This post is unlike others on my blog; it is long, very personal and has been rather difficult to write. If you are uncomfortable with graphic descriptions and highly emotional matters, please stop reading now. But I have a story to share; one that I know will help someone out there who is going through what I have been. What I have been through is incredibly frightening, not very common and difficult to understand for those who haven't experienced it. It is also extremely isolating, physically gruelling and most of all heartbreaking. I have a platform to share my story through this blog and I hope that by opening myself up, I will give those like me out there some acknowledgement and hope. Not hope in the sense that life will turn out as planned but that there is still so much in life to celebrate and be grateful for.
Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I love the festive air, the seasonal bonhomie and the celebrations. This Christmas, however, was not quite what I expected. I had hoped that after nearly four years of trying for a baby, many miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, my latest positive pregnancy test would give us something to celebrate. However, even this wasn't meant to be. The following couple of months were a haze of hospital runs, playing pin cushion, multiple scans, severe pain, ambulance calls and pure anxiety. It was even harder as my husband had only just started a new job and was working a long way away in Edinburgh which meant that in an effort to not worry him, I held back from divulging too much initially. The overarching sentiment throughout this pregnancy was one of immense fear for my own life.
When my pregnancy hormones started sharply increasing after a physical miscarriage, my only option was to not risk my life, heed the doctors advice and take a strong methotrextae injection. Methotrextae is a toxic chemothrapy drug that kills fast growing tissue. It saps your strength and can make you feel as sick as a dog. I had also read so many horror stories of ruptured pregnancies after methotrextae that the following two weeks were filled with pure mortal fear (combined with pain and feeling very sick). I cried myself to bed every night and my poor husband was beside himself. Eventually, I ended up in hospital again with mind-numbing pain and severe bleeding. Yet another scan confirmed the location of the ectopic pregnancy, I was given the choice between surgery (and never being able to have a baby naturally again) and to be conservatively monitored in hospital. It wasn't much of a choice as I knew by then that having children naturally may never happen but I opted for the latter.
All my pregnancies and subsequent losses were difficult and different. Hospital monitoring, ambulance calls, severe pain and anxiety were a common theme. My very first loss was incredibly painful as I was so deliriously happy about being pregnant; it seemed like the silver lining after a very difficult year in our personal lives including my husband's major surgery, my work redundancy related anxiety etc. My most horrific experiences though were with the ectopics. Unlike a 'normal' miscarriage, my ectopic sagas lasted several weeks or a few months. My most heart wrenching one was one where I went in for a routine scan, saw my baby (heartbeat and all) and then was wheeled into surgery as they weren't sure of its location. I went into surgery desperately hoping my baby would be alright and woke up not knowing the outcome. I was eventually told I'd lost both baby and tube.
Over the years I've learned to accept what has happened to me. I have learned that the only way to heal was by opening up and talking about it. The difficulty is that whilst miscarriages are relatively common, the ectopic fraternity wasn't as big. Whilst one in three to five pregnancies end in a miscarriage, the statistics for ectopics is one in a hundred. The statistic for heteroectopics (multiple pregnancies both in the womb and outside) is even higher. The chances of getting pregnant after an ectopic, especially with a lost tube, are lower and risk of recurrent ectopics higher. I used to seethe internally when people referred to it as 'early days' and 'common'. What I was going through wasn't common. As for 'early days', these were my babies. Babies have heartbeats at around six weeks. I struggled when people told me that it would be alright or that they knew what it was like because unless someone has been through the exact same situation, they have absolutely no idea. I am still raw from my current loss but I have learned that raging inside or sinking into manic depression are not great options. The only way to heal was to talk to a sympathetic soul, seek professional help and ask the support of those you trust. By opening up, I connected with a couple of very special women who have had similar experiences and a sense of what this was like. One of them was my go-to person with my latest episode having had a double whammy of methotrexate and surgery herself besides miscarriages.
Whilst I've communicated with friends and family via text and the internet for the last couple of months, I have spoken to very few people. I still struggle to talk as I very quickly break down crying. This isn't personal and is common for someone grieving the loss of a baby or indeed fearing for their own lives. I am hugely grateful for all the kind messages I receive but I am most upset when people say nothing or don't reach out despite knowing. Over the years I've learned this isn't personal too; some people consider this 'too personal' and too often struggle to understand what this is like or even know what to say. If you have someone going through something similar, the kindest thing you can do is keep in touch and offer sympathy. You don't need to provide solutions, all they need to know is someone cares. During my darkest hours, over the last few years, I've been most grateful for those who've simply just tried to be there.
If you are going through something similar and struggling, firstly, please trust your instincts and insist on medical help. If you are a family member or partner, please don't discount their anxiety, it could be life threatening. I would have not bothered calling an ambulance had it not been for my husband. Reach out to friends and family for support. If you can't, call the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, the NHS counselling service or other charity counseling services. The first step in healing is to acknowledge the loss. The road to babyville is often fraught with pain. Whatever your circumstances, cultivate hobbies, friendships and interests so that is does not consume your life. Whilst in hospital, I have also sought strength from meeting others who have been battling life threatening and debilitating illnesses. There is always someone worse off. And no matter what anyone says, there is more to life than just motherhood. For me, it is fulfilling my career ambitions, building friendships and pursuing my hobbies.
I don't know what life has in store for me but if you are reading this, I hope you've found solace in my pregnancy story, the desire to find something to be joyful about, a better understanding of what this is like or just a sense of how you should deal with a situation like this or approach someone suffering a similar loss. Ann x
Photos: 1. The wreath outside my hospital room 2. Hospital life 3. Keeping busy in between hospital runs and hospital stays 4. Finally home and a reason to celebrate
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