From Joy to Despair; An Ectopic Pregnancy Story.
Like most young married couples, my husband and I wanted to grow our family while we still possessed the seemingly limitless energy bestowed upon 20-somethings.
Though, unlike most married couples, at least the ones we knew, we got a head-start on that dream and had our first two babies before we were married. Although our first two children are beyond perfect and our “unusual situation” was well-accepted and supported, now that we were married and living in a beautiful, spacious home together, we both found ourselves longing to have our first child from our marriage; a child that would be a physical testament to our incredibly strong and loving marriage. Our dream, collectively, has always been to have a large family with four or five children and one unforgettable day, we were one step and a big, fat “YES+” closer to that dream becoming a reality.
Dream, Meet The Family
Que the happy tears and immediate celebration. We were quite literally jumping for joy and already planning the sneaky ways we would tell our families with pride and sheer joy that we would be expecting our ever-anticipated third baby in 8 months. All those sneaky plans were even more fun to execute, as we would pose our families for photos with signs they couldn’t read until after the photos were taken and the ever-popular family photo where you’re actually videotaping the reactions “3… 2… 1… We’re PREGNANT!”
With my first two pregnancies, I was so sick that I lost 10-20 lbs each time due to a severe morning sickness called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This time, however, I felt my stars had finally aligned as I was experiencing more mild nausea and vomiting that I had assumed to be “normal morning sickness”. I felt lucky, for sure, as this was much less painful and draining than what I had before, but I just had this little cloud in the back of my mind that was tolling like a bell; something wasn’t quite right.
I was usually able to suppress the thought and stay off search engines and chat rooms because, honestly, what good ever comes from “borrowing trouble from tomorrow” as my husband always reminds me in the midst of my little anxieties. Reluctantly, I ignored this tiny soldier in the back of my mind instead of rounding up the troops and preparing myself for what I somehow knew was coming.
About three weeks after the celebrating came the first heartbreaking sign. A dripping bright red warning that something was amiss. Even amid the “don’t freak out yet”s and the “sometimes bleeding is normal in pregnancy”s, I somehow found myself already hopeless and more so disappointed that I had let myself become so excited over something that hadn’t felt right to me since the beginning. We checked in to the local Emergency Room to confirm what we both knew. I give my medical and pregnancy history to the staff upon request and casually mention to my doctor and nurse that I had this strange, unusual pain in my lower left side that had been recurrent since about 5 weeks along. After all the blood tests, ultrasounds and other Emergency Room “protocol”, we were told that we were indeed miscarrying our precious baby at 7 weeks pregnant. Our dream had shattered.
Friends and family didn’t know what to say. Some offered condolences and emotional support, while others gave us space. I was hoping we’d dodged all the inappropriate responses, however, as my luck would have it, there was that one person who, unintentionally, of course, infuriated us with the classic pregnancy loss go-to that NEVER helps “Don’t feel bad. This happens to a lot of women. Maybe God is telling you this just wasn’t meant to be.” We felt like we were being treated like a wounded animal instead of grieving parents.
Deeply saddened at the loss of our dream the week before Easter, we cancelled all our weekend plans (since those plans would now involve awkward silences and pitiful glances from well-meaning relatives) and opted instead to take our one and two-year-old to the theme park to celebrate the four of us and try to heal from the devastation that loomed above our heads and reminders in our inboxes. It was a great way to reset and I began to find that as the miscarriage symptoms tapered off for me, many of the feelings of resentment and grief went with it.
Healing From The Loss
As our world started to slowly return to normal and we found ourselves finally recovering, we became hopeful again. My husband and I repeated our dream to each other, multiple times daily, to affirm that the desires of our heart had not changed in the face of the current circumstances. We grew cautiously joyful again and began planning when we would start trying again and worked out all the possible birthdays the next baby might have and when we’d have to conceive to get those birthdays. Things were finally looking up once again as we started drifting back toward normalcy.
