A suspected ectopic pregnancy
In my last blog I ended with the deep inner knowing that some big changes were about to occur. Even within myself, I wasn’t prepared for how big those changes were to be.
The day after we came back home after settling Mum into her new living space, I awoke with an all familiar feeling. The hangover that can only be from one thing if you consumed zero alcohol the day before.
I went to the pharmacy and didn’t even wait to get home. I went into the public toilet, peed on the stick, and by the time I got back to the car, that little blue cross had appeared indicating I was pregnant.
I had been feeling distant as I do when dealing with things like grief, and this, for some reason, made me feel it all the more. We had tried two or three times and I was quite shocked that it happened so fast. It took us over three years to conceive Nahlo, and even though I’d heard that the second time around is more effective because the body has done it all before so knows what to do, it still came as a surprise to me.
As usual, I was open about it. People laughed because the way I would casually relay the information was as if I was telling them I went for a walk along the beach that morning. I was fairly unattached to the idea because it was still so early. We had a miscarriage before Nahlo, and during that process I realised how common it was in the first trimester. I did, however, call our midwife. Maria had been with us for Nahlo, and I wouldn’t want to have anyone else with Brendan and I for the journey, if this little moonbeam decided to stick around.
At six weeks I started to experience cramping and bleeding. She suggested that if we wanted to know whether we had actually miscarried, or to just check in, go to the hospital and get a scan and bloods done to see what was happening. We had planned not to have a scan in these early weeks, but decided with these events to just go and see.
I’ve got to say, despite all the staff at Tweed Hospital being incredible, it’s not the nicest place to be with all the Covid saga hanging about. I was in the hospital all day and as day fell into night, with no answers and me pushing to go home, I realised that this wasn’t just some regular miscarriage. We were waiting for results from the ultrasound and I started to get agitated after being there for almost eight hours. Finally I was told that it was suspected that I had an ectopic pregnancy. They wanted to keep me in overnight, but I felt fine and just wanted to go home. I signed some paperwork to discharge myself and was told that if I experienced any form of pain or bleeding to call an ambulance. With the words “life threatening” being used a fair bit when I was trying to leave early, I started to take it more seriously.
I didn’t know much about an ectopic pregnancy before these moments. I was told that it was likely the baby had lodged itself in the fallopian tube or the ovary and was growing there, and that if it ruptured before they were able to remove it, I could die. A few of the nurses seemed fairly concerned and I even had to stop one of them from telling me stories about how she had witnessed death multiple times through ectopic pregnancies.
Brendan, being a worrier, moved deeply into concern. He was gutted at the thought of a miscarriage, but this was a whole different ball game. The next day, I came back into the hospital with pain. Pain is a funny thing – as someone who has a pretty high pain threshold, I was having trouble wondering if what I was feeling was pain or not. The way that the hospital staff were treating the situation, preferring that I stay in hospital during this process, definitely added weight to the situation. After experiencing cramping for four hours, we decided it was best that I go back into the hospital, so I drove myself in.
My first night in the hospital, I actually felt fine. They wanted to keep me in for a second night, but I convinced them again to let me go back home and return the next day. Due to Covid, Nahlo was not allowed to come in and visit me. Again, I promised that I would call an ambulance at any sign of pain or bleeding. The hospital is only 10 minutes from home, so back and forth I went, getting blood tests to observe what my hormone levels were doing. They were going up, which indicated that there was a pregnancy somewhere inside of me, but not where it should be. This was determined by the fact that they couldn’t find anything in the ultrasound.
Back at the hospital the next day, I had one last ultrasound to triple check that this wasn’t a viable pregnancy, then was prepped right away for surgery. I had prepared myself for losing a fallopian tube or ovary or both. It was a Sunday, and because I was stable I was hooked up to a drip and had to wait for other patients with more urgent needs to be operated on before me. I had been fasting since the night before, and as the day went on I progressively became more unwell from dehydration. My blood pressure dropped and I could do nothing but lie in bed and wait. After almost 12 hours of waiting, I was wheeled into the theatre for surgery.
The result? Not a whole lot. It was a mystery. I was grateful that all my insides had been left pretty much intact. They took two polyps, gave me two stitches, let the fluid out of two cysts, took the lining of my womb and pumped me full of antibiotics and painkillers for the following two days while I had to stay in the hospital. Not seeing Nahlo and hearing his little voice over the phone telling me behind tears that he wanted me to come home was hard.
