Incompetent isn’t a word anyone would want to be described as, nor is it a word you would associate with having children. But, it is a word that is so relevant to my rainbow baby journey.
I live with a condition called Incompetent Cervix. This is when your cervix can’t handle the weight of the pregnancy and starts to funnel, eventually releasing your mucus plug and sending your body into preterm labour. The condition is not easy to diagnose, as most women are unaware that they have it until they start having children.
I’m very open about my story because I truly believe that sharing my experience can help educate others. I never know who I am going to help, so I wanted to share my story and my truth with my rainbow baby journey with you.
For those who don’t know, a rainbow baby is a name coined for a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death. The name “rainbow baby” comes from the idea of a rainbow appearing in the sky after a storm, or after a dark and turbulent time.
I had two late-term miscarriages before giving birth to my rainbow baby. So, let’s start from the beginning.
Baby # 1
Name: Daniel, D.O.B.: July 1, 2014
It was just over a year into our marriage when my husband and I decided to start trying for a child. So, I stopped my birth control. And after about four months of temping and learning about my body, I finally got pregnant. We were very excited!
I was one of the unfortunate pregnant women who were sick all day, except when I was sleeping. I also had spotting here and there, which made me nervous all the time, but my doctor said mild spotting was normal. Like most people, we waited until 12 weeks to share the happy news with our families in cute and creative ways.
At the 14 or 15 week mark, I started to see a yellow mucus in addition to the spotting. So, I went into the hospital, and since the baby was still alive and well, they didn’t investigate further. But, in my gut, I knew something was off. However, I trusted the doctors would have told me if I needed to be worried.
On June 28, I started feeling pain, so I went to the hospital again and was sent home again. The next day, I was experiencing even more pain and more spotting. I went back to the hospital again, but because I wasn’t over 20 weeks, they wouldn’t send me to the maternity ward as it wasn’t protocol. So, I got sent home again. The following day, Cara’s daughter was born and despite still being in pain. I put a smile on my face and went to the hospital to support Cara and meet my beautiful goddaughter on her birthday.
Labour & delivery
On July 1, I remember lying on the couch in a bit of pain, so I called Telehealth and told them my symptoms. They suggested that I should go back to the hospital. I was skeptical as they kept sending me home. I decided that I would go back to the hospital when my husband got home from work. In the interim, I laid down only to wake up an hour later in excruciating pain.
I remember being immobile and telling him we need to get to the hospital right away. I got up from the bed as the pain subsided for a moment and attempted to make my way to the washroom so we could leave. As soon as I stood up, my water broke, and there was amniotic fluid everywhere.
We were in complete disbelief. We quickly got our things together and went back to the hospital. By the time we arrived, I was in active labour, yet still not permitted to go to the labour and delivery ward. But, they admitted to the Emergency ward and was taken to a room with a door where I laboured the remainder of the way.
I was 18 weeks pregnant (4.5 mths) when we lost Daniel. We didn’t know what hit us, and we didn’t have any answers as to why this happened. My husband did his best to console me, but I was a mess. He had strength for both of us, even though when he was in just as much pain. When we had to tell our friends and family, we relived the grief all over again. It was the hardest thing we had been through as a couple. Still, we attempted to mourn in the healthiest way possible. We did our best to stay positive and optimistic that we would try again to have another child.
Baby # 2
Name: Grace, D.O.B.: March 26, 2015
It was about five months after I gave birth to Daniel that we started trying to get pregnant again. By this point, I was in tune with my body and the cadence of my menstrual cycle. So, we were hopeful that we would get pregnant fairly quickly. One of the early pregnancy symptoms I had with Daniel was extreme thirst. Thus, when I started feeling this a few days before my period was due, I told myself to take a test. And BAM! It was positive.
Fear and excitement were my first emotions as I ran downstairs to tell my husband. We were optimistic that this was our rainbow baby. This time around, we were very cautious, and so was my doctor. Once I hit 12 weeks, she sent me straight to an ob-gyn specialist, and I saw both doctors for weeks. I was so happy when I reached the 19-week anatomy scan.
The ultrasound technician wrote down the sex of the baby and put it in an envelope. This time we hadn’t told anyone about the baby (except Cara.) The plan was to do a gender reveal with balloons in a box and pictures with our reactions. It was a girl! I was ecstatic, and my husband was a little pouty but still excited. We sent the gender reveal photos to our close friends and family and thought this was it.
About two weeks later, I still hadn’t heard anything from the OB. As they say, no news is good news. However, I started to feel “off’ it was eerily similar to what I had felt with Daniel. I called my OB, and she took me right away. During that appointment, I learned she never reviewed my anatomy scan until I was in front of her. As she read the scans, her facial expressions started to change, and my heart sunk. I knew it was bad news.
She took me into the examination room and with the clamps, and a light started to examine my cervix. Again, her face changed. She explained very softly that I needed to go to McMaster Hospital right away, and they will be waiting for me in labour and delivery. The only thing she could tell me was that my cervix had funnelled and could see the baby’s sac. I called my husband first, balling. Then, I called Cara, who was the closest distance-wise and could meet me at the hospital.
