Health”

It’s taken me some time to sit down and write this after I watched a program on Discovery Fit and Health over the weekend.  Mostly because I was so angry while watching it, I wanted to throw my tv out the window. Plus, I’ve been trying to figure out who or what I’m most upset at.

It’s not a channel I usually watch.  My guess is my daughter got a hold of the channel changer and randomly put it on there.  Regardless, I happened to catch the program “Strange Pregnancies”.  This time, they featured a woman with Uterus Didelphys.  Obviously I was intrigued.

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Like many women out there, this woman, sadly, experienced a miscarriage.  She rushed to the hospital, only to find there was nothing they could do.  But, she did find out she had two uteri! Her doctors then explained to her that this was the reason for her miscarriage.

What?!?! This was the first point I started yelling at the television.  Here was a young woman, devastated after losing her child, finding out something that is quite shocking, and she now believes she can never have children. All of this happened after one visit to the ER??

Every uterine anomaly is different.  Two people with Uterus Didelphys will have slightly different variations.  So, it’s plausible that someone’s uterine lining is too thin, and that there could be problems, they could micarry.  But finding something like that takes time.  My problem is with the blanket statement of “women with Uterus Didelphys can’t ever have children”.  

Many women out there desperately want to have a child.  The thought of never being able to carry a baby tears into your soul.  I remember after my first two miscarriages how awful I felt.  I felt like less of a woman.  My body couldn’t do what women are genetically made to do… carry a child.  Having severe endometriosis, I know what it’s like to be told “you may not be able to get pregnant on your own.” So, I get angry when women are told information that just isn’t true.  

I wish someone could have told this woman, who was in tears explaining her condition, that there are many, many women out there with Uterus Didelphys who have been able to carry and have healthy children.  Sure, we have a riskier pregnancy, and we have to be watched because no one can be sure how your uterus will react… but it’s not impossible!! Far from it! 

I remember, when I first moved to Denver I went to a specialist at University of Colorado Hospital… just to get my foot in the door there.  He told me that of all the uterine anomalies, having Uterus Didelphys was the most extreme… but the best anomaly to have if you wanted to have kids.  I was never told that I could never have children.  I was, however, told that because of my anomaly when it was time to start trying to have children, that I had a different time frame before seeking help.  Most women have to wait through a full year of trying before a fertility specialist will see them.  I only had to wait 6 months.

I ended up seeing a fertility specialist.  It was taking us a while to get pregnant, and in the process I had 2 miscarriages.  But those miscarriages had nothing to do with my two uteri. I had a lot of other things going on.     

The woman in the show went on to have twins! One baby in each uterus… which is VERY rare!! And she carried “miraculously” to 33 weeks. Her doctors were shocked and thrilled.  

In the end, I wish this woman had been better informed.  And I REALLY hope “Discovery Fitness and Health” stops playing this story.  I’ve already posted a message on their facebook page.  As it is, it continues to misinform women who may be newly diagnosed with Uterus Didelphys.  Women who don’t need to sit there, feeling scared and hopeless. 

Relieved

So, I still don’t feel awesome… But, they squeezed me in early and the cervix measurement was just under 3 cm. Everything looks great!  What a relief!! No surgery for me! (This week anyway)

I feel a little like the girl who cried wolf… but everyone at the hospital assured me that they’d rather me come in and it be nothing, than not say anything and it be something really bad.  They’re right… my baby is not worth that risk.

Why am I still experiencing some pain? A couple of guesses… this little guy is growing fast! 

imageGreat profile shot… head is on the right.. body to the left. 

He’s measuring in the 89th percentile for growth.  They’re guessing he weighs around 12 ounces.  Because he’s growing so quickly, my uterus is accommodating by stretching, and that’s causing more round ligament pain than I’ve experienced thus far.  Round ligament pain can be a shooting pain that travels places you really don’t want to think about. 

