I’m typically a very reserved person. It’s just who I am. But recently I had an experience that brought me to my knees (literally) and when I was desperate for the support and similar experiences from others, I just couldn’t figure out exactly what was happening to me. (Although good ol’ Google did tell me I was dying.)
I just really needed to find peace through reading another woman’s experience, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. So it really dawned on me that this platform, this network that I have created, could be used for greater things beyond more than what I thought it was capable of.
So, what happened? I guess you could say, life. Life is what happened.
On a random afternoon in October, I found out I was pregnant with our third little babe. We were thrilled (and honestly a little scared), since this was a baby we had prayed for. Just about three days after my first positive test, I started spotting. Now, this didn’t really freak me out like it would most. With one of our other babies, I had a subchorionic hemorrhage when I was 11 weeks along that took me straight to the ER. There was so much blood. Surely enough, after all of the nurses made me feel like there was no chance he was still there, there he was — heart beating loud and clear! Miracle! Having gone through that, I thought a little spotting was nothing to raise concern about.
My first prenatal appointment was scheduled for the middle of November, for when I would be 7 weeks. Every few days, I would take a pregnancy test just to give myself peace of mind through the spotting. At one point, I suspected a miscarriage, so I called my doctor’s nurse just after Halloween. They wanted to bring me in to evaluate my HCG levels, but the night before I was due to come in for blood work, I ended up having some dull pain on my left side that tipped me off that this could be an ectopic pregnancy.
I called the doctor on-call, and he reassured me that I didn’t have any risk factors, but wanted me to have an ultrasound in the morning to get some answers about the bleeding. I went in the next morning and saw another doctor. I was just looking for some answers. Anything at that point. I just wanted answers. Am I pregnant? Am I miscarrying? What exactly is going on here?! I had two relatively healthy pregnancies prior to this, so I was expecting the usual. Just tell me you see my baby, and we’re good here.
Unfortunately, what I heard was a little different. “I’m sorry, Adrianne. From your dating, you should be about 6 weeks, and unfortunately, I’m just not seeing what I should be seeing here for 6 weeks along. Your tubes look healthy. I just can’t confirm or rule out anything at this point. There is a chance that maybe you‘re a week earlier than you thought.”
Nope. Big nope. We had been trying to conceive. I know my body. I knew the dates were right, and so I immediately suspected the worst. The funny thing was that I actually had premonitions prior to trying for another baby, which gave me that gut-wrenching feeling that this wasn’t going to work out. I even told my husband this one night as we were sitting in bed, completely out of nowhere. I just couldn’t keep it to myself. I knew that day in that examination room that it was an ectopic pregnancy, so as anyone can imagine, my fears and anxieties started to consume me.
Days felt like weeks, as I sat in limbo. It felt like forever.
I got a call one Friday afternoon right before my son’s 2nd-birthday party. I’d just gotten out of the bathroom and had noticed that my light bleeding had picked up, so I was sure, if not a little relieved, that this was an indication that I was miscarrying. Please don’t misconstrue my relief. It was the lesser of the two evils in my mind, so I was relieved that my body was taking over and doing what it was supposed to.
On the phone was the nurse letting me know that my hCG levels had only risen from 1,400 to 1,450 over the course of the 72-hour test. Typically levels are supposed to triple at that point in your pregnancy, so it was clear that something was looming ahead. She was confident it was a miscarriage, but because they still couldn’t rule anything out, we both prepared for the worst. She had called in the methotrexate to the pharmacy for backup just in case I had an issue over the weekend.
She then went above and beyond her job description and mentored me on mentally preparing for a miscarriage: “Separate your heart from your head, darling. This is God’s will, and you must understand that things like this happen because it was just not a viable pregnancy.” I mean, she was the best thing to ever happen to me in that moment. She calmed my nerves, gave me peace when I needed it, and essentially got me through the weekend to my appointment that Wednesday.
Wednesday was my first prenatal visit. I was 7 weeks pregnant and should have been elated to hear my baby’s heart beat for the first time. I felt like a seasoned patient walking into the waiting room, but my gut, my nerves, and the ice-cold blood running through my veins made it feel different. They let me know that my doctor wanted to get a full scan done prior to seeing me, so I headed back to the ultrasound tech with a shake in my step.
