Did you know that 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage? Does that number seem low to you? Because it does to me. In fact, if I was someone who never experienced a miscarriage I would look at those statistics and think, well that’s never going to happen to me!
Here’s another statistic for you, there are 3 million reported miscarriages in the US a year. Now that number is scary.
Miscarriage is something that is not talked about enough considering how many women it effects. I’m willing to bet you know someone, or maybe a couple of people who have had to deal with the loss of an unborn baby; whether you knew about it or not.
I had an aunt who had a miscarriage. One of my best friends had a miscarriage. When they each went through that loss, both times I said, “I can’t imagine what she’s going through. That’s my worst nightmare.”
Then, on December 2016, my worst nightmare came true.
I knew I was late, but I wasn’t going to let myself seriously entertain the idea that I could be pregnant. After years of desperately wanting a baby and convincing myself, off of no real basis, that I probably was infertile, there was no way I could be pregnant. So, I ignored the late period and the persistent cramping. We went to my husband’s work Christmas party and got wasted. When we came back home, I didn’t drink myself drunk, but continued to casually drink because, like I said, there was no way I could actually be pregnant.
We weren’t trying, but I had this overwhelming need to get pregnant. I was meant to get pregnant. This was finally my time.
My mother and I, even when living over a thousand miles away from each other, had similar cycles. When she told me she had her period over a week ago, I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, I had to take a test.
On December 15, 2016, on mine and my husband’s third dating anniversary, in our first year of marriage, I took a pregnancy test. I took it extremely early in the morning, trying to do it on the sly. It was one of those digital tests I always saw on commercials. I used to think they looked so cool the way they explicitly say, “pregnant” or “not pregnant”. I peed on the stick and waited for the results. And waited. And nothing happened. The damn test was faulty. Ugh. Well now, I had to leave for work. On my way to work I stopped at Walmart and bought another pregnancy test. This time I wasn’t going to try the fancy test again. I went with my old faithful, First Response. I’d burned through many of those tests in my extremely paranoid and naive years.
In my Chrystler van, in the parking lot outside the office, I tucked the test into my purse and walked inside and up the steps. I logged into my computer before heading to the bathroom. I had Knots in my stomach. For the second time that morning, I peed on a stick.
I set a timer on my phone and waited for the results. I didn’t want to look at the stick. I knew there would only be one line. There’s only ever one line.
I looked early. Not on purpose. I meant to just throw a piece of toilet paper over the test, but it was too late. I saw it. Two pink lines. I was pregnant. Holy fucking shit, I was pregnant. We were going to have a baby!
Naturally, the first thing one does after finding out they’re pregnant is drown yourself in knowledge of pregnancy and Parenthood. I started binge listening to a pregnant podcast. That was when the thought I could lose my baby first popped into my head.
Still, that wouldn’t happen to me, right?
On my lunch break I went back to Walmart. I’m a millennial, so of course I had to find a cute way to break the news to my husband. I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, but I still picked up a baby toy and the Dr. Seuss book, Mr. Brown can Moo, Can You? Inside the book I wrote the date and the announcement, “We’re having a baby!”
That afternoon, I gave my husband his anniversary gift. He asked, “Yeah?” And I said, “Yeah.” And we hugged and we cried. We were both simultaneously excited and terrified. We went about our anniversary date as planned, dinner at Olive Garden followed by driving around to look at Christmas lights. Just as we did on or first date. Just as we do every year.
At dinner we decided we would wait before telling people, “just in case.” At the gift shop at the lights, we resisted the urge to buy one of those adorable expecting ornaments. Just in case.
Every year, our anniversary was special. Our first date, our first year in South Carolina, getting engaged, and now having a baby. It was fate, wasn’t it?
Well, the honey moon period didn’t last long. I had carefully researched OBs and requested one just that morning, when I started spotting. I want having any pain. It wasn’t a lot of blood. It could totally be normal. I knew that. So why did I have this sinking feeling in my gut?
When I called their office and told them what was going on they suggested I head to the urgent care, since I technically wasn’t even their patient yet.
I left work, calling my husband. He picked up the phone and I couldn’t even speak. I just started crying. “I’m coming,” was all he said.
Together, we went to urgent care per the instructions from the OB’s office. The whole way through they kept reminding me that this could be completely normal. They did all their tests, sent me to another location for an ultrasound, all the while I’m being told, it’s all OK. At the ultrasound I’m told by the technician that she can see the sac and it was early, but looked normal.
