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My Ectopic Pregnancy Experience

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When Brian and I lost our first baby, I was very particular about the language I used to describe the loss. It wasn’t a miscarriage. It was an ectopic pregnancy. I wanted people to know there was a difference and that difference meant something to me. Over the years I have become less particular about that distinction. I have come to let go of the things that separate me from my sisters who have experienced the same pain of the death of a precious child. I have found it is easier to say, “I have had two miscarriages” than to say, “I have had two ectopic pregnancies” and then have to explain exactly what that means. Even in my writings here you will find me using more general and inclusive language about my losses because I am more interested in what unites grieving woman than what divides us.

But I want to tell you my story. And it’s the story of ectopic pregnancies.

I happened to run across the blog of a woman who had also had an ectopic pregnancy. She commented on one of my blog posts, I checked out her blog and I found we had a shared story. It was amazing to me how in reading about her ectopic I felt a sense of healing. Some of what she was expressing was familiar to me, but they were thoughts and emotions I had shoved down long ago. So I’m sharing my story not because I want to separate myself from women who have had a more “typical” miscarriage experience (whatever that means), but because maybe there’s a woman out there who is grieving her ectopic pregnancy and is having a hard time finding someone who understands. I understand that pain and the need to find someone who has walked this road, too.

If you’re wondering what an ectopic pregnancy is, The Mayo Clinic has a great overview. The short story is that babies belong in a uterus. If they don’t implant there, they may implant somewhere else, most commonly in a fallopian tube. That pregnancy can’t be sustained. Hopefully someday doctors will be able to successfully transplant them to the uterus, but at this point that isn’t a viable option. So here’s what it’s like to experience an ectopic pregnancy.

The pain is incredible:  And I’m talking about the physical pain. I couldn’t straighten up or walk during the worst of the pain. I can’t really describe the pain, but it doesn’t feel like cramping the way you might expect a miscarriage would. It was just like a sharp lump of pain and nothing could fix it. I also was so wanting to protect my unborn child that I didn’t want to take anything for pain. I legitimately thought I might die and told Brian if he found me dead in the morning, he should tell the paramedics it was an ectopic pregnancy. This was before we had an official diagnosis, I just knew. My second ectopic pregnancy I ended up collapsing on the ER floor before somebody put me on a gurney in a hallway while I waited to see a doctor. This is a pretty traumatic way to be initiated into losing your baby.

The disappointment is intense: In my experience, ectopics can be kind of tricky to diagnose. Sometimes hormone levels don’t rise as they should, which tips off your doctor. But sometimes they do rise exactly as they should. Sometimes the baby can be clearly seen in an ultrasound and you can tell it’s in the wrong place. But sometimes you can’t really see the baby at all. Eventually it becomes clear, but for awhile you may be in this weird place where nobody will tell you exactly what’s going on. One person says your hormone levels are fine. The next person says they can’t find a heartbeat. Now you’re being walked down the hall to the most high-powered ultrasound machine to “take a look around”. The next thing you know they’re talking about surgery. As the mother of that child, you hold on to hope until the last possible moment. Even when they tell you your baby has implanted in the wrong place, you want to imagine that your child can beat the odds and continue to grow, or magically roll into a better position. What you most want is total clarity, but it seems like a hard thing to get. And all of the sudden nobody cares about your baby anymore and they’re talking to you about the signs that you might be in danger from internal bleeding. It’s hard to really take in that information when you’re trying to understand how you went so quickly from being a pregnant woman to being a woman carrying a dead child who is now in danger herself.

The questions are haunting: Is this baby alive or dead? Is there any hope? What can we do? Why did this happen? Did I somehow cause this? Can’t we move the baby? Is the procedure to deal with an ectopic pregnancy essentially an abortion? All these questions are complicated by the quick timeline required by an ectopic pregnancy. To avoid rupturing a fallopian tube (which along with impairing your fertility could also kill you) decisions have to be made quickly. Doctors know how to deal competently with removing ectopic pregnancies, but I don’t think they always know how to explain it to you, allow you a moment to grieve and help you feel empowered in the decision making process all in the timeframe that feels safe to them. If you don’t get your questions answered, they may stick with you for a long time and can complicate your grief.

The guilt is unexpected:  Oh, the guilt. It’s hard to put words around this. I felt guilty because my body failed me. I felt guilty because we had infertility issues (which can correlate with a higher risk of ectopics). I felt guilty because we did infertility treatments to get pregnant (although I also had an ectopic pregnancy with a spontaneous pregnancy). I felt guilty because I had previously had surgery which may have increased my risk. I felt guilty because I chose to have my child surgically removed from my body (in one situation) and chemically removed (in another situation). Even though we were reassured that there was not a living child still in my body, I agonized about if we were doing the right thing to end the pregnancy.