As I have said, all of the staff in the hospital were brilliant, but the environment is a very difficult place for me to get better in. The cleaning regime due to Covid is full on. I shared a room with three other beds that sometimes would need to get changed, and this toxic and hardcore chemical is literally poured accross the matress, pillows and floor. It is then scrubbed and left to soak in. The smell is incredibly vile and toxic, and the burning sensation from that alone was enough to make my eyes, nose and throat sore. It also baffles me no end the amount of sugar they feed you when you are trying to heal.
On day three they said that it would be best if I stayed in until an ectopic was ruled out. It wasn’t in my tubes or on my ovaries, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t hiding somewhere else. They took my bloods to see if the hormone levels had dropped. I literally crossed all my fingers and toes because the idea of going in for yet another surgery did not sit well with me. It was less about the surgery and more about being cooped up in the hospital away from my family for another three days that was most unbearable.
Gratefully, my hormone levels went down, although not as much as they would have liked, and I was discharged, although with not many answers and not completely ruling out an ectopic. I was still ordered to call an ambulance if there was any bleeding or pain.
I was so out of it that it wasn’t until I saw a message come through on Brendan’s family Whatsapp group wishing Brendan and his brother happy birthday, that I realised it was, in fact, his birthday. I felt like shit that I had forgotten because Brendan is right into celebrating birthdays, but he was super understanding. We decided to pretend that this day was not his birthday and that we would celebrate it on Saturday instead.
It was a Tuesday that I was able to come home and Friday would be when I would get a call to discuss the results from the surgery and my last blood tests. I pretty much lay around in bed feeling physically battered and doped out on painkillers. I’m not the best at lying around doing nothing, but the anesthetic completely knocked me around. All of the inside of my mouth was really sore and due to the tube being pulled out of my throat too quickly, my throat was raw and my epiglottis had been well and truly stretched and was literally sitting on the back of my tongue aggravating my gag reflex. My eyes were really sore and the fogginess I was feeling was next level. Obviously, an incision in my belly button and two other incisions in my lower abdomen made moving around fairly painful.
Nahlo was feeling stressed and clingy, not wanting me to be out of sight and getting emotional at seemingly small things. This kind of stuff is hard on our children. I usually pick him up, cuddle him, chase him and do all of those things that having a three-year-old child involves. Nahlo has a really empathetic nature and was very understanding in his own way, not demanding these things that I was unable to do. He still wanted to sleep by my side, and on the first night he accidentally threw his leg across me, kicking me in the guts. It blew the air out of me and he burst into tears saying sorry Mamma, sorry Mamma. He’s been so gentle, always wanting to help carry things, putting my socks on and helping me in and out of bed.
On Friday, I got a phone call from the hospital – there were still really no answers other than the fact that they were yet to find the location of this pregnancy. I couldn’t really understand the lady due to a heavy accent and seemingly being in a rush, but they wanted me back in on Monday to do more blood tests. So into the weekend I went, 10 days after my first hospital visit and the high alert suspicion of this ectopic journey.
Monday came around and off I went to the hospital for more blood tests. A few hours later, I got a call telling me that my hormone levels were on the rise again. My body was still growing this pregnancy despite not knowing where it was, despite opening me up to find nothing, despite my hormone levels going down in the expectation of a miscarriage taking place or having already happened. So it was now urgent, again, that this suspected ectopic was found. This would be my first full meltdown during this experience. Poor Nahlo became distressed and as I pulled myself together, he wiped my face with a tissue asking if I was all better. In a few hours I was to go back into the hospital for another ultrasound. I packed a bag anticipating another possible night in hospital.
Throughout these hospital visits, Nahlo and Brendan would drop me off and take their scooters to explore the surrounding parks and playgrounds until I was finished. My main concern was always being told suddenly that I had to urgently be admitted for surgery, leaving no time to explain to Nahlo myself that I couldn’t come home with him and Brendan just yet.
During the ultrasound, they searched all of my internal organs in hope to find this pregnancy. Apparently, an ectopic is usually found in the fallopian tubes or on an ovary, but they can also be found in organs, the stomach, or basically floating somewhere randomly within the body. How bizarre! An appointment was made the following day for me to go and talk about the next phase, which would most likely be further surgery or medication to help end this pregnancy.
