Friday, August 22, 2008

Ectopic

I lost a baby about 11 months ago. I'm looking at the word "baby" and wondering if that's accurate, really. That's what it felt like to me, but it was very early in my pregnancy so I'm not sure that baby is the right word. The point is that I was pregnant. I had just found out, but within a few days of having a positive pregnancy test I started feeling bad -- very bloated, easily winded, generally uncomfortable. I felt differently than I ever had with Kate so I was a little concerned, but not overly because I thought it was just a different pregnancy and it wasn't necessarily going to be identical to the first time.

I scheduled an appointment right away, though, just to be sure everything was okay, which it was not. The person who examined me thought my symptoms seemed strange, but not overly worrisome. However, she suggested that I have an ultrasound just to be sure everything was okay. I also had some blood drawn so that my HCG levels could be checked. I had my ultrasound and the doctors could not see a fetus in my uterus. It was still really early in the pregnancy, though, so I don't think the doctor I spoke with could say with certainty that there was not a viable pregnancy there. I then had my hormone levels checked again (within 48 hours of the first test) and found out, when the results were ready, that the hormone was not increasing as it should in a normal pregnancy. I was told that the pregnancy was not likely viable. I was also told that I should have a D&C to make sure that there was in fact pregnancy tissue in my uterus.

The doctor I was dealing with explained that it was possible that it was an ectopic pregnancy, so if they were to find pregnancy tissue in my uterus, that would rule out a tubal pregnancy. He felt it was critical I have the procedure done because if the pregnancy was ectopic, my life could be in danger. I was having difficulty (to put it mildly) making the decision to go ahead with the procedure as I couldn't help but wonder about the possibility, albeit remote, of the doctor being wrong. What if there was a chance that this embryo could make it? How could I live with myself if the doctor was wrong and I made a decision that would kill my baby? This embryo could turn into a person as wonderful as Kate. The doctor then made it clear that if the pregnancy was ectopic and my tube ruptured, I could bleed to death in about ten minutes, so the decision was made to go ahead with the D&C. I figured I should probably do my best to stick around for Kate and Sean. I don't think I've ever sobbed so much. I was awake for the procedure and I cried the whole time, all the while squeezing Sean's hand incredibly hard, as though the harder I squeezed, the less emotional and physical pain I'd feel. The result of the procedure: there was no pregnancy tissue in my uterus.

So, by process of elimination, it was determined that I likely had an embryo growing in one of my fallopian tubes. I was admitted to the hospital so I could be watched. Basically, for two nights and a day and a half, they drew my blood a lot to check the HCG and hemoglobin levels (there had been some internal bleeding into my abdomen), and they checked my vital signs. Not to be dramatic, but I actually thought I might die; I wrote a letter to my family and friends in a little notebook one night before going to sleep, just in case I didn't live through the night. I wanted to be sure that I told them one last time how much I loved them. I probably didn't need to be that scared given that I was in a hospital, but sometimes several hours would pass before someone looked in on me, and I figured that it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that my tube could rupture and I could bleed to death before they came to check on me.

The doctors were pondering surgery to remove the embryo, but also thought it was possible the situation would resolve itself. Eventually, it was decided that they would do a laparoscopic surgery because the HCG levels were not dropping enough to indicate that the worst was over. As luck would have it, I had a very good surgeon (or so I'm told). So, I had the surgery (I have three small scars on my abdomen); they removed the embryo from one of my fallopian tubes (which is now useless); I stayed in the hospital for one more night, and then I got to go home.

It was definitely one of the worst experiences of my life, but it did serve to help me appreciate what I have. I am lucky in many ways. I can still get pregnant, and I already have an amazing daughter. I am grateful for what I have, and I know that many people are far worse off. It's just that when stuff like that happens, and it's followed by a skin cancer diagnosis and plastic surgery, one starts to wonder if there really is such a thing as karma. At least, that's what I wonder. And if so, what the hell did I do in a past life, or in this one, to be punished in this way (uh-oh, I'm feeling sorry for myself). I have a tendency toward blaming myself for every bad thing that happens, and when I think about it, believing in karma fits into that self-blame paradigm. I don't think I really believe in karma, but I still find myself wondering.

I did mourn the loss of that baby, especially during the first few days when I discovered it was not "viable", but the mourning turned to fear for my own life, and fear that I wouldn't be here for Kate and Sean. I wonder if the baby would have been "normal" had it implanted in my uterus instead of my tube, or if it would not have been viable regardless of where it made its home. I felt, and feel, so sorry that it didn't make its way to my uterus, to the place where my body could have nurtured it, kept it safe, and helped it grow into a little person.

I'm reluctant to try to conceive again for a couple of reasons, the first one being that I don't trust my body to do what it's supposed to do. I'm afraid for the embryo Sean and I may create, and I'm afraid for myself. I've also become unsure about my ability to parent two children. I questioned my capacity for caring for more than just Kate 11 months ago, too, but I suppose I must have been feeling a little better about myself back then, a little more confident. I have lost some faith in myself since last September. I want that faith back.