This is a bit of a difficult post to write. And yet one that I really want to. (I think.)
It’s been a while since I posted on here, you see, and before I get back to weddings and budget breakdowns and colour schemes and sexy serums and all the other things I want to write about, I feel compelled to share with you the reason for my absence first. Some people may find it crass to blog about something so personal, but hey, to me it seems more crass not to talk about the very thing which has consumed my every waking thought for the last couple of weeks. Plus I have a feeling you lovely lot will be able to impart all sorts of kindness and words of wisdom. No pressure.
A month ago I found out I was pregnant. Twas a little earlier than planned, but part of ‘the plan’ nonetheless. We were delighted, surprised and hugely cautious, knowing, of course, that those first few weeks are dangerously vulnerable and that a scarily-high 1 in 4 pregnancies end in early miscarriage. Within days I started bleeding. Only lightly at first, and my fervent googling told me it could be ‘implantation bleeding’ rather than anything more sinister, but as it got heavier and the cramping kicked in, I knew that all was not right.
I was referred to the Early Pregnancy Unit at my local hospital, and after an internal scan was told that there was no pregnancy to be seen and that I’d most likely miscarried. I drove home weeping, telling myself that it was better to have happened so soon rather than further along in the pregnancy, but it wasn’t until I got home and read the many leaflets that had been thrust upon me that I realised my ‘situation’ was actually being treated as a Pregnancy of Unknown Location (PUL); a miscarriage was most likely, but we couldn’t yet rule out an ectopic pregnancy (yikes) or even an entirely viable pregnancy that was just too early to locate.
The subsequent weeks were a rollercoaster of confusion and emotion. Following that first scan I had to go back in for further blood tests which revealed my pregnancy hormones had increased. Not at the rate they should have, but they had increased nonetheless. A second scan showed my uterus lining had thickened considerably (a good sign) and yet there was still no pregnancy sac to be seen, neither in my uterus nor my Fallopian tubes (which ruled out an ectopic). I was asked to come back for a third scan in a week, at which point I swear time actually stopped. I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t have the obvious early symptoms of pregnancy, and yet I was acutely aware of every twinge and new sensation that was going on down there. Paul came with me to the third scan as it was half term (a change of tactic I hoped would result in good news, along with the lucky pants I’d decided to wear that day), but as we stared forlornly at images of my very empty uterus, I found myself getting angrier and angrier with the whole situation. I just wanted to know now- was I frickin’ pregnant or not?
When my blood test results came in later that day I was dumbfounded. In a week my hormone levels had shot up from 277 to 2400. I was pregnant, no doubt about it; we just didn’t know where. I tried desperately not to get excited, but once again Google became my friend and confidante as I scoured forum after forum, searching for positive stories of pregnancies that weren’t spotted until late, and skimming over the ones that ended badly. Once again a whole week dragged by in slow motion, and finally, last Wednesday, at 7 weeks and 2 days, I drove myself in for the scan that was surely going to reveal something, trying desperately to play it cool but failing miserably.
Within about 20 seconds of looking around, my midwife sighed deeply and told me that there was nothing in my womb. After another minute of silent searching she confirmed the pregnancy was in my right Fallopian tube; it was ectopic. Ectopic pregnancies are not good, kids. Your Fallopian tubes are about the width of a drinking straw and are not designed to grow a baby. If left to develop, your tube will eventually rupture and haemorrhage, and this is very bad news indeed. In all those weeks of wondering and waiting, I knew there was a chance it could be ectopic and yet I’d always pushed it to the back of my mind, knowing, I think, that it was the outcome I wanted the least. Now it was here I was devastated. Stoic (I did my best not to sob until I got back to my car), but devastated.
In some ways I can’t believe the following 36 hours actually happened. I’d managed to successfully avoid hospitals for 29 years and now there I was, in a gown, on a bed, in a small ward waiting to go up to theatre, a saline drip in one arm and a pen in the other as I potentially signed my life away to the surgical gods. What followed is all a bit of a hazy blur now but memorable points include:
- Paul providing some much needed light relief by pumping my bed up to it’s highest point before telling me he wouldn’t let me down “until I behaved”. When he did let me down, it was all the way down… to the floor. A mental age of 12, my husband.
