Last year I became 1 in 80. I din’t win the lottery or get a pay rise. I was 1 in 80 of pregnancies that are ectopic. It was such a traumatic experience that it has taken me this long to even begin to write about it. I was also 1 in 30,ooo with a heterotopic pregnancy. What’s that I know you are thinking? I didn’t know the term before either, but it is the result of two of more simultaneous pregnancies in different places.
I didn’t actually know I was pregnant until I had been having unusual symptoms for a while. A severe trapped wind pain that would come and go (think like after a c section bad!) I had recently had biopsies taken after an abnormal smear result, so put the abnormal bleeding I was experienceing down to that. I didn’t want to rock up at A&E to be told I had trapped wind so I just put up with it. In hind-sight, stupidly!
Whilst at work one day the trapped wind pain came on suddenly so bad, it made me break out in a sweat and be sick from the pain. I started to think I should probably see someone. James was in America though. So I waited till later to go to the out of hours with my Mum, pretending I wasn’t in as much pain as I was. The doctor did a pregnancy test just incase and it came back positive. My first reaction, shock, then panic. Something must be wrong to be causing the pain!
A stay in hospital with mention of a possible ectopic, lots of painful scans, prodding and whispering later. Lying on the scanning bed the sonographer tells me there is a little sac. Smaller than they would expect for the level of my hormones which would put me at around 7 weeks pregnant. The doctors explained I had lots of free fluid in my abdomen the result of a likely ruptured cyst and that was what was causing the pain. The bleeding probably the start of a miscarriage.
James arrives back from America and comes to see me in the hospital where I have to tell him that I am pregnant but loosing the baby. We are sent home to wait and see what is going to happen. Having experienced a miscarriage before, unfortunately I knew what to expect.
A repeat blood test a week later showed my hormone levels were dropping, but very slowly. Which prompted more painful scans and more confusion. They confirmed that there was no longer a sack showing. All I remember from the room after we had been told the news, was apologising for starting to sob when they were trying to get some blood out of me to check my levels again. The Doctor thought she was hurting me and it was painful, but that wasn’t the pain I was crying from.
We went home with the constant throbbing in my side getting worse and worse. Different to the miscarriage pain I had experienced before. Being told the ruptured cyst was what was causing the pain, I feel a bit of a wimp and tried to carry on at home for a few more days.
James realised how bad it must have been the morning of the day his Mum was coming to stay. I would usually be rushing around like a woman possessed cleaning and tidying and I was on the sofa in jogging bottoms unable to move. By the time I got to hospital the pain was so bad I almost collapsed on the way to the toilet in A&E. The IV morphine was now the only thing that could touch it.
That nights stay was pretty horrific. Being left in a scan room to clear up the mess myself (I was bleeding pretty heavily by this point) and then wander around trying to find my way back to my bed, trailing the IV drip stand with me, in the dark, in severe pain. Is a moment I probably won’t forget. Luckily a nurse found me wandering the corridors and helped me back to bed.
Eventually the next morning my ovary was discovered in a scan meaning that the growing mass that they thought was my ovary couldn’t be and so must be something else. There was no ruptured cyst and still plenty of free fluid in my abdomen. In other words, blood. We knew it was still a possible ectopic but they wouldn’t know for definite till they operated. Throughout the day I felt my hand resting on my stomach, instinctively protective of the possible life still inside me despite everything we had already been through.
That day as I waited for surgery and was missed off the list I actually felt like I was dying. I started to think that it might be preferable to feeling how I was. Being wheeled down to theatre and having to say goodbye to James, I was absolutely terrified of being put to sleep, but I just wanted the pounding in my head and the constant stabbing pain to go away.
I woke up in pain which I wasn’t expecting. Looking at the clock on the wall opposite I was shocked at the time. I had been under for hours. When we got back to the ward I had to heave myself off the operating bed onto another bed. Then a few hours later in the middle of the night my bladder almost ruptures with post surgery complications, one of the most painful things I have experienced.
I was woken an hour or so later to be told it was infact an ectopic that had ruptured and they had removed my right tube, whilst being simultaneously handed a form. Still disorientated after the operation and my bladder almost exploding and on quite a lot of pain relief, it took me a while to realise the doctor was asking me what I wanted them to do with the remains.
I had to make that decision on my own in the dark, in the middle of the night. The doctor having to help me sign the form as my hands were too weak. I couldn’t speak to James and the only person I did speak to was the lady opposite me who heard my sobs the next morning. Too late to help with the decision that I still regret now. In the consultants words a significant, ruptured, ectopic, that I was fortunate to be alive, how was it missed? It still breaks me that I left our baby on its own!
The next few days emotionally, the guilt and remorse felt like it was killing me. I remember sobbing that I was so, so sorry, over and over in the middle of the night, apologising to the baby I would never get to meet. If I’m truthful there are still nights where I cry myself to sleep doing the same.
Less than 24 hours after the surgery I was having to beg for pain relief, the nurses too busy to check on me. I was stuck in bed due to my very low blood pressure from the blood loss. The only one who did, asked why I was crying. I was, apparently, lucky. I was alive and I already had children. I didn’t feel like I could show my emotions again after that.
On returning home I wasn’t expecting the slow and painful recovery, physically, with the larger than normal scar from the laparoscopy due to the size of the ectopic. But most of all I wasn’t expecting the feeling of guilt. Heartbreaking guilt that I still feel every single day. My body failed our baby!
Two week safter surgery the pain came back and I asked James to poke me in the night to make sure I was still alive, the fear of death so real. The realisation that I could have died too, had suddenly hit me like a tonne of bricks.
Almost a year on and not a day goes by where I don’t think of the ectopic. A small sound, smell, bit of peace and quiet and I can flash back to being in that hospital bed. It’s like I’m still there. I have woken up in the night sweating after nightmares. I still can’t bare the thought of seeing, hearing, holding someone elses newborn and I know how horrible that makes me sound.
I have thought long and hard about sharing our story. But there needs to be more awareness of ectopics which will only happen with people talking. I’ve been really shocked at the total lack of support after going through such a traumatic thing. To not even have a post surgery check up or a chance to talk through what actually happened with someone. I still don’t know!