Grieving and surviving an ectopic pregnancy

7 Oct
My child may have looked like this at 10 weeks. Image from iampregnant.com

My child may have looked like this at 10 weeks.
Image from i-am-pregnant.com

My second child would be 12-years-old this month.

“Would be” is a sorrowful phrase. My beloved baby died inside me at just 10-weeks-old.

A heartbreaking twist of fate caused this child to develop outside my womb. In a normal pregnancy the fertilized egg implants itself in the rich uterine lining where it has plenty of room to grow for nine months. I had tubal ectopic pregnancy, an abnormality in which the fertilized egg implants itself in the narrow fallopian tube that leads from the ovary to the uterus.  The baby can live only a few weeks until the tube ruptures. Without medical attention, the mother can die as well.

Because of a long history of endometriosis and uterine fibroids, I knew conceiving and carrying a child could be difficult. However, my heart’s desire was to be a mother, and I dreamed of a large family. I underwent surgery to remove a very large fibroid prior to having my first child, a gentle ginger-haired baby girl. She was born a month early, but she was perfect. Two years later, my husband and I were wonderfully surprised by a second pregnancy.

Discovering the pregnancy
Because of my history, my doctor saw me when I was eight weeks along. On the surface, everything looked normal. The blood sample revealed the hormones associated with pregnancy. My doctor told me to come back in a few days for another blood test an early sonogram. I was looking forward to the seeing the image of my baby’s beating heart.

Things took a turn while I waited. I began spotting and having pain on the left side of my abdomen. I went back to the doctor’s office a few days later, but my regular doctor had left for an extended vacation. I told the other physician about my symptoms, and he immediately ordered a sonogram. I was scared. As I sat in the waiting room, a teenage girl and her mother emerged from the sonogram room. The girl was fuming, and the mother was silent. “I want that damn thing out of me!” the girl yelled. “I don’t want to have a f__king baby! ” I was stunned. Before I could do anything, the technician called me back for the exam.

The sonogram was uncomfortable. I looked at the screen and saw the grey images of my uterus. I squinted my eyes in hopes of seeing the tiny twinkling star that would be the baby’s heartbeat. The technician moved the scanner up to my ovaries and tubes. She then excused herself for a moment. I knew something was horribly wrong. She came back with the doctor. He did the scan himself and paused over my left fallopian tube. There it was.  I started to cry. He turned the machine off and helped me sit up.

He spoke for a few minutes, but the only things I heard were, “ectopic” and “we have to do this to save you.”

I don’t know how long I was silent. “Can’t you just move it down into the uterus?” I sobbed.

The doctor shook his head. “I wish it was that easy,” he replied.

My child would die so I could live
The next few minutes were a blur. The doctor left to order a drug from the hospital pharmacy. I was told to return in a few hours because it would take a while to prepare it. The drug, methotrexate, was a cancer treatment that would stop the baby’s development. A nurse reassured me the drug was a much safer option than surgery.

I picked up my toddler daughter from the patient childcare center and went home. I called my husband and told him the news. He came home immediately. I cried hysterically. I didn’t want to do this.  I felt immense guilt; my child would have to die so I could live. Part of me wanted to do nothing and let God take both me and the baby, but my husband reminded me about our little girl and how much she needed her mommy.

We returned to the doctor’s office a few hours later. My eyes were red and swollen. I literally collapsed in tears in the waiting area. The nurses took me to the doctor’s private office. He sat down in front of me and held my hands. “Please tell me this won’t cause the baby to feel pain,” I sobbed. “Because if it does, I want to have the surgery so the baby doesn’t suffer.” The doctor told me there would be no pain. I reluctantly agreed to the injection. I was told to come back in two days for another blood test. I would need to have several tests to make sure the hormone levels were dropping, thus indicating the end of the pregnancy.

I returned two days later for the first blood test. The hormone levels had increased. The second blood test revealed additional growth. I became upset. “The baby is still growing,” I cried.  “Sometimes these things take a little while,” the doctor said.

The hormone levels finally starting dropping at 10 weeks. It was over. My baby’s soul had returned back to our Heavenly Father, and I would be reunited with my precious child when my time came. I spent days in a fog. There had been a death, but there would be no funeral or memorial service. Well meaning friends tried to comfort me with kind words and clueless others tried to reassure me with expressions like, “Well, at least you didn’t have time to bond with it,” “It wasn’t a real baby at that point,” and “You can always try again.”

The final goodbye
Just a few weeks later, I began experiencing horrific pain on my left side and went back to the doctor’s office.  Another sonogram was done. I heard “blood in the abdomen,” and I was immediately prepped for surgery.  I woke up six hours later in a hospital room.  I glanced down to find a stapled incision running across my lower abdomen. I later learned that my tube had burst and the doctor had to amputate what remained.

My regular doctor did hospital rounds the next morning, and I broke into tears when I saw him. He hugged me and apologized for not being there. He had my surgical photos in the chart and reviewed them. I asked to see them. He cautioned me. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. I nodded. I needed to see and say goodbye.  I looked at the photos and whispered, “I’m so sorry, baby.”