- As my tube hadn’t ruptured, I wasn’t considered an emergency so our wait was 10 hours in the end. I managed to maintain a sense of joviality for the best part… although I crumbled when the anaesthetist came to talk me through the procedure and indicated that I may vomit during recovery. Cue hysterics as I begged him to give me as many anti-sickness drugs as my body could handle. You can take my tube out, sure, but for pity’s sake, don’t let me puke.
- The surreal journey up to theatre at 9pm at night, through an eerily quiet hospital with my husband beside me. I was simultaneously assuring myself that everything would be absolutely fine whilst taking in every sight and sound as if it was my last.
- Telling the surgeons that I used to be an actress and that being in theatre “felt just like being on the set of Doctors”. It took me a minute to realise that real doctors don’t watch daytime television and that I probably sounded like an utter moron.
- The lovely old lady in the bed next to me trying to reassure me that being put to sleep was “better than sex”. I’m not sure I’d agree, but it certainly wasn’t unpleasant.
- Coming round and feeling completely and utterly elated that a) I was alive and b) I didn’t feel sick, despite the fact that everything below my waist hurt.
- Seeing my lovely husband waiting for me as I was wheeled out of theatre. He was hoping for an emotional reunion; the first words I barked at him were “SCRATCH MY EYEBROW”.
- Urine being the hot topic of conversation between the four ladies on my ward and I. They don’t let you out until you can naturally pass a certain amount, you see, so there was much camaraderie, comparison and showing off of piss pots.
- Searing pain. The worst I’ve ever felt in my whole life.
- The surgeon coming to see me shortly before I was discharged and telling me he’d heard I was a wedding planner so figured I “needed to look good in a bikini”, hence the neat incision below my knicker line. Yep, I do all my weddings in a bikini, me…
So I’m home now and recovering well. I’m no longer pregnant and I’m a tube down but I’m ok. I’ve learnt that I’m very loved. Friends and family have been amazing, rallying round, bringing flowers and gifts, sending lovely messages and making our dinner for us. I have more magazines than I know what to do with. And I’ve learnt that I’m brave. I didn’t feel it at times, not when I was weeping at the prospect of puking, but people seem to be at pains to tell me how strong I’ve been and I suppose they’re right. It’s being an only child I think. Makes you headstrong and wilful.
The last few weeks have been utterly horrendous but we’re through it. In many ways Paul and I are lucky- my tube didn’t rupture and my life was never really in danger. It also didn’t take us long to get pregnant. I imagine if this had happened after a year of trying I’d be in a very different frame of mind, but right now I’m staying positive about the future.
You have a 1% chance of having an ectopic pregnancy. Once you’ve had one, the risk goes up to 5% (or 10% according to some sources) which is a little frightening… but that’s still a 90-95% chance of you not. Similarly, your chances of conceiving are not halved once you lose a Fallopian tube. They are reduced but only slightly. The science is baffling but the general consensus is that through a combination of homing signals, chemical receptors and a couple of rounds of “Marco Polo” your egg and his sperm will find their way to your remaining tube and get jiggy. Or something like that anyway.
I wanted to write this post partly because I hoped it would make me feel better, and it has, but more importantly, I wanted to write this post for others going through a similar experience. In the dark days I found myself locked on to the internet searching for other people’s stories of ectopic pregnancy and finding so little. The fact is in every road on every street in every town of every country there are people struggling to have a baby. Whether it’s through miscarriage, blighted ovums, failed fertility treatments or stillbirth, the struggles are ongoing, lonely and completely devastating for those involved. I was told to get off the internet at several points in the last few weeks as if it were an evil beast, but in a world where we generally don’t talk about this sort of thing, I truly believe that it can be good to share.
I’ll be at home for the next couple of weeks which gives me plenty of time to catch up with blogging and Utterly Wow work. I can’t promise a post a day- I have way too many magazines to get through for that to happen- but I will certainly be around more than I have been.
Thanks for reading.
P.s. I found these sites and forums on ectopic pregnancy particulary helpful: