I’ve been unsure about writing this post for the past couple of weeks, but I feel a sudden burst of clarity. If one person reads this and is grateful that another is going through the same journey, then it’s worth it to me. The thing is, these past few weeks have made me realize that kindness is abundant, and my faith in humanity has been restored over and over. My eyes are open wider now, and I’m seeing things I never noticed before. My husband and I have never felt such love for each other and for the people around us. It’s never been so crystal clear that Mike and I are supposed to be together, and we’re supposed to be going down this path. Lastly, I’ve never been more proud to be a strong woman receiving help from other women who’ve been in my shoes or who are simply there to bring flowers or send love.
My friend Emily gave me an image when this all started: She said that the underside of the tapestry is filled with knots and tangles, and it’s easy to get lost in the web. But eventually, you realize that the knots and tangles on the underside of the tapestry are important; they create the intricate and beautiful design on top, a carefully planned work of art.
So let me tell you the short version of our story.
Mike and I took an awesome vacation to Frisco, CO and Jackson Hole, WY to ski with some of our friends. We had a BLAST!! Skiing every day followed by epic trail winter trail running above 9000 feet was our own little version of paradise. It could’ve been a little warmer, but no one’s complaining. The first day I got to CO, I experienced some abdominal cramping that lasted about 45 minutes, but a little ibuprofen and a heating pad did the trick, and I had no problems after that. I attributed it to the altitude, as I always get some GI distress from high elevations. No big deal! Exactly one week later in Jackson Hole, on January 3rd, the cramps were back. Big time. Lying in bed, curled up and taking more Ibuprofen, I vaguely wondered if something was wrong.
The next morning, I got up to wash my face and get ready to ski, when WHAM!! I was doubled over at the sink again, having those awful cramps. I took more Ibuprofen, laid down again and was able to walk within the next hour or so. So of course, I decided to go skiing! Meanwhile, I was texting with my mom telling her about my issues of the previous night and the morning. Throughout the day, my mom probably told me four times that I needed to be sure I wasn’t pregnant. Oh by the way, my mother is an OB/GYN. And by the way, I was in total denial about being pregnant. It didn’t make sense! I just got off of birth control in November, and I’d had a period in December (or so I thought. It turns out it was just abnormal bleeding) and I was due for another soon, so it must just be terrible cramps right?
So, I went skiing. It was a bad idea. Each bump was torturous, as if the snow monsters were reaching up and trying to pull me down with each turn. Sound dramatic? You should’ve seen it, that was dramatic. After an hour or less, I told Mike and Backus (my longtime childhood friend) that I needed to stop. The events that followed were nothing short of the most painful cramps and muscle spasms I’ve ever experienced. Walking was a challenge, sitting was more challenging, and appearing normal in public was out of the question. I got a ride from the shuttle back home after an hour and a half of waiting, and curled up into my now familiar fetal position back in bed. “You need to make sure you’re not pregnant,” my mom’s voice echoed through my body. “If you are, you need to go immediately to the ER, I think you have an ectopic pregnancy, and it could rupture.” I finally sent Mike out to get some pregnancy tests.
I took one test, then another. Like so many hopeful mothers, I’d been through this moment hundreds of times in my mind. Emotions like joy, elation, and hope were always the first feelings that would arise from my reverie, the way that things are supposed to be. But in this moment, the reality was looking down at that little positive symbol, and I didn’t feel anything except sheer terror. Then the second positive symbol. More terror. I knew that I’d lost this pregnancy already, whether it was a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. It wasn’t normal to be in that much pain. Even with the knowledge that I had, I still held on to a tiny shred of hope as we made our way to the ER.
In the ER, I refused all pain meds and anything else they wanted to give, just in case… After a few hours, the doctor gently explained the bad news, as two pale faced would be parents stared back at him in disbelief. I’d either already miscarried, or I was still carrying an ectopic pregnancy. Two days later, a blood test confirmed that I was still pregnant, but my HCG (the pregnancy hormone) levels were rising abnormally indicating an ectopic pregnancy. Another ultrasound and one fantastic OB/GYN later, we decided to go with a methotrexate injection to terminate the pregnancy that had taken over my right Fallopian tube for the last 5 or so weeks. Methotrexate is actually a chemotherapy agent. It seems that since chemotherapy stops cancer cells from multiplying, it also stops pregnancy cells from multiplying in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. My HCG levels were quite high (8900) and the size of the pregnancy was borderline large, so we knew it was going to be a gamble going this route versus surgery to remove the pregnancy, but we were willing to take the risk. Mike and I’s top priorities were to make sure I was safe and to ensure that we could have a healthy pregnancy in the future. Save the Fallopian tube if possible! And so then we began the process of waiting.
We were able to fly home on Tuesday, January 8th, where my doctor in Portland was waiting for me if there were any problems. Every couple of days, I’ve been back to the doctor for yet another ultrasound and HCG test to make sure my levels are dropping, i.e. the methotrexate is working. The good news is that the methotrexate is working, but the bad news is that I’m still having quite a bit of internal bleeding and pain. Pain keeps me awake at night, and I wonder sometimes if I shouldn’t go to the ER again. Sleeping in the recliner isn’t ideal, but I’ll do what I have to do. It looks like there’s a great possibility I will need to go into surgery on Monday afternoon because of the pain, bleeding, and dropping hematocrit levels.
This whole experience has been nothing short of humbling. I’m fully aware that modern medicine is saving my life, and I’ve never been more grateful. I mentioned strong women earlier, and my mom is surely the strongest. She probably saved my life on January 4th, when she diagnosed me with an ectopic pregnancy over the phone despite my insistence that I wasn’t pregnant. She told me to go to the ER when I wasn’t sure I needed to, and I certainly did. I became pregnant probably 2 weeks after stopping birth control pills, despite the myth that it “takes a while.” I heard my dad (also an OB/GYN) break down and fight for what he knew was right for my treatment, simultaneously revealing his love for us and the severity of the situation. So you see, the topside of the tapestry is becoming clearer. I feel so lucky and so blessed that I can a) get pregnant and b) that I am surrounded by the strength of my family and friends to pick me up when things don’t exactly go as planned… the way I would’ve planned it anyway. But this is surely all a part of the big picture, the design and the path I’m supposed to travel with my partner in life.
One of the reasons that I wanted to write this post is because in speaking with other women, I’ve realized how many of us are facing or have faced challenges with fertility and with pregnancy. It’s amazing how strong we all are and how we continue to be optimistic and supportive of one another. Sometimes, we feel like we can’t talk about it or we shouldn’t, but sharing my story and hearing others’ has been healing. One of the darkest thoughts we can have, even if it’s transient, is that this is our own fault. I opened that door, but realized there’s nothing I could’ve done to prevent this. Mike and I are heartbroken for our loss, but we are looking forward to new life in the future. The thought of new life, the strength of friends and family, and the love that I feel from my husband and our little lost one is revealing the view of the topside of the tapestry. It’s perfect.
In the meantime, I’m baking! Check out this recipe I found on Pinterest: Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf! It is sooo good, vegan baking at its finest: The other pictures are my two little buddies, Pooh and Kisha dogs that are making sure I’m resting, and flowers from Lara and Christy, and a singing “Get Well” balloon from sweet Mike.
So if something is abnormal, even if you’re in denial about being pregnant, see your doctor. Don’t wait. Ectopic pregnancy is a life threatening condition, and I never thought it could happen to me.