This past year was a rough one for me and for my family. I know there are moments in life that just change you; we’ve all heard it time and time again. But this year, I actually experienced it firsthand and what I went through was incredibly scary, eye-opening, enlightening and life changing for me. It is so amazing, in both good and troubling ways, how much your life can truly change in a simple moment. I typically look at any troubles I face as steppingstones or challenges teaching me life lessons, however, in 2019 I traversed over my biggest steppingstone, more aptly I’ll call it a boulder, yet and it sure taught me a lot.
One seemingly normal day in February of 2019 impacted me in ways I could have never foreseen. That Saturday started off in our normal chaotic routine. Get the kids up, have breakfast, and get ourselves and our oldest daughter ready for dance. All was going well until I took a few moments to get myself ready. It was at that time when I got out of the shower that I felt a very sharp pain in the bottom of my stomach. My initial thought was that I had eaten something that wasn’t reacting well, but then my thought immediately shifted to the possibility of it being my appendix as the pain very quickly grew and became more immense. I took a rest on my bed and assumed I just maybe needed a moment and the pain would subside. A few minutes later when my husband and daughters came into the room fully dressed and ready to leave for dance, I told my husband I wasn’t feeling well at all and that he would need to take both of them to dance so I could stay home and rest. He inquired about what was wrong and I told him I had some sharp stomach pain but insisted he take them so our daughter wouldn’t miss her class. He contemplated it for a moment, but luckily for me and for our family he noticed something was awry. He told me that he was not going to go unless I got up and was able to get myself dressed. And me, being the incredibly stubborn person that I am, took him up on his offer and pulled myself up out of the bed only to collapse on the ground, now unable to move at all and screaming in pain. At this point my husband wanted to call an ambulance but I was still telling him just to go to dance and we would go to stat care once he came back. He then decided to call my mother to see if she could take the girls to dance so he could take me to stat care. Once my mom arrived and saw the state I was in, how I was unable to move and barely able to communicate, they decided they needed to take me to the ER immediately. I am so glad they did because from that moment forward a lot of my memories in those hours are a blur.
I do know my mom drove me to the ER, I pass out on the ride there, and once we arrived we were met with speculation that I must be overdosing due to the amount of pain I was in, the inability to really talk and not having a clue what my issue was. This really angered my mother and set her into a tailspin to get me back to see a doctor sooner than later. Once I was in a bed, they ran numerous tests and even asked my mother if I could be pregnant. She answered that she thought I could be but didn’t know for sure. She assured them that my husband was on his way and would be able to divulge more. They requested to take a pregnancy test, but I was in so much pain I could not even provide that, so they had put in a catheter to get a sample. From there they wheeled me over to get a CT scan and while I was waiting for the go ahead in the room the nurse got a call to immediately cancel and bring me back for an ultrasound.
The pregnancy test came back positive. At this point my mom was congratulating me and I do remember that vividly because I knew with the amount of pain I was in this couldn’t be good for me or a baby. At this point my husband finally arrived after he found a family member to watch our kids. Luckily, he was able to go with me into an emergency ultrasound where we were not allowed to see the screen. He held my hand and as soon as the ultrasound tech did the first scan I saw her face and knew it was a dire situation.
From there everything happened so very quickly. After we spent hours in the waiting room and the bed trying to determine the issue for what seemed like forever while I yelped in pain and time stood still, now everything started to move so fast I couldn’t keep up with what was happening with my mind being so foggy and my body being in so much pain. I could see the panic on everyone’s faces as numerous doctors and nurses rushed into my room and told me I was pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy that had burst and that I had now been bleeding internally for hours. My mother called my father and brother and told them to get to the hospital. The doctor asked if I had a living will and said I immediately needed to sign off on having two blood transfusions before they even took me into emergency surgery because I had already lost so much blood. I barely got a chance to say anything to my family that was in the room, and I didn’t get a chance to call my daughters and tell them I love them before I was whisked away for surgery. In the room where they prepped me for surgery a nurse leaned over to ask me some questions and I saw a familiar face. Someone I knew from many years back from growing up and going to the same school. This brought some comfort over me, but I could also see the fear in her eyes and hear the urgency in her voice which I am so appreciative of still to this day. I recall trying to tell her (not sure if I did though) to please tell my family I love them and let my girls know how much I love them and that was the last thing I remember until I woke up hours later.
From there the doctor said the surgery went pretty well, all things considered, but that I had lost one of my tubes. He said it should be a pretty easy and quick recovery and even made the somewhat aggressive suggestion that based on how I was feeling that I would maybe be able to go home that day. Sadly enough, that is not what happened. I spent 3 more days in the hospital with complications and immense pain beyond anything I had experienced before, and I have an incredibly high pain tolerance. My stomach was filled with so much air from the laparoscopy that had no way to escape that they tried every effort, but I kept telling them I felt like my ribs were broken. More tests were ran, which eventually led to me needing to take an NG tube with not one, but two attempts, one through each nostril, with nothing to numb or assist the efforts. Both times I ripped the tube out and whaled in pain, but at least on the second attempt a lot of liquid came up even in the one short minute I was able to leave it in.
From there other complications arose with my blood levels and I had to take 3 more transfusions in order to get my levels back up to a safe level in order to be discharged. On the third bag my body had a reaction to that blood and my heart raced to the point that they had to immediately pull the bag, put me on Benadryl and a few other drugs and monitor my heart very closely. There were quite a few other hurdles and complications that happened in those 4 days I was in the hospital that weren’t typical for this type of issue or surgery but finally my levels were evening out and I was cleared to leave. I was so grateful to everyone that had advocated for me, from my family and friends, to the nurses and doctors and hospital staff. I am still so grateful to my husband who stayed there with me every day and slept in a terrible chair every night, so I didn’t have to be alone. I am also grateful he refused to leave me that day which would have change the trajectory of my story vastly.
