I ‘met’ Andrea from The Corporate Mummy through Instagram. I have loved following her posts, reading her blogs and felt like I knew her – as it is with the a lot of people in this digital age. But a while ago Andrea went through something enormously personal and devastating – an ectopic pregnancy. She has written this very powerful and heartfelt post for my blog which outlines the emotions many women go through in a similar situation to this.
As I sat in a wheelchair waiting to be taken back down to the Emergency Department of the Mercy Hospital for Women, the orderly put her hand on my shoulder, leaned in close and asked “Are you ok?”.
I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. I was trying my best to keep it together, distracting myself by counting the seconds in my head that it took for the lift to come. It felt like forever. As if time had just stopped. Where was the lift? Why was it taking so long?
I was struggling to count. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Did that really just happen? Surely, they’ve got it wrong. They’ve made a mistake…. These were the thoughts that were flooding my mind. I was trying to convince myself that what just happened, didn’t really happen.
Even though I had been feeling like something wasn’t right with our second pregnancy for some time, it never actually crossed my mind that something might be seriously wrong until that morning. Sure, my two pregnancies were worlds apart – my morning sickness with Bella lasted all day and the only way I could control it was to eat. To give you an idea of how bad it was, I had put on 10kg by the end of the first trimester because eating was the only thing that made me feel better. But, friends and family were quick to tell me that every pregnancy is different so when I only got morning sickness late afternoons and evenings in our second pregnancy, I just assumed I had gotten lucky second time around.
On a Thursday morning, I began cramping. They were incredibly painful but I got through the day without any painkillers so I just put it down to being pregnant. When I woke the next morning, the cramps were back and I experienced some spotting. After several calls to the ED department at the Mercy, during which I told the midwife my symptoms, I was told to go in just to be on the safe side. I was so sure I was overreacting that I even told my Hubby to go to work and that I would let him know if anything was wrong.
Upon arriving at the ED I underwent blood tests and my HCG levels were normal. Because I had experienced cramps and a little bit of spotting that morning I was sent for an ultrasound. The Dr told me that as I was only early pregnant, there was a chance that the ultrasound might not be able to pick up anything on the scan and that I would need to return the following week and undergo a further ultrasound. I was comforted hearing that my hormone levels were as they should be and that my blood tests all looked good. I felt a sense of relief. Surely, if something was wrong, my hormones would have been out of whack.
My ultrasound was performed with a Dr present. I watched eagerly hoping to see something as they scanned my uterus. Even to my untrained eye, I couldn’t see anything. As they began taking images of my right ovary I felt pain. The Dr began talking in medical lingo that I couldn’t understand. What I could tell though from her reaction was that something was not right. I frantically tried to follow the imaging on the screen in front of me and my eyes closed in on a familiar sight. There near my right ovary, I could see something. It looked like a sac – just like the one I had seen when pregnant with Bella. As the sonographer took more images the Dr came over and explained to me that they hadn’t found anything in my uterus. Instead, the baby was growing in my right Fallopian tube. She told me that it was incredibly lucky that we had found it early and began talking to me about ectopic pregnancies.
As she was talking I was trying to hold back the tears. It had just sunk in that we were expecting our second child – we had told family and a few friends. The excitement that we felt, and that we shared with others was still so new. How was this possible? How did this happen? I had so many questions running through my head. The Dr told me that 1 in 4 pregnancies end before the first trimester and that 1 in 100 pregnancies are ectopic. As she rolled the stats off her tongue and told me that they see this every day, I could see that just like me, she was holding back tears. Strangely, this gave me comfort. I did not feel so alone. She began telling me how they manage ectopic pregnancies, and although she was talking, I was elsewhere. I wasn’t taking any of it in.
After they left the room I called my Hubby. I told him what had happened. I could hear in his voice that like me, he was devastated. As I was taken to a wheelchair, I hung up and told him I would see him soon.
I cried uncontrollably whilst waiting for the lift. The orderly was incredibly kind, putting her hands on my shoulders telling me to be strong. As I was wheeled into the lift, several people were already in it. I must have been a sight for sore eyes.