That night I was comforted by a dream.  My husband’s father and grandparents, all of whom died many years ago, stood next to my bed. His grandmother held a bundle in her arms and whispered to me, “We’ll take good care of this little one until you get here.”

The blessing of another child and the promise of a future
Despite my medical issues and loss of one tube, God saw to it that I would be a mother once again. Two years later, my little warrior was born. His fighting spirit was evident the moment he entered this world literally peeing all over the doctor and nurse who were there to greet him.

Although I would love to have more children, I am content with the three precious souls I was allowed to carry in my body.  My daughter and son know about the sibling who will meet them in Heaven. To my daughter, the baby is the little sister she always wanted. To my son, the baby is the big brother who paves the way for him. My husband mourns the loss of this child, but his loss is not as intense as mine. That child grew within me. That little mind was comforted by the sounds of my heartbeat, those tiny hands and feet gently touched my abdomen, and when it was over, that little soul passed through mine.

I often think about the October birthday parties that never were, and my soul feels a little lonely during the month. It’s like part of me is missing.

I miss you, sweet baby.

Happy birthday.

Author’s Note: I use the terms “baby” and “child” because this real person was never a mere embryo, fetus, product of conception or potential human being. This was a child – my child. Please be respectful of my convictions, and remember my “Play Nice” comment policy with others.

18 Responses to “Grieving and surviving an ectopic pregnancy”

  1. sgeraldscott October 11, 2013 at 1:25 PM #

    Kim, that was excellent. Really!
    Your words took me back to our own stories of loss as my wife & I went through miscarriage – twice. We men tend to be stoic and hide our pain so the dad’s feelings often go unnoticed. Speaking for myself, the pain was acute and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Back then, I journaled often (I really should start that up again) and I’m thankful that I took the time to write down my account of that story when it was still so fresh in my mind. Years later, I included an excerpt from my journal in a blog post. If you’d like a peek into a daddy’s perspective on miscarriage, here’s the link to it:

    http://mydaddyshome.blogspot.com/2009/02/flashback-my-journey-part-3.html

    • Kim Keller October 12, 2013 at 10:17 AM #

      I am running out to Costco to buy a pallet of Kleenex. Your blog post made me cry. I think that women go through miscarriage and feel like they are completely alone — even their closest friends can’t really connect with them. However, your post points out that daddies feel the loss as well and experience their own kind of pain. Thanks for sharing your post. I look forward to meeting your babies in Heaven someday.

  2. Maria October 11, 2013 at 1:05 AM #

    I was also 10 weeks along when I experienced my first loss. My husband was out of town for work, and I was home alone with a 4 year old and 1 year old at the time. We had just lived in that area a few short months. No family lived near us, and the only people I knew at that point was the lady who had a home day care, that would watch my girls as I was still going to school. I was so thankful she was home, and could take the girls there. Sitting alone in the doctors office, being told that there is nothing that you can do to help that precious child is so overwhelming. The tears I cried for a child I hadn’t even felt move…had I not gone through it myself, I just don’t know that I could have ever truly understood the depth one could feel at that point. Three months later I found out I was again pregnant. I remember not allowing myself to get excited about it, not wanting to feel joy. I felt an incredible amount of guilt. I remember thinking if I was happy about it, the child I lost would feel like it really wasn’t wanted after all, and I couldn’t bear the thought. Mother’s Day rolled around, and I remember sitting in church, and our pastor said he needed to speak directly to those who had lost an unborn child. He reminded all of us who sat there silently that we were the mothers of those babies, even though they were not here on earth with us, and when we join them in heaven someday they would know us, and we would know them. I suppose I had known it before, but God used him to remind me of that. I took comfort in his words, and for the first time in that pregnancy I felt peace, and joy. It carried me through my last three months, through the birth of my sweet Emery Cait. I am so very thankful for the ones I have, and for the ones I’ve lost. It is amazing how much love I have felt for each and every one of them, even the ones who had done nothing yet to deserve it. I can’t even begin to imagine how much more our Father feels for each and every one of us. I pray comfort for your soul, and blessings on your family…

  3. JenerationLife October 9, 2013 at 1:09 AM #

    Amazing post and writing. This was so touching and heartfelt. I’m sorry for your loss… much love, energy and thoughts go out to you and your family.

  4. Vikki Sorensen October 7, 2013 at 8:31 PM #

    Crying and I love how you talked about the terminology. I remember sitting in the ER losing my first baby while the words “spontenious abortion” were thrown around. It was no abortion. I wanted my baby. I wanted to hold him or her in my arms. God has blessed me with two beautiful girls since, one who will be turn 16 this weekend. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this time.

  5. mylifemylovesmyhome October 7, 2013 at 8:11 PM #

    Oh Kim what an awful thing to go through…. even as a mum of four I could never imagine the pain of losing a baby though when pregnant the worry is always there in the back of your mind….. You are so brave and strong and I’m glad you were blessed again to have another baby and I love the fact he came out peeing on everyone lol….. He must be a real character…. Love to you and your family on this day of remembering your little bundle of love. And you’re right it doesn’t matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in they are our babies from day one xo

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