Also right now, he’s head down.  I’d prefer he stay that way, but we’ll see. He apparently is quite the mover.  He would not sit still for the ultrasound.  I can guarantee I’m going to be sore tomorrow based on the amount of pushing and prodding we had to do to get the pictures we needed.  So, it’s very likely he’s also been punching and kicking my cervix, which like round ligament pain, is not a joyful experience.

He had a great heartbeat, all of his organs were in tact, every finger and toe was accounted for and he had normal measurements in every area they looked. 

The doctor said he looks perfect.  It looks like I’m off the hook for another week! 

19 weeks… Not a great day :(

Trying to take it easy between hits at work today. 

Well, we’re at 19 weeks… about the same time we found out I would need a cerclage while pregnant with my daughter.  And I’m not gonna lie.  I don’t feel good this morning. The baby feels really low.

I’m just uncomfortable.  Sometimes I feel sharp pains down low… but mostly I’m uncomfortable, especially when I’m standing or walking.  I’ve talked with my doctor, and she wants me to try and take it as easy as possible.  We’ll see what it means for my cervix at my appointment at 1:30.  Quite honestly, I don’t know what it means.  It could mean my cervix is shorter… maybe it’s just round ligament pain.  But I do know that this is the worst I’ve felt so far.

This scares me.  I’ve been thru it all before, but it still scares me.  I just want everything to be ok.  

I’ll have an update later today on how the doctor’s appointment goes.  On the positive side… we get a full scan of the baby today! Measurements and everything! They usually let me look at the baby anyway, but this is the first size update I’ve had in a while.  Yay!  

Resting with my fingers crossed.

Labor and Delivery… and my tour of the NICU (this is a long one)

When the University of Colorado Hospital offered me tours of both Children’s Hospital and the NICU at UCH I happily agreed.  And both experiences were harder than I expected. 

Touring the NICU hit a little closer to home for me.  Uterus didelphys puts me at greater risk for delivering a preemie.  Even though I had gotten my cerclage at 19-20 weeks with Hannah, I still had doctors that were skeptical I would make it past 28 weeks.  When I did, they were surprised.  I did a little happy dance when I surpassed 32… and EVERYONE was ecstatic when I hit 38. 

What they told me last time, and I’m sure they’ll tell me again, is that the cerclage, or sewing your cervix shut, will not stop labor.  If you’re going to have the baby, your going to have the baby. They schedule to have the stitch taken out around 36-37 weeks, but if there is bleeding or extreme pain before then you need to get yourself to the hospital ASAP. 

So there I was, standing at the door to the NICU, looking at all of the tiny babies clinging to life. The smallest baby was just 10 ounces. The nurse giving me the tour was super friendly.  When she asked why I was there, we explained this blog… and then I told her about my uterus didelphys.  No other explanation was needed.  She said they get a lot of women with uterine abnormalities delivering preemies there.  And there sat another reason why I chose this hospital.  I didn’t have to explain. They just knew.

I put on my yellow mask and we looked at the rows upon rows of beds available.  Most babies will enter the NICU if they are early, experiencing a major/life-threatening problem, or weigh less than 4 lbs.

imageTiny machines for tiny babies

imageLittle spaces to reach in and touch your baby

These babies get help for just about everything you can think of. They even have specialists available to help your baby continue to develop, as if they were still in the womb… from learning reflexes, to staying in the curled up position they like to be in, in mommies tummy.  How cool is that?! They mimic what it’s like in mommy’s tummy to help these babies survive!

imageDarkness and quiet are great for these little ones.  This baby is getting treated for jaundice… common in preemies.

Parents must go through so much to be with their child day in and day out while they lay helpless in what look like little incubators. Just wearing the yellow mask was enough to make me feel faint and nauseous as I breathed in and out my own hot air.  But I guess once your child is in there, your needs don’t matter anymore.  Just theirs. If you have to wear the yellow mask, you wear it… and you’re happy to wear it and be there. My heart goes out to all the parents who go through this. You are my heroes.

