I’ve debated whether or not to write this post. The experience is still raw in my mind – which lends itself to writing it now. But it is also still raw in my mind and I want to just crawl back into my bed and hide until I forget about it altogether.
I have a few people who speak words like “oversharing” and “drama” into my life. They tell me not to “go there.” I’m not sure if they mean we are supposed to handle our issues on our own or if that means I just shouldn’t handle my issues with them specifically. If I’ve learned anything in the past few months, it’s that Jesus calls us into community – we aren’t meant to do life alone. When I had my roughest day I found this post by Adrianne Betz and it was exactly what I needed. Her experience was eerily similar to my own – down to the exact words the doctor said to her. I’m not sharing this post for myself – although I’m sure one day I’ll be glad I can revisit. I’m sharing for the other women in my situation today or that will be in the future.
“I’m still 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 find 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 and 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.” – Adrianne Betz
I am so incredibly grateful for Adrianne and other women who have shared their experiences so not sharing my own would be a gross disservice. Here is your disclosure people – if this doesn’t apply to you, you don’t find it interesting, or you think it’s “going there” – then skip this post and check out the next one! 🙂
On October 3, I drove back from a work conference in Kearney, Nebraska. I was convinced I wasn’t pregnant and had taken upwards of probably 6 pregnancy tests in the past week (which were all negative) but Auntie Flo had still not made her debut. Once I got home I called my younger sister who is a few months shy of being a legit medical professional. I gave her the whole “there is no way we are pregnant” speech (there was totally a way we could be pregnant) and asked her for other reasons why I could be late. She told me to take a pregnancy test – girl didn’t know I had already taken a zillion! – and then wait a few weeks before going in to see a doctor.
We had bible study that night so we were getting ready to leave and I luckily found a few tests hidden in the back of our bathroom drawer and went to the bathroom quick before we left. I came back a few minutes later and screamed for JR to come check it out. Sure enough, a pink little plus sign.
Then I chugged a bottle of water so I could take another. The second test was positive and we were elated! We squirmed with excitement that whole night at church with our new little secret.
Flash forward to the following Monday, a short 6 days and we would be off on a trip to Hawaii. I had ordered a gift for my parents to give to them in Hawaii when we told them the exciting news. That night I had the faintest sign of bleeding (from here on out it is going to get a little TMI!) almost as if I was starting my period. I tried not to stress and went to bed.
The next morning the spotting/bleeding was more predominant. I called my doctor and they said I should definitely come in. JR thankfully was able to go to the appointment with me. Once we got to the doctor’s office they did some ultrasounds. It was so hard to read the ultrasound tech’s face because she was unbelievably nice and kind but I just knew they weren’t finding what was supposed to be there. I got dressed and waited for the nurse practitioner.
Here is what I will tell you – track your cycles ladies, whether you are trying to get pregnant or not. Also, track when you have sex – I know, that sounds super super TMI. You will be so grateful you have this data in the future, it tells you so much about your body. I use the app, Flo which is great if you are trying to conceive. Clue is another great one but doesn’t transition your data to a “pregnancy mode” if that is your goal.
When I met with the nurse practitioner she didn’t seem to believe I had all the correct data/timelines. If you have your cycle tracked and your potential conception days it rules out a few different options for what could be happening. She kept mentioning that I could be a few weeks earlier (3-4 weeks pregnant) instead of being 6-7 weeks along – which I was confident I was – due to my tracking on the app. So she gave me the options of an early miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or being a little earlier along than I thought I was. (I ruled out option 3.)
The best data they can collect going forward is timely blood samples. I needed to take one that day and then another on Thursday to compare. My HCG levels at this point were 152. That was much lower than they should be for being 6-7 weeks along. Your HCG levels should also double every 2-3 days in a healthy pregnancy. So if the test on Thursday was less than 152 that would show a miscarriage. If the results were around 300 that would show I was earlier along than I thought I was (again, I was sure this wasn’t it). If they only increased a little that would show an indication of an ectopic pregnancy.
At this point, I lost it. We went back to the car and I bawled my eyes out. The entire morning I prayed to God that this was just some early spotting. I prayed that our baby would be just fine. I prayed not to have a miscarriage. I thought this was the worst case scenario.
As we drove home I ran my options of miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy through my mind. How did I now find myself in the position of praying for a miscarriage? How is that something that you pray for?
My mom ended up coming down to be with me during the week. I am so grateful that we work together and for the company she has built. I am a very anxious person when it comes to medical stuff and even the slightest knowledge that my tube could rupture made my stress levels skyrocket. My sister said that most people could most likely drive themselves to the hospital if their tube ruptured if they felt up to it. She said that I would never be able to drive myself because I pass out reading the Twilight books (true story!) and I would definitely need to call an ambulance. Ambulance costs v. my mom coming down for the week was an easy decision. We suffered waiting through Wednesday and went in for a blood test the following day.
My symptoms this day included my bleeding/spotting getting a little worse and a somewhat more noticeable pain on my right side near my ovary.
We went back in for another blood test and then headed home to wait for the results. I worked alongside my mom most of the day and did have a much more noticeable pain on my right side and pain in my shoulder (an indicator of an ectopic). The doctor called that afternoon to let me know my results were 192 – highly likely that it was an ectopic since they barely went up. I lost it again – honestly, I cannot thank my mom enough for being at home with me throughout the day. It would have been unbearable to be at home alone going through all of this.
If you are wondering what an ectopic pregnancy is at this point here is a great link for more information. In short, the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus – sometimes in the abdomen, most of the time inside one of the fallopian tubes. An ectopic pregnancy has no chance of growing to term. As the embryo grows the tube stretches but it can only stretch so much until the tube bursts (highly dangerous due to internal bleeding) and the pregnancy ends. Your body still responds as though it is pregnant though so you will have the same early pregnancy symptoms.
