This is NOT a pregnancy announcement.
Unfortunately, it’s the opposite. It’s a story about my pregnancy loss. It’s a story about the scariest and most heartbreaking thing that’s ever happened to me in my life – my ectopic pregnancy.
I’ve been wanting to share this for a long time and it may seem like a random time or day of the week to post about it. But, given all the uncertainty in the world right now, it’s as good a time as any other. While I’m nervous to bare my soul like this, it’s therapeutic to get it off my chest and I now feel ready to write about it.
In February of this year, I suffered an ectopic pregnancy, where instead of implanting in the uterus as in a normal pregnancy, the embryo implanted in my right fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies are extremely rare. To put it in perspective, this only happens in about 1% of all pregnancies. Since an embryo can’t survive and grow outside of the uterus, my pregnancy was not viable. And because there was a rupture inside my body, I had to have an emergency surgery to remove it. If caught later than we did, my ectopic pregnancy could have resulted in the removal of parts of my reproductive system, hypovolemic shock, or even worse, my death.
Before describing the painful events of my ectopic pregnancy, I want to share a bit about our journey to become pregnant.
While married in 2017, Alex and I consciously decided to delay parenthood until we felt absolutely ready. We understood all the concerns about getting pregnant after our 30s (he is 34 and I am 37). As I shared in my “So, When Are You Going to Have a Baby” post, we accepted that it might not ever happen for us – and that was okay.
So, fast forward to the beginning of 2020, when we both agreed we were ready. It took us 2 months (prior to month 2, I never tracked my cycle or used an ovulation kit, so the first month likely wasn’t timed properly). I know we are very lucky to have gotten pregnant that fast, as many people struggle with fertility.
That month, a press trip was originally going to coincide with my fertile window. By some divine intervention, the dates changed to literally right after my fertile window. So, I was able to very accurately pinpoint when conception occurred!
On Valentine’s Day (ironically, the day I published the baby post), I had some spotting first thing in the a.m. and I figured my period would arrive shortly after. But when I used the bathroom later and my period hadn’t started, I was confused. It later dawned on me to take a pregnancy test, just in case.
I took the test. I waited. About 3 minutes later, a faint line had appeared!
Wait, what?! Am I pregnant? Immediately, I googled what a faint line on a pregnancy test means, and learned I was most likely pregnant because false positives are rare. However, I also learned that a faint line could mean I was pregnant and miscarried without knowing, or there are complications with this pregnancy.
Okay…so, I’m pregnant (but I also might not be). But I think I am, so YAY! I was ecstatic and overjoyed! Since Alex was at work and I wasn’t planning to tell a single soul yet, I giddily confided in Douglas that he was going to be a big brother!
Once Alex knew, it would be our “Triangle of Trust” and that’s how we’d keep it for several weeks.
I thought it would be cute to put the positive pregnancy test in an empty cosmetic box (as a decoy), wrap it up, and give it to Alex with a card for Valentine’s Day. In the card, part of my message said, “You’re the best dog daddy ever, and I’m sure you’re going to be an amazing real daddy too…hopefully soon!”.
When he got home, I sat him down and gave him the card and ‘gift’. He didn’t immediately catch on, so I spelled it out for him. I am most probably pregnant!
He was excited. But because I explained what a faint line could mean, we decided we’d take another test a few days later before getting too excited. We went out for dinner that night to celebrate anyway and it was pure bliss!
Three days later, another pregnancy test confirmed it with a solid line. WE WERE EXPECTING! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I found out on Valentine’s Day and we confirmed the pregnancy on Family Day! I was around 4 weeks and a couple days, and that would have put my due date in late October (a popular time for births in my family – even more perfect!).
During pregnancy, it’s like time stood still. I don’t know if it was the excitement or just my monkey mind. But all I could think about was being pregnant! I experienced classic early pregnancy symptoms, like sore/swollen breasts and fatigue. I would drop asleep around 9 p.m. and then wake up at 3 a.m. During those early morning hours, I read as much as I could. I downloaded pregnancy apps, ordered the books, and I think I read every possible article you could read on that stage of pregnancy.
My first doctor’s visit was a day after the second pregnancy test and things were moving along. We booked our dating ultrasound appointment for when I’d be 8 weeks. We filled out the online forms for 2 midwife clinics. I picked up the prenatal vitamins. We stocked our fridge with pregnancy-friendly foods. Alex and I even started a spreadsheet (classic us) to keep track of all the to-dos and milestones.
At 9 weeks we’d get prenatal screening done. At 10 weeks, we’d announce it to our parents (yes, we didn’t even want to tell them until after we knew we had a healthy baby). At 12 weeks, I’d make the announcement on Instagram/my blog, and at 14 weeks, we were planning to have our gender reveal. I marked each week in my calendar (dates that later had to be deleted).
All the while, there was this other side to my pregnancy – the anxiety-ridden side. I guess the best way to describe how I felt during pregnancy was cautiously optimistic. Why? Well, because of the looming fear of miscarriage from pretty much the outset.
I suppose, because I had heard the stories and knew of the risks, miscarriage was something I always understood to be a real possibility. It had recently happened to one of my best friends. I read the miscarriage stories: Gracie’s miscarriage story and the scare in her second pregnancy, Sasha’s story, and Ashley’s story. I actually read these stories multiple times to really understand what a miscarriage could be like. Mind you, when it actually happens, this doesn’t in any way diminish the horrible and painful impact.