My last stop of the day: Labor and Delivery. A totally different emotion took over as I stepped back onto the 5th floor of the hospital. It was such an exciting time to be there as I got ready to deliver my daughter. We were safely at 38 weeks, my water broke on it’s own, and labor was progressing at a great pace. We got to welcome in the GREATEST little human that day.  A huge smile spreads across my face just thinking about the day my son will arrive! 

Now, their facilities are not as nice as the brand new ones at Children’s.  But you still get a bathtub, shower, tons of space, sleeping room for dad… and for you brave souls who want to experience a water delivery, they even have enough space to set up that small pool in the room to accommodate you. I salute you ladies! I couldn’t have done it without my epidural.  Those contractions during transition were way too much for me.

imageEnough space for the water delivery pool.

imageYou can barely see the fold out couch/futon for dad… I’ll be in that bed thankyouverymuch!

Now I just need to make it to full term. I don’t care how swollen I get. I don’t care how uncomfortable I feel, this baby can hang out for as long as he wants! I’m in no rush to get him out.

My next appointment is Tuesday.  We’ll see how my body is doing then. But I know I’m in good hands. For anyone who may need care themselves… here’s a link to UCH’s website: http://www.uch.edu/conditions/pregnancy/

The hospital is also following my pregnancy on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UniversityofColoradoHospital. I cannot thank them enough for helping me get the word out about what it’s really like to live through a high-risk pregnancy.  If you LIKE their page, you can get more updates on me, health news, and even some crazy tidbits about their doctors. Ha!

For now, it’s back to vacation, and enjoying the silence for a sleeping toddler!

18 weeks

18 weeks

Well, I didn’t get the greatest news yesterday. And of course it comes as I’m headed to Steamboat with my parents. My cervix has shortened quite a bit.

First, let me say the baby looks great! He is such a little active guy! I’ve been feeling him kick a ton, and you can definitely see it on ultrasound. My favorite is when he kicks the ultrasound wand, for lack of a better term. I’m not sure if it’s because he likes it, or because he doesn’t, but his sister did the exact same thing.

He’s breech… And that’s different from Hannah. She was head down most of the time. Head down is ideal for women like me, with uterus didelphys. So long as the baby is head down, you can deliver normally… No c-section. Unless, of course, you have other complications.  But a breech baby can’t typically be turned in someone who’s uterus is a fraction of the size of a normal one. There’s just not enough space.

Labor and delivery was the BEST part of my last pregnancy, because it was the easiest. I was in labor for about 6 hours after my water broke, and only had to push for 26 minutes. The epidural worked beautifully.  I’ll admit that I was scared to death going into it.  I mean, I know women have been doing it forever, but it’s still hard to get your mind around the whole thing.  I believe my exact thoughts were… “That 6-9 lbs baby is going to come out of where??? You’re joking, right?"  But it was WAY better than I ever thought.  And my fear was really the fear of the unknown.  So, I don’t want a c-section this time round. If this baby could please turn by the time he’s ready to meet the world, that would be awesome. Thanks.

But for now, that’s a secondary worry. My cervix is measuring 2.6 cm in length. We’ve set the threshold for this pregnancy at 2.5 cm. Anything lower than that and I have to have the surgery to put the cerclage in.

It’s news I’ve been prepared for. It’s news we expected. But it still hit me like a ton of bricks, like I had been punched in the stomach. I wanted to cry the whole way home. My body is still not working right.

At least we’re watching. At least we’re prepared. The cerclage worked great with Hannah. Hopefully it does the same this time around.

It’s a…

Time for some exciting news around here!  It was gonna take a lot to convince me they had the baby’s sex right while looking at the ultra sound.  Especially since they told us at 16 weeks they thought my daughter, Hannah, was a boy.  Well, I saw it for my own eyes… there’s no mistaking it.  And the plethora of ultrasound pictures in my purse are making me feel like I have my own stash of porn. 