The ramifications are longterm:  It is a double whammy to lose a baby and then realize you are now at a higher risk to lose another baby in the exact same way. The surgery I went through may have left scar tissue that contributed to the next ectopic pregnancy I had. My future positive pregnancy test results were met with fear instead of joy as I felt a correlation between pregnancy and painful loss. We were told if we had multiple ectopic pregnancies, the best thing to do would be to remove the faulty tube, which was a sad thought.

God is bigger than your fallopian tube:  I’m not going to say that every infertile woman is going to someday be pregnant. That absolutely isn’t true and I think false hope is incredibly damaging. With that being said, statistically speaking, a lot of women who at one time struggle with infertility will eventually have a biological child. For us, that took ten years and three pregnancies. But I want to take you to that moment in the doctor’s office when they were looking for the location of our baby at his early ultrasound. The first thing the ultrasound tech did was look to see which ovary I had ovulated from. She could tell I had ovulated from my right ovary. . . and it felt like the beginning of the end. Both of my ectopic pregnancies had happened in my right tube. My doctor had said if we had a third tubal pregnancy, he would surgically remove the tube to avoid that happening again. I began to mentally prepare for that reality. But that’s not what happened. God choose to do a miracle in not only providing conception and a proper implantation, but doing it through the damaged tube we were certain would mean death for any future children. I struggle with having hope. I’m not very good at being hopeful, but I am learning that God is not constrained by my lack of hope or a doctor’s bleak prognosis.

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28 Comments

  1. I’ve had three ectopic pregnancies and two “successful” pregnancies. That means infertility treatments to get pregnant and after becoming pregnant progesterone injections, perinatal specialists, preterm labor, bedrest, hospitalizations and complications after giving birth. Sometimes saying I had an “ectopic” pregnancy seems to diminish my grief in other people’s eyes. As if it wasn’t a “real” pregnancy. It took me many years to come to grips with my grief.

  2. Wow, I never took the time to realize how different ectopics were from miscarriages. There are a lot of questions to grapple with while you’re in the midst of grief, too. Thanks for sharing, Maralee. I think this might help others who’ve been through ectopic pregnancies as well.

  3. Great, great post and one that covers the issues really well. Thankfully I didn’t really have much pain (surprisingly) but that’s why I was able to use a medical treatment since my hormone levels were really high. For me the guilt was really tough and after we opted for a medical treatment I found some different Christian blogs that said that what I did was a sin which made me feel bad again. I don’t think it was a sin, but having people say that it was wasn’t nice to hear. I was super paranoid at the beginning of Naomi’s pregnancy that it was going to be another ectopic.

  4. Thank you, thank you, for this honest message. So challenged and changed by your forthcoming with this! So blessed by your faith in God and eternal perspective on infertility.

  5. I’ve never had an ectopic pregnancy and can imagine the pain. Miscarriages are hard. I had a “regular” miscarriage and then a blighted ovum miscarriage. That one was odd, not like “normal” miscarriages either and I also hemorraged and my body lost dur much blood I started going into shock and had to be transported to he hospital in an ambulance and have emergency surgery. Yet in both situations of which the first I technically had a baby die inside me and the second, my body thought it was preggo…. Both left me feeling the exact same sadness and grief. Yes, Miscarriages are very hard.

  6. At what point in your “successful” pregnancy did you feel like you could stop holding your breath and stop expecting the worst to happen? First trimester? 2nd? Was there a point? I just can’t imagine what that must have been like for you. Thank you for sharing. These are the types of things that women need to share with each other.

    • Chelsea, that’s a really great question. I’d say there were two parts to my relief- first of all when we found out Joel had implanted in the right place, which was at our first ultrasound (6 weeks?). That meant we didn’t have to worry about another ectopic and all the surgery drama that would have gone along with it. But I don’t think I knew how much my enjoyment of the whole pregnancy process had been muted until Joel was actually born. I wept so hard with the relief that he was alive when I heard that first cry. I seriously couldn’t stop crying or shaking for quite awhile. I felt like I was finally able to let go of 9 months of fears and concerns and preparing for the worst that I didn’t even consciously know I was carrying.

