14 Aug Ectopic Pregnancy: your scars make you who you are
Ectopic pregnancy: my story
The time had come: I held the pregnancy test in my hands. After spotting for a few days, I knew something was up, and I was right: There were two lines! I was ecstatic! My husband, Matt, and I had been trying to conceive for about a year, and I’d been peeing on ovulation strips for six months. Finally, it happened!!! The next few weeks consisted of waking up ravenous at 2:00 AM, craving peanut butter toast with bananas on top.
One day, soon after, I experienced some severe pain–what I thought was constipation–that landed me on the cold floor, asking my husband to come home with some Metamucil, and, for a few days, this helped! I was left with a slightly sore left shoulder. My left shoulder has bothered me since I worked as a dental hygienist, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. The next week and a half went by great! I continued experiencing some pregnancy symptoms I was proud of.
I woke up feeling extra great a couple of days later. It began with my 1st (and 2nd) breakfast, then I slapped on some make-up, and started a photoshoot for The Beerded Lady; I was able to get three sets of photos done! On top of that, I decided to do some gardening. I’m telling you, I felt AMAZING that day! When the gardening was finished, I decided to take a nap because it was slightly too hot outside, and I felt light-headed. I lay in bed for only a few minutes, then BAM! It felt like an extremely hot iron stabbed my left shoulder; I couldn’t move until I had the sudden urge for a bowel movement. With the stabbing pain in my shoulder, I ran to the bathroom and sat down, only to find blood in the toilet. No tissue and no blood clots (both indicators of a possible miscarriage); no anything else, but, by this time, I still assumed I was miscarrying. Quickly, I hopped online to check my symptoms. All of the posts I read pointed to three things: ectopic pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, ECTOPIC PREGNANCY. Frantically, I texted Matt to tell him what I was going through. This was all taking place as I bled continuously on the toilet. When my doctor’s office confirmed that I should go to the ER, Matt stayed on phone with me on his way home, urging me to tell my dad, who lives with us, to take me to the ER.
I walked to the front of our home to my dad’s room and told him, for the first time, “I’m pregnant”, and that I thought it was ectopic, and that we need to go to the ER. Everything after that felt like slow-mo. I grabbed my phone charger, I grabbed a pad for the bleeding; I was able to grab pretty much everything I needed. I’m not sure why, but I was incredibly patient while in incredible pain.
When Dad and I headed to the ER that day, it was early in the COVID-19 quarantine; late April. When we got to the hospital, after I was screened for COVID and my hands were sanitized, I turned around and saw my husband. He had left work quickly and high-tailed it to the hospital, only to find he couldn’t go back to the room with me. I was alone. After triage, I was sent to a room, put on an IV and given Tylenol. Time sped up then. For me this felt like seconds, but, in real time, 40 minutes had passed as my husband waited for me in the parking lot. My blood was taken to test my levels of HCG (the pregnancy hormone), and I peed in a cup to confirm my pregnancy. Finally, I was able to FaceTime with Matt and talk to him while I waited for diagnostics to come in, which they did an hour later. The ultrasound tech came in and basically said he’d found NOTHING, except an area of my uterus that was a fibroid tumor; not a baby. INCONCLUSIVE! I was quickly “cleared” and discharged and told to set an appointment with an OB in two days, for I probably was “just fine” and possibly either “still had a full pregnancy” or “went through a miscarriage”. Further, as I’d gone into the ER on a Thursday, “two days” meant weekdays, so I had to wait three full days to get to an OB to check, and at the time, I was still shopping for one. Friday I was able to schedule an appointment for Monday.
The next three days were pretty bad, to say the least. My whole abdomen hurt, and I sat next to the fireplace for the heat to make me feel better. The pain felt like gas that I couldn’t release, or my back needing to crack, but it couldn’t. I kept hoping this was normal. I couldn’t really hold things, I still felt nauseous and fatigued; all of these were my pregnancy symptoms from before. I didn’t work out because… well, I’d just gone to the ER! When Monday rolled around, I was feeling like myself, for the most part. I went to the OB, got blood taken per the ER’s request to see if my HCG was up, meaning continued pregnancy, or not up, meaning end of pregnancy.