We’re having a………………….

17 weeks!

image17 weeks!

Week 17 of this high-risk pregnancy, and another great appointment yesterday! I’m still taking things week by week, but it’s encouraging to hear “your cervix is looking stable.” As many of you already know, I have uterus didelphys and had to have my cervix sewn shut at 19-20 weeks with my daughter Hannah.  So my doctors are watching me week by week, this time, to see if that happens again.  This was week two.

The benefit… I get to see my baby A LOT more than someone with a normal pregnancy.  And that’s really fun, especially when it’s moving around!

imageHead and 5 little fingers. 🙂 Hi there!

Plus, for the last couple of weeks I’ve actually been able to feel the baby move! Little flutters for now, but they are getting stronger.  And I LOVE it!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’d feel if my cervix acted differently, and didn’t shorten so early this time around.  You don’t want to have surgery if you don’t need it.  But I’m also convinced that the cerclage kept Hannah in for 38 weeks.  I feel like I would constantly worry that this baby will come MUCH sooner or I’ll have to go on bed rest if I don’t get the cerclage this time around.  I, honestly, think I would be more stressed out. 

I’ll have to talk about these things with my doctor.  She’s very good at helping me to calm my fears. 

You see, in the end, I’m selfish.  If you have to go on bed rest, you have to go on bed rest.  It’s not the end of the world.  But I want the full 12 weeks of maternity leave with my new baby and family.  I don’t want it to get cut short because mommy was sick. 

2 more scheduled appointments left, and then we’ll see where we go from there.  We have until I’m 24 weeks along to put the cerclage in. 

P.S. Still wondering what we’re having?  I’ll tell you Friday. 😉

An eye opening experience

I know I have just started this blog, but I cannot tell you how much it has touched my heart to hear from so many of you! Whether it’s just to say you’re thinking about me and my family, or to share your own struggles.  It has created a sense of community, sympathy, empathy and love that I didn’t realize I would get when I thought about writing this.  So thank you.

I had an opportunity to tour Children’s hospital and their department for moms and newborns at my last doctor’s appointment.  The Colorado Institute for Maternal and Fetal Health is amazing. It includes a complete birthing room, lactation services and rooms for parents and their babies who need to stay for a while… all within a short distance from immediate care that your child may need.

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imageSeriously, this bathroom is nicer than the ones in my own home!

imageHealthy mom can deliver her baby at children’s so their child can get the immediate care he/she needs.

So many things can happen during a pregnancy.  There can be problems with mom, problems with baby or problems with both. I feel blessed to know that my problems are with me.  I have no idea what it’s like for your tiny newborn to need immediate surgery.  It breaks my heart to think about the families that go through this.  I would much rather take any pain or issues upon myself than have my child go through that… as I’m sure is the case with ANY parent.

That being said, it makes me feel so much better knowing there is a facility out there that is prepared for these special cases.  On one floor a healthy mom can give birth to her child who may need immediate care.  That child will travel just a few feet for life saving treatment.  Families are taken care of, given rooms that house parent and baby so you’re rarely separated from your child.  And if dad needs a break, or family wants to hang out, comfortable rooms are available with refrigerators, televisions, you name it… so it feels more like home.

imageFamily/lounge room

imageComplete kitchen helps make this feel less far from home.

All of this is brand new.  Eventually, this summer or fall, they’ll open a new floor, separating in and outpatients, helping to divide the care.

I have friends whose children have needed care like this.  But I honestly never thought about the process it takes to get these babies that critical immediate care.  I have always been so conscious of everything that goes on when mom has problems.  This was truly an eye opening experience for me to see the other side of high risk pregnancies.

Children’s hospital allowed me to take some pictures… but for patients’ privacy kept my camera in my purse as we walked down the hall, past rooms containing parents and their children.

I can’t imagine my child needing care like this, and I hope we don’t end up at Children’s.   But if we do, I’m glad this place is nearby.

