I got pregnant with the cycle right after my miscarriage and it seemed like all of my tears evaporated instantly.
Hope was immediately restored.
By this time, I had read lots of information that talked about how frequently miscarriages happen and how low the chances of having repeat pregnancy loss is. I felt like the odds were on my side.
Someone I know even told me that the miscarriage was my body practicing for a successful pregnancy.
I wanted so badly to believe that.
Unfortunately, along with hope came paranoia.
My first pregnancy loss had made the idea of pregnancy loss become a reality and in the back of my head, I was very scared that the same thing would happen again.
When I got pregnant this time around, I went over the top to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
I made sure to exercise regularly but not too rigorously. Eat enough but not too much. I put aside the coffee, increased the sleep, on and on and on and on. If we’re being honest, I drove myself a little crazy.
At home, there was a strange dynamic.
We wanted to get excited. We wanted to resume the baby talks that we had had started during the first pregnancy.
But it was too scary.
Instead, we danced around the topic and didn’t acknowledge our individual doubts and nerves. It was almost as if we believed that talking about it would jinx our success. Or maybe we knew that making plans would get our hopes too high and our hearts too invested, making it that much more hurtful if anything bad should happen.
6 weeks into the pregnancy
I started bloating pretty badly. It was uncomfortable but it didn’t worry me. I chalked it up to gas being an early pregnancy symptom.
Until one day at work, I had a stomach cramp so bad, it stopped me in my tracks.
The next day, I noticed 2 spots of blood and let’s just say, I was officially concerned.
That night, I just so happened to be trying a new vegetable dish (I told y’all, I was on a quest to live the healthiest life I could!) It was a cabbage soup and at that time, I wasn’t aware of how much gas that cabbage can create.
The next morning around 5am, I woke up with, hands-down, the WORST pain of my whole entire life!
I will never forget it.
The pain started from the right side of my body and traveled.
It started from my right leg and then moved its way toward my rectum. The pain then traveled from my rectum area up to my uterus. It went back and forth between the two and eventually traveled up to my stomach area.
Pain paralyzed me and all I could do was move my arms. I nudged my husband and woke him up. He quickly noticed I was in extreme pain and started asking what was wrong. I HAD NO IDEA. I tried to describe the pain between tears, gasps and screams. “It keeps moving… it…. it feels like it’s tearing me apart.”
He tried to do doctor things and assess the pain. That didn’t work. There were occasional gaps in the pain, and he would try to get me to sit up or take medication but I was hysterical.
The pain, crying and screaming lasted for about one hour.
Then, thank God, it slowly subsided.
The medical workup
My husband got me scheduled to see an OB-GYN from his job the very next day. The first thing she had me do was to draw an hCG at a nearby lab.
The next thing was to schedule me in for a transvaginal ultrasound the next day.
I drew the lab. And I showed up for the ultrasound. As if I needed one more reminder of the sacrifices we were making for my husband’s residency, I had to show up alone.
Right now, I would like to pause and add one detail.
And that is that I had started bleeding. It was light but I knew something was up. I tried to avoid panicking by telling myself that sometimes women spot during early pregnancy (which is quite true).
Well, during the ultrasound, the ultrasound tech looked around….and around…. and around some more.
I had already hated transvaginal ultrasounds (they’re like having a curling wand twisting around in your nether regions who would like that). But the fact that she kept twisting it added to the fact that I was bleeding? It was agonizing.
After many minutes of torture
by curling wand, the tech mumbled something about getting the doctor and excused herself from the room.
I laid on that paper bedsheet and thought “this is not good“.
The doctor stepped in with her usual smile and announced that she had arrived to do some looking of her own.
After a few more minutes of twisting and clicking and “hmmmm”ing, she finally propped me up, sat close by my bedside and broke the news that she couldn’t find a gestational sac in my uterus.
Typically, by 5-6 weeks, a transvaginal ultrasound would show a gestational sac but despite how thoroughly both her and the ultrasound tech had looked, they couldn’t find one.
By that time, she had received my hCG lab result and explained that the result came back lower than expected for over 6 weeks of pregnancy.
At this point, she said, there were 3 possibilities:
1) We miscalculated and the pregnancy is less than 6 weeks
2) I was having another miscarriage
3) This was an ectopic pregnancy
For those that don’t know, an ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This never results in a viable pregnancy and is considered a medical emergency.
Often times, the egg will implant in the Fallopian tube and as time passes and the fertilized egg continues to grow, the tube can burst which leads to internal bleeding, blood loss and can be fatal.