  7. Thank you for your post, a friend sent it to me knowing that I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and the misfortunate treatment that has led to more infertility issues for my husband and I. There are very few articles on ectopic pregnancies, the confusion, physical pain, uncertainty & uncontrollable options. Sadly, after the chemical treatment we found that it eliminated all of my follicles. We did not know it at the time, but I have premature ovarian failure. I am still confused (and let’s face it angry) at why I didn’t know this and why God allowed for a chemical treatment that would be so long impacting. Even after the chemical treatment, I had to have surgery as the tissue remained in my fallopian tube. They had to remove the tube due to damage and endometriosis. So my issues have been complicated threefold, we still try with one fallopian tube even though I have a dominant ovary and it’s not the ovary with a tube! I’m learning what it looks like to have hope in a fragmented world and believe that God is bigger than a single Falopian tube and can overcome the smallest of chances of getting pregnant naturally. I

    • Oh Ashley, what a difficult story. Thank you for sharing it. That has got to be incredibly frustrating and I can totally understand why you’d be angry. I’m thankful you have hope and I hope you’ll keep me update about your story as you continue on your journey towards pregnancy. And if you ever decide you want to talk about adoption, I’d be more than happy to listen 🙂

  8. Had eptopic pregnany yesterday. At loss. I need help.

  9. What a moving and difficult story. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I just went through everything you wrote, it couldn’t had been explain any better. Brought tears while I was reading. I found that it would of been easier to have had a miscarriage, because then I felt that it was out of my control and my body needs to do what it has too, not that any lost is any easier. My story is a duplicate of yours, I went in Monday to have a pelvic ultrasound they weren’t able to see anything the doctor ask when was the first day to my last period. He said I should be 6 weeks and there should be a heartbeat by now or maybe I had my date wrong and I’m not as far along as we think I am, but I track my period so I know I wasn’t confuse, I started to doubt myself. I was also spotting at the time, I started to question myself am I pregnant, maybe the home pregnancy test gave me a false positive. But I knew I was because I had every sign that said I was, my breast had been sore and tender for weeks. They did blood work to check my hcg level and had me make an appointment to come back Wednesday morning. When I went home I made my husband stop by the drugstore to pick up a box of pregnancy test, this time I got the digital ones got home and took one and it said pregnant. I look at my husband and said I know I’m not crazy. I just kept telling myself I got the date wrong and I’m not that far along and everything is going to be ok. Tuesday evening I get a voicemail from the doctor saying my hcg level is at 1452 I just made the cut off for early pregnancy which is at 1500 and to come in as early as I can Wednesday Morning to do another ultrasound. I played the voicemail to my husband, saying see I told you we must had calculate it wrong. I had a sign of relieve, but was still worry, because the spotting hadn’t stop. The whole night I wasn’t able to sleep and got up and woke my husband up ready to go. When we got there he proceed to perform another pelvic ultrasound, he then says oh I see a sac and I was so happy to hear that, then as he kept moving around he says Oooh I see another sac in your left tube, my heart broke my fears came true and I didn’t wanna hear anything else he had to say. He sent us to the ER where he wanted them to perform another Ultrasound to confirm his finding, saying their machine is more high-tech and they will be able to let us know 100% if his finding was accurate. As I laid waiting on a stretcher to be taken in the room, I kept hoping that somehow he was wrong. But it was confirm he was right and they gave me two options the shots of methotrexate or surgery. The doctor said its a 90% the shot will work and its less invasive then surgery since I just had one 4 months ago. So we did the shots which is basically what they use for cancer patients its a low dose of chemo. They did blood work and my hcg level had went from 1452 to 1900 so my baby was growing. I felt sick and tired and had to come back to the ER for a second dose on Sunday and also they had to monitor my hcg level. They said it should go up before it goes down. I felt like I was poisoning my body to kill my baby, and there was nothing I can do, as sad as it sound I still had hope that some miracle would happen and the baby would be ok. I went back Sunday for my second dose and they told me I had to come back Wed. to get more blood to monitor my hcg level and also my liver level. When I went in to the ER Wed. a week from the day I found out they didn’t put me in a room like they did the other two time it seem like I was just going to get my blood work done, they were going to confirm that the chemo work and I was going to be done. As I sat there waiting for my result, across the curtain to the desk I overheard the ER doctor talking about my result. I look at my husband and said listen their talking about me, and they that my hcg level didn’t go down, but up and double that mean the chemo didn’t work and the baby is still growing. They came to my curtain and told me their finding which I already overheard and said they would have to perform emergency today that a third dose wasn’t no longer and options cause my liver result came back abnormal. I felt my world crumbling yet again, of course I would be that 10% that the chemo didn’t work. So much emotions ran through me, my baby fighting so hard to hold on and I couldn’t do anything to help. They had to do one last ultrasound to confirm and the whole time I was hoping for a miracle that somehow my baby was in my uterus, but to only find out now she has a heartbeat. As the technician walk out the room, my husband and I look at the screen and there it was 67bpm. If it couldn’t get any harder it did, my little life fighting. Every single time the ER doctor would come to examine me they would ask are you having any pain, I would tell them no, because I wasn’t. They told me my surgery will be at 7:30pm I was there since 11am they ask me when was the last time I have had anything to eat or drink I told them yesterday night, 7:30 went by and still I wasn’t in surgery yet. I look at my husband and said its a sign that we should just get up and walk out of here and fight with our baby and let what ever happen, happens. He said to me I can’t let you do that, and I cry and beg him to take me home that I didn’t wanna be there anymore. They told us since I wasn’t in pain, I was able to wait so that other emergency patients could go ahead of me. I wasn’t taken to the OR until 1am. They told me they weren’t able to save my left tube and had to remove it and that if they were able to save it that there was a high chance that this will occur again. I also found out they also remove my left ovaries as well. I never thought I would be one of the person going through this, to be sitting here and writing about this. Every day I still cry, seeing a baby or someone that’s pregnant brings overwhelming emotions that I have no control over. We name our baby Charlie because no matter what she was once a part of me and still is every time I look at my scars she’s there.