I left feeling reassured, and the plan was to get my blood tested again in two to three days. Well, about two days later I was spotting again. I called the OB and the nurse sent me to get my blood tested again.
I got the call while I was at work. My numbers weren’t doubling and the ultrasound didn’t meet their markers. It was possible I was having an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy outside of the uterus. We could wait and do another blood test, but we couldn’t put it off forever. Basically, I either had surgery where they go in through my belly button and see if the baby was in my uterus or not. If it wasn’t, they would remove it, even if it was in the uterus, the procedure could still result in my losing the baby. Option two was a drug that would also end the pregnancy.
I couldn’t even think. Again, I left work, calling my husband. He picked up the phone and for the second time I could barely speak. Neither of us really remember how this phone call went. I must have said something about going home and I feel like I remember him asking if I was going to be alright to drive. I said yes and he said he would meet me there. It wasn’t a long drive to our apartment from my work. Still, I’m not sure how I managed to keep it together long enough to get home. But the moment I was home, I raced up the stairs, into our bedroom, climbed into our bed, and lost it.
When he got home, I was upstairs in our bed, both of the cats staring at me, as I wailed in emotional turmoil. I never felt more broken in my whole life, than I did at that moment, realizing I was going to lose my baby. I wasn’t even breathing. Kyle held me, repeating the one word, “breathe,” into my ear over and over again. I’d catch my breath for a second before screaming once again. Why was this happening to me? What had I done to deserve this? I always believed everything happens for a reason, but what reason could there be for this?
Eventually I calmed down enough to tell him what the doctor said. Of course, the decision was mostly mine. We talked it out and I called the office, telling them I’d take the methotrexate. I was so absorbed with grief, and perhaps in denial, that I didn’t realize what my decision meant until later that evening when I realized I would essentially be killing my baby. Maybe that’s still not completely accurate, but that’s how it felt. And I lost it all over again.
When we met with the doctor, she assured me I was making the right choice. She said either way, the pregnancy was, “not normal.”
If you’ve never had an ectopic pregnancy, you may or may not know what methotrexate is. It’s a drug they use to treat cancer by targeting the cancer cells. In this case, it targets the fetus and your body basically obsorbs it. They administrator the drug with a shot in each butt cheek. It didn’t take too long to feel the effects of the drug. My husband and I went out to eat afterwards at P.F Chang’s. We each got the Mongolian beef. It’s been two years since then and I haven’t eaten at P.F. Chang’s since.
The drug causes nausea, bloating, lightheadedness, and eventually bleeding. Lots of bleeding. We ended up in the hospital that night because I was bloated and nearly fainted when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. My doctor told me these could be signs of a Fallopian tube rupturing, so we rushed to the emergency room right away. An IV and prescription for nausea medicine later and we were sent home. No rupture. Just the drug weighing on my body. But it was fine, I had another drug to take care of that.
I had to go back for another blood test to make sure my numbers were decreasing. Well, they went up after the methotrexate and I ended back up in the doctor’s office. She said it wasn’t unusual for the pregnancy hormones levels to go up after the first injection. Even though my numbers continued to rise, they still weren’t doubling. I was still doing the right thing. Two more shots. I didn’t feel like I was doing the right thing. I felt like I was betraying my baby.
The second round of shots did the trick and my numbers were slowly declining.
On New Year’s Eve, we went over to a friend’s house for a party. I wasn’t going to have anything to drink, because of the drugs, but I let loose and let myself have some fun. It was nice to go out and put it out of my mind for a while. The whole losing my baby thing.
It was New Year’s Day, technically, when we got home. I went to the bathroom and found a surprise on my pad. I googled it and I was pretty sure it was the embryo. I showed my husband and he agreed that’s what I looked like. Then, I flushed it. I didn’t know what else to do with it. I never cleaned it off to know for sure or see the baby inside. I flushed it. And have regretted it ever since.
In that moment, however, I felt relief. I knew that meant it was over and I could finally start healing.
As expected, the next time I got my blood tested my numbers had dropped dramatically. I continued to get checked though until they were at zero.
Thing is, if you remember from earlier in this post, the drug is supposed to absorb the baby. When taking methotrexate to treat an ectopic pregnancy, you don’t usually miscarry the embryo. I never spoke to my doctor about this, however I should have. I can’t tell you why exactly I didn’t think to. Maybe because I couldn’t be sure that’s what it was and not a giant blood clot? Or perhaps because I flushed it down the toilet, all traces of it gone forever? But if I had been honest with myself, and my doctor, perhaps we would have taken a different approach the next time around.
To be continued…