Warning: Um. Sad.
2012 was the year my husband and I started to really try and start our family. We’d already spent our 2nd wedding anniversary, in June 2012, heartbroken when I suffered a miscarriage at five weeks. In the intervening months, we kept trying and “got lucky” on Christmas Eve.
I knew better and to keep it all under my hat until the magic 10-week mark. We told a very small number of friends and I made my first appointment for 8 weeks out.
I had some lower abdominal pain that I considered was just my body adjusting to growing a person inside. I woke up the last week of January with vicious morning sickness. After spending the morning throwing up and being miserable, I started to also get serious neck pain on the right side of my neck. I presumed I pulled a muscle.
I didn’t get better as the day progressed, so I called for a late appointment with my GP to try and figure out what was up, informing them I was pregnant. My doc examined me and diagnosed me with a bladder infection. My neck started spasming while she was examining me and I screamed in pain and cried, it hurt so bad. I don’t do that.
After some hilarious comedies of errors getting my urine sample, I was sent home with scripts for antibiotics and anti-nausea pills for my morning sickness.
Two days later, February 1, still fairly miserable from my neck hurting and my bladder infection, my doctor called and told me that my urine cultures were negative. They strongly encouraged me to call my OB/GYN and get in for an ultrasound, immediately.
The receptionist tried to convince me that everything was normal, I was gestating a person these things are normal, and to wait for my appointment the following week. I protested and insisted. They got me in that day.
The ultrasound tech couldn’t find the fetus using the external method. She needed to use the ultrasound wand to check internally. Yeah, that one. I could see on the screen as she moved the ultrasound around to check everything out.
She told me that she found the fetus, but it was not in my uterus. It was implanted in my right fallopian tube. If you didn’t know, babies can’t grow there. Ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening to the mother.
I heard the heartbeat. At 7 weeks, your baby already has a heartbeat. I didn’t know that.
The tech went off to find a doctor to see me because we needed to take care of this, immediately. I sent my husband a text message that the pregnancy was ectopic and that we’d be losing the baby. I didn’t understand the severity of my condition. At all. I thought they were going to administer something to end the pregnancy and send me home to follow up in a few days.
My doctor told me that she was admitting me to the hospital for surgery and they’d have to remove the tube. She was straightforward and said that the worst case scenario was a full hysterectomy but she didn’t anticipate that being necessary. I was devastated.
I left and called my husband to tell him I needed surgery and he needed to leave work. He was an hour away. He told me to call my best friend, one of the small crew of people that gets early notice of wtf is up in our lives. She asked if she could come to the hospital and sit with me.
I am a fiercely private person (there’s a reason you are reading this rather than hearing it in my voice or face-to-face) and my instinct was to tell her no. I would be fine. But I surprised myself and told her yes. I’ve never been happier to disobey my instincts yet.
And then I did something that baffles my doctors to this day: I drove myself to the hospital. By all rights and logic, I should have been doubled over in pain, unable to do anything, least of all drive. Not only did I drive myself, I parked ridiculously far away, too and walked all the way around the hospital to get to the emergency entrance. I didn’t even valet park my car. When I do give birth, I will be a fucking champion of pain tolerance, I can only assume.
I sat in the waiting room with my BFF for about 25 minutes trying not to cry and concocting an elaborate plan to say she was my husband’s sister so she could come back with me. She said she’d gotten his permission for the clever ruse. Why not my sister? She’s nearly a foot taller than me… No one would have believed it.
I was admitted, hooked up to IVs, blood drawn, and I think a super classy urine sample taken in the emergency bay with a portable potty in the presence of two nurses (one male) and my friend. Dignity? Bah.
My doctor, who was also going to be my surgeon came in and ran through everything with me after an initial exam by the prior doctor on call at the hospital. When my doctor asked me if I had any questions at all, I asked her when I get my cyborg replacement tube? She patted me on the arm like, “That’s nice, sweetie, but no.” I am officially initiated as a Lathrop – I joke in the face of fear and harrowing hospital visits.
My surgery was apparently uneventful and nothing unexpected or otherwise exciting happened. They removed my right fallopian tube, orphaning my right ovary. They also drained the blood that had built up around my liver and was putting pressure on my neck on the right side. So that problem went away, too.
I was given a doctor’s order for two weeks of rest and to avoid long car rides during that time. Eating could resume, normally. I would not be denied Jell-O, however. That shit is required when I am laid up and unwell.
This isn’t a story about my recovery or my ensuing months-long depression, so I’ll leave those for another time.
I never really felt any fallopian pain until about 45 minutes before my surgery. That was because at that point, my tube had completely ruptured. If I had waited for my 8 week scheduled appointment, I would have been dead in hours.
The key here is to listen to your body. Some pain just isn’t normal and okay in the early stages of pregnancy. Abdominal pain plus neck pain plus vomiting are signs of something seriously wrong. Do not convince yourself it’s nothing and everything is ok, because “some discomfort is normal” and “it’s just morning sickness.” Your discomfort may be someone else’s doubled-over, crippling agony.
Or in my case, my discomfort was my brush with death. She looked at me and said, “Not today.”