My Ectopic Pregnancy Experience |
When Brian and I lost our first baby, I was very particular about the language I used to describe the loss. It wasn t a miscarriage. It was an ectopic pregnancy. I wanted people to know there was a difference and that difference meant something to me. Over the years I have become less particular about that distinction. I have come to let go of the things that separate me from my sisters who have experienced the same pain of the death of a precious child. I have found it is easier to say, I have had two miscarriages than to say, I have had two ectopic pregnancies and then have to explain exactly what that means. Even in my writings here you will find me using more general and inclusive language about my losses because I am more interested in what unites grieving woman than what divides us.
I happened to run across the blog of a woman who had also had an ectopic pregnancy. She commented on one of my blog posts, I checked out her blog and I found we had a shared story. It was amazing to me how in reading about her ectopic I felt a sense of healing. Some of what she was expressing was familiar to me, but they were thoughts and emotions I had shoved down long ago. So I m sharing my story not because I want to separate myself from women who have had a more typical miscarriage experience (whatever that means), but because maybe there s a woman out there who is grieving her ectopic pregnancy and is having a hard time finding someone who understands. I understand that pain and the need to find someone who has walked this road, too.
If you re wondering what an ectopic pregnancy is, The Mayo Clinic has a great overview. The short story is that babies belong in a uterus. If they don t implant there, they may implant somewhere else, most commonly in a fallopian tube. That pregnancy can t be sustained. Hopefully someday doctors will be able to successfully transplant them to the uterus, but at this point that isn t a viable option. So here s what it s like to experience an ectopic pregnancy.
The pain is incredible: And I m talking about the physical pain. I couldn t straighten up or walk during the worst of the pain. I can t really describe the pain, but it doesn t feel like cramping the way you might expect a miscarriage would. It was just like a sharp lump of pain and nothing could fix it. I also was so wanting to protect my unborn child that I didn t want to take anything for pain. I legitimately thought I might die and told Brian if he found me dead in the morning, he should tell the paramedics it was an ectopic pregnancy. This was before we had an official diagnosis, I just knew. My second ectopic pregnancy I ended up collapsing on the ER floor before somebody put me on a gurney in a hallway while I waited to see a doctor. This is a pretty traumatic way to be initiated into losing your baby.
The disappointment is intense: In my experience, ectopics can be kind of tricky to diagnose. Sometimes hormone levels don t rise as they should, which tips off your doctor. But sometimes they do rise exactly as they should. Sometimes the baby can be clearly seen in an ultrasound and you can tell it s in the wrong place. But sometimes you can t really see the baby at all. Eventually it becomes clear, but for awhile you may be in this weird place where nobody will tell you exactly what s going on. One person says your hormone levels are fine. The next person says they can t find a heartbeat. Now you re being walked down the hall to the most high-powered ultrasound machine to take a look around . The next thing you know they re talking about surgery. As the mother of that child, you hold on to hope until the last possible moment. Even when they tell you your baby has implanted in the wrong place, you want to imagine that your child can beat the odds and continue to grow, or magically roll into a better position. What you most want is total clarity, but it seems like a hard thing to get. And all of the sudden nobody cares about your baby anymore and they re talking to you about the signs that you might be in danger from internal bleeding. It s hard to really take in that information when you re trying to understand how you went so quickly from being a pregnant woman to being a woman carrying a dead child who is now in danger herself.
The questions are haunting: Is this baby alive or dead? Is there any hope? What can we do? Why did this happen? Did I somehow cause this? Can t we move the baby? Is the procedure to deal with an ectopic pregnancy essentially an abortion? All these questions are complicated by the quick timeline required by an ectopic pregnancy. To avoid rupturing a fallopian tube (which along with impairing your fertility could also kill you) decisions have to be made quickly. Doctors know how to deal competently with removing ectopic pregnancies, but I don t think they always know how to explain it to you, allow you a moment to grieve and help you feel empowered in the decision making process all in the timeframe that feels safe to them. If you don t get your questions answered, they may stick with you for a long time and can complicate your grief.
The guilt is unexpected: Oh, the guilt. It s hard to put words around this. I felt guilty because my body failed me. I felt guilty because we had infertility issues (which can correlate with a higher risk of ectopics). I felt guilty because we did infertility treatments to get pregnant (although I also had an ectopic pregnancy with a spontaneous pregnancy). I felt guilty because I had previously had surgery which may have increased my risk. I felt guilty because I chose to have my child surgically removed from my body (in one situation) and chemically removed (in another situation). Even though we were reassured that there was not a living child still in my body, I agonized about if we were doing the right thing to end the pregnancy.
The ramifications are longterm: It is a double whammy to lose a baby and then realize you are now at a higher risk to lose another baby in the exact same way. The surgery I went through may have left scar tissue that contributed to the next ectopic pregnancy I had. My future positive pregnancy test results were met with fear instead of joy as I felt a correlation between pregnancy and painful loss. We were told if we had multiple ectopic pregnancies, the best thing to do would be to remove the faulty tube, which was a sad thought.