The next day I went in to get the results, which were so mind boggling I’m not sure how I’m going to relay it. But here goes.
The doctor who actually did the procedure saw me and explained he was mystified. He took out the pictures of the surgery (enough to make me pass out – I’m not good with blood and guts kind of stuff) and laid out all the blood tests and ultrasounds I’d had, along with all of the notes that had been collected along the way. He explained to me all of the reasons they were on high alert in search of an ectopic pregnancy. He showed me what my bloods did in comparison to what they would do in a normal-looking pregnancy, and showed me my scans in accordance to the bloods and exactly why they did surgery. It all made sense.
They found nothing in my organs. What they did find was what would normally be a very normal looking pregnancy in my uterus, where it is meant to be. What the actual fuck? So an ectopic was ruled out, but what the hell was this thing suddenly growing in my womb? A perfect looking gestational sac!? With everything that had happened there was hardly a chance that this was a viable pregnancy. If this was my first scan and everything that had just happened hadn’t happened, then it would look like a normal pregnancy. But because of everything that had happened, the doctor was as confused as me.
He shared his thought processes, transparently mentioning things like bloodwork being incorrectly read, he mentioned something in one of my ultrasounds not being relayed to him that should have been, he mentioned the unlikelihood that I miscarried a twin and also the possibility that if we had had sex after my period was missed and after we had found out I was pregnant, that a second pregnancy could have occurred.
So here we are looking at this gestational sac pictured inside of my growing belly and he is explaining that a possibility is also that when the curettage was performed, they were too gentle and didn’t take enough of the lining of my womb so that the pregnancy was still growing. This seemed to be the more likely case.
Anyway, he had decided that they didn’t want to take action for another week just to see. I no longer had to be on high alert for a worst case scenario of someone with an ectopic pregnancy, who refuses to live in the hospital waiting it out. This was good news. Ectopic ruled out.
Now, the wait is on to see what this gestational sac looks like in a week.
It was during this week, that I exited a space I didn’t realise I had been inhabiting for so long.
A week into our Yoga Teacher Training, when the entire content of the 16 week course was to be taken online – some live and some filmed and uploaded, I talked openly about how the methods of yoga helped me to adapt to the constant change of rules handed down by the government and the opening up of rules of the governing bodies of yoga. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful and I was in complete awe of the 15 trainees who stuck it out and also adapted to new and unexpected learning styles. They were nothing short of incredible. Talk about dedication to the practice.
Overlapping this was my mother’s decline with her dementia and taking full care of her with my brother. I was in a complete state of grief and whilst I talked openly about my pain, I was seriously struggling with letting go. I felt like I was racing against the clock of dementia and watching someone I love so much slowly die before my eyes.
Searching for a government run aged care home was confronting, and I feared for her going in, specifically because of what was happening in aged care homes in Victoria. It was inevitable that they would go into lockdown in QLD, which they did.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was nursing a broken heart, forced into letting go through a lockdown of my mum’s new home with zero timeframe of when we could see her again. I cried and cried and cried.
So, in this week of waiting, which is far from my favourite game, I sat in the sunshine with no clothes on and massaged my super dry skin from all the medication from the surgery with black sesame oil. A ritual of mine I hadn’t practiced for too long. It was at that moment that I exited the panic zone.
I think I handle stress well, followed by thoughts like, “Does anyone handle stress well? Is that even possible?” Hindsight is a beautiful thing. While I’ve appeared to be taking things well, being open about my pain, falling apart before picking myself and putting the pieces back together and unwaveringly trusting the process, there comes a time where, still, something has to change.
Exiting this panic state happened as quick as walking through a door but I witnessed it in extreme slow motion. The realisation was a polarising experience as I felt the breeze in my hair, the sun on my skin and the space in my mind. True contentment with how things are, right now. And the deepest and most unwavering knowing that all of this was unravelling exactly as it should.
This surgery, this ectopic that wasn’t an ectopic, this new found and mysterious pregnancy and what was to come was a blessing and a shake up to form a new found direction and outlook.
A week later I went into the hospital where I was expecting an ultrasound that would show more. I’m sure the doctor said something along the lines of getting an ultrasound that was far better than the ones I had been getting. Instead, I got the fuzziest and least clear ultrasound I have had in my life and the instruction to come back in and get a better ultrasound tomorrow. What the fuck? Why didn’t I get the ultrasound I am getting tomorrow, today?