Even though it had only been ten days since losing our baby, that Thursday morning should have been like any other. I’d wake up, get the kids out of bed to feed them breakfast, and we’d make our grocery list for Friday. That should have been my morning, but that was not the one I got. Instead, that Thursday morning greeted me with a violent pain unlike any I’ve ever felt.
I grabbed my side and stumbled to the bathroom only to find that 5 days after my subsided miscarriage symptoms, I suddenly had an abundance of blood, nausea and vomiting to accompany the sudden onset of crippling abdominal pain. In the heat of the moment, my mind went straight to appendicitis but that thought was soon discarded as I realised the pain was not on my right side at all, but in a very specific, very finite area in my lower left. Then came the strangest sensation of what I could only describe as a “sudden, warm bloating feeling” in my stomach. Even though my agonizing pain started to let up after 15 minutes or so, I suspected something was just not right, so within minutes, a sitter for the kids came over and I drove myself to the Emergency Room for the second time in Ten Days.
A Shift In The Atmosphere
Unlike the last visit, though, I was rushed straight back and given a series of tests. After both my Standard and Transvaginal ultrasounds, I heard the troubled technician phone my E.R. Doctor with “Urgent Results”, but before I could eavesdrop anymore, I was whisked away for an EKG and blood work. Then the doctor burst in asking for a urine sample to help “make sense of the ultrasound findings” and that sent my mind racing as he left with no further explanation. Suddenly, my nurse and tech run in, placing bracelets on me and asking me over and over again if I was certain I didn’t want pain medicine. This was the most they had spoken to me since arriving. They just kept trying to make sure I was comfortable and all I remember thinking is “what on earth just happened out there?”
If my husband and I are honest, all that either of us expected to get out of this visit to the E.R. was a disgruntled doctor explaining that I had simply resumed my miscarriage symptoms and he’d send me home to deal with the emotions again. But after the shift in the atmosphere around me, all kinds of possibilities flooded my brain. Did an ovarian cyst burst? Did I need a simple D&C to assist my body with the miscarriage? Was I still pregnant or was there another baby still in there?
The latter really worried me because once my miscarriage bleeding had ceased, my husband and I enjoyed a couple margaritas on our weekend vacation. Because of that, I feared that I may have caused fetal defects if I was still pregnant somehow and hadn’t actually miscarried. Fear and guilt swirled in my head as I waited in a chaotic Emergency Room, trying to decipher if the sudden rushing around was on my account or just to get me out and get to the next patient who may be worse off than myself.
The Real Diagnosis
Those particular questions and fears were quickly put to rest (and soon created even more) when the Doctor returned to give me a run-down of the test results. He explained that the baby “was still in there, but has died in the wrong spot” and that I would need surgery to remove the “fetus particles”. A cold, disheartening sentence for anyone to hear; especially excited expectant parents who had already mourned the loss of this child once. Further, the doctor said an obstetric surgeon would be in to meet with me shortly and prep me for surgery. I called my husband who rushed over from work and we both waited for further explanation. As shocking as this was to me, I didn’t really make sense of it until the aforementioned surgeon came in to evaluate my bloating and explain to me that I had an Ectopic (Tubal) Pregnancy that had burst inside my left fallopian tube and was causing internal bleeding. He said my tube was probably too damaged and that I would probably lose it in the surgery. His words grew distant and the room grew cold as he explained the severity and urgency of my situation and recited the many risks of the procedure ahead.
So there we sat, in the Emergency Room again just eleven days after we were told we were losing our baby; the baby that we were sitting there losing all over again and this time, it seemed like the baby was taking me, too.
What Happens Next?
As they moved me up to pre-op, they gave my husband a number to keep track of me during surgery and explained to him that he couldn’t be with me until I had fully woken up from the anesthesia afterward. We both sat there, nervous, scared and completely blindsided by all the new information, like a stopped car on a train track. The surgery prep was quick and easy, just questions and sterilizing, but I was so scared. I asked my nurse if she could get the surgery for me. This made us both laugh which eased the mood only temporarily, but it was a much needed relief for all of us there in pre-op.
