My Ectopic Journey

When I was younger I always imagined that I would be married by 26, have 3 children by 35 and completely secure in my life. I know I was young and naïve but it didn’t seem like that far a reach?

Nothing so far has come easy to me. I mean don’t get me wrong I’ve had an easy life, a fun life, a life full of love, laughter and joy. I dance my way through my teens, fell in love in my twenties and found my career in my thirties. It all sounds great, doesn’t it?

In reality though, although this story sounds in order there have been more bumps in the roads than my carriage could take and it has led me to this final and horrendous pot hole. 

I fell pregnant with my son when I was 23 and wasn’t with Steven then. He and I had fallen for each other but it was very complicated. We never actually properly got together until Lewis was older. We were happy, things were going great. I was studying my PGDE Education and was finding the balance between mumming and learning tricky. Everything else got put onto the backburner, including my smear. 

I know it seems really stupid to say but we had never had cancer in our family and I didn’t have any symptoms that anything was wrong. After the third letter and a year later I made time during the school holidays to get the deed done. I always hated the thought of it and I recoiled at the thought. However, I had the time and the letters were stressing me out. 

After the smear I felt really sore for days and actually had a small bleed but I put it down to being sensitive or maybe the nurse being rough- I thought no more about it .

We went off on holiday to Dubai (one of my most favourite holidays ever). It was the first holiday where we were actually able to relax- Lewis was older and much more independent, there were amazing facilities for children and the resort was all inclusive to a very high standard. The Elemis toiletries topped it all off. 

On returning home, a few pounds heavier and with a healthy glow, I had a letter waiting for me. At this point I had completely forgotten about that dreaded smear. As I read the letter my heart sank and I felt sick to the pit of my stomach. 

‘We have found abnormal cells…’. I thought about it quickly and remembered that I knew a few people who had got this letter and it was simply a case of re doing the test. I called the surgery. After A long wait a doctor called back and explained that unfortunately my changes were severe and it wasn’t a case for ‘re-testing’. I had CIN3 and was being referred to the hospital for further investigation and treatment. I cried.

I cried, Steven cried, my family cried and I cried some more. In fact, up until that point, I don’t think I had ever cried so much (yes I have led a pretty sheltered life, I suppose). I thought about dying. I thought about leaving Lewis motherless when he finally had the secure family unit he deserved. I thought about Steven- would he cope, how would he manage, would he meet someone new, would they be kind to my child. I had no life insurance and nothing to leave behind. Looking back now it all seemed so dramatic and OTT. When faced with risk your body (and mind) seems to go into this fight or flight mode. I feel like I shut down. 

I googled the life out of cervical cancer and knew every discussion thread from Jo’s inside out. I knew CIN 3 wasn’t good, I knew it was termed ‘stage zero cancer’ in the USA (which terrified the life out of me) and I knew that I was a small voice in amongst 1000 others who were fighting real cancer. Although it terrified me I was compelled to find out everything. In a way it was a good thing as it made me realise there were far sadder stories and that in most of the threads I had seen I would be ok. 

I went to the hospital within a week, YAY NHS! I was in and out within 40 minutes. They quickly, but carefully, performed LLETZ treatment. It’s a really quick procedure that they use to burn off and pre-cancerous cells. It then seemed like forever waiting on the next letter confirming if they had got it all (clear margins). Thankfully they did. It was at this point that I new I wanted another child. My chances had been slightly reduced and this scared me. I never wanted Lewis to be an only child but it had never seemed like the right time. Well bugger I though, if not now then when?! 

Within a month of getting the treatment I was pregnant with Charlotte. I had always dreamt of having another baby and being more settled. This was it. Granted it wasn’t as easy a pregnancy as the first but I was pregnant, baby was healthy and although I was suffering with what I can only describe as pre-natal depression (is that even a thing?) I was elated to be having another baby!

Charlotte Elizabeth King was born on 30thAugust 2017 (for some reason I always forget her actual birthday?!). She was healthy, perfect and made my heart burst with pride. I fell in love instantly and as soon as she graced us with her presence my pre-natal depression disappeared. I was enveloped in love. I still am. 

I know I am incredibly lucky to have two healthy, happy and loving children. They really fill me with joy every day (although don’t get me wrong, I also spend half my day pulling my hair out over lost football boots and tantrums!). I think the way I feel made me realise that I want more. I would love to have more children. I feel like your heart just gets bigger each time. I really long for that feeling when they place the baby in your arms and you just look at each and instantly overwhelmed with love. It’s that feeling that is my happy place- pure and simple love. Steven on the other hand is happy with two- one boy, one girl as he always tells me. For this reason, I would never have forced him into having a third.

So, when I found out I was pregnant on 24thJanuary I had 2 seconds of absolute, unadulterated joy. It was then rudely interrupted with hypovolemic shock. 

