I’ve been so lucky to have achieved pregnancy twice in my life but unfortunately I have never had a baby. Both pregnancies were “out of place” (ectopic), the most recent being last week. I’m home now preparing physically and mentally to return to work.
I am thirty-five and my husband, John, is thirty-seven. We are one of those mystery infertile couples unable to be diagnosed with a clear reason for our inability to get pregnant. This was based on multiple tests to help identify why I hadn’t become pregnant in nearly nine years of marriage that never incorporated birth control.
I was only able to achieve pregnancy through Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI). This was the first route recommended to us by the infertility specialist. To our surprise, the first IUI worked! Wow! Why didn’t we do this long ago we thought? We kept the good news from everyone. We wanted to make sure all signs were pointing to a successful pregnancy before we shared anything. From the time of a positive home pregnancy test to just before the first ultrasound at six weeks, my hormone levels were rising exactly how they should (66 percent every other day). I had no awkward pains or bleeding. I thought we were sailing right through this and I didn’t even have a twinge of morning sickness.
In my sixth week of pregnancy my husband and I were scheduled for the first ultrasound to learn if the implantation occurred where it should have, in the uterus. The sonographer didn’t say much when she began the procedure. She said she needed to get the doctor though. As they both looked at the screen, she said something to the doctor about a tube. I felt this weight of uncertainty cast over me. Why wasn’t I hearing … congratulations! Everything looks great! The doctor instead said that we had a successful pregnancy but it wasn’t a healthy pregnancy. The embryo had implanted in the left fallopian tube. Due to its size and proof of cardiac activity, I had to go into emergency surgery that day. We went from expecting to call our parents with surprising news directly after our appointment to sharing there was good news that turned bad and I was headed to surgery. Ectopic pregnancies are emergency situations because of the possibility of the tube rupturing causing internal bleeding.
Prior to surgery, I was told that the tube the embryo was implanted would be assessed and if possible saved. The doctor also would assess the right tube and if it were in poor condition would also be removed. After waking in the recovery area, I learned the left tube was unsalvageable but the right tube appeared to be in good condition and was left untouched. I felt relief because our attempt to try naturally or by IUI was still an option. We hadn’t been left with the only resort of costly In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
John and I were very disappointed obviously but knew there was no point in dwelling on something that couldn’t be changed and we had to look ahead. We were told we couldn’t immediately proceed with IUI until I experienced two normal menstrual cycles. We waited three months and then went on to attempt two more IUIs that were unsuccessful. The third finally worked. Overall, a period of ten months passed from one success to the next because of lapses between treatments due to some frustration, exhaustion, time consumption and cost of trying.
The second pregnancy demonstrated the same signs of normalcy. The hormone levels were increasing properly and there were no side pains that tend to indicate ectopic pregnancies. We were cautiously optimistic and felt we honestly couldn’t be struck twice. I was quietly confident until the final few days before the first ultrasound. I kept thinking, what if, what if? On the way to the office I asked myself if I could go through this again if it were bad news. I really didn’t know that I could. The time and emotions involved can really take a toll. Starting over at square one … could I? Could we?
The sonographer started the procedure and within a few seconds disappointingly said it was another ectopic. I’m glad I was lying down because all support went out of my body. It was unbelievable and I didn’t want to look back at John. They eye contact would have made me lose all composure.
For the next hour and a half the staff coordinated where my surgery could happen that evening. The doctor preferred that evening for fear my tube could rupture during the night. Just after 3 p.m., I was told I’d be in surgery at 5:30 or 6. The emotional roller coaster of being perceivably pregnant to having it stopped within a matter of hours is indescribable. It happens so fast your emotions can’t process it. Other things are flying through your mind at the same time as well…cancelling work and social appointments for several days, scheduling sick time at work and sharing the sad news with those who knew and cared. I went on automatic drive and into survival mode.
I have to admit that I thought I’d be worse the second time around but somehow I found a way to manage better. I think it was because I knew what was coming. I knew how the surgery would go, I knew what recovery would be like and I knew that I’d never have another ectopic pregnancy again. Before heading to the hospital I confirmed with my doctor that she could take the right tube. I knew I would be tubeless, but it would make it impossible to ever experience this devastation again.
The stress of not knowing which way the pregnancy was headed before the ultrasound was eliminated and we now had a clear outcome. Plus, there is no question about which direction we will go next. We’ll start at square one and try to become pregnant through IVF—our only family-starting option now.
I will meet with my doctor to understand the IVF process that by initial research I learned involves time, patience, hope and a lot of shots. Mentally, I think my husband and I are able to try. We have time to understand, accept and prepare since we won’t begin the process until the beginning of 2010. We need to be in the right place just as the embryo will be this time.