My view? “Oh well, another day of rest while Brendan can take yet another day off work to hang out with Nahlo.” This was actually a real blessing – all the time the boys got to spend together has been nothing short of amazing and considerably important, at this specific age, for Nahlo. The change in him has been wonderful.
So, I went in for my next ultrasound to be told by the lady doing the job that day that it didn’t in fact look like angestational sac, but more like a blood clot. Ohhhhh kay. “So, will that pass naturally?” To which she replied, “Well, it seems to be growing, so they might have to go in and get it.” Great.
So, the next day I had a phone appointment with the doctor from the hospital. The next step was to take the medication to help the body miscarry. I asked if it was a blood clot or a gestational sac and if there was a difference in the pathway to have it taken out. The answer was now and I was given the option of surgery or having it medically removed.
I went and collected the medication and was told that it can be taken orally but was much more effective if it was inserted high up into the vagina. I took the latter option.
Hours later I would be incredibly grateful that this took place later in the day, because as I was reading Nahlo his bedtime books, the period-like pain was intensifying. After he fell asleep, we started watching the Social Dilemma, which is a documentary everyone seems to be raving about. I was literally moving around and changing positions in the hope of relieving the pain that was taking over. At some point, I went and sat on the toilet then made my way back to the lounge room floor, and eventually into the darkness of the bedroom where I hung off the side of the bed and rode the contractions as my uterus did the work of clearing out. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but this was literally bringing me to my knees and to tears.
As the contractions came and went in waves, it was as clear as day that these tears were not just triggered by the pain, but more of a simultaneous letting go on much deeper levels than just the physical. Isn’t it bizarre that it’s obvious physical pain affects us mentally and emotionally, but not so often considered exactly the same in the reverse order?
So, I literally bawled my eyes out. At some point amidst the chaos I had a glimpse of myself shifting into a victim mentality. “This is not fucking fair.” It’s true – I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as coincidence. I am able to see why this entire story played out and I take full responsibility.
I am aware that this last statement may not vibe with some. For me, this entire situation may have happened regardless of my actions. Louise Hay talks a little about a miscarriage being in relation to fear of the future and innapriopriate timing. Whilst we were excited about being pregnant – after all this was a planned pregnancy, I was certainly feeling both of these things to the extreme.
My fear of the future was based around a few things. This ever-looming slamming shut of the border had me feeling an incredible urge to move promptly back into QLD. Being cut off from my mum with her rapidly declining cognition had me fearing the inevitable that anyone who has witnessed dementia taking over a loved one experiences. What if she doesn’t remember me?
We also learnt that Nahlo will not be taken into any daycare centre in NSW unless he has had all of his vaccinations, and seeing he is asking to go to school we are now looking back over the border in QLD to centres that will accept him.
After hearing some incredibly insane and heartbreaking stories of mothers who were separated from their newborn babies coming from NSW crossing into QLD after births that had not gone to plan and due to the rules of the border crossing, this was the final straw to me getting back into QLD. I was pregnant and my midwife who we had for Nahlo lived in QLD and there was no way I was risking not having all of us together at that crucial time because of these border rules.
Plus, all of our friends, Nahlo’s friends, our babysitters and activities we have considered for Nahlo are all over the border in QLD. There was not a whole lot keeping us here. So, along with every other man and his dog, we started the somewhat frantic search to move back into the state that everyone else was also trying to get back into. I had to personally dig quite deep to realise that this was not going to be a fast process, and, actually, we had to find contentment with where we are right now for anything further to evolve. So, that naked moment in the sunshine brought about just that. Santosha. Contentment.
The inappropriate timing part? Well, Covid pretty much sums that up, right? I also didn’t realise that I was still grieving the fact that I thought my mother would play a huge role in me raising my children. Anyone who knows her was shocked at this diagnosis. At the age of 72, mum would ride her black BMX bike all the way from Broadbeach, where she lived, to my place in Palmy, and back again. She is 76 now.
So here I sit, with a slight hangover because after I witnessed the fleshy substance, (which, by the way, totally looked like a large freaky bean) a few drinks was the only way to celebrate this four week charade.
Lots of lessons for me in this journey, and every single one of them shows me something to be incredibly grateful for. Within challenge and chaos, there is always an opportunity.