Before I continue, I have to stop and say I cannot say enough incredible things about McMaster Children’s Hospital. From the moment I entered the hospital to the moment I left, they were nothing short of amazing. I was immediately admitted and set up very comfortably while I waited for the doctor on duty. The next morning Dr. Brennan (a high-risk doctor) entered my room and explained what she thought might be happening. She went on to say she believes I have a condition called incompetent cervix.
She then stated there was a surgery they could attempt to stitch my cervix shut until it was time to give birth at 40 weeks, providing I made it that far. They proceeded their attempt later that day with a ‘stitch’ and were unsuccessful. I was then ordered to hospitalized bed rest in the Trendelenburg position, to help alleviate the pressure on my cervix. So, I laid there upside down for almost 3 weeks, and it was pretty miserable. I didn’t want visitors, as my emotions were all over the place as I battled with knowing that we had the potential to lose our baby girl. I was so terrified that I wouldn’t even go to the washroom, nor would I get up to shower as it felt like she would just drop right out of me, and I was trying my hardest to not let that happen again.
Labour & delivery
Unfortunately, my health started to deteriorate. My veins were bleeding blue, and I started leaking amniotic fluid, which caused me to get an infection that sent the baby and my system into shock.
I remember them trying to find her little heartbeat and being unable. I was almost 6 months pregnant this time, and it was happening again. I called my husband to come to the hospital as they needed to deliver the baby. After they administered the cultures and antibiotics, I pushed a few times, and she was here.
Grace was born; I was 23.5 weeks. Although, a stillborn because the infection got to her first. She was beautiful, tiny, surreal, but nonetheless here. This time, we had explanations, space to grieve, and we were able to hold her, unlike our first experience. The hospital had volunteers that made clothes and jewelry for stillborn babies who made it slightly comforting. They had a special room for grieving mothers, which they tagged with a flower, so when the nurses switched shifts, they would know without asking.
The next day I was officially diagnosed with an incompetent cervix. They were able to give me treatment options if/when I choose to get pregnant again and set us up with choices for Grace (burial or cremation). I may never know what it’s like to have a little girl of my own, but I know that I fought as hard as possible. I was l also positive that I would have another child and that we would get our rainbow baby.
Baby # 3
Name: Gabriel, D.O.B.: March 29, 2016
This time I was equipped with the knowledge of my condition, a high-risk doctor, and Facebook support groups. I was beyond determined. The first thing that had to be set in place was my permanent Transabdominal Cerclage (TAC). Essentially, since my cervix isn’t strong enough to hold a baby, the TAC would do it for me. The purpose is to reduce or eliminate bedrest. Not all women go for it as it’s permanent, and you can only have C-sections, but I didn’t want to risk another loss. I felt it was my responsibility to keep the babies safe, and I kept failing.
My body had taken the pregnancy pretty far with Grace, so I needed to rest and recover. I was told not to get pregnant before the surgery. Around the beginning of June 2015, I got the call that I was scheduled for surgery in late June. It was laparoscopic surgery, so that meant I would be in and out the same day. After the surgery, I felt good, so we decided to try again almost right away. Lucky for us, the timing was right, and about 4 weeks after my surgery, we found out we are expecting for the third time in 2 years.
Weeks 4-12, I saw my family doctor. And then weeks 13-38, I had bi-weekly appointments at the high-risk clinic at McMaster Hospital. The clinic specialized in high-risk pregnancies. So, my visit involved different types of ultrasounds, cervix measurement, and some other tests. It was comforting to know I had bi-weekly check-ins to ensure reminders that everything was going smoothly.
This time, we waited until 30 weeks to tell our very close friends and family and had a gender reveal party at 33 weeks. It felt surreal to finally get to maternity photos and weekly milestones that I had never reached before. The rest of the pregnancy was uneventful; I was still sick the whole nine months but not as severely as the other pregnancies.
Labour & delivery
Gabriel was born on March 29, 2016, via scheduled C-section. His dad cut the cord, and they shuffled him off to the NICU, as he was having some issues breathing. It turns out his lungs weren’t as strong as they should be. I was so nervous but optimistic. He was on a CPAP machine for 4 hours, and I was dying to hold him, but I needed to be able to get to the NICU. We had come this far, so as soon as I could feel my legs again, I walked (very slowly) to the NICU and held him for the first time.
Gabriel is our rainbow baby, and although our marriage didn’t last (that’s a story for another time), he is one of the reasons we still get along so well. It’s our duty as parents to work together to make the best life possible for him.
This post was a tough one for me to write. I cried quite a few times writing this post as the loss of a child will always be raw. But I am strong, relentless, and I know Gabriel has two very special siblings looking out for him.
If I could give one piece of advice for someone looking to console a woman that has lost a child, it would be to just listen, just be there, and just be kind. There is nothing that can be said to make them feel better.
Getting pregnant, staying pregnant, parenting – none of it is easy. But, my experience has taught me that women are amazing humans. We are stronger than we know, and with the right support, knowledge and determination, we can achieve anything.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out or share your fertility journey with me. And, feel free to check out Cara’s ongoing fertility struggle here.