At this point I was so happy to be heading home and get to see my girls, but I still didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the situation and how dire it really was and the uphill battle that I was yet to face both physically and emotionally. The first few days home were super tough with the immense pain, heart palpitations, and huge hematomas developing on my abdomen. I had a hard time sleeping or resting because the pain was so intense, and I felt such guilt missing out on more time with my kids. When my kids and husband were asleep the second night, I was home I started to do some research on what had happened to me. I was taken aback by the fact that yes, I knew what an ectopic pregnancy was before it happened to me, but only because I had read the pregnancy books during my pregnancy with my first baby and heard other people mention it before. I had no idea that if it went undetected that it could burst and become a life or death situation like my own that I experienced. I started to get upset, then the more research I did I became angry because there wasn’t much out there that was similar to my experience and I was trying to grasp why there isn’t more education on this condition. What happened to me was beyond frightening. It was incredibly painful and emotionally and physically scaring and I kept thinking how I didn’t want to see anyone else go through this similar scenario. I also kept thinking back wondering if there were signs that I had somehow missed, trying to put the fault and blame for missing this on myself so I at least had an explanation, but I couldn’t pinpoint a thing. The scariest thing to me about this whole situation I was in was how fast this happened with no warning. I woke up one morning to take my kids to dance class and came home 4 days later from the ER and ICU at the hospital. I had not an inkling of an idea that I was pregnant, let alone pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy that was about to burst.
The hematomas eventually went away, but the physical scars on my body, as well as the mental scars remain and have become a permanent part of my story. My stomach will never look or feel the same and it often pains me to see people stare down at my stomach when they talk to me as if to check it out nonchalantly because my stomach has changed immensely and will likely never be the same, and they do this whether they know my story or not. And the loss of my baby that I didn’t even know I was pregnant with, but so desperately wanted, is something I still struggle with each day. Unfortunately, with my situation I didn’t even get to fully process what had happened to my baby until days later because I was either completely out of it or fighting for myself. It pains me so greatly that my tiny baby had to lose its life to help save mine, but some actions are beyond our control. I wear the memory of the baby with me daily, in the form of a ring with the date the incident happened, sandwiched between two birthstone bands of both of my daughters, as a reminder of a day where life was both lost and found. The memories of the day are still vivid even with how foggy I was, but I rarely talk about it though I recall it often. Sometimes I think about it when I’m driving or lying in bed trying to go to sleep. There have been a lot of nights I wake up in a panic reliving the situation or even thinking it is happening again since the chances of having another ectopic after you’ve experienced it once is much higher. But I know I can’t continue to liv in fear, and I am still vigilantly exploring different ways to deal with my associated anxiety.
Luckily, I have been able to take what happened to me and turn into something that has had a positive impact on the way I live. Pictures were always important to me, but now even more so. Memories are so precious, and I always took the pictures for myself to cherish. But now, after my experience, I also take them so my girls will have something to look at should something ever happen to me, or someone else. I also now try to say yes more often. Whether it is yes to my kids, or to attending an event, no matter how tired I may be. That time is precious, and the memories being made are priceless. I’ve also learned to be better about accepting help. I am a very stubborn person but after the ectopic pregnancy and the complications my body was so weak, I had no choice but to take help from others not only for myself, but for my husband’s sanity. It doesn’t make you a weak person when you allow others to help, if anything it allows you more time to heal to come back even stronger. And I was sure to remember the people that showed up when help was needed. Those people may not be the friends and family I talk to every week or even hardly a few times a year, but those are the people that showed up when it mattered the most. And, I know if I ever get a chance to reciprocate, I will ensure I show up for them as well because those are really my tried and true people. And finally, every day I take a few seconds to savor a moment. No matter how big or small, whether it is a sunset, or my child’s laughter or a room full of my family or friends celebrating something, I stop for a second to take it in. I breathe in the air, listen to the sounds, look around uninterrupted and make my own mental note of just how special the small things are. These little moments may seem miniscule now, but they will be the big things that mean the most to me as time goes on and those special times become more fleeting.
I know there are many women who have also experienced an ectopic pregnancy with their own version of their own story. I hurt for each and every one of them. I hope they find their own peace and share their stories as well. I used to always think things like this would never happen to me. But the reality is every day you wake up you never know just what is awaiting you. Through this all I have realized I am not immune to scary, life-altering surprises and while I know I have many more steppingstones to face and lessons to learn I will meet them ,and beat them, and try to take some positive away from them like I did in 2019. It is important to realize that even the sad, terrible and nasty events are all part of your life journey and use the opportunity for real self-discovery and internal transformation. There is always a plethora of blessings to be thankful for, even throughout the tough times while you’re trying to find your way up, around or even over or through that steppingstone, rock or boulder. I thank God every day that I get to spend with my daughters, husband, family and friends and my faith helps continue to heal me.
I hope by me sharing my story that more women will be aware of ectopic pregnancies and the associated risks. Me sharing my story is also therapeutic and cathartic and one more step on my road to fully accepting what has happened and moving beyond it. Take time to listen to your body, do your own research and ask your doctor questions.
Here’s to hoping for a happy, healthy, prosperous new year filled with many precious little moments to cherish, not only for me, but for each and every one of you!