Why, why, WHY!? How could this happen to me again? My body lay uncomfortably confined in a head-down, foot-elevated position on a rock-hard hospital bed, while my mind reeling from the reality it was forced to rapidly process. Nurses bustled too quietly around the room while my obstetrician, Dr. Landry, attempted to articulate a medical discourse about my “condition.” Chilled by the news he communicated, I tried to mentally shroud his gently spoken, but decisive words.
Roused from a Sunday evening with his family, he had shuffled slowly into my room five minutes earlier, hands buried in his bomber jacket pockets, his face a picture of concern and caution. Before he spoke, I instinctively dreaded his forthcoming appraisal. With a sober voice and matching demeanor, he bluntly pronounced his diagnosis: incompetent cervix: The medical community’s nomenclature for a cervix that opens prematurely during pregnancy.
“Surprise, surprise!” I uttered inaudibly through clenched teeth. Hadn’t I questioned him repeatedly about this possibility occurring? Although he had offered repeated assurances, doubt, anxiety and unusual symptoms had plagued every stage of this pregnancy. I sensed that he initially found my concerns amusing, then—as I persisted in nagging him with them—a bit irritating. An ever-present cloud of dread had stubbornly suspended itself over my head. Having previously paid a catastrophic price for self-imposed silencing of my concerns, I wasn’t about to pay that price again. Was it simply a mother’s intuition haunting me, or something more?
“Your cervix is dilated to three centimeters, and you are seventy-five percent effaced. If we can save this pregnancy at all…,” his voice trailed off as he carefully considered the predicament.
I inwardly recoiled from his choice of words. Several days ago in his office, he had spoken gently about “the baby.” Now he referred to my condition as ”this pregnancy.” I wanted to bark out a correction: “You mean this life I am struggling to carry to term!” Perhaps he was giving me the blunt, academia-style, medical-terminology version to make it more impersonal for him, attempting to dilute the tension cloaking the room. Quickly assessing my silent response, he continued his discourse by apprising us of possible treatments and procedures, and the prognosis for each.
The blood test showed my white blood cell count to be slightly elevated, so performing a cerclage—surgically drawing my cervix closed like the opening of a marble bag—would have to wait until morning. They wouldn’t prematurely attempt the procedure if my uterus harbored an infection since that might be the underlying cause for labor. A closed infection could mean both fetal and maternal deaths. In the case of an infection, he wanted to perform a D and E. I just stared at him and dumbly bobbled my head up and down.
At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend what that D and E entailed, or know the barbarity of performing one when the end goal was an abortion. It certainly wouldn’t have been an option for us if we had fully understood the process, even with an infection. With rapidly waning energy, Chris and I dismissed the opportunity to question him, and he proceeded through his option list without hesitation or explanations of the gruesome details.
If labor progressed, the result would be a severely premature baby delivered at twenty weeks—too early to consider supporting on lifesaving apparatus in 1994. Our only hope would be to survive the night, perform a cerclage the following day, and pray like mad that the amniotic sac wouldn’t rupture, either during or following surgery. Surgery alone could irritate the uterus enough to incite labor, taking us to the point of no return.
Dr. Landry wanted to get a visual picture of what was transpiring, so he ordered an ultrasound machine delivered pronto to my room. He and Chris chatted while a glaze crept over my eyes. Within minutes, he was pointing out numerous problems, all visible on the monitor: the open cervix, the baby’s engaged position, the bulging of the amniotic sac into the canal. Everyone else in the room concentrated on the picture emitted from the screen, while I glared at the cold, ugly ceiling tiles. I was angry, disoriented, terrified. And despite the other three humans in the room with me, I felt so lonely.
Yes, yes, I can see the baby! I wanted to sit up and scream at the two of them. I can see the precious baby I most likely will not be carrying tomorrow night! Instead, I managed a silent, terse nod before once again reverting my partitioned gaze to the unresponsive ceiling tiles.
The jarring vision on the screen left me shaking, and doubtful we could really “save this pregnancy.” It felt so painfully hopeless. Five months of dreams evaporating before my eyes on an ultrasound monitor. Wasted dreams. The God I thought I trusted so deeply suddenly seemed cold and silent, miles from my heart and this hospital room. Maybe God doesn’t care as much as I thought He did.
Disgust and self-protective ambivalence latched onto my heart, and both my heart and soul quickly hardened in response to the cold vacuum of truth sucking the warmth out of them. The pit closed its mouth over me, and I couldn’t locate a dribble of a tear to shed. Maybe my prayers will remain unanswered. Indefinitely. God’s saying, “No.”
Chris and I had given ourselves this one, last chance to have another child. Now the odds indicated we would leave the hospital with empty arms and an empty womb.
NEXT WEEK: My night, and God gives me his first sign that He’s still watching over me…
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!