Then, it HAPPENED. The thing I read about and most feared started happening to me. I started spotting on a Saturday. Some spotting is considered normal during the first trimester. But by Sunday, it hadn’t stopped and actually got a bit worse. SOMETHING WAS WRONG. I knew it. I immediately booked an appointment with my family doctor for the following day. After describing what was going on to him, he suggested that I go directly to the ER.
So, at 5.5 weeks pregnant, I went to Mt. Sinai around 2 p.m. on a Monday, without realizing that, several hours, lots of bleeding, a couple ultrasounds, and an emergency surgery later, I’d be leaving around 9 p.m. on the Tuesday…no longer carrying child.
Pregnancy Loss: Ectopic Pregnancy & Salpingostomy
This part of the story is the hardest to write. I feel a huge pit in my stomach and tear up whenever I think about it in detail. It feels like a scary nightmare because of how quickly the events transpired, and even though I’ve effectively put it behind me, it’s always going to be there.
At the hospital, the bleeding intensified, and my pain (which was at 2 when I entered) escalated to about a 6-7 over the course of a few hours. By now, Alex was with me in the waiting room, where we spent hours. When we finally saw an emerg doc, she suspected it could be an ectopic pregnancy because the hCG levels in my blood were below the normal amount, and ordered an ultrasound.
It wasn’t until around 2 a.m. that I had an ultrasound (there was only 1 ultrasound tech covering 3 hospitals). It was my first time having a transvaginal ultrasound and it was one of the worst parts about the whole ordeal. I was in excruciating pain. The tech was deadpan, barely spoke to me, and didn’t reveal anything. After the ultrasound, I had to wait for the results to be examined by a doctor.
More hours waiting, worrying, crying. At some point, I finally fell asleep.
A gynecologist woke me up and explained that it was most likely an ectopic pregnancy. But it couldn’t be confirmed 100% because the amount of free-flowing fluid in my abdomen made it difficult to see anything on the ultrasound. The fluid and blood in my body pointed to a possible rupture of the ectopic pregnancy, which is extremely serious and requires immediate surgery.
Imagine being hit with the news that you could lose anything from your fallopian tube, to the possibility of your whole uterus being removed (they have to tell you all possible scenarios). Best case scenario: opening me up and removing the ectopic pregnancy only (salpingostomy). Worst case scenario: hysterectomy. I googled feverishly. I asked all the questions, like why surgery right now instead of confirming with a second ultrasound? I wanted to believe it was pelvic inflammatory disease or some other complication.
At this point, I have to inform my family (who were on vacation in Trinidad) for the first time by text that, not only am I pregnant, but I’m also probably going to lose the baby because it’s an ectopic pregnancy.
I bawled. “Why me?”, is all I could think about. “Why did this have to happen to me?”. “Why did I have to be that 1%?”
I did get that second ultrasound, btw, which was just as painful as the first. But they couldn’t rule out an ectopic pregnancy, so surgery was confirmed. Thankfully, laparoscopic.
The hours between then and when I had my surgery were a blur. I have no recollection of the surgery because I was put under. I remember being wheeled on a stretcher into a sterile operating room. I think I counted 7 people who were all speaking to each other and to me, as I lay on the table while they attached various things to me. The last memory I have is of the anaesthesiologist covering my nose and mouth and telling me to take deep breaths.
I woke up groggy and agitated, with a pain in my throat from being intubated. I was in a recovery room. Alex came over to me. It was all over.
Apparently, fewer than 50% of women actually experience symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, like pain or bleeding. So, I consider myself extremely fortunate that the spotting occurred and we caught this early, because this is something I could have died from.
I know that I was in the best hands possible at Mt. Sinai, recognized for being one of the leading hospitals in the world for Obstetrics & Gynaecology. The doctors treated me extremely well, answered all of my questions, and acted quickly to help me. They removed the ectopic pregnancy without having to remove my fallopian tube.
An ectopic pregnancy is just one of those really unfortunate things that can happen. There is nothing we could have done to prevent it. The timing of it was also just a couple weeks before lockdown in Ontario due to COVID-19, which meant I didn’t have to go to the hospital in the middle of a pandemic.
This is how I’ve made sense of my situation. And for all these reasons, I am grateful.
I recovered well from surgery, left only with 3 small scars as a reminder.
Gradually, I watched, as the signs of pregnancy left my body. My breasts got smaller. The swelling around my abdomen diminished. My hCG levels returned to 0. Until it was just me, Alex, and Douglas again – our Triangle of Trust. Maybe one day our triangle will become a square, and maybe it won’t.
This year, I watched on Instagram as it felt like EVERYBODY announced they were expecting. As of the date of writing this post, I would have been 22 weeks and 5 days pregnant.
I share this story for anyone who might have gone through an ectopic pregnancy or might have experienced pregnancy loss. You are not alone. You should not feel ashamed, defective, or any less worthy of love and respect.
I am doing much better than I was a few months ago, and what’s helped me pull through is leaning on the words that I previously wrote in this post:
I am happy with and love myself. I know that I am not any less of a woman if I don’t have a baby.
I know that my identity as a woman isn’t defined by whether or not I become a mother.
I am a woman, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a dog mom (and that’s already a lot of roles to handle!).
I may never end up having a pregnancy announcement of my own to share, which is sad on the one hand, but on the other, it’s really okay too.