The last week and a half has been incredibly painful and trying – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is surreal now for me to look back and realize that two weeks ago I was so happy and positive. It seemed like everything in my life was coming together beautifully.
I could feel it – 2018 would be this amazing year where great things happen. But then in the space of just a few minutes it all came crashing down leaving me wondering what on earth happened, how did this happen and how do I move forward?
Yes I know I can move forward and I know things will get better with time but at this time I am on a roller-coaster not knowing when next I am going to be spun around or for how long.
I’m going to share my experience with you today. I have always found that sharing my pain helps to lessen it and along the way it helps others too. So here is everything that has happened and it is going to be a long read while I bare my soul and my pain, so go grab a cup of coffee.
The Week Before It Happened
I started having abdominal pain and on Friday 12th January it felt like another bladder infection – I am prone to getting bladder infections so I sent my doctor a message and he faxed a script to the pharmacy and I went and collected a sachet of Urinase. This usually clears up my bladder infections quickly. Within about an hour I started to feel a little bit of relief and thought the problem was resolved.
The next day the pain came back and I thought I was constipated. I felt pain and thought I needed to poop but when I went to toilet I felt pain when I pushed. So I took a laxative and an hour later I had a very long good session in the bathroom and I felt a bit better.
All through the week I had on and off abdominal pain but nothing too concerning. I brushed it off because my daughter was starting Grade 1 and I was rushing around getting everything prepared for her to start school and for my son to start in his new pre-school.
The pain would come and go. Each time I felt pain by the time I thought I might need to see a doctor it was gone again and then I got distracted with things.
On Saturday the 20th January my husband was out for the day and the pain came back again. I got the kids settled with a movie while I lay on the bed and phoned he doctor. We agreed I would see him on the Monday morning.
By the time my husband got home I felt just fine again. We had our regular “date night” of a steak braai and chips, then we watched some tv. I felt just fine until the moment I lay down in bed at 11pm. The pain was so sudden and intense that I jumped out of bed and told my husband I was going into hospital.
My poor husband got such a shock and wanted to wake the kids up and drive me there but I didn’t want to scare them or get them worried.
Going Into Hospital
While I was driving to the hospital I was convinced it must be my appendix about to burst. It was on my right side and I was in so much pain. My appendix is on the right side isn’t it?
I was hoping and praying that it wasn’t my appendix bursting, I didn’t know much about that except that it is very painful and dangerous, possibly even life threatening.
When I arrived at the hospital emergency rooms I told the man a reception I thought my appendix was bursting and he took me through to wait for a doctor.
The doctor came in and she was a beautiful young lady, I can’t stop thinking about how young everyone looks now. Either kids are graduating from school early and managing to finish university by the age of 15…. or (much more likely) I am getting old.
She asked me what the problem is and told me immediately that my appendix was not bursting. I breathed a sigh of relief… I’m out of danger, surely it can’t be too bad then?
She felt my stomach and told me she wants some urine to do a pregnancy test. I actually laughed when I told her there is no chance of that because I am sterilized. She said it is just standard procedure.
When the doctor came back with a positive pregnancy test I was shocked and started wondering how on earth I would cope financially, how I would manage to cope with all my work and a newborn…. slowly it started sinking in that I was in hospital with excruciating abdominal pain and the doctor was still speaking.
I couldn’t quite focus on what she was saying, I was just catching key words…. “ectopic pregnancy”….”tubal pregnancy”… “life threatening”… “baby will never make it”… “need to operate”… It felt like the room was swirling.
For a few moments I just stared at her and she started to repeat herself. She thought I had an ectopic pregnancy, which is where the fetus is not in the womb, most likely the fetus is in my tube. When there is an ectopic pregnancy the baby won’t make it – there is no chance. In addition to that the mother’s tube can rupture and this is life threatening. For this reason they will need to operate to remove the fetus.
I wondered if I was the only person that looked so blank and stupid when told something like this…. it just felt so surreal.
I asked the doctor if they could just move my baby from the tube into my womb. Surely with all this modern technology where doctors can make babies in a test tube they could just relocate it, right?
The answer was written all over her face when she told me she is sorry but there is nothing they could do to save my baby.
Tears started rolling down my face. Within the space of a few minutes I had found out I had the gift of life and that it was being ripped away from me.
We didn’t want another baby, but suddenly it was there and I wanted to protect it with all my being. Being worried about being able to cope with another baby seemed like a wonderful problem to have.
A burst appendix would also have been amazing. What do you need an appendix for anyway? I would happily have given up my appendix instead.
Phoning my husband from hospital to update him on what was happening was so painful and emotional. My heart ached having to tell him over the phone that we were losing a baby that we didn’t even know we had.
Tests and More Tests
The doctor then took my blood because she wanted to confirm my pregnancy with a blood test. It came back positive. They took more than one lot of blood – I don’t know what other tests they did.
Then she called the radiologist in so that they could do a scan to see what was happening inside me, possibly even to find out where the baby was located.
This is the moment that I freaked out completely. While waiting for the radiologist to arrive I couldn’t stop thinking about seeing a baby, a little heart beat and I knew I would just break if I had to see that.
I called my husband but we had been talking on and off on the phone since I had left at 11pm and it was now 2am. He had fallen asleep and he was having problems with his phone often not making a sound when a call comes in. I called my mother in law to see if she could go to our house and wake him up to come to me and then she could stay with the kids.
Later I found out that my mother in law sleeps with her phone on silent. I’ve never had reason to call her at 2am before to find that out.
The thought of being alone and seeing my baby was too much for me. While waiting for the radiologist I cried buckets.
I was told to drink lots of water and not pee until he arrived since my bladder had to be full in order to see clearly when he did the scan.
The radiologist was a kind man that reassured me that it is way too early in pregnancy to see anything, according to my HCG levels I was 3-4 weeks pregnant.
This was a huge relief to me and I managed to calm down for a minute or two.
The jelly was rubbed onto my tummy and I held my breath anxiously while waiting to see something come up on the screen. I winced with pain when he pushed down and moved the scanning device around to try and see what was going on. I had no idea what I was seeing on the screen – all I know is that I didn’t see anything resembling a baby.
The radiologist then asked me to go and empty my bladder so he could do an internal scan as he will be able to see more.
I was not prepared at all for the pain of that internal scan. When he put it in me I surprised even myself by screaming in pain and nearly jumping right off the bed. It was excruciatingly painful and he had to keep moving it to check everywhere.
He could not find a baby, but I definitely had internal bleeding – what he referred to as “free fluids”. He agreed with the doctor that saw me originally that everything pointed to an ectopic pregnancy. Until proven otherwise this would be treated as an ectopic pregnancy.
I was taken back to the ER and saw the doctor again. She wanted to book me in overnight so that the gyni could see me in the morning and then they could go ahead with the operation.
My head was spinning. I remembered when I was a little girl and my mom got TB and we were woken up in the “middle of the night” (actually it was about 5am or 6am and still dark so it felt like the middle of the night) and my mom was taken to hospital. She was in hospital for about 3 weeks and we couldn’t see her. That experience still sticks with me.
I didn’t want my kids going to bed with their mom at home and “fine” then waking up with mommy gone. I told the doctor I had to go home and talk to my husband and pack some things and see my children first.
She said I can do that and be back at 8am to see the gyni.
I cried all the way home. Not the polite quiet crying I had done at the hospital, it was more the wailing scary kind.
My husband woke up when I got home and he held me in bed while I told him everything that had happened.
In the morning my mother in law phoned early and in a panic. A logical response to 20 missed calls at 2am. I gave her the sad news and asked her if she could please come to look after the kids while my husband and I went into hospital.
Back To The Hospital
We met the gyni at the hospital and she was lovely. Just like the radiologist, she first did an external scan and then an internal scan. It was uncomfortable this time but nowhere near the pain of the previous scans.
We asked her lots of questions and yes we asked again if she could move the baby to safety in my womb. She said if there is still a baby (and very likely there wasn’t anymore) there is just no way to do that.
She also could not see a fetus but she did see the free fluids and she said she was surprised I was not in more pain like I was with the previous scans. She thought perhaps that the danger was not quite as urgent as she thought because of this.
I was still trying to figure out how not to have the operation – it was not the thought of being cut open that disturbed me but the thought of having my baby removed. I asked whether it was possible to just leave it and see what happens, maybe things will just come right again. She looked dubious but left me and my husband to talk.
In a few minutes she came back to us and said that things have changed. She has now compared the scans that the radiologist took and the ones she just took and the situation was dangerous, my internal bleeding was getting worse not better. There was no choice but to operate or chances were high I would die.