On Tuesday, I received an abrupt call from an emergent sounding nurse on the other end. She told me I needed to set up an online appointment with my new OB within 30 minutes. I was not prepared to hear what I was told next. When I got on, my doctor let me know that my HCG had risen, and my excitement that the pregnancy was still there was short-lived: she went on to tell me that this was a bad thing. “What?!” I thought. NO ONE had given me any conclusion at the ER, so I was pretty angry, confused, and annoyed, and she could tell. My OB suggested another ultrasound, so I headed on over to the clinic, and she was amazing. She showed me the ultrasound and explained what was going on inside of me. The “fibroid” the tech diagnosed at the ER was a previous attempt at implantation. She headed on up to the right ovary and saw a corpus luteum (this forms in your dormant ovary during pregnancy), and then over to the left ovary, where there was what seemed like a black hole. That meant there was a LOT of liquid behind it, possibly blood, and, most likely, an ectopic pregnancy. That day, my OB told me I was losing a fallopian tube as well as a pregnancy. We scheduled my surgery for two days later: Wednesday, April 29th at 10 am.
The night before, Matt and I tried to prepare and wrap our heads around everything. We reminded ourselves that this was a mass of cells, not a baby, and it was something that was hurting me, not something happy. This was the ONLY way for me to cope with the chaos that was going on around me and inside of my body. Wednesday morning my husband dropped me off because, again, he wasn’t allowed in (covid y’all!). Again, I went through triage and was put into my pre-op room. There, I was quickly tested for COVID. This was not an easy task; my brain felt it, and then the sneezing started. I was given a tissue box which I kept with me the whole visit (I even went home with it!). I got to chat on the phone with Matt until I went back for surgery. I remember the operation room was immaculate, then I was chatting and fell asleep. I woke up thinking “that was the best nap ever”. I rustled around only to realize I was still strapped down. Then, the pain set in. The post-op nurses were amazing and kept giving me all the meds I needed.
Finally, I made it back to my room and guess what?! My sweet Matt was there. They were able to let only him in. I was over the moon! But, then, he brought me back down to earth with the truth of what happened. My fallopian tube had burst, there was dried blood in my abdomen, and the reason I was feeling better on Monday was because my body was trying to heal itself. If you remember correctly I went to the ER on Thursday. SIX days later, on Wednesday, I went into surgery. This was SIX DAYS with a ruptured fallopian tube inside of my body along with pain and fear of the unknown.
Recovery felt like it was never going to end, I thought I was going to be in the worst pain forever. Though I’m not normally a pain killer type of person, this pain was agonizing. I chowed down on Tylenol 3 to kill the deep pain in my abdomen. Luckily, I had an overflow of friends that came and visited me to make things feel semi-normal. They spoiled me with love and time, and there’s no way I could thank them enough.
Warning: the next few paragraphs will get into the nitty-gritty.
Stop reading if you get queasy: this is getting down and dirty with post-op. During recovery, the fear of having a bowel movement crept in. There was a bounce in my belly. I felt like it was going to explode, but it was okay, just some movement. After that, I started Mirilax because YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT during narcotic use as the drugs cause constipation. Further, there was still constant vaginal bleeding. Some of it looked like “creatures”, but, of course, we knew they were blood clots. During these days of recovery, a clot fell onto the floor in front of my husband. I was so embarrassed. But Matt handled it with such grace and love; he quickly cleaned it up and took care of me. It didn’t even phase him. These clots happened a few more times but, eventually, stopped.
Okay, no more queasiness: After a week, I was able to move on my own with ease. No working out, yet, but I started walking. Then, I started feeling nauseous and headachy, with a fever. My initial thought was, of course, COVID. I called the OB, and they suggested antibiotics for an infection. The idea of an infection made so much sense: I’d had a burst fallopian tube inside my body for six days! They put me on Augmentin, and if you haven’t taken it yet, the pills are as big as your thumb! After eight weeks of taking it easy, I finally started to work out again. It has been four months! Now, I am back to where I want to be. I DID recover. While there are still some minor pains– I get ovulation pain and pretty intense PMS pains that are different than before surgery–I feel so much better.
To anyone who is experiencing this: you WILL get better! I promise. But, also, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. While I was in the hospital, the nurses were so happy to see that I came in for my pain. They have seen too many women die from what I experienced. I should have gone in earlier, but women, as a whole, undermine their pain! When you notice your pain, be proactive.
Side note: The nurse told me I was the second woman in April to come in for an ectopic pregnancy. After posting about what I went through it, I found out about two other people within the last four months, and another within the year. That makes five women in the past year with ectopic pregnancies with small degrees of separation from me. I found no help, resources, or groups for recovery online in the U.S., but it seems like there are some that are being created. If you have gone through this, please reach out. You are not alone.
I know publicly sharing something this personal isn’t for everyone, but we all process and cope in our own manner. I believe that the pregnancy was just a sack of cells, out to get me! If you’ve gone through an ectopic pregnancy, how did you deal with it? I’d love to hear your story. Again, you are not alone.