Last December I rushed into my local Dollar Store, grabbed a one dollar pregnancy test and headed to the kid’s school for their Christmas parties. Having kids that can read the labels of what you purchase at the store means that anything you wish to keep private must be purchased ALONE, and since Christmas break was upon me, I had to seize my opportunity. Before I headed into the classroom I swung by the bathroom, got a positive on that pregnancy test and then led an hour of minute to win it games for a room of fourth graders. Room mom’s don’t mess around. :)
As we loaded up in the car with a flurry of treats and tinsel and whatever craft it was that they had brought home, my mind was racing. My body had been doing some strange things, and I had been certain that I was either pregnant, entering menopause or had cancer. There is a strong case here for not googling symptoms involving your body and unexplained spotting - when in doubt, you should probably just call the doctor.
Due to my history of miscarriage, a positive pregnancy test is a tricky thing. Pregnancy for me signifies joy and hope - and also a lot of fear and grief. We had prayed some VERY specific things about expanding our family, and truly felt that all the signs for confirmation were there. My body had been in a good place, and my hormones were balanced. My progesterone and HCG levels were good and were doubling as they were supposed to, so we cautiously moved forward as my doctor chalked my symptoms up to implantation bleeding.
The week or so leading up to Christmas was so sweet. There is something special about being pregnant or having a new baby in December that makes you feel a special connection to Jesus and his story. The hope, the anticipation, the reminder of precious life and innocence. I told a few friends that I was pregnant and had asked them to pray for my health, and for a healthy baby. I felt so strongly that this was right, and that it was the redemption we had been waiting for. My due date was my late Dad’s birthday, and it just seemed like the Lord was bringing a bit of joy and hope to that area of grief.
I woke up on the twenty ninth with cramps and bleeding and knew that things were not ok. I couldn’t believe that I was here AGAIN. I didn’t know why or how this was happening - it had felt like it was absolutely meant to be. I kept busy with the kids and spent some time alone, and just prayed that the process would be fast.
On December 30th we headed to a holiday dinner for our church staff. These are some of my favorite people, and the night started off as a good distraction. However I slowly started to feel terrible. A few hours in and I was in such bad pain that I could hardly talk and was having to focus very intentionally on breathing. Nate and I left, and decided that since we had a babysitter, we may as well swing by the ER.
Have you ever been to the ER in the midst of flu season, and near a holiday? We walked in and I was confident that we were going to leave with some type of infectious disease. Luckily “severe abdominal pain” and pregnancy get you seen pretty quickly, so I was back with the doctor within an hour. What followed was one of the worst medical experiences of my life. The hospital was crowded and understaffed. The ultrasound assistant was completely unprofessional and asked the tech what his wife thought about him doing exams on other women as I was getting an internal ultrasound (this is the PG version of what was actually said). The doctor informed me that I had an ectopic pregnancy that could easily be fixed with medication and dismissed me when I insisted on being examined further.
I was in such terrible pain that I was sweating and could not get comfortable in any position. I had declined pain meds initially in case (by some miracle) I still had a viable pregnancy. My stomach had swollen considerably since I had arrived. I demanded an ultrasound of my abdomen so they could check for internal bleeding.
When the ultrasound wand touched my stomach the doctor confirmed that I had significant internal bleeding. A surgeon was brought in immediately and I was whisked off to surgery - not knowing what parts of my reproductive system I would wake up with in tact. I lost an ovary, but came out of surgery well and was sent home to recover in a blur of emotions and pain killers.
I had lost six other babies, but this one, it shook me to the core. I think because it was more than losing a baby - it was that I could have died too. I don’t say that to be overly dramatic, but ectopic pregnancy can end in death for the mother, especially when undiagnosed internal bleeding is present. My heart was torn between great pain at our loss and deep gratitude that I was still alive.
It’s very tempting at this point to tell you all the things I’ve learned and grown in since that day. It’s tempting to wrap this up in a neat, tidy little package and skirt over the months of anguish and hurt and confusion. But that’s not how it happened, so It seems wrong (especially if you have or are experiencing a pregnancy loss) to skip to the part where I’m ok since this whole process is just plain messy. So I’m going to leave the mess here, in case you are sitting in one too.
Instead of a tidy closing I’ll share this: I wish things hadn’t happened this way, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that they have. Months of prayer, journaling, counseling and the pursuit of other dreams has brought me to a healthy place. I still wish I had a baby, or that I could have a baby - and I have no idea to do with all of those feelings so I’m just letting them be. I’m resting with what has been and looking forward to a future where I have no idea what will be. Except this: God is good, and this experience doesn’t change Him. He has been faithful to humankind for thousands of year and He is NOT GIVING UP WITH ME. And that’s enough to get me through the mess, find joy in today and believe that more good is to come.