She continued to explain that to be sure, I would need to get a repeat hCG in 2 days.
In a normal pregnancy, the hCG level will double every 2 days.
In a miscarriage, the hCG level will decrease.
And with an ectopic, the hCG level will often straggle along and increase (as the cells increase) but not double like a viable pregnancy.
The pitiful, heartbreaking cherry on the cake was that if the hCG revealed that this was an ectopic, she told me that I would need to be ready to remove it by either medication or surgery immediately.
I must have stumbled out of that appointment. I probably had stars twirling around my head like one of those cartoon characters. It was too much to take in.
The pain of another pregnancy loss was already starting to hit me.
The confusion hit me.
The fear of what the repeat test would reveal hit me.
The “why is all this happening to me” hit me.
An ectopic pregnancy wasn’t even in my realm of possibilities that I had ever imagined for myself.
Over those next 2 days, we prayed.
I felt encouraged one second and discouraged the very next…
After the test, the doctor called me and said unfortunately, the hCG did not double and we were almost conclusively looking at an ectopic pregnancy.
The only good news was that I wasn’t in excruciating pain which meant that my fallopian tube probably hadn’t burst. It was still early enough for me to choose medication instead of surgery.
She also recommended that I have a D&C to identify whether there was pregnancy villi in the uterus.
After a miscarriage, there will be residual pregnancy products. If there are none, then that is a clear sign that the pregnancy was growing somewhere other than the uterus (which further confirms the ectopic).
She asked me not to eat or drink anything else that day “in case we decide to do surgery this evening.”
There was no time to waste. I presented to the hospital that evening.
Surgery: The Hunt For The Ectopic Pregnancy
My husband drove me to the hospital and I remember being so nervous.
I had never had a surgery or any reason to be admitted into a hospital.
Moments like these are why you need people of faith around you.
In that moment, I so desperately wanted to feel a sliver of divine reassurance and guidance. But things were moving too quickly; my husband and I were stuck in a whirlwind of quick decisions and actions.
My go-to action was to call my sister and ask her to pray for me.
And pray she did.
We checked in at the hospital and after all the paperwork, I was wheeled away into the operating room as the anesthesia kicked in.
I remember waking up from the surgery and the first thing I saw was my husband and he was smiling. It might have been his expression or the joy of realizing I’m awake, or maybe it was both, but I felt so happy and bubbly in that moment.
My OB came in to give me updates.
She had completed the D&C and hadn’t found any pregnancy villi. To get rid of the ectopic pregnancy, I would be getting a shot of methotrexate.
Methotrexate is a chemotherapeutic agent that works by antagonizing folic acid- an essential ingredient needed for cell growth.
By doing so, it halts the growth of fast growing cells.
It is normally used for chemotherapy (to stop cancer cells from growing), however it is also given for ectopic pregnancy.
It is injected into a large muscle once or twice (depending on how successful it is at breaking down the ectopic).
After the methotrexate, when they confirmed that I was stable, I was discharged and went home.
Methotrexate is not the easy way out.
I found out the hard way that methotrexate is not something to be played with.
The symptoms I experienced were nearly as excruciating as the ectopic pregnancy pain. As discussed above, methotrexate busts up cells and in doing so, there can be some intraabdominal bleeding, which your body just has to absorb over time.
The internal blood can irritate your organs and result in a lot of pain.
The pain got so bad that we thought the ectopic had kept growing and burst the fallopian tube.
I returned to the emergency room where they re-measured my hCG (and found that it hadn’t decreased enough) so they gave me another shot of methotrexate.
Why was recovery the hardest part of this ectopic pregnancy story?
It might surprise you to learn that the hardest part of this whole ectopic pregnancy story was what was yet to come- the recovery.
I bled for over 6 weeks straight and my blood was drawn every few days until my hCG was confirmed to be undetectable.
With my husband in his first year of residency, all of our family and friends on the other side of the country and my first dark and cold Midwest winter, I struggled with isolation, anger, frustration and discouragement.
Those were truly some of the darkest days of my life.
I am proud to say that I am healed and a whole lot better now than I was then.
I am thankful to God, my husband, my family and friends for my mental recovery. I am also thankful for the positive developments that have come into my life because of that extremely hard time- like you, friend.
Thank you for your support and the sense of community I find through this blog daily.
…& please stay tuned as my Journey To Fertility continues.
Next up: Life After Ectopic Pregnancy (coming soon)