Monday, May 5, 2014

When an Incompetent Cervix Strikes: The Warning Signs (Part 2)

            It was one of those horrendous days that causes your heart to pound so hard in your chest that you're sure your ribcage will rupture, and then sink so low in your gut that you know you’ll die from the ache. A day where you’re clawing for an invisible life line you know in your heart isn’t there.
            With lingering discomfort and fatigue plaguing my body—yet, unfortunately, overpowering fear of disappointing anyone (especially my mother) winning the battle—I agreed to lunch and the movie…and rushed out the door to attempt both.
            In order to keep my promise. In order to be normal. In order to keep the peace.

            So, with these burdens weighing on my heart, mind and body, my mother, my four-year-old son, Parker and I zipped off to a restaurant to eat before the movie. We were in the middle of enjoying lunch when I excused myself to use the restroom. Seconds later, I gaped in horror at blood and mucous soaking into the toilet issue in my hand. Terror ripped through me. Please, God! No! Why would you allow me to conceive and carry to five months if I’m not going to be able to carry the baby to term? You’re not going to abandon me, now, are You?
            My own voice in my head screamed a response, I can’t panic. I’ve got to act. Now! Practically sprinting from the bathroom, I grabbed Parker’s hand, pulled him from his seat and bluntly informed my mother that I was bleeding. A look of nervous shock drained the color from her face as we hurried from the restaurant.
            “What about the movie?” she pressed as we navigated through the hungry crowd. I snapped my head around long enough to blink at her. “You’ve got to be kidding!” I wanted to shriek aloud at her. But I knew better. That comeback would only trigger an all-out riotous response and I’d be harangued about it for days.
            “I will drop you and Parker off at the theater and drive home,” I countered without breaking my stride across the parking lot, fighting an intense desire to break into a desperate sprint. “I need to call the doctor. Someone will pick you up in two hours.”
            I wanted to be alone. I needed to be alone. My body shuddered as the first cramping spasms gripped my pelvis. Will I make it home, or will I lose this baby in my car? “No,” I kept repeating, as if commanding my body to stop releasing blood. I have to hang on! I brusquely deposited them at the theater and then reinitiated the frantic fifteen-minute-drive home. Delirious panic hovered just below my self-controlled surface.
            “Almighty God,” I cried aloud in the car, “please don’t allow this child to be taken form me, too! I know I prayed that whatever Your will was in this pregnancy, I would be able to handle it—with Your strength and love. But I don’t think I can. I don’t want to have to try! Please, God,” my pleading evolved into a anguished moan. “Don’t subject me to another loss!”
            My thoughts raced wildly. Do I pull over, stop and call 911 from a roadside call box or give up and let it end right here? O, Lord, what’s the best thing for me to do? I decided to try to make it to the house. My hands rhythmically clenched, opened, and re-clenched the steering wheel, making the blood drain from my fingers. Prayer and incessant self-talk consumed my drive home.
            Methodically parking the car in its ordained spot, I gingerly applied the parking break, opened the door, carefully slid from my seat, and headed to the open backyard garage door. Chris must be working back there. He stepped into the garage before I made it to the door, and I didn’t wait for him to get out his characteristic, cheerful, “Hi!”
            “I’m bleeding and cramping. I need to lie down. You call the doctor.” Why do I sound so flat, so emotionless?
            I hurried upstairs to lie down and elevate my backside with pillows to reduce cervical pressure. Chris followed hastily with the cordless phone. Dr. Landry was off, but the answering service promised that his partner would return the call. My fingers drummed beside me on the mattress as we waited. When it came, his barrage of questions began.
            “What does it feel like?...Like labor?...How much blood?...Only some  spotting?...Probably nothing. Some women have bleeding off-and-on through their pregnancy…I find it hard to believe that you would have an incompetent cervix since your first child went full term without any problems. That’s just not what happens with women who have an incompetent cervix…If it was my wife, I’d tell her to lie down and relax a couple of hours to see if the bleeding and cramping stopped. Ninety-nine percent of the time, there’s nothing wrong. It’s the one percent that comes back to bite us in the fanny when we don’t do something about it…If you would feel better, come into the hospital and we’ll do an exam. When you get to the emergency room, tell them I sent you, and then go straight to OB. Tim will be on call in thirty minutes.”
