Pregnancy: Another hospital visit and maternity photos

At 32 weeks + 3 days pregnant with a unicornuate uterus and an incompetent cervix, I share an update about continued preterm contractions, a recent overnight hospital stay, and impromptu maternity pictures Cory and I took last week.

“Hi” from the hospital!

“Hi” from the hospital!

Hi, Unicorn Community!

It’s Kristen saying “hi” from the hospital (again).

After having consistent contractions every 5 minutes apart for most of Friday at work (9/6/19), my doctor had me admitted to the labor and delivery unit of my hospital to control the contractions and to monitor me overnight. I was so relieved to be kept overnight. My anxiety decreases tremendously knowing I’m being monitored by an amazing medical team. Over the last 3 weeks, I’ve slept an average of 3 hours/night. While at the hospital Friday night, I slept 7 hours!!! I felt amazingly refreshed on Saturday.

Let me back up a tiny step: Cory and I also went to the hospital last Sunday afternoon (9/1/19) for too-close-together contractions. I was only kept for about 3 hours that afternoon because my contractions became less consistent when they administered Procardia, the muscle relaxant they’ve been using since 8/28/19 to control my contractions, every 3 hours instead of my prescribed every 6 hours.

Now back to two days ago. While in the hospital on Friday evening, my doc was able to get my contractions under control for the most part. The contractions still continued to occur consistently, even with the highest dose of Procardia, but they weren’t increasing in intensity. Even though they were 5-7 minutes apart, they were not painful. They felt like a squeeze and increased pressure around the top right of my abdomen, right under my bra line. But because the contractions were getting stronger, they most likely weren’t changing my cervix.

A view I’m getting quite familiar with. So grateful for specialized medical care.

A view I’m getting quite familiar with. So grateful for specialized medical care.

That being said, the contractions continued to occur despite IV hydration, rest, and Procardia. Because of this, the doc considered removing my cerclage, the stitch holding my cervix shut, because the stitch might be making the uterus “irritable” and contract. Sometimes when a cerclage is removed, women launch directly into full-blown contractions and start labor. Other times, removing a cerclage is helpful to “quiet” the uterus. The uterus doesn’t feel like it has to fight against this foreign “twist tie” at its base, and labor doesn’t start for several days or even weeks. I was really grateful when the doctor decided to leave my cerclage in place a little longer.

Speaking of my cerclage, the doc also did a digital exam of my cervix to check for dilation and effacement. I knew what dilation was, but I wasn’t sure about effacement. According to babylist.com, “Effacement is the process of the cervix thinning out and stretching to prep for birth.” % means the cervix is still nice and thick; this is what you want before labor. 100% effaced means the cervix is very thin; this is what you want during labor. The last time I was in the hospital overnight because of contractions on 8/28/19, I was 0 cm dilated and 0% effaced. Most recently, I was still 0 cm dilated (phew!), but I was 90% effaced. Apparently when the cervix is 100% effaced, it’s paper thin. My doc told me my cervix is like “thick stationary paper.” Oh geez. Not super reassuring, but it is what it is. My cervix was checked five hours apart on Friday night, and it ever changed. This helped the doctor know that my consistent contractions weren’t changing my cervix (a good thing!).

Photo credit:  here .

Photo credit: here.

I was discharged on Saturday around noon with the recommendations of staying hydrated, resting, and continuing on my Procardia.

Also, let’s talk about bedrest real quick. The doctor on call Friday recommended that I don’t go to work on Monday and that I stay home on bedrest. This was confusing to me because my maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctor has repeatedly told me that bedrest is no longer supported in the literature. 10 years ago, bedrest was a common recommendation for high risk pregnancies. Recent research just hasn’t been able to back up the benefits of bedrest, and it has even been found to have negative consequences at times (e.g., increased risk for blood clots, greater financial hardship due to lack of work). Bedrest has been shown to have no significant effect in stopping or starting labor. Today I spoke with my favorite on-call nurse practitioner, Kathy, and she confirmed that there is no need for me to stay home from work tomorrow. Thank goodness because I find that I am much more anxious at home and that work is wonderfully distracting!

I write this now on Sunday evening, at 32 weeks + 3 days pregnant. Even though I am still 7 weeks + 4 days away from my due date, I have been reassured time and time again that baby would be fine (with some time in the NICU) if he were born now. All of my nurses and doctors have told me that 32 weeks is like the “gold star.” They feel comfortable when babies have made it to 32 weeks. Apparently by their one year birthdays, premies born at 32 weeks look no different than their full-term counterparts. This was very reassuring to hear. No one hopes for their baby to be born prematurely, and I could go on and on all night about how guilty I feel about putting my baby in this situation because of my unicornuate uterus, but I’m going to lean into the knowledge that 32 weeks is an important landmark and baby would be healthy. Thank you to everyone who has called or texted us in the past couple of weeks with their premature babies success stories. This has been so reassuring!

Finally, I had been wanting to take beautifully staged maternity pictures in some gorgeous Denver park or urban backdrop. We were planning to take these pics in the next couple of weeks. But after weeks of preterm contractions every 5 minutes apart...after two (now three) hospital stays to monitor this progressing-too-fast pregnancy...after insomnia and panic attacks...and only two hours of sleep last night (and many nights before)...Cory and I decided it was now or never for these pics. My sister, Karli, brought over her fancy camera last Monday (9/2/19), and we spent some time in our front yard capturing this very special and turbulent and fun and trying time in our life. Deliriously tired...and with hearts full of love...we smiled for the camera and embraced this imperfectly perfect season.

And while I LOVE LOVE LOVE my maternity pics, I can’t forgot to stress how they don’t fully capture the spectrum of the reality of being pregnant. Always in attempt to be real (in life and on social media), I also want to share this side-by-side picture. Pregnancy is absolutely beautiful...a gift...a glowing face...a life growing miraculously. And pregnancy is also challenging...anxiety meds...dark circles under sleep-deprived eyes...heart monitor to track tachycardia...swirling questions and racing heart in the middle of the night. This is pregnancy. Beautiful and challenging. This is real. I hope I always capture this realness in my blog posts.

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