    • I went through the same thing, and this month was supposed to be the month I was to deliver. I feel so alone, I came close to dying because I had severe internal bleeding in my abdominal area and my baby was growing too.. But sadly not a strong enough heart beat. I felt so lost, angry, asking everything and anything to help the baby get to my uterus. I couldn’t believe I was losing another baby and I’m only 24 years old. I been pregnant at 14. Again at 19 and again at 23. Only one ecotopic, first was miscarriage, sadly I was with a wrong guy who encouraged my abortion. I had no idea what those could of led to. Now I’m reminded everyday, and I too believe she was a girl. Because I was told she was, a friend had a vision of me and she’s also very gifted, and had no idea of me losing my baby. Than she told me it was a girl. I am also reminded everyday, from the scars. ❤️

    • I just went through a very similar situation. We named her Penelope Grace. I’m so sad to not know if she passed on her own, I wish I could have saved her. Like you I kept thinking some miracle would happen and she would be ok. My one comfort is in believing she is with Jesus. I hate not knowing so many things about exactly what happened.
      Its been about a week and I’m just so exhausted, I can’t seem to get my energy back.
      Thank you for sharing.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. I have one 4 yr old daughter and tragically lost my second child and almost my own life this past January. Some of my friends were not as understanding as I had hoped. It’s hard finding people that understand. Especially the fear of trying again. A positive pregnancy test is linked to a loss, blood transfusion and seven inch scar. Very scary. I hope everyone’s next pregnancy is a happy one

  12. Hi guys. As i read this story i felt sorry for tge author as i felt sorry to my self. I also latter experience tubal pregnancy. My first baby end up fetal death while the 2nd end up tubal. As time goesby i cant say that i am prepared for another pregnancy because my right fallopian tube has been removed which giving me a reason to get scared. I only have one fallopian tube left. As my doc. Says that he had to removed my right tube because there is no other way to take tge baby away.. i was so down that time havibg trouble to get pregnant and ending up for nothing. I started to question gods grace but still i believe that its part of his plan for me. I have no right to question him… until now i dont want to have another pregnancy because i may end up lossing my last tube.

  13. I had 3 etopic pregnancies the first one I was 24 the second 27 and third I was 30. My husband and I wanted a child and kept trying. The first etopic almost killed me and ruptured and it was a rush surg wich left me with no answers about anything. The second one was caught before a rupture and still couldn’t get a answer or explanation from the doc except sometimes it happens. The third was about all I could emotionally take. But doc answered some much needed questions to let me know it wasn’t my fault. As a result he took my left tube out. I’m now 39 and have no children. My husband and I don’t have physical intimacy out of fear of another loss. I now have uterine fibroids which my obgyn wants to shrink with lupron shots so I could try to conceive but I feel to scared to because of another etopic or something related to fibroids , I just have came to except we will never have a child and it hurts