It was such a cold feeling as I shook to wrap my lower half in the paper gown I’d been given. I climbed up onto the table, stared up at the ceiling, and just prayed. My knees knocked in the air as the tech found her way around my insides with that awful wand. It only took probably 15 minutes, but it felt way longer than that as I heard her hum and haw at what she was seeing. She even subtly tipped me off by asking if I had pain on my left side and proceeded to run a blood activity test on the huge projector screen in front of me. That was it for me.
About a half hour later, my doctor swung open the door to the examination room. “Well, we have an ectopic pregnancy,” she announced. I lost it. It literally was like someone just told me my baby died, and now I may too. What followed was a pretty painful biopsy, a fast conversation about her treatment recommendation, and then a request that I go waste some time around town while I waited for the biopsy results before she administered the methotrexate shots.
Oh sure, let me go leisurely stroll around Bed, Bath & Beyond alone, while my future dangles in front of me. My husband was away on business, and my parents were literally stranded on the side of the road with two flat tires in that exact moment. To say that God wanted me to navigate this whole thing on my own was clearly not lost on me.
I drove to the pharmacy, alone, a huge ball of emotions. I pulled into the parking space not knowing how I actually got there. The first thing I did was call my husband. The second thing I did was call my parents to not only divulge the fact that I was pregnant, but oh yeah, it’s in my left fallopian tube so it’s not viable.
After sitting with myself for about an hour and a half, I walked into the pharmacy to pick up the drug that would inevitably save one of us, but not the other. The pain I carried with me in that moment was strange and heavy, and it was actually in that very moment that I suddenly felt a little blemished.
I know women that do this every day. I know women who have experienced a loss as big as losing a child, a baby, and a pregnancy like mine. But why did mine have this extra layer with it? A feeling like my body just failed my child and now me as well. I thought we were friends.
My experience was long, and although I’ll spare you all of the specific details, I can say that it’s been almost four months of physical limitations and symptoms. The bleeding has not stopped, but thankfully the pain has. It’s been difficult to grieve when there’s a constant reminder that just won’t let up. Unlike a typical miscarriage, there’s obviously a complication that comes with the fertilized egg attaching in the wrong place. Mine was in my tube and caused a risk to me that was a day-to-day hurdle. You have the risk of rupture until your hCG levels hit 0; mine finally made their way <10 just last week. That was 15 weeks since my first positive test.
Methotrexate is one hell of a drug.
There is a lot of information on it, but the Cliff Notes version would tell you it’s a drug meant to stop rapidly dividing cells, like those of cancer. The first line I read was, “Methotrexate may cause very serious, life-threatening side effects. You should only take methotrexate to treat cancer or certain other conditions.” In my case, it was a tubal pregnancy. A lot goes into the sudden halt of those rapidly replicating cells, and all I can say is that it hurts. It’s especially important that you refrain from taking anything with folic acid as that can be counterproductive for the metho. So your body is essentially stripped of everything good. As you can imagine, that alone would make anyone feel like shit.
It’s officially been nine weeks since the shots that I received when I was seven weeks pregnant. My due date was July 4. I have now become the girl who scrolls really fast past pregnancy announcements or gender reveals, especially if you‘re due in July. There were a lot of those over Christmas. I’m not bitter. It’s just that my fragile soul still needs some time, but I don’t think you realize how happy I am for you! Every healthy baby, every healthy pregnancy, every little fertilized egg that actually finds its way to its proper home is such a blessing. Things like gender or birthday (we wanted a summer baby), suddenly seem so superficial. I just want to have an uneventful conception, pregnancy, and birth.
Not many people know. It’s not really something you share unless you have to, but as I was experiencing it, feeling the raw emotion of it, I did find myself wanting to grab my son’s teacher and just cry. She probably definitely wouldn’t have cared. How do you tell someone that this is what you‘re going through? There just is no non-awkward way.
And when you do share with someone, their response might not be what you’re expecting. It’s the type of thing that really shows you who someone is. I’ve learned so much from my experience with ectopic pregnancy — about people, about myself, about medicine. It’s an experience that has grown my spirituality, defined my relationships, and solidified the trust I have in my doctors.
I’m not sure when we’ll try again, or what the future holds for when we do (our risk has increased), but I know that what I do have is a lot to be thankful for and a little angel saving me a spot. As I was typing, this song came on the radio and I thought it said it beautifully, so I leave you with it:
“Let it go
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don’t you know
The hardest part is over?
Let it in
Let your clarity define you
In the end
We will only just remember how it feels”