Everything was a whir from that moment on, I saw doctors, anesthetists and nurses. I was being asked when last I ate and whether I was allergic to anything. Next thing I was on an operating table and as I felt the sting of the anesthetics start to work I felt tears escaping. I had no choice but to let them cut me open and take my baby out of my body.
It was so quick, it felt like I was under for only a few seconds. I woke up vomiting, crying and sore.
They told me that they removed my right tube, along with the fetus and stopped the bleeding.
I forgot to mention that I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, 9 years clean and in recovery. This means that I can’t take any mood or mind altering substances. I can’t take anything that is addictive.
Anyone else going for the same operation would be given morphine in their drip and later Myprodols which have Codeine in them. I get paracetamol, both in my drip and in tablet form later for the pain.
When I take a Panado for a headache it usually does nothing, just the same in this case too. I did take the Paracetamol in the hopes that it will make a difference but the pain was extreme and I don’t think it helped at all. I did the same when I gave birth to my daughter via c-section and later with my son also via c-section.
The nausea I felt when I woke up stayed with me for a few hours so I just lay as still as I could on the bed with my eyes closed.
My husband came to see me after the operation. He must have been through absolute hell.
It was his loss too and he had me to worry about on top of that pain and shock. I think it was easier for me because I was so upset by the miscarriage that I didn’t think about myself during all the craziness. However if the tables were turned and I had to deal with the emotional pain and I thought I might lose my husband too it would be a very different story.
The afternoon felt so long lying in the bed trying trying not to vomit, feeling the pain of the operation and trying to process the events of the last 12 hours.
A nurse came in and asked me if I was in pain. I said yes. She brought me some Paracetamol and told me that she understands I am an addict, but I do need to know that the doctor has made a note in my file that he has prescribed Morphine in case I need it.
In my head I heard my moms words when I was preparing for the birth of my first child “You don’t need to be a martyr – if you need pain medication you can choose to take it and we will deal with it”.
Immediately I thought of the relief that a good dose of Morphine would bring me. I would be able to blot out all the pain I have had to face. I would be able to forget I had lost a baby just for a short while. Oh what bliss that would be!
I realized that the thought of taking Morphine was not for blocking out the physical pain, it was to blot out how I was feeling emotionally. This is what addicts do – they take drugs to run away from their feelings.
I declined the Morphine and swallowed my Paracetamol with a pinch of resentment.
Recovering From An Ectopic Pregnancy
The pain from the operation was awful, but I can take that type of pain. I have had 2 c-sections before and lived to tell the tale. The same is true now. I will live to tell the tale.
There were some things I struggled with in the hospital – there were always nurses and doctors checking up on me and for some reason it felt like every doctor and nurse referred to my “3rd pregnancy” and my “3rd c-section”.
It felt strange and didn’t fit. Even now I can’t get my head around the fact I was pregnant. Something I think that adds to this shock is that when I gave birth to my youngest my tubes were cut at my request. I was sterilized.
I can deal with my contraception failing, geez I have dealt with that. I was on the pill when I fell pregnant with my daughter. Then I had the loop put in after she was born. I have no idea what happened to that loop but when I fell pregnant with my son it was nowhere to be found!
Yes it would have been tough to have another baby, but it is life and it is beautiful. If mother nature decided to gift me with another child even though I am sterilized so be it. We would have had another little being to bring a smile to our faces every morning.
Being sterilized, having it fail and then having to deal with a loss like this is awful. I feel cheated. I feel so angry.
I want to know how come babies can be made in test tubes and put into a woman’s womb yet my little baby had no chance of being moved. Technology is so advanced but it has let me down.
And calling my operation a c-section just feels all wrong. I had c-sections when I willingly had them to give birth to my beautiful babies. What happened to me feels like an abortion that was done against my will. My choice was that I can die along with my baby, or just my baby. Not much of a choice is it?
Yes it is true that we never wanted another child but when you find out that life has begun in your body you just want to protect it with all of your being. I feel like I failed my baby, like there should have been something I could do.
I have been through so much in my life, from the pain of being an addict and wrecking my life, to rape and abuse… been there, done that and I’ve come out the other side. Strong, healthy and happy… but this experience has done it for me. This has topped all the awful things in my life by a long shot. It came out of nowhere and it knocked me down flat.
In some ways I feel like I am sadder now than straight after the operation when I was in so much pain. I believe that is because when I was in physical pain it distracted me from my emotional pain, so it was strangely welcome. I guess that goes back to why I used to be a cutter. You feel emotional pain, so you cut yourself and you feel that instead. It draws the focus away from your emotions, just like a drug or alcohol will.
