At the beginning of December, I was pregnant. I was happy and excited, and visualising what our life would be like in a few months’ time; my toddler cuddling his younger sibling (in my mind a girl), and my husband and I adjusting to our new life as a chaotic but very loved-up family of four.
Just days later, I was lying alone in a hospital bed in A&E, being told that I was bleeding internally and needed surgery immediately to save my life, that the pregnancy was ectopic, my Fallopian tube was ruptured and would need to be removed, and my baby, who still had a heartbeat at this point, that I could see clearly on the screen next to me, was never going to make it.
I am scared to share this, some days I don’t want to even think about it, but I still feel that I want to. Not necessarily for me (although writing this may help in some way) but for anyone else who has ever experienced the loss of a pregnancy or baby, and may have wanted to talk about it but was not able to. I also feel it’s important to raise awareness of ectopic pregnancies, although they are rare (around 1 in 80 pregnancies as I understand it), they can be life-threatening, and even though the baby can sadly never be saved, knowing the symptoms and getting checked as soon as possible, could save a mother’s life.
For me, I went to bed as normal on a Friday night and woke up a few hours later with a blinding pain in my stomach. Before long I couldn’t move with the pain, so called the 111 , though in retrospect, maybe I should have called 999. Two hours later I took a taxi to an understandably busy A&E. I waited seven hours in the waiting room, all the while terrified and feeling like I was dying, which as it turned out, technically I was. I had a scan which confirmed what I had been fearing, and more.
Every doctor and nurse who saw me was nothing short of compassionate and brilliant, and what I want to share next is by no means a criticism of anyone other than myself, and the fact that I should have been clearer about my concerns for medical attention earlier on.
I had been to see a GP twice in the weeks prior to this moment in A&E, the second time was only the day before. The first time was for unusual bleeding (before I knew I was pregnant), and the second time was for severe stomach pain when going to the loo (after I knew I was pregnant). Both times I was reassured that this was normal and nothing to worry about, but in my gut, I knew that these things were not normal for me.
This is part of what I want to highlight; we all know our own bodies, and even if something is normal for the general population, if it’s not normal for us, we need to say so and get it checked. With hindsight, I wish I had emphasised this to my doctor, especially as irregular bleeding and pain while using the loo are both early symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy and should not be ignored (I am aware that both these things can also be very normal and nothing to worry about).
I know that with an ectopic pregnancy, regardless of how early it is detected, the baby can sadly never be saved. This for me is still, and always will be, the saddest part of everything that happened. However, had it been diagnosed that the pregnancy was ectopic earlier on, before my Fallopian tube ruptured, I would not have been bleeding internally, nearly lost my life or needed emergency surgery (or had the further complications of recovering from the operation), and I may have kept both of my Fallopian tubes.
As terrified as I am to share this, my hope is that my horrible experience will help someone else avoid at least some of the trauma that I went through, or even save their life. I am also sharing this for anyone who has ever experienced the loss of a pregnancy or baby, particularly for those who may have wanted to talk about it but have been unable to do so, for any number of understandable reasons.
Some days I want to forget this ever happened, but aside from my scars being a physical reminder for me personally I don’t think it would be possible. I look at today’s date and think about how many weeks pregnant I ‘should’ be now. I look at my son and imagine him when he was a tiny foetus inside me, and wonder what our second baby would have looked and been like. I feel a sadness every time I see the jar of jam in the fridge which my husband bought for me when I was pregnant and craving jam, and every time someone offers me a cup of tea and I don’t have to think about the caffeine. I feel a sting in the pit of my stomach where my baby should be growing.
When I first woke up from the operation, I felt relieved. I felt happy that everything had gone ok, I felt grateful to be alive, and I felt so much better physically that I couldn’t even describe it. Then I remembered that my baby was gone, and I felt empty, like a part of me was missing, and alone. I remembered my toddler, and felt guilty for feeling empty, and I remembered my husband, and felt worried for how he was feeling. I remembered that I now have a 1/10 chance of having another ectopic pregnancy in the future, and felt scared. I remembered that I