My Hubby met me at the ED and I was given the option of surgery, which could have involved the removal of my right Fallopian tube, or medication. I opted for the methotrexate thinking it would be the easier of the two options. My rational self kept saying “you are doing the right thing, you have no choice” but my emotional self kept thinking “you are about to terminate this pregnancy”. I can’t even begin to explain the thoughts going through my head at this time. I had exhausted all the questions – “but can’t you just move the baby to the right spot”, “are you sure that you haven’t made a mistake” and it was crystal clear that if I continued with the pregnancy I ran the risk of rupturing my Fallopian tube which would have been a medical emergency. There was nothing they could do, and nothing we could do either.
I received the methotrexate injection on the Friday evening. It wasn’t painful, a quick jab and it was over. Emotionally though, it hurt. I struggled accepting that I was terminating the pregnancy, even though rational me knew I had to do it. Hubby was with me at the time and so was our daughter. As she sat on the hospital bed with me trying to pull out my drip and yanking on everything she shouldn’t have been. I kept thinking to myself you already have one beautiful child, be grateful. She is enough. If she is all we have, she is enough. I felt guilty, guilty for terminating the pregnancy and guilty for wanting another child.
The methotrexate caused severe cramping and I was allowed to go home on the following Monday. It felt weird leaving the hospital. I went into hospital pregnant. I had morning sickness (in the afternoon!), constantly hungry and I had already began to grow a little belly – which may have been helped by the leftovers of my last pregnancy still lingering around. But, when I left on the Monday, I was no longer pregnant. Although my hormone levels still indicated I was pregnant, and my body might still have thought that I was, in my head and my heart I knew I wasn’t.
I had to have weekly blood tests to ensure that my pregnancy hormones were reducing and sometime in mid August they returned to zero. We were told not to try for another baby for at least 3 months as methotrexate can cause birth defects. It was the last thing on our minds at the time.
It has now been almost 6 months since we lost our second baby. Whilst I have not forgotten, I have put it to the back of my mind in order to move forward. The closer to our due date, the harder this seems to be.
Initially processing our loss was difficult. The excitement and anticipation of a baby is like no other. I certainly think already having a baby made our loss a little more bearable. I had Bella and work to keep me busy, to keep myself distracted. There have been times where I have been caught off guard though such as when I got my first period – I cried. No matter how much I had processed our loss, it was a reminder that I was no longer pregnant. My body had finally caught up with my heart and my mind.
Just recently I became an Auntie for the first time. Whilst I am so happy for my brother, every time I hold my nephew it makes me want a baby more and more. I often joke that Bella will be an only child when she is being cheeky, but the truth of it is that there is nothing more that I want than another child.
I also forgot to delete the Baby Centre My Pregnancy app so I still get the weekly progress emails. Some weeks I sit and read what progress would have been taking place if we were still pregnant. Today, I would have been 36 weeks pregnant. What we would give to be welcoming another baby into the world next month.
The only positive to our experience is that we found out we were having an ectopic pregnancy early. After what we have experienced, I couldn’t even imagine just how painful it must be for those of you who have had late miscarriages or stillborn babies. What I have learnt though is that losing a baby in the first trimester is more common than I thought. I have shared our story in the hope that it will help promote awareness of pregnancy loss. It is common. So many of us experience this at some point in our lives but just because it is common doesn’t mean that it hurts us any less. I have found that speaking with others who have been through similar situations has been comforting. Just being able to talk things through has helped us process our loss.
I hope is that if there is anyone reading this and struggling with a similar loss that they reach out and contact me. We all deal with things differently, that’s what makes us human, but I have found it incredibly comforting to know that we are not alone in this.
For any pregnant women reading this, trust your gut. If you feel like something isn’t right go see your GP and seek advice. I didn’t take any chances in our first pregnancy – each time I felt something was wrong I rushed myself into the Mercy. I may have left each time very embarrassed but I left certain that everything was OK. It is always better to be safe than sorry, and you know your body better than anyone else.