The only rock I know that stays steady...is the family. -Lee Iococca
Last month, I mused on the idea of sterility as a solution to my medical problems with carrying children. A large thank you to everyone who left comments or emailed me, whether it was to vent, to offer advice, or to simply let me know that they were praying for us. I received quite the outpouring of emails on the subject and I really am appreciative. It wasnt my plan to 'leave you hanging' for so long; rather, Peter and I really wanted to look within and find the answer that would sit right with us. After all, no matter what we decided upon, it would be a lifelong choice that would have repercussions for our family.
I know that some people will not understand our choices. From the comments I received, both in favor of having a tubal ligation done as well as against it (and, honestly, the silence from some people that I really expected to way in) it was clear that this was a situation that people held strong views about. There were those who had no clue about the Catholic Church who expressed concern about having the procedure done, and there were those "good" Catholics who I never in a million years would have guessed have done excommunicatable deeds without remorse who urged me to have the procedure and just continue forward. It was a good exercise is realizing that, in some way, no matter who we put forth to the world, we still make the choices that fit within our consciences. Some right. Some wrong. And some, who can tell (certainly not me!). The choice that Peter and I have made, and our reasons for it, are not indictments of what people think and our choice isnt meant to disrespect the variety of opinions we received. But, as I said before, it is the choice that works for our family. And our family is the most important thing to us.
From my last posting on the subject, the two big things havent changed. We arent the type of Catholics who will take a teaching such as this one and go on about our way and keep walking down to Communion. It's just not the way we, personally, can do things. Nor could we keep teaching Pre-Cana and continue our activities with other Ministries within the Church if we did. Others can, but not us. We just dont feel that is okay for us. So, to actively go against a Church teaching like this, we would have to accept the excommunication and find a new place of worship. The second thing that hasnt changed is our disagreement with the moral theologists' advice of abstienence. Whether a barrier method, artifical birth control, sterilization, or NFP to prevent pregnancy, if you are contracepting, then you are contracepting in our book. If one's a sin, they all are. And abstinence for the purposes of contracepting adds to that list. So, no go there either.
Which left us wondering just what the hell to do.
We prayed a lot. We meditating. We talked about the options out there. And we decided to investigate Dr. Haney and his research at the University of Chicago with transabdominal cerclage (TAC). With my history of PTL as well as IC, I'd been told that I wouldnt be a good candidate for a TAC. But, since Dr. Haney is the foremost expert on the matter, we decided that all we had to lose was some time. So, I sent him an email and, by that evening, had a response in my inbox that gave me chills along with a request to call him and chat by phone. An appointment was made, and Peter and I had a 3-way conversation with the doctor. After over an hour of discussion, and a lot of tears (thank goodness for a mute button), Peter and I walked away with a feeling that our decision was made and that it was a decision we could make with a clear conscience.
That being said, I'll be traveling to Chicago in early December to have a TAC placed.
Dr. Haney agreed that Nicholas and Alexander were lost to IC, and that Sophia was lost due to an infection caused by IC that resulted in her premature labor and delivery. With Bobby and Maya, he also believes IC is the underlying cause of my PTL and argued that they should have delivered me and not even attempted the tocolytics. His feeling is that, since my cervix had funneled by 17w, I was ripe for infection and that, ultimately, an infection caused the PTL that led to our 27 week delivery. After talking to him and hearing his reasoning, it was hard to not agree.
He has an excellent track record. In over 20 years, he's lost 3 babies: 2 were due to chromosonal issues that were incompatible with life and had nothing to do with the TAC; the mother of the third loss had such a damaged cervix due to a previous surgery that he had nothing to work with. But, as it relates to a TAC, he has never lost a child. Success is viewed as a 38-39 week delivery without bedrest and, short of a few cases where a problem with the baby (or babies) caused an earlier delivery, the man has a damn near perfect full term delivery rate.
I cant say that TAC solves all the problems. First trimester losses due to inherent sperm or egg problems or due to a chromosonal issue with the developing baby are things that I have no control over and that my faulty cervix isn't to blame for. It's a statistical odds game that every woman who is capable of bearing a child takes. It doesnt make it easier to handle, but it is a risk that I feel like, in general, I can accept if I know that my cervix is "normal". (Again, not something that I want to accept, but in the vein of being "normal" it is something I know that I have to accept.) And I'm not going to rush out and try to get pregnant. But Peter and I don't believe in NFP as it relates to "spacing" children or outright contracepting. We believe in expressing our love in a physical manifestation when we feel called to do so, be that on CD8 or CD28. Having the TAC in place mitigates that concern that I will get pregnant and lose the child due to my incompetent cervix.
For those who are curious about a TAC, I will try to do Dr. Haney justice in this explaination. For most women, the cervix can be thought of a spool of thread. Keeping that image in your head, imagine a woman like me without the top of that spool. There is nothing to keep my cervix from staying strong when gravity and a developing baby begins to push down. The TAC will basically recreate the part of my anatomy that I'm missing. Because I will never be able to dilate, should I get pregnant, I would have to schedule a C-section. While that part of the deal doesn't make me happy, the fact that I could fully gestate a child is more than a fair trade off. Dr. Haney also believes that, given a full term delivery, I'd be likely to have a positive nursing experience.
One of the emails I received about the tubal said something along the lines of the one thing that was clear from my post is that Peter and I were short on hope. They were right. We were hopeless. We were driven my our fear to a place that we never wanted to go in the first place... To a place that we knew we'd always regret but where we were because we believed we had no where else to go. Dr. Haney gave us back some hope. Not the hope of that big, school bus worthy family that we had when we first got together (although he seems to think that's more than possible!), but the hope that we can make a choice that doesnt have to weigh us down with guilt forever. A choice that fits into our moral plane... That doesnt hurt our idea of family. And, for the first time since the miscarriage last year, I can breathe a little easier about that.