November 29th. On this date, two years ago, my life took a definite and unexpected turn.
I left early from work and drove with my husband and sister to the hospital, for yet another consultation. There had been appointments like this every 2 or 3 days for the past 3 weeks. My HCG level remained high at 12000, I continued bleeding intermittently, but there was still nothing to be seen on the ultrasound scan.
I had already heard all possible explanations: still too early, maybe everything is just fine; seems you already miscarried, the beta should start dropping soon; and the most terrifying, it’s likely an ectopic, call an ambulance if the pain increases, don’t stay too far from a hospital.
That Friday, on that last appointment, there was a final diagnosis at last. After attempts from 3 or 4 different doctors (I lost count), one could finally find my baby, hiding in the fimbriae of my right tube. I was sent to surgery immediately.
Or not really immediately, as I had to wait for six hours since my last meal. Wait that took place in a hospital room, in the maternity ward. Surrounded by mothers giving birth and newborn cries, I had to patiently wait for my turn, my baby’s turn. Only I wouldn’t hold him, I wouldn’t see him, as he would be dead outside my body. Ultimately he was giving his life for mine, or at least that’s how I felt. I had to allow the doctors to kill him so I would survive. It felt so wrong, unnatural, but there was never a question, there was never a choice. My life was the only one that could be saved.
I know that now, I can accept it now. It wasn’t so easy two years ago, while hearing those newborn cries. I’ve waited almost one year for this baby, for this pregnancy, and I never really enjoyed it. I started spotting and light bleeding about a week before I found out I was pregnant. The ObGyn I was seeing back then, for PCOS testing, as my cycles were long and irregular and I’d usually ovulate after day 21, told me the bleeding was not important, it meant nothing. However as it continued and I felt my body change abruptly, the idea that I was pregnant jumped into my mind and a quick test proved my theory right. Very right, as the second line was really dark. Confirmed also by my GP and a later beta test coming back at almost 10000.
Such high beta and no visible pregnancy on a scan is not normal, I was told by the midwife on my first ever pregnancy scan. It’s ectopic, she said. I argued, can’t it be just a miscarriage? No, she said, very certain. You need to go to the hospital. It took 3 weeks of hospital appointments for the doctors to catch up with the midwife.
Laparoscopic surgery is a very simple, safe procedure. Doctors kept telling me and I kept ignoring this simple fact. My severe allergies to several medications meant I was repeatedly told to avoid surgeries, avoid anaesthesia, avoid hospitals. Growing up, I heard my paediatrician tell my mom, too many times, if she goes into surgery she’s not coming back. I guess I interiorised it, because that Friday, waiting for my simple, safe, laparoscopy, deep inside I believed I was not coming back. I didn’t share that with anyone. Not my husband nor my sister, sitting by my side in the hospital bed. Not my parents nor my best friends. I called all of them before surgery, I made sure to speak with each of them, because I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye. Only they didn’t know it was goodbye.
That was something romantic about it, dying with my so loved baby. It was only fair that we should die together: it should be both of us or none of us. It felt right and so I left for surgery with this thought on my mind: I had lived an exciting life, it was ok to go with my baby now.
I woke up from surgery and saw the nurses around me. When they removed the tube from my throat, my first words were: I’m fine. I felt an indescribable gratitude for being alive. I survived after all. My baby didn’t. Reconciling these feelings of relief and guilt took me years; maybe I’m not done with it yet still.
Later the doctors came to tell me how the surgery went. All I could say to them was thank you. They had a lot more to say to me, though. They removed my right tube. They removed all pregnancy tissue. There were lots of scars between my tubes and other organs that could explain the ectopic pregnancy. Scars likely left by an old infection. Most of the scars were on my (only remaining) left tube. It’s too late in the evening to go back home, I should spend the night and leave in the morning.
Still dizzy from the morphine and relief for being alive, I didn’t understand or processed all those things the doctor told me, these things he said so blatantly, in front of my husband, sister and friends. The nurses told my husband he couldn’t stay with me, they all had to leave and come back in the morning, I needed rest. Ironic that she would say so, when I’m put in a room just besides a new mom. All night I could hear her newborn crying. I could hear talks of her with her husband, I could hear their other children too. It felt like torture, not rest.
Between small patches of sleep, bad dreams and newborn screams, I started to think about what the doctor had told me. Scars. Old infection. What did he mean? One of the dozens of infections I had in my childhood, when I was too often ill? It explains the ectopic. The left tube is the worst. So I thought, it took me one year to get pregnant with two tubes, how long will it take with only one? And one which is even more damaged? Do I have to go through another ectopic again? I can’t bare it.
Back home, I started researching more on ectopic. I finally understood what infection the doctor was referring too. He meant a STD. I never had a STD. I’ve always been extremely careful. Apparently not enough. I could have just killed the only child I would ever have. I was likely sterile and it was all my fault. I caused this to myself, by being irresponsible.
Months of sleepless nights followed this, when I would go over every detail of my life on my head, trying to understand when and how could I ever have had this infection. After escrutinizing my sex life and remembering I used to donate blood regularly 3 times a year (I’m O neg, always in need at hospitals), when they would check my blood for STDs, I concluded it could only have been from my husband. He was the only sexual partner I had not been obsessively careful with, the only one I didn’t request to get tested before we ditch condoms (yes, I even did that with my other boyfriends). I had someone to blame now. Someone guilty for my barrenness and the death of my baby. I almost couldn’t look at his face for days, maybe weeks.
In hindsight, it’s quite obvious I was depressed back then. And as I tried to ignore my depression, move forward with my life, we decided to try again. And I was ready to give it my best shot.
It was only months (years?) later I’ve accepted not knowing the reason for my scars. I choose to believe I never had a STD, even though doctors insist I probably didn’t realise I had one, likely chlamydia. They will tell me how 95% of the cases of adhesions on the Fallopian tubes are caused by STDs. I choose to believe I’m on the small group (once again), because it’s easier this way. It’s easier not to blame and to accept. Doctors don’t know everything and maybe they never found a correlation between whooping cough (or any of the many diseases I had as a child) and pelvic infection because they never looked for it. Or that’s what I tell myself at night when those ugly thoughts creep in.
It’s the only way I can move forward, love my wonderful husband and keep trying to make our dream of a family come true. And that’s my ultimate choice.
Little baby, my first, you’re so longed for and still came as a surprise. You showed me selfless love. I wish you’d be the one and a half year old toddler I dreamt about, running around in the house on this Sunday afternoon. Circumstances wouldn’t allow it, but in my heart you will always be my first, I’ll always love you.