***TRIGGER WARNING*** An Ectopic Journey
Story by: Heather Huie
“I need you to get me off of this mountain now” I remember telling my husband, as he carefully maneuvered the tight wintery switchbacks. He was calm, reassuring me that he was doing his best, but I could see the worry in his eyes. It was Christmas Eve and we didn’t know it at the time, but my fallopian tube was rupturing. We knew it was a possibility since I had been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy 15 days beforehand, but the methotrexate was finally working and we really believed that we were in the clear.
I had spent the past two weeks trying to grieve a loss that wasn’t over, and I had found some sort of solace in knowing that if the methotrexate worked, I would be able to absorb our baby back into my body. I clung to this hope, convincing myself that the medication would allow me to keep the baby forever, as if somehow it wouldn’t be a loss at all. I couldn’t bear the thought of the doctors slicing into my body, hurting the baby even more, but then I reluctantly whispered to my husband on the drive to the ER, I think we’re going into surgery tonight.
I was right. I think I knew deep down that I was rupturing, but I put my game face on and bore my way through a pain so intense that I began to feel like I was floating. My organs were screaming but the hospital was oddly quiet, and the night passed by eerily like time didn’t exist at all. The corridor lights were dimmed, and we watched the clock turn to midnight while we reminisced about when we got engaged exactly a year ago. Terrence carefully climbed into the hospital cot with me, and we just held each other for hours with our faces pressed together as if his breath was the only medicine I needed.
When the doctor came back with my lab results, she sat down next to us and calmly explained that my blood counts were plummeting and her concerns that I might be internally bleeding. Something in her eyes suggested that surgery was imminent even though she let us make the decision for ourselves. It was 4:00am and the OR would be ready for me by 5:00am. That hour was full of unknowns and complete terror for me, but also some of the most beautiful moments of my life.
In that small window of time, we found a strength in our relationship that had never been tested before. We didn’t make any phone calls to our families, but instead just savored the little time we had before I would get taken downstairs. It suddenly felt right to name the baby, and without saying a word, said goodbye to the fleeting time in our lives when we were almost parents. Maybe we still are – or so the death certificate suggests – but I really don’t know.
Before long, it was 4:50am and we were in pre-op. The doctor was drawing the little X’s where the incisions would be when I had to take off my wedding rings. I hated it all, and I remember handing the bands to my husband while he kept telling me how he’s never loved me more than that moment. I believed him, even though I went silent. Fear took over my body, but he just kept reassuring me with the same kindness that made me fall in love with him in the first place years ago.
Then they wheeled me away. Away from my husband and into the florescent icy cold operating room. The table was the size of my hips and there was a whole team of doctors swirling around me. I couldn’t understand what they were saying as they strapped me onto the metal surface and began pressing the anesthesia onto my face. I drifted off and they cut into my failing body only to find that the tube had ruptured while blood was pooling into my abdomen.
My husband was growing anxious in the waiting room when the time I was supposed to be out of surgery came and went. Finally, the doctor would go in to tell him that everything was successful, even though they couldn’t save the tube. I woke up freezing cold, still scared, but already feeling so much better. Terrence relayed everything from the surgeon while he put my wedding rings back on just as he had three months ago at our wedding. The finality of everything began to sink in; I was no longer pregnant, but I was also no longer in a life-threatening situation.
I am now trying to make this body feel like home again. Sore and scarred, these marks are stark reminders that biologically speaking, I am less now than I was before the surgery. But what I have gained is still more sacred: I gained strength and found unconditional love within myself, even when I knew that I would never bring this baby earthside. I think that is the true definition of womanhood: to give up your body and soul in the darkest of hours, desperate to still be the best mother you can be even if it almost kills you. My story is rare, but it’s not untold: 1.5% of pregnancies are ectopic and any pregnancy loss, no matter how early, is profoundly life changing. This sisterhood is real and these losses deserve the same voice that any healthy birth is given.