           “Okay,” I mumbled a lifeless “thank you” then broke the connection. My body still felt peculiar, but emotionally, I was beginning to feel like a Grade A fool. Wanting to wish away the horrible possibilities, I dutifully followed his advice. And for good measure, I begged God to work a miracle. Even as I asked, I doubted one would be forthcoming.
            When my mother arrived home, she endeavored to offer emotional support by reminiscing about her bleeding bouts while carrying me, appearing skeptical about whether my episode should be a significant concern. Is she trying to wish away the possibilities, too?
            “This far into the pregnancy?” I questioned.
            “Well,…no,” she admitted after recalling the past. “Just the first three months.” Bleeding and mucous loss in the twentieth week of pregnancy seemed unusual to me. Recognizing my distress and need to remain calm—and to sleep—she hastily retreated to wrestle with her own feelings of helpless, and, I suspect, fear.
            The spotting eventually stopped, the cramping subsided, and I wondered again if this was simply an overreaction based on my previous, ghastly medical history.  The signature gripping low back pain and abdominal cramping had assailed me upon my arrival home, but I hadn’t told the doctor about the back pain. I deliberately omitted that information. Desperately wanting everything to be okay—normal—I tried to pretend it was, even with the doctor. And he thought my theory about cramping being nerves sounded plausible, so with one final assault against self-doubt, I managed to rest comfortably in my relatively pacific bedroom.
            Several hours later, after winter darkness settled in, I migrated downstairs to the living room couch and gratefully accepted a slice of dry toast from Chris. A fire warmed the room, and the expansive picture windows reflected the beautiful, brightly clad ensemble of dancing flame spicules. Mom played the grand piano and sang, while Parker tried—without restraint or humility—to outclass her in the solo department. Things were definitely not low key in the living room, and I considered returning to bed before an argument erupted between the two prideful performers.
            Time didn’t allow me to make that decision, though. Midway through my dry toast, something again felt terribly wrong, and a reluctant but hasty trip to the downstairs powder room confirmed my worst fears. More mucous and blood. With despairing resignation, I walked briskly into the bustling kitchen, stared at Chris and blurted, “We have to go to the hospital, right now!”
            My face must have communicated everything since Chris responded without flinching. “Okay!”
            Yet doubts and second-guessing waffled through my head while Chris yanked on a sweater, laced his shoes and plucked my winter coast from the upstairs closet. Meanwhile, I paced around our expansive entryway, feeling foolish, wondering if my instincts were playing tricks on me. Hoping they were playing tricks.
            “Do you really think you need to go?” my mother questioned with a doubtful gaze from her kitchen vantage point. Doesn’t she trust my judgment on this? Wasn’t it safer to be certain? Why does she have to contribute to my doubts, or does she just want to avoid hearing bad news?
            Chris vaulted down the stairs, offering a firm reply before I could respond. “I don’t care if they turn us around and send us home. I do not want to take any chances. I want to find out what’s going on!” His authoritative affirmation and resolve made me feel calm, secure and protected. Thankful for his firm decision—a reminder that I had a strong, loving ally—Chris and I climbed into the car and drove the twenty-five miles to the hospital.
            An hour later, after bypassing a standing-room-only emergency room crowd (thank God for the conversation with Dr. Landry’s partner!) and undergoing an examination by a nurse, Dr. Landry stood in my hospital room, presenting options.
            For the time being, he wasn’t letting me go anywhere…


NEXT WEEK: The diagnosis made: Mentally processing your options with an incompetent cervix…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!