  14. On Nov. 14th I had a positive pregnancy test. My LMP first date was Sept 28th so the docs were estimating I was 6-7 weeks along. First HcG level was 119. My first hospital visit was Nov 17th, they confirmed ectopic or misscarriage. On Nov 19th, Hcg Level rose to 195, the Nov 21st HcG level was 395. Nov 24th, i had a long 3 hr apt to figure out why no sac was found in the uterus since my levels were increasing and yet i was assumed to be 7 weeks along. So that evening, i went home, passed a clot and got sent back to the ER for evaluation. They assumed the clot was the fetus but still continued to monitor my HcG levels. From Weds Nov 25th- Nov 27th I bled heavily. And now my HcG went up to 790 which concerned them 3 days after this “clot” passed. On Nov 28th, they requested I come in again for evaluation and my HcG within 24 hours went from 790 to 980 and still no fetus found in my uterus. They suggested laparoscopic surgery to “search” for the baby. They removed my left fallopian tube along with a “cyst” within the tube assuming it will be the baby and that it was an ectopic. Magically, the bleeding has completely stopped since the surgery and now 3 days later, still waiting on results for the pathology to confirm the “cyst” found was the baby. I have been known to have 7 prior miscarriages in 4 years. I have one surviving son. He will be 6 as of tomorrow Dec 3rd and I am in complete shock as to how in 2 weeks, i was told I was miscarrying, to not, to ectopic, to not, to now waiting on my pathology results. And yet no one has a clue on how far along I am.

  15. Pingback: 5 Truths for Women with Ectopic Pregnancy Loss | All-American Mom ~ Sarah Philpott

  16. This story describes exactly the way I felt and still strougle with the thought of loosing my baby and the pain of not being able to conceive again after our loose. It’s been 5 years of many dissaponting 30 days periods of waiting and nothing still happens. The thought of having surgery to actually kill my baby to save mu own life definitly affects me. I read the Dr notes before surgery saying my baby had 111heart beats at the moment of evaluation just makes me fill that my baby was alive and this information really frustrates me even more. Eventhough I belive in God miracles. I will not give up my hopes.

  17. I experienced an ectopic in January of 2016. You nailed it. The distinctive need to separate from just a miscarriage, the pain (my fallopian tube ruptured),the extreme guilt and then the fear for the future. I’m living in fear stage now. It is tough.

    • hi Kellie, I understand what you feel right now. I’ve been there but I never lost hope, since then I survived my abdominal ectopic pregnancy. Have faith

  18. I am looking a site where I can write my own blog regarding my abdominal ectopic pregnancy survival just recently. How I am so thankful to God for being with me through my days of pregnancy. I born a healthy baby girl for 36 weeks.

  19. Thank you for sharing. After fertility treatments, I lay here typing trying to recover the loss of our first baby from an ectopic pregnancy. It is the hardest thing we have ever had to go through and we lost the tube. But God is bigger than my feat and I pray for peace abd a miracle.

  20. Thank you, Maralee.

    And each of you dear women who have shared your stories too.

    I just had my second ectopic pregnancy, and surgery.

    I needed to know there are others who know the same “difference”; in the extreme pain & emergency surgery (#1); in the questions; in the multiple tests, tough decisions and more questions (#2) …Thank you.

    I am still looking forward to when God reveals why this is part of His “plans to prosper me, and not harm me, to give me an expected end.”

    But, I am thankful for the compassion and empathy from going through grief and loss and loneliness in years of infertility.

    The deep carving out of grief does make room for more love.

    Maralee, tha k you for not being bitter. For being open. For enabling parents to speak to their children without shame. And for just being real.

    Thank you for honoring God.

    The Lord bless you and your husband and family.

  21. I always wanted to share my experience of ectopic pregnancy. I have been married for over 7 years now. I had a blighted ovum in 2012 which was the first time I even got pregnant after 2 years of marriage. At 10 week usg i had an empty sac with no fetus which got aborted 2 days later. The next time I got pregnant was in December 2013 after 6 months. I was only 5 weeks pregnant when I had sharp pain in my lower abdomen. I had an usg again and the first doctor said I everything was OK. The pain had not subsided for one whole day after which I had another usg. This time around the doc said I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. I was operated the same day and luckily docs said my tubes could be salvaged. Nonetheless the future seemed very bleak to my husband and me. The possibility of us having a family seemed impossible and we decided to consider IVF after a year.

    But I guess GOD is more powerful than everything else in this universe. Within 6 months of my ectopic I because pregnant again. I remember spending the first 6 months in panic and worry about having another ectopic because research says the chance of developing an ectopic is 10 times higher in women who had a prior ectopic pregnancy. At my 6 months usg, I saw a sac and a tiny heart flickering. My joy had no bounds. After a blighted ovum and an ectopic pregnancy I went onto have a successful pregnancy. My son turns 3 years in a month.

    So for all the women out there just keep praying, for there is a GOD who is more powerful than science and all the doctors out there. I am a doctor and I thank God every single day for giving me a child- the greatest joy in the world. I’ve been through my shares of ups and downs, thinking God hated me and cursed me, but I never stopped praying and asking God.

    Keep faith, keep praying. Amen!

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