Now I am left with nothing but the emotional pain that I need to work through and it feels so raw when I face it. I long for something to drown it out.
Looking Back – Signs and Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy
Now that I know I was pregnant I can look back and clearly see the signs of pregnancy and also of possible problems.
The first thing is that it seemed that the last month or two my 4 year old son has been all elbows. As in he has been elbowing my boobs non-stop! But now I realize he wasn’t doing it any more than usual, my boobs were just ultra sensitive (and big).
I was exhausted – another sure sign of pregnancy, I was so much more tired than usual.
My last two periods were not normal. This is going to be a TMI moment… last year end of November or beginning of December I had a really strange period. It was perfectly normal then when it should have stopped I had stringy dark blood coming out for a few days. I was going to check it out at the doctor and ran out of time.
I did think maybe it was maybe me hitting early menopause or something because I had heard that your period does strange things when you start going into menopause. I had also heard that it is common for women that have been sterilized to hit menopause early. I started to research early menopause but then I got distracted and didn’t take it any further.
My next period started late, I’m sure of it but I don’t actually keep track of it. I think it was about a week late and it was an even stranger period with stop start bleeding for about 10 days. Some of the blood was red and looked like normal period blood, but sometimes there were bits of dark stringy blood. Once again I told myself to make time to research early menopause but never got around to it.
Look For The Gift In Everything
So far I have shared my pain and sadness with you, getting really into it all… but there is something more that I need to share before I am done.
I truly believe that there is something to be learned with everything that we experience in life. Even the most tragic and painful things come with a gift and if you can find that gift and focus on it then perhaps some good will come from something dark and painful.
The first thing that has happened is that my husband and I have grown closer. I have seen a new tenderness in him while he has looked after me that I haven’t seen before. I have a newfound respect for my husband. He has suffered the same emotional pain as me, plus he had to look after our 2 kids, run the household and also manage to fit in his work. It must have been an awful challenge and he stepped up and just got things done. My love for him has grown and he has let me love him through this. We have managed to bond more over this tragedy.
My relationship with my kids has shifted. The way their faces lit up when they came home from school to find me home from hospital had my heart bursting with love. They climbed into bed with me and we cuddled for so long. I has been just over a week since I got home and they are helping me with everything – from making sure their beds are made in the morning, to carrying the shopping and helping me with the washing.
I’ve always been very firm with my children, perhaps a little too firm? I’ve softened and I’ve kissed and cuddled them more. I just want to hold them closer.
The other gift is that I have been telling people what has happened and the response has been incredible. I had no idea so many people have had miscarriages and similar experiences with ectopic pregnancies.
There is an amazing lady that works for me one morning a week and I told her why I wasn’t home on Monday. She hugged me and got all emotional. She told me that she also had an ectopic pregnancy 3 years ago. A very similar story except that she did see her baby on the scan and she did see a heartbeat.
She is from Zimbabwe so her family is all there, it is just her and her boyfriend here. I am so glad I could share my experience with her so she doesn’t feel so alone anymore. I hope it has helped her to heal a little bit.
There are many more instances over the last week where people shared their own pain with me, but if I have to share all of that this will become a crazy long post!
I know that this is a mighty long post, but I wanted to bare it all here. If I had this awful experience perhaps I can help others by sharing about it. My heart goes out to all women that have lost a baby, I am so sorry. Now I share your pain.
Big Time Thank You
A huge thank you to Liberty and LG for being so awesome and understanding about my circumstances and being late with some campaigns. That was one huge worry off my chest that helped me cope by just having to focus on myself and not worry at all about work!
Thank you to my husband, for being there for me 150% of the way, you are my rock.
Thank you for my mother in law for helping with the kids and the cooking while I was in hospital, I felt so much happier knowing you were at my home taking over for me.
And to my mom, thank you for coming to stay and help. It meant the world to me that you came to look after me and my family. And with my healing – you just full a spot that nobody ever else can come close to. I needed my mommy so much and you were here.
To my girlfriends – Anthea, @yvettehess and @siobhan – you rock and you helped put a smile on my face… and brought me a toothbrush, toothpaste and chocolate when I needed it most in hospital. All those whatsapp voice notes kept me going and kept my chin up. I love you ladies!
To Bert and Ellen – thank you for coming around and sharing your experiences with me, I truly appreciate it. I can feel a weight has been lifted.
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Also published on Medium.