June 12, 2013 by Katia
Today I’m featuring Meagan’s story about her ectopic pregnancy and I struggle with a proper introduction. Meagan’s story has a wonderful, happy ending or perhaps I should say a happy last chapter, but my heart aches so much for Meagan who was going through the ectopic pregnancy and for Meagan’s baby.
I constantly learn new things through this series about the complex emotional world of those who experience loss but I also find something that I can identify with in each and every post, despite the difference in experiences. Whether you’ve experienced loss through a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or infant loss and you went on to try again an ultrasound appointment would always be a nerve wrecking experience and the technician’s face, your only clue, the only map to guide you.
I looked down at the two lines on the pregnancy test in my hand. I was pregnant. But it couldn’t be. Not just because I wasn’t trying. Because I was actively trying not to get pregnant. I had had an IUD inserted a year prior. Weren’t they like 99% effective? There must be some mistake. I ran (literally, ran) to the nearest walk-in clinic and the doctor there confirmed it. I was pregnant. The smile on my face was quickly wiped away as he explained to me the seriousness of the situation. He told me that he saw a girl a week prior who also got pregnant with an IUD in place, and she lost the baby. He hastily scribbled a note onto a prescription pad and told me to go the emergency room right away.
In the emergency room at the hospital, they gave me an ultrasound and verified that my IUD was still in place. The couldn’t see the baby, but they reassured me that it was likely because I was so early in my pregnancy. They removed the IUD and told me that there was a small chance that I could lose the baby, but that everything looked fine. The young doctor shook my hand and congratulated me on becoming a parent. I was in shock. This was it. I was going to become a mom.
Never having been pregnant before, and still completely fazed by what was happening, I picked up some pre-natal vitamins and started looking online for midwives. I was going to have a baby. The idea, so foreign at first, was starting to grow on me, and I started to get excited. I thought about the little baby developing inside me, conceived against all of the odds. I drifted through the next few days in a cloud of bliss and disbelief. Until, one morning before work, I started bleeding.
I made my way to the emergency room again, where they took my blood and examined me. My HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels were higher than they were a few days prior. It was a good sign, they reassured me. The bleeding might just be from the IUD removal. They gave me another ultrasound. I watched the technician’s face as she searched for any sign of the fetus. After a long time she looked at me, confused, and gently asked, “Are you sure you’re pregnant?” I had no idea how to answer, other than to tell her that I had been told that I was. I spoke to the doctor again, and he confirmed it. I was pregnant and my hormone levels were rising. They weren’t rising as quickly as they normally do, but I was still so early in my pregnancy. That’s why they couldn’t see the baby on the ultrasound. I was uneasily hopeful.
Before he let me go home, he casually mentioned the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. He explained that it could happen sometimes when becoming pregnant with an IUD. An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus (usually in the fallopian tubes). He told me to watch for unusual pain, and to come back in a few days.
A few days later, I dutifully marched back to the hospital, where they took my blood and gave me an ultrasound again. My HCG levels were still rising. They were going up slowly, but rising all the same. Only they still couldn’t see anything on the ultrasound. This same process would be played out again and again, every few days, for the next two weeks. I would lay on the ultrasound table and focus on the face of the technician, hoping to see some sign of recognition, proof that they found what they were looking for. My heart would sink as I inevitably saw the furrowed brow and intent stare as they waved the wand back and forth over my abdomen, seeing nothing in my empty uterus.
I started to get concerned. Something was wrong. They should be able to see the baby by now. And I was feeling pain in my left side. It started out as a dull ache, and progressed to shooting pains. Something was definitely wrong.
Finally, on my twelfth ultrasound, they saw the baby. It wasn’t in my uterus. It was attached to my left fallopian tube. The technicians were quick to assure me that it might not be the baby; it could be a cyst. But I knew. That was my baby. The doctors asked me how I wanted to proceed. If I chose to, there was a medication that they could give me that would terminate the pregnancy. Continuing with the pregnancy was risky; if the baby kept growing and ruptured my tube, my life would be in danger. I felt like I had no choice. That day, they gave me an injection in my hip that would begin the process of ending the pregnancy.
I had to go back to the hospital every second day to have my blood drawn to ensure that my HCG levels were decreasing. The agony of those appointments is something that I can’t describe. I would sit in the waiting room, surrounded by pregnant women rubbing their bellies. They were there to make sure their babies were growing properly. I was there to make sure mine was dying properly. It was excruciating. Every time I had a new technician who saw that my HCG levels were being tested, they would say “Congratulations!” Sometimes I would explain to them what was going on. Usually I just smiled weakly and let it go.
Then, about two months after the whole ordeal started, the doctor called and very matter-of-factly informed me that my hormone levels were back down to zero. I was no longer pregnant. And that was it; after all of that, it was over. Two months of visits to the hospital. Two months of worrying over every little twinge, wondering if that was going to be the day that my tube ruptured. Two months of living off of the meagre hope that somehow, my baby might be okay. Two months of exhilaration over being pregnant, followed by fear for my own life and the life of my baby. I was shell shocked. The evidence of my ordeal was displayed in the bruises that ran up and down my arms from where the blood had been taken. Inside, it hurt even more.
People didn’t seem to understand how gruelling this whole process had been for me. One of my friends callously told me, “Well, at least you know that you can get pregnant.” But could I? Was there something wrong with me that would make this happen a second time if I got pregnant again? I grieved the loss of my baby, a baby that may have been perfect in every way if that egg had just travelled a few extra inches and landed in the right spot. I felt like a failure as a woman, as if my body had betrayed me. I watched as women around me got pregnant, their bellies swelling with the life inside, and I hated them for it. I felt guilty for ending the life of my one and only baby. And I felt confused about how people expected me to return to life as normal. I was no longer physically pregnant, but it took some time to mentally come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be a mom.
A year, almost to the day, of finding out that I was pregnant, I became pregnant again. My first priority was to have an ultrasound done to see if the fetus was in the right spot. I put so much pressure on my midwives that they requested one at seven weeks pregnant. I laid on the table in the ultrasound room, my eyes squeezed shut, scared to look at the screen and see an empty uterus as I had so many times before. The ultrasound technician pulled up the image. There was no confusion on his face. He wasn’t moving the wand back and forth, looking for a baby that wasn’t there. He saw it right away, and so did I. It was my baby. And he was right where he was supposed to be.
Meagan is a writer, aspiring editor and amateur baker. She lives in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada with her partner and baby boy. You can join her on her journey through motherhood on her blog, The 80/20 Mom, or on Twitter at @megbo_meggins.