God is bigger than your fallopian tube: I m not going to say that every infertile woman is going to someday be pregnant. That absolutely isn t true and I think false hope is incredibly damaging. With that being said, statistically speaking, a lot of women who at one time struggle with infertility will eventually have a biological child. For us, that took ten years and three pregnancies. But I want to take you to that moment in the doctor s office when they were looking for the location of our baby at his early ultrasound. The first thing the ultrasound tech did was look to see which ovary I had ovulated from. She could tell I had ovulated from my right ovary. . . and it felt like the beginning of the end. Both of my ectopic pregnancies had happened in my right tube. My doctor had said if we had a third tubal pregnancy, he would surgically remove the tube to avoid that happening again. I began to mentally prepare for that reality. But that s not what happened. God choose to do a miracle in not only providing conception and a proper implantation, but doing it through the damaged tube we were certain would mean death for any future children. I struggle with having hope. I m not very good at being hopeful, but I am learning that God is not constrained by my lack of hope or a doctor s bleak prognosis. (Visited 3,177 times, 18 visits today)
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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: ectopic pregnancy, grief, infertility, loss, miscarriage | Permalink 25 Comments Leave a reply Marianne Sue October 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm
I ve had three ectopic pregnancies and two successful pregnancies. That means infertility treatments to get pregnant and after becoming pregnant progesterone injections, perinatal specialists, preterm labor, bedrest, hospitalizations and complications after giving birth. Sometimes saying I had an ectopic pregnancy seems to diminish my grief in other people s eyes. As if it wasn t a real pregnancy. It took me many years to come to grips with my grief. Reply Rebecca October 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm
Wow, I never took the time to realize how different ectopics were from miscarriages. There are a lot of questions to grapple with while you re in the midst of grief, too. Thanks for sharing, Maralee. I think this might help others who ve been through ectopic pregnancies as well. Reply Aubrey October 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm
Great, great post and one that covers the issues really well. Thankfully I didn t really have much pain (surprisingly) but that s why I was able to use a medical treatment since my hormone levels were really high. For me the guilt was really tough and after we opted for a medical treatment I found some different Christian blogs that said that what I did was a sin which made me feel bad again. I don t think it was a sin, but having people say that it was wasn t nice to hear. I was super paranoid at the beginning of Naomi s pregnancy that it was going to be another ectopic. Reply Ginger October 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm
Thank you, thank you, for this honest message. So challenged and changed by your forthcoming with this! So blessed by your faith in God and eternal perspective on infertility. Reply Dena October 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm
I ve never had an ectopic pregnancy and can imagine the pain. Miscarriages are hard. I had a regular miscarriage and then a blighted ovum miscarriage. That one was odd, not like normal miscarriages either and I also hemorraged and my body lost dur much blood I started going into shock and had to be transported to he hospital in an ambulance and have emergency surgery. Yet in both situations of which the first I technically had a baby die inside me and the second, my body thought it was preggo . Both left me feeling the exact same sadness and grief. Yes, Miscarriages are very hard. Reply Chelsea Lewis October 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm
At what point in your successful pregnancy did you feel like you could stop holding your breath and stop expecting the worst to happen? First trimester? 2nd? Was there a point? I just can t imagine what that must have been like for you. Thank you for sharing. These are the types of things that women need to share with each other. Reply Maralee October 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm
Chelsea, that s a really great question. I d say there were two parts to my relief- first of all when we found out Joel had implanted in the right place, which was at our first ultrasound (6 weeks?). That meant we didn t have to worry about another ectopic and all the surgery drama that would have gone along with it. But I don t think I knew how much my enjoyment of the whole pregnancy process had been muted until Joel was actually born. I wept so hard with the relief that he was alive when I heard that first cry. I seriously couldn t stop crying or shaking for quite awhile. I felt like I was finally able to let go of 9 months of fears and concerns and preparing for the worst that I didn t even consciously know I was carrying. Reply Ashley October 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm
Thank you for your post, a friend sent it to me knowing that I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and the misfortunate treatment that has led to more infertility issues for my husband and I. There are very few articles on ectopic pregnancies, the confusion, physical pain, uncertainty uncontrollable options. Sadly, after the chemical treatment we found that it eliminated all of my follicles. We did not know it at the time, but I have premature ovarian failure. I am still confused (and let s face it angry) at why I didn t know this and why God allowed for a chemical treatment that would be so long impacting. Even after the chemical treatment, I had to have surgery as the tissue remained in my fallopian tube. They had to remove the tube due to damage and endometriosis. So my issues have been complicated threefold, we still try with one fallopian tube even though I have a dominant ovary and it s not the ovary with a tube! I m learning what it looks like to have hope in a fragmented world and believe that God is bigger than a single Falopian tube and can overcome the smallest of chances of getting pregnant naturally. I Reply Maralee October 10, 2013 at 10:51 pm
Oh Ashley, what a difficult story. Thank you for sharing it. That has got to be incredibly frustrating and I can totally understand why you d be angry. I m thankful you have hope and I hope you ll keep me update about your story as you continue on your journey towards pregnancy. And if you ever decide you want to talk about adoption, I d be more than happy to listen
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