By Charity Wheeler
In 2011, my husband and I had been married for 2 years when we started seriously talking about adding children to our family of two. We had just purchased our first home, and were excited and anxious to fill it with joyous laughter and hope for the future. I had been on hormonal birth control pills a little over two years when we decided to stop preventing pregnancy.
I had heard from friends that after going off hormonal birth control it can take a while to have a period. Many mothers said that it is common to have long or super sporadic cycles for a while until your body regulates. I never had a period when I was on the pill, so I went out to stock up on tampons and waited.
After about a month and a half I began to bleed like a period. It seemed like the typical length and flow of my pre-pill periods and I had some cramping but nothing out of the ordinary. After about 5 or 6 days the bleeding stopped so I figured I just had my first post-pill period (say that 5 times fast). Since I had been bleeding, I assumed that I wasn’t pregnant.
After about a week and a half I started spotting but I brushed it off and credited it to hormones. The spotting continued a few days, and I started feeling very bloated and then the stomach pain overwhelmed me. For about 45 minutes to an hour I would have debilitating pain. I felt nauseated and cold chills overcame my body. This happened a few times in 24 hours, and then my symptoms dissipated for a few days. I thought I must have had food poisoning, but then a few days later the pain started again. I lost a lot of blood. My stomach was so bloated I could only fit in sweat pants. Because the pain wasn’t going away in the middle of the night, I told my husband we needed to go to the emergency room.
After arriving at the ER and waiting for a few hours, we finally saw the doctor. He had me pee in a cup. Fifteen minutes later, he told me I was pregnant. So many emotions went through my head–I was shocked, then excited, and then worried. This emotional roller-coaster ended in the realization that something must not be right. Everything I was experiencing pointed to danger, disappointment, and confusion.
After sticking an ultrasound wand up my ladybits (I didn’t know that was a thing), the doctor confirmed that my pregnancy was ectopic. Wait, a what? I had never heard of that. I was told it’s when your body “doesn’t work right” and the fetus implants outside of the uterus. They guessed that I was about 6-7 weeks pregnant and said I would have surgery to remove the fetus from my fallopian tube.
My Emotional Journey
I had started to hemorrhage at this point and they told me to take off all of my clothes to prepare for surgery. There I was in shock, bare butt, blood dripping all over my socks, and torn between the reality that a baby was growing inside of me, and yet, I would never cradle him/her in my arms. I had to ask the nurse if I could put my underwear back on.
I had never undergone a surgery or been pregnant before, so this was a lot of firsts for me and my husband. I hid behind the cold sterile doors of the OR and when I woke up, I was no longer pregnant–I had been cut open and my baby was removed from my body. I was devastated and had no idea what this meant for the future.
At my follow up appointment, I asked about future pregnancies and was told that since I opted out of having my tube removed, I was at an increased risk of a future ectopic pregnancy. The doctor impressed upon me that, with only one functioning tube, I may never be able to get pregnant on my own. I felt broken. I felt like my whole world had changed in a matter of just a few hours.
We stopped to eat at Olive Garden on the way home and I sat next to a table of young mothers with their babies. I had to excuse myself to the restroom to cry. For the next two months, I was very emotional and would cry during diaper commercials, or just seeing babies in Target. When I told family, friends and co-workers, they were relieved I was okay. Yet, nothing was ever said about my baby. I wanted people to at least acknowledge that I had lost my baby but it was like our baby had never even existed. It felt like there was an expiration date assigned to my grief.
Pregnancy After Loss
It has now been 5 years since my ectopic pregnancy. I still think about my baby. What would our child be doing if he or she had implanted in my uterus rather than my fallopian tube? Would our baby look like me, or favor daddy? Our baby was never named or held. Our baby died so that I could live. Very few people know about this journey, this love, this loss.
I have personally never experienced another miscarriage. I have been able to naturally conceive and birth two healthy children since my ectopic pregnancy. How has this experience changed things for our family? Now, as soon as I get a positive pregnancy test, I have to schedule an ultrasound and blood draw right away. I re-live the stress and heartache until placement and HCG levels are confirmed.
If you have personally experienced an ectopic pregnancy, be grateful that modern medicine can save you. Don’t be afraid to talk about or mourn your loss. You may know someone that has had an ectopic pregnancy. Don’t forget that not only did they just go through a scary experience, but they also lost a very real and precious child. Our baby was real to me and should be honored.
Charity’s goal as a doula is to help her clients and their partners feel empowered and confident about their pregnancy and birth. “Birth is so beautiful and I want to help families experience a strengthening and empowering birth.”
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