We went back into the doctor and I was now moved from being in my nurse practitioner’s care to my OB/GYN. They told us I was currently at risk for internal bleeding and I could definitely not take a 6-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. She then gave me the options for treatment.
The ideal option for most is treating it with the medication methotrexate. It is a chemotherapy drug and would essentially stop the dividing of cells which grows the embryo.
The other option was surgery which removes the embryo from the tube but you risk scarring on your tube (which would put me at risk for another ectopic) or potentially losing the tube.
We also had a few other questions pertaining to future pregnancies. The basis was that we don’t know why this happened (I had no risk factors) and that we needed to wait at least one cycle to try again. Once you have one ectopic your doctor should also treat all future pregnancies as ectopics (guilty until proven innocent!) and I would need to start weekly blood tests to track my HCG the second I find out I am pregnant to make sure the baby is progressing normally. (Usually you wait until 8-9 weeks for your first appointment.)
I opted for methotrexate and they sent me over to the hospital to have it administered. Let me tell ya – this drug is not fun. They administered two shots – one in each shoulder. The first one felt like a normal shot and the second one stung something terrible! We had to wait 30 minutes to make sure I didn’t have a reaction and then I was allowed to go home.
Physically it really hadn’t been very painful thus far, emotionally though I was on a non-stop roller coaster. My mom stayed that night and then headed back to Nebraska to pack up for Hawaii. It was a trip for work so my parents still had to go without us. We ended up getting some last-minute flights for my grandparents and I am so glad they got to enjoy the trip!
I stayed home by myself after my mom left and by the end of the day, I could tell the bleeding was getting worse – which was a good sign that my body was processing the medication.
We were super bummed we weren’t going to Hawaii so we opted for the next best thing – the Dave Ramsey Smart Conference! JR snagged two tickets for $30 and we went with the understanding that if I wasn’t up for it we could just leave. It honestly ended up being such a good distraction and we enjoyed getting to connect with some friends from Nebraska who attended as well. (Hey Rachel! 🙂 )
Sunday was my worst day physically. I just felt completely drained of energy and like my body was not my own. You don’t know what is the methotrexate and what is your body still telling you it is pregnant.
We went back in the following Thursday and my HCG rose to 236 which was normal but if it didn’t go down at least 15% by the following Thursday I would need another dose of medication.
The Monday after that I had a full on emotional meltdown and pretty much cried the whole day. My sister had to remind me that my body was still pregnant.
This is where I get frustrated with the cultural mindset of miscarriage. A pregnancy lasts 9 months and I think it’s safe to say your body changes a bit through those 9 months – amiright? If someone suffers a miscarriage there are 39-40 different weeks of potential different miscarriage experiences. To bundle them all up and stick them under the same umbrella doesn’t mean they are the same. If you have experienced pregnancy loss at any stage of your pregnancy I’m so sorry you had to go through that.
I don’t identify with the word miscarriage pertaining to what we experienced. Pregnancy loss is probably a better term. My body didn’t miscarry. My body wanted to stay pregnant and I had to take the medical steps to end the pregnancy. I understand that it wasn’t viable – that you can’t just move the baby into a safe and cozy space to grow. God’s plan for this baby’s life didn’t extend past these first few weeks. But the emotional toll of processing an ectopic is HEAVY. It’s like knowing you are going to get hit by a bus, and you can’t move out of the walkway, and the bus just comes at you in slow motion…for weeks. And you just have to wait, and pray, for it to end. For your pregnancy to end.
Again, I am not making any sort of stance that compares the pain felt during different types of pregnancy loss. I just want to clarify that an ectopic pregnancy is different from a miscarriage.
Thankfully, by the next Thursday my levels were at 19 and this past Friday, November 2, (almost a month to the day we had a positive test) my nurse confirmed that they were zero. After days of taking what felt like a million blood tests, it was finally over. This is such a fuzzy area for ectopics because there is no telling how long the bleeding will last and how long it will take for your levels to go down. Some women’s HCG can take months to zero out. Thank you God for healing me so quickly.
TO SHARE OR OVERSHARE
I honestly debated back and forth whether or not to write this post. My initial plan was to share my experience once we were pregnant again but after going through the thick of it that just isn’t fair. I don’t have a happy shiny new baby to show you at the end. I don’t know if that baby is going to happen. Maybe one day. But if a woman reads this and God doesn’t have that plan for her life I don’t want to add that layer of promise when I’m not the one who can promise it.
We also wanted getting pregnant to be a surprise, but since we had to reschedule Hawaii we ended up telling some of our close family and friends since they wondered why we didn’t go. I didn’t want the pressure of trying now that everyone knows but I think sharing my story to help others is more important. Most of it is actually a self-perpetuated-pressure than actual pressure from our friends and family anyway.
It is hard not knowing what is ahead, I try not to get to sucked into googling “ttc after ectopic” or debate whether or not we should get more tests done. I need to remember that God is bigger than my fallopian tube (thank you for that one Maralee Bradley!) and if he wants to will a child into existence my bum tube isn’t going to stop him. If we are meant to walk down a difficult path then we are going to lean on him while we go through it. Right now I’m going to lean on prayer as our source of comfort and hope.
So in light of having to share our family plan, I would ask that you pray for us and that God uses our family however he sees fit for his will – whether it be 2 of us (and Camp!) or 10 of us!
If you have any other questions or would like more information on our experience feel free to reach out. I am so thankful for the women who shared their stories instead of hiding them in their heart. 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage or pregnancy loss and it is so helpful to feel like you are not alone.