I only work 2 days a week as I am so lucky to spend my other days being a stay at home Mummy. I love my days off and having that bonding time. It’s truly special. The only thing that can ruin my day off buzz is being landed with a period. Now prior to having the COIL (IUD) I had really light periods but since the COIL It has been crazy. *talking period so skip to the next star if this makes you feel sick… I honestly bleed for the full 7 days and it is heavy. I mean anaemia style heavy. Changing every 2 hours heavy. Like life interrupting and problematic. Like murder scene heavy. *I woke up on the 24th, not due a period and with no bleeding, but with horrible period pains. I eventually lost the rag and called the doctors. I knew I wouldn’t get through but I wanted to make a stand. I was going to get this bloody COIL removed. I had spoken about it for months but today was the last straw. In reality I didn’t think I would even get through. I mean are you really a resident of Scotland if you get through to the doctors on the first ring AND get a morning appointment? Still high fiving myself for that bit of luck. 

Steven did me a solid and dropped Lewis off at school and I dropped Charlotte off at my parents’ house (which conveniently is 2 minutes from my house and the doctors). When my Mum came out to the car to collect Charlotte she could see I was sore so she actually ended up meeting me in the doctors (my Dad was not working so was staying home with Charlotte). 

I remember sitting in the waiting room with the pain increasing but chatting to a Mum from playgroup because I didn’t want to seem rude. It actually makes me laugh thinking about it because I was literally pinching myself to try and divert the pain. 

After a 40 minute wait the doctor finally called my name. she had a student and so I think she was extra thorough. She did the usual questions, asked about contraceptive, took my blood pressure, temp etc. She then felt my stomach and had her student do so to. This was sore. I actually cried. I don’t know if she was just shit hot at her doctoring or she was trying to be by the book for her student she immediately called the Surgical Assessment Unit at the hospital to get me a bed. She suspected appendicitis. So did I at this point because my waiting room google search had confirmed it (as you do!). 

Heading out the door she passed me a urine sample bottle and said if I needed a wee whilst waiting they might want this. I quickly went to the toilets.

My mum drove my car back to hers and Dad offered to take us up, I never bothered to call Steven as I am a bit notorious for always self-diagnosing and I wanted a real doctor confirmed diagnosis before I embarrassed myself. 

Every bump in the road felt awful. Every small movement made me wince. We were offered a wheelchair because I was walking so hunched but because I was so embarrassed I declined. I didn’t want to look like a moron if it was trapped wind (yes, this had also popped up on my google search). 

After what felt like an eternity, we found SAU. They were so short staffed that my Mum was getting annoyed. She could see I was sore and was clearly worried but again I was adamant that she control herself and just wait.

At this point I was really sore. I lay on one of the beds and they gave me painkillers (paracetamol). The doctor did my obs, felt my stomach and as a second thought whilst she was taking my blood we passed her my urine sample. I had actually forgotten it until I saw Mum move my coat. It was in the pocket and I didn’t want it sitting there overnight if I was going to be getting my appendix out. We passed it over and thought no more. Within 10 minutes they were back. I was writhing in pain. I knew something was wrong. “Aimee, do you know you are pregnant?”. I remember her face. I remember the minute she said it and how, even through the pain, I felt elated and then quickly shattered. This pain wouldn’t be a good thing. She went on to say that with this new information I was presenting with symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. Now, being a google doctor I mentally ticked off the symptoms. I had a sore stomach but I had nothing else, no should pain, no bleeding and no headache. It didn’t feel real. It was around about that time that I passed out. I have never fainted before. It was surreal. I couldn’t hear, my body shook and I couldn’t see. 

That’s when the sh*t really went down. As I came back I was surrounded by people; doctors, nurses, my Mum, Steven was there and porters. 

I went to the pregnancy support unit, I was thinking straight and was really struggling to focus. I don’t remember much of what the staff said all I remember was how lovely they were. How honestly fantastic they were. That is the NHS. Even low on staff and under pressure they were so unbelievably kind. My scan didn’t go to well- they couldn’t see much as I had blood in my pelvis. It was only during surgery that they would find the 1.5 litres of blood. In a blur, but clearly explained, I signed a form saying that they could remove my fallopian tube and ovary (if needed but highly likely). I also signed a form about sending the ectopic pregnancy to Mortonhall Crematorium. This made me so sad and I think it was at this point that I realised I hadn’t stopped crying since she told me I was having an ectopic pregnancy.

I woke up, 4 hours later, in recovery and in a daze. Does anyone actually remember recovery? I don’t know what I said or what she said or what patients were around me but I do remember asked what I had left. I also remember the nurse being so unbelievable lovely and warm. She made me feel like I was talking to a friend, something that on hindsight was really needed. I’ll always be so grateful for that conversation, even although I can’t remember any of it.