The plan

Caricature from Hearts of All Ages Fundraiser for Orthopedics Department at UCH

Because of my uterine anomaly, I go to the doctor more often than a normal pregnancy.  I’m at high-risk for some things, one being an incompetent cervix.

Next week we start weekly ultrasounds to measure my cervix.  Before my last pregnancy, I always associated cervix measurement with how dilated a pregnant woman was.  Not early in pregnancy (hopefully).  Right now, they’re measuring the length.  A great number is 3.5 – 4 cm.  This time around, for me, anything below 2.5 cm is unacceptable.  If it reaches that point I will have to go into surgery to sew my cervix shut.

Messing with ANY part of the uterus, when pregnant, is risky.  Often, women with an incompetent, or weak, cervix won’t know about their problem until it’s too late, and they lose the baby in the second trimester.  Some studies show that women with uterus didelphys are more likely to have an incompetent cervix, so my doctors take the proactive approach and start measuring for weakness early. Since one of my uteri is about half the size of a normal one, it’s logical to think my cervix would be weaker as well.   I’m lucky we’ve known about my condition for so long.

Unfortunately since it was my first pregnancy, I didn’t know how to recognize physical warning signs.  Some of my friends joked that I started waddling really early.  I honestly didn’t think it was a big deal.  But I was waddling because Hannah was sitting uncomfortably low, and that’s not normal.  I always shared with my doctors every ache and pain, including this feeling and was immediately told that whenever I felt that way, I was to tell them as soon as possible.

We had been measuring my cervix starting at 16 weeks, and since it had been fluctuating in length I was also not allowed to exercise.  For the remainder of my pregnancy I had to sit as much as possible… including at work.  That’s a problem when you stand in front of a weather wall most of the morning for your job!  But I was willing to take heat for it if it meant saving my baby.

In a short period of time my cervix length got slightly lower than 1.5 cm with funneling with Hannah.  Looking at the ultrasound, it looked like my cervix was starting to open at the point closest to the baby.  It’s a huge warning sign that you may go into labor REALLY early, and before 24 weeks, deliver a baby that the doctors can’t save.  My doctors quickly took me aside and explained to me my options… the risks/benefits of not having surgery and the risks/benefits of getting the cerclage.

I lived week by week while pregnant with Hannah.  As every week passed, I continued to have hope.   Surgery was a very scary thought with a helpless child involved, and, initially, I didn’t want to have it.

A cerclage is a controversial procedure for women with uterus didelphys.  But that’s because there haven’t been many, if any, studies done on the effects of a cerclage on people like me.  Does it really work? Is it worth the risk of surgery?  Well, I ended up having surgery around the 19 week mark with Hannah.  The same day we found out we were having a girl we made the tough decision to get my cervix sewn shut.

Here’s what I can tell you… the procedure is scary, and you’re awake the whole time, but my doctors were wonderfully professional and fun.  While my husband and I sat down to make our decision they drew us pictures and took as much time out of their day to help us understand what was going on.  The day of my surgery they did everything in their power to make me feel like I was getting the best care out there.

Because of the position of my cervixes, surgery took a bit longer than they expected, and afterwards you do get bleeding… a little is normal… all of which my doctors prepared me for.  Once I could feel the lower half of my body again, I could immediately tell Hannah wasn’t sitting as low.  I didn’t have to waddle anymore.  My cerclage instantly improved my cervix length.  And I know in my gut and in my heart that if it hadn’t been for that surgery Hannah would have come WAY too early.  My stitches came out at 37 weeks.  I instantly dilated to 3 cm, and one week later my water broke.

Now we enter down the same path.  My doctors and I decided to take a wait and see approach again because surgery is scary and risky and every pregnancy is different.  But this is the same uterus, the same side and odds are it will act the same way.  I feel more prepared… I know the warning signs… I know the risks… but I’m still nervous. I still live week by week.