During the first six weeks of my second pregnancy, I craved cucumbers, researched double strollers, set up email reminders for monthly baby growth updates, and told my close friends and family excitedly the news. I had no clue while rubbing my hand on my belly lovingly that things were about to change unexpectedly.
One day I’ll tell my daughter about my ectopic pregnancy loss before she was born. Maybe I’ll tell her that she was a surprise, born in December, right before Christmas. She brought a glow to us after losing the pregnancy that would’ve given us a Fall baby. Sometimes when I’m ovulating, I feel a pinch near the scar, and I’m reminded of my second pregnancy.
I remember preparing my diaper bag to take my fourteen-month-old son to a nearby toddler playspace and feeling cramps in my abdominal area. At first I considered it gas or something I ate, only the pain grew rapidly and in the course of a day I went from spotting blood to period heavy flow and thick blood clots, fearing this is what I had read about when a pregnancy ends.
I called my gynecologist and immediately went in for an ultrasound; then there was the face of a doctor telling me I was having a miscarriage. He was so casual about it, his words sounded bored, monotone, as he gave me the diagnosis that the life growing inside of me was over.
I was perplexed, my heart racing on the walk home, as I had called my husband at work and asked him to meet for lunch. A week went by, and I was still in physical pain from intense cramping, but assumed it was just part of the process. I had distracted my son during my frequent bathroom visits with his favorite toys and treats, started to tell family and friends, stopped touching my stomach so much, and let my body exhale. I began to regroup, rest, decompress, write in my journal, and allow the time my body needed to change back into not-pregnant person.
But another week went by with the same heavy flow. While in a mommy-and-me class with my son, I felt another gumball-sized clot pass. I shifted my position in the kid-sized chair and decided the class was over for us. I called my gynecologist again, wondering why I was still bleeding so heavily. As I arranged when I could come in again to check my hormone levels, I was just uncertain. A few days later, the results showed my hormone levels weren’t dropping, so I went in for another ultrasound. I dropped my son off with a babysitter, and headed to the office.
This time, I was told the first diagnosis of a miscarriage was wrong. The embryo had actually implanted outside the uterus – I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy loss. Not only could the pregnancy not survive outside the uterus, but my life was also at risk. I couldn’t believe it. I was furious, thinking to myself, “How could they miss it, how could they not notice the pregnancy on my fallopian tube the first time?”
I was told it was too late for ectopic pregnancy medication to stop cells from growing and dissolve them. It was so confusing, so mind blowing. I was pregnant, then having a miscarriage, now I was Googling what an ectopic pregnancy was. I was told I’d receive a phone call in a couple hours about what I needed to bring and what time to arrive for surgery that night. In disbelief, I left and went about my day in a blur, conducting an outing with my son at the playground, and walking around with a fetus in the wrong place inside my body. According to March of Dimes, about 1 in 50 pregnancies, or 2 percent, in the U.S. is ectopic. A few hours later, I checked myself into the hospital to become part of that percent.
I never realized that trying to get pregnant could lead to emergency surgery, but in the same hospital where my son was born a year and half before, I lost my fallopian tube and the ectopic pregnancy was removed. I woke up to a heart shaped bandage on my belly button. My son was jumping on my hospital bed late that night and I was so thankful I had him and his warm hug and hand in mine, thankful that I knew the incredible feeling of becoming a mother. I grieve for others who don’t.
I read about how hard it can be to get pregnant again after an ectopic pregnancy. According to March of Dimes, about one in 3 women who have had one ectopic pregnancy go on to have a healthy pregnancy later. But if you’ve had an ectopic pregnancy, you have about a 3 in 20 chance of having another.
Still, to me it felt near impossible, but I had an urgency to try again as soon as I had recovered from surgery, to somehow turn the loss into another chance. You can believe I was shocked when I saw those two lines on multiple pregnancy tests not long later. The whole pregnancy I was walking on eggshells, more nervous than ever.
My daughter has just turned five and she often mentions how much she dislikes her December birthday, but I tell her it’s a wonderful time of year to have been born. Sometimes the great joy we have in the form of a little girl doing twirls at her brother’s soccer practice wouldn’t exist without the loss of something else.