I got back to the ward where Steven and my parents were waiting. I still knew nothing. I waited for what felt like hours but I was on morphine so I have no clue what time or day it was. A nurse came by with a pessary. Even although I was out of it I wanted to know what I was taking. She didn’t know but came back saying it was something that would remove the remaining pregnancy. It made me feel sick. I didn’t want it but I knew they wouldn’t have given me it if it wasn’t essential. I took it and cried. 

It was a short time later that a young surgeon came in to talk to me. My surgeon (who had stayed late and essentially saved my life) finally clocked off (quite rightly!!). They couldn’t locate the ectopic pregnancy but had found bleeding from my ovary which they had cauterized and thought the bleeding had come from a Corpus Luteum. Here’s something I didn’t know… when your egg is fertilised your body creates a small cyst on your ovaries called a Corpus Luteum. It feeds the baby and provides the progesterone needed for growth until the baby finds the placenta (I think that’s rights?) It was this, they think, that had ruptured causing a bleed. They were still unsure however as this seemed like an inordinate amount of blood. They ectopic pregnancy was nowhere to be seen. This meant one of 2 things. A) Its had implanted successfully in my womb (85% chance and the best thing I could have heard) or B) it had been drained out with the huge amount of blood although they thought this was unlikely. 

I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, desperate for a third child but in a position, that normally would have allowed for it. I was on the COIL, we had discussed and agreed it wasn’t right and I was planning on going back to work on a full time permanent basis. It felt like fate. I thought back; I had stopped smoking after a heavy night out back in November, my boobs had been sore and I had been quite tired.  I had really wanted a third child but would have forced it on Steven so this just seemed like fate deciding for us and I was elated. 

I told anyone who would listen… I was pretty sure I was still pregnant and we were having a baby. I knew it wasn’t confirmed and I knew I was to be retested 48 hours later but my gut feeling said yes. Why would it not be? It was fate after all. 

The 2 days were sore and dragged but eventually they re0tested my blood. It wasn’t good.

I was miscarrying or the baby was gone.

My hormone levels had dropped sharply. They never even bothered scanning me so I knew then that the dream was over.

It’s a weird feeling losing a baby you never really had. I had a mix of emotions. I was devastated, I was embarrassed, I was ashamed and I was broken. I know some of the feelings I experienced were irrational but I’m being honest and that’s how I felt.

We were discharged. I cried the whole way home. I struggled to hold back the tears as I held my children after missing them for days. I lied and said I was all better when I knew I felt worse now than I had in hypovolemic shock.

I don’t know if this is normal but for days I didn’t function. I didn’t get dressed, I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone, I just wanted to be on my own. I knew I was isolating myself and I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do but I felt lower than I had ever felt before. I had some really dark thoughts. I wanted to speak to someone and just outpour how I felt. I googled miscarriage support in my area and couldn’t find anything. I didn’t want to use the help line because I knew I wouldn’t get all my words out amongst the tears and snot. This sounds so pathetic but I didn’t want to share my feelings with anyone close. I didn’t want to be judged by anyone I knew and I didn’t want to worry anyone. 

I had recently joined Instgram and over the months had been following another Mum. She was so lovely, funny and had experienced mental health issues . More importantly she didn’t know me. I could outpour everything and not worry about her calling to ‘check in’. I messaged her and just outpoured everything. It was the best thing I could have done. She was lovely in response but I realised that talking about it was the thing that made me feel better. I felt less burdened. If I hadn’t decided to do that (on the back of seeing one of her posts) then I think I would still be in my PJ’S crying (It was Abbie from @badmamsclub )Don’t get me wrong, I’m low. I honestly feel shit and could still cry but I’m putting on a better face. I’m smiling and I’m managing my emotions better. I’ve seen some friends and family and I’ve held it together.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over this. I can’t imagine having a peaceful sleep again (without the anxiety and fear that I will die of internal bleeding through my sleep) or not crying as I’m lying in bed thinking about the baby that never was, because yes I thought about names and imagined a life for it, but what I am saying is I know it will be ok. I know that for now I am here. My children have a mother, I have a loving family and a good life. I have no other worries (in the grand scheme of things) and I am blessed for it all. I am suffering from (what I hope is) a temporary mental health issue. It’s an illness on the inside which I can work on to get better. I might not always be happy but I can remember to be positive. 

I wanted to write this to share my experience and because writing is really therapeutic for me. Find what works for you. It’s good to talk, it’s ok to feel low and it’s important to remember the positives to help get you through the dark times. And if all else fails and you feel so overwhelmed with it all speak to someone you don’t know, you can get it all out. 

If you or anyone you know if suffering due to an ectopic loss here are a few places you can go for help:

Telephone helpline: 02077332653

Email: ept@ectopic.org.uk

Website: https://www.ectopic.org.uk/patients/how-we-can-help/#helpline

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org

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