When I saw those two pink lines boldly displayed on the pregnancy test, I knew my life was going to change forever. Pregnancy, with its changes to mind and body, loomed in front of me. I started scouring parenting blogs and bought the must-have pregnancy books to prepare myself for the journey ahead.
Less than a month after receiving some of the most exciting news of my life, I received some of the most devastating: My pregnancy was ectopic. Even though it wasn’t a viable pregnancy, it was still a pregnancy — one that none of the books or blogs could prepare me for.
My experience has altered me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated, from emotional to mental to physical. While there have been many, there are five changes I am still navigating through months later.
1. My physical scars are a reminder of what could have been.
My ectopic pregnancy resulted in an emergency surgery, leaving me with physical reminders of my experience. There will be times when I am getting into the shower or changing my clothes and I see them, those three little holes that reflect the bigger hole in my heart. Sometimes I glance away quickly and sometimes I just stare, wondering when my feelings of loss will begin to subside as the fading physical wounds are beginning to do.
A few years ago, I had my appendix removed and have run my fingers across the incision point many times, viewing it as a change in the landscape of my skin, which I now accept as a part of me. While the landscape has once again changed, I haven’t been able to embrace the scars as part of me. Instead, they still seem foreign, a heartbreaking reminder of what was, what could have been, and what is no longer.
2. Time no longer has the same ebb and flow of the past.
After we received the all-clear to start trying again, my days have felt numbered. Rather than waking up and thinking it is a Tuesday, I wake up thinking it is day 11 of my cycle — ovulation is right around the corner! The excitement of trying, the dreaded waiting period, and the disappointment of the cycle starting all over again represent my new clock.
The old adage that time heals all wounds has been twisted, with time actually becoming an opponent. There are times when rather than feeling on the path to healing, I instead feel as though I am caught in a countdown, one ticking toward my due date of August 1. As it draws nearer, I keep can’t help but envision a parallel universe, one where there is a happy beginning instead of the reality of loss.
3. There is an invisible wall forming in some of my friendships.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I moved from Chicago to Austin, and we left behind a great group of friends. Despite the distance, we have remained close, and up until now, I have looked forward to catching up and hearing all about their lives.
Now two of those friends are pregnant, one due in August, the same month that I would have been due, and the other one month after. I want to pick up the phone and hear all about the excitement they are experiencing, yet I find myself putting off those calls.
While I am thrilled for their impending motherhood, I keep thinking I should be going through this experience with them, but instead I’m trying to navigate my loss. I don’t feel as though it is fair to burden them with my feelings of grief while they are in such a joyous part of their life. And while I realize it is selfish, I also don’t know how much I can hear about their joy while I am still struggling through such sadness.
4. My faith has been tested, and it hasn’t weathered the storm as well as I had hoped.
Many people turn toward faith during the tough times, but I have had a difficult time doing so. Instead I find myself yelling at god, not understanding the purpose our loss serves. The first time I returned to church after my surgery, I had someone leave me in tears after questioning my surgery.
I find myself unable to pray, unable to feel connected to a God who would let this happen and sick of hearing about a plan that He supposedly has. I have had my fair share of blows in my life and have always found comfort in my faith; this time I just feel emptiness.
5. My marriage has been tested, and it has weathered the storm, coming out changed but stronger.
Through pregnancy and parenthood, you see your partner in a new light and the same is true of loss. We have been through a roller coaster of emotions from excitement to disappointment to anger to fear, but the one thing that has always been present is the abundance of love.
While we knew there would be tests in our marriage, this has been the first real challenge. At first, we both tried to hold it together as best we could, kept telling each other things were going to be okay, and then they weren’t and the floodgates opened. Emotions were displayed in ways neither of us anticipated, conversations were had on issues we never thought we would have to discuss, and tears flowed more in a month than they had in our entire time together.
We came through the eye of the storm having learned about each other on a deeper level, seeing each other in a new light, and ultimately emerging stronger as a couple — the one positive change in an environment where positivity was a hard commodity to come by.
The changes I’ve gone through may not be readily found in books or shared amongst friends, but I know I am not alone. In the past few months, I’ve learned about friends and family who have experienced similar loss. Until I became part of this secret society, I felt as though I was on an island and it was only because I spoke up that I found the support of others.
I know my tale of change may not resonate with everyone, but even if just one other person realizes they are not alone in their feelings, it is worth sharing. Although we each have our own path to walk, we don’t have to do it in isolation.
For those going through their own journey of loss, it is okay to grieve, to hurt, and to change, but please don’t be defeated. I truly believe that we can make the ending to one chapter of our lives a positive beginning to the next chapter. While I don’t know what that chapter looks like yet, I know it is coming.