As they were prepping and asking me their questions about my medical history, I found myself asking the staff more than they were asking me and honestly, I did not like the answers I was getting. Was this procedure common? Was this condition as common for women to experience as a miscarriage? Do all the patients who go through this seemingly “simple” surgery make it out okay? Were they sure I would wake up from the anesthesia despite my poor history with the drug? The answer to these were all “no”. And it was very unsettling. They could sugar-coat it with statistics such as “only 2% of women with internal bleeding from a tubal burst will die”. Those are good odds, right? Well the odds of having an ectopic pregnancy in the first place is ONE in every 200,000 pregnancies and yet there I was, so understandably, those odds did not make me feel better.
During The Operation
After what felt like eons, I was finally wheeled into the Operating Room where I was shaking like a leaf. I was so scared and nervous, I couldn’t speak. Before the surgeon entered the room, my face was soon covered by a clear, padded mask and I was out. It honestly felt like I blinked in the O.R. and woke up in recovery in a matter of seconds, even though the surgery was an hour and a half. Unfortunately, when I woke up confused and unable to speak (or even think properly), I found my hands being held back from my face and nurses sternly saying “don’t do that, you’ll injure yourself!” because I seemed to have been clawing at the breathing tube in my throat and at my own eyes. I slowly came around more, though and was finally reunited with my husband in a hospital room upstairs for the remainder of my stay.
Unbeknownst to me, the surgeon approached my husband while I was still sedated and hooked up to everything to let him know the surgery had gone well and that my left fallopian tube was too damaged to save, so it was removed as well. He also mentioned that even with one fallopian tube, we could still realize our dreams of having more children of our own, if we were even still considering that. However, we would have to wait a minimum of one year before we considered it again, due to the increased risks. Then he told my husband something that we both hadn’t really considered. If I had assumed this was all part of the miscarriage (like my husband and I both believed wholeheartedly in our heads prior to returning to the ER) and if I had waited even just one day to come in to the hospital, with all the internal bleeding, it would have been too late and I very easily could have been gone. And just like that, we realized that my dream could have killed me.
Recovering From Surgery
Once I was in my own hospital room to recover with my husband by my side, I finally had a chance to take one big deep breath and go over all that had just happened to me that day. The pain was unlike anything I’d experienced before. I was on heavy pain killers and still could feel my throbbing incisions. Going to the bathroom was suddenly a two-person job and quite the chore, now, seeing as my muscles were still incredibly weak in my lower abdomen. I didn’t get any sleep while I was admitted because every hour, day or night, someone was in my room poking me with something or checking my vitals. But nonetheless, I made it through and when I was finally discharged to go home, I was still a little numb emotionally from the last few days, let alone the two weeks before that.
Did Our Dream Die, Too?
How am I supposed to react? We had already mourned the loss of our ever hoped-for baby when we were told that we were miscarrying. We had already come to peace with things as they were and then all this happened on top of it. I had to answer some tough questions for myself like “was I angry at God for allowing this to happen?” and “was I angry that the baby almost took my life?” But I think the most important question was “is this still part of my dream, now, with only one fallopian tube and an elevated risk for future ectopic pregnancies?” If we ever got pregnant again, I would immediately be considered a high-risk patient. We’d have extra early ultrasounds and I could possibly face this nightmare all over again.
After coming down off this emotional ride, and after having talked to my dear sweet husband, who has always supported me no matter what, I have concluded that this small hiccup will not dictate the achievability of our dream to have a big family of our own. This will simply be a part of our story and even more reason for us to celebrate the next positive result we get, though it will be much further in the future than originally anticipated. We will carry on loving and teaching as we cherish our two perfect, beautiful babies while we wait for the perfect time.
We both feel genuinely blessed in the midst of all the ups and downs that this unpredictable life has molded for us, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner than the best friend I have found in my husband.
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