The Hidden Heartbreak Of An Ectopic Pregnancy

by Laura Niebauer Palmer
A woman experiencing an ectopic pregnancy pain while lying on the bed inside her home in black and w...
champja / iStock

My heart sank as I realized it was standing room only for Christmas mass. My husband and I had arrived early, but unfortunately we underestimated the full force of the Christmas crowd.

Finding an usher, I asked if there was any way I could have a chair, explaining I’d had surgery the week before. Without hesitation, she offered me her seat.

As I sat down next to a couple in the pew, the woman leaned over and said, “That seat is reserved for the usher.”

I responded that I was recovering from surgery, and the usher kindly offered me her seat.

To my shock, her husband replied, “I don’t see any stitches. Let me see your stitches.”

My tears began to flow.

In that moment, I could not express to you, sir, how deeply those accusatory words cut.

While you saw a healthy looking woman wearing a dress and cardigan with hair styled and makeup done, what you were really seeing was a façade.

Here is the truth. Here is what you could not see:

You didn’t realize you were witnessing my first excursion into the world since my surgery. It was the first time I had bothered to wash or even brush my hair.

You didn’t know that the outfit I settled on was the fourth I had tried on in an attempt to find one that didn’t pull at my incisions.

You didn’t know my makeup hid the circles under my eyes and was reapplied after a bout of crying right before heading to church.

You didn’t know that two days prior was supposed to be my first ultrasound appointment. It was to be the appointment where my husband and I saw our baby’s heartbeat for the first time.

You didn’t know that four weeks earlier, I started bleeding and went to the ER and was told that everything would be fine. In fact, the nurse who handed me the discharge paperwork said not to worry when she saw my concerned face as I read the words “ectopic pregnancy.” She said all possibilities had to be presented but not to read it because the chances were so slim of it actually occurring.

You didn’t know that the following week I was told by my OB-GYN that I had miscarried, only to receive a call the next day telling me my HCG levels were still rising and that I would need to come back in for additional testing.

You didn’t know after four ultrasounds it was determined I was indeed experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. We were told the best option was to take methotrexate shots to “break up the cells” before the pregnancy could progress any further and possibly jeopardize my health.

You didn’t see the tears my husband and I both shed, or hear the yelling and screaming I did, due to the unfairness of it all. We had been trying to have a baby for years.

You weren’t there when I got the call at work a week later letting me know that the shots had not worked.

You didn’t see my co-worker hold me, tears streaming down my face, until I managed to call my husband.

You didn’t sit in the ultrasound room for the fifth time with my husband and me, where we finally did see our baby’s heartbeat, in my right fallopian tube.

You didn’t hear my doctor tell me that she was calling the ER to schedule an emergency surgery and that we needed to head there immediately.

You didn’t see the look my husband and I shared before I was wheeled off to surgery, the one that would remove my baby along with my right fallopian tube.

You didn’t know that I was part of the 2%, or 1.9% to be precise, of pregnant women who experience an ectopic pregnancy with no risk factors. Or that methotrexate shots work 90% of the time, yet I was that 10% no one wants to be a part of.

Of course I couldn’t express any of that. Instead all I could muster when you asked me to prove my surgery was “I lost my baby” with my husband standing behind me not hearing our conversation but seeing my tears.

You awkwardly said sorry and turned to your wife, who looked over at me and saw tears streaming down my face.

I am not sure if you were offering an apology for the loss of my baby or for your callous request. Either way I forgive you — you did not know.

Through this experience, I have realized many people have no idea what an ectopic pregnancy is. Of course I don’t blame anyone for not knowing, it is an uncommon situation that thankfully few will have to go through.

But for those who do have to endure this heartbreak, please know you are not alone. I, and others, understand that while the stitches will heal quickly, the heart needs more time.

And sir, if you happen to read this, please remember just because you cannot see a wound does not mean it does not exist.