Tuesday, March 15, 2016

the hard stuff

I shared Hannah's birth story yesterday and alluded to the difficulties I experienced during that pregnancy. I plan to share more about the pregnancy itself, but today I want to share something very personal. The difficulties I experienced during pregnancy were directly related to what happened here.

I've been writing this post in my mind for months now, and just never feel like I can do it justice. But, I've realized that getting it out there is more important than doing it eloquently, and I feel like it's really important to have a conversation about this, if only to give other women who have dealt with / are dealing with this same issue a place to come during that inevitable Google search that leads to nothing satisfying or informative. So, here we go (it's a long one- sorry in advance!)

In February of last year, I was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured, causing severe internal bleeding. I was rushed into surgery to remove the pregnancy and it was determined once the surgeon saw the extent of the damage that the entire Fallopian tube had to be completely removed, as well. It was one of the most traumatic, terrifying, and heart-breaking days of my life.

Let me back up to the beginning. I had not been feeling great for a few weeks, and my cycle had been a little wacky. I went to see my doctor, and they performed a pregnancy test and a few other lab tests, and other than being a little anemic, everything seemed fine. I distinctly remember telling the doctor, "I don't know what it is, I just feel like something is wrong". She assured me I was fine, and sent me on my way.

Two weeks passed, and I just wasn't feeling better. I had a nagging pain in my side and a period that just wouldn't go away. A few nights, the pain in my side woke me up out of my sleep. My husband was very concerned and kept urging me to go to the doctor, but I refused. It honestly felt like a more painful version of ovulation, and I thought I was just having an extreme period (after several months of not having one).

Then, on a Sunday morning, I was shocked awake from a dead sleep at about 4am with extreme pain in my side. I didn't wake up my husband, took some Tylenol and tried to go back to sleep. A few hours passed and it didn't seem to be getting better, so I started Googling (it's what I do)! The main concern was, of course, a ruptured appendix. I woke my husband up to tell him about the pain, and he insisted I go to the ER right away. I was resistant, but finally agreed to go if I could go by myself, with him staying home with D. There was no reason to wake D up at 6am and drag him to the hospital if it was just gas, I reasoned! He reluctantly agreed, and I drove myself to the hospital. I knew something was really wrong when I involuntarily started crying while driving, and clutching my side. I still wouldn't have said the pain was extreme, more like incredibly wrong. I limped my way into the ER and was immediately whisked back through triage.

The doctor on call ordered all the standard tests, and after much waiting, came in to examine me. He was positive it was my appendix, and wanted to do an MRI first, and then an ultrasound to rule out anything else. I remember asking him to do the ultrasound first, because I hadn't met my deductible and it was the cheaper test (the ridiculous things we worry about, even in a situation like that!). He agreed, but a few minutes later, he came in and told me that my routine pregnancy test came back positive. He delivered the news happily, and told me they could easily operate on my appendix without harming the baby, and congratulated me. I texted my husband that he needed to get to the hospital, and he started scrambling around for a babysitter for D.

With the positive pregnancy test, the ER doctor did decide to do the ultrasound first. I was terrified, but still reeling from the shock of the pregnancy. My ultrasound tech was a kind of endearing, gruff old guy and he chatted with me as he began. I knew something wasn't right when the conversation died, and he was making way too many "hmms..." He finally told me that he wasn't seeing anything in the uterus, and he moved over to the Fallopian tubes. As soon as he moved the wand, it was obvious there was a problem. There were huge black masses that he said was internal bleeding.  He told me that he wasn't technically supposed to say, but that the pregnancy was not viable and they were going to have to do surgery as soon as possible due to how much I was bleeding.

I was wheeled back to the ER right as my husband arrived. At this point, he knew nothing about what was going on. As soon as I saw him, I dissolved into tears and tried to explain. The nurse came in and gave me morphine for the pain, which helped in calming me down tremendously. Everything happened very quickly after that. The surgeon came in and explained what was going to happen, and told me that we would plan to go into surgery in a few hours. I sent my husband home to relieve the babysitter who had to go to work, and gather up D and his things to come back and say goodbye to me before surgery. Not 20 minutes after he left, the surgeon came back in and said he'd taken a closer look at my ultrasound and I needed to go to surgery right then. I told him no, I needed to wait for my husband to come back. I will never forget what he said; "If we wait any longer, you will die."

Well, shit.

The next few minutes were a flurry of activity. The nurses prepped me and ran me down the hall to the OR. I was bawling hysterically about not seeing my husband or baby before they put me under, and the sweetest nurse told me everything was going to be fine, and kissed my forehead. The anesthesiologist came in and talked to me for a few minutes (about what? Who the heck knows!). I signed some forms and was unconscious before I knew it. I remember thinking back afterwards that I didn't even get to count backwards!  I remember bits and pieces after the surgery. I asked the nurse if they put everything back where they found it (always a joke to lighten the mood) and she hesitated. She tried to explain that the damage was too extensive and the entire Fallopian tube had to be removed, but I was too loopy for any of it to register. They discharged me from the hospital while I was still pretty sedated, and Mike took me home.

My parents were luckily visiting DC from Montana, and Mike had texted them to come down as soon as we knew there would be surgery. They arrived a few hours after I got home, and were SUCH a huge help. The doctor told me I should be able to go back to work in a few days, but I was home for a full week before I was up to it. I had lost so much blood, and felt pretty traumatized, that the one day I did go to work for about an hour, I dissolved into tears at my desk and had to go home.

I looked all over the internet for information about ectopic pregnancies, laproscopic salpingectomies (the Fallopian tube removal) and dealing with the loss, but I was so frustrated to find there was barely any information. I have never felt so entirely alone and confused as I did in those first few weeks.

I didn't feel like I deserved to be sad. I had only known I was pregnant for less than an hour. The pregnancy would never have been viable, even if it hadn't ruptured so violently, it could never have resulted in a baby. Not to mention all the feelings that I had about being literally near death. What if Mike hadn't convinced me to go to the ER? Would I have just laid in bed, thinking I was just overreacting, until I just passed out from blood loss? The fear, anxiety, and depression that I experienced in the weeks and months that followed were rough.

I didn't share the experience with a lot of people, but those that knew did their best to comfort me. Nothing was really helping though, I was just so sad. While I had a great surgeon, his bedside manner was not the best and at my post-op appointments, I was given the distinct "get over it" impression. He did tell us, however, that we could start trying again after the first normal cycle, but not to get our hopes up. With all the trauma my body had been through and the missing tube, it could take 6 months to a year before we got pregnant again. The chance of conceiving again with only one Fallopian tube was less than 30%.  He urged us to go ahead and start now, if we wanted to have another baby. It wasn't the worst news in the world, but being told it may take months or years to achieve what you literally just had within your grasp was challenging, to say the least. We decided that rather than aggressively trying and being disappointed, we would just not prevent things and hope God surprised us with a miracle.

And surprise us, He did! 7 weeks after my surgery, I started feeling woozy and moody, and decided to take a pregnancy test, just for the heck of it. Imagine my shock (and pure terror) when the test was positive! I cannot even begin to describe the emotions that I experienced at that point, and I will detail all that in a subsequent post.

My goal in putting this extremely personal story out into the internet is that someone experiencing this does not feel alone. I couldn't stand the thought of another woman suffering in silence, having no where to go and no one to tell her that her feelings are completely justified and normal. You are not alone!

If you have any questions, or want to share your own story, please leave them in the comments or email me at abookwormandababy@gmail.com.


  1. I don't have a story of my own to share, but it just wanted to say that you're very brave for putting this out there. I know it will help someone! I cried when you talked about the sweet nurse kissing your forehead and reassuring you. I try every day to be that kind of nurse to people; thank goodness she was there for you. Hugs!

    1. Thanks, Kaitlin! Honestly that nurse was a Godsend; she made me feel like I wasn't so alone. The work you guys do is invaluable, and whether you know it or not at the end of the day, I guarantee you've touched someone's life. I tried to find out her name to thank her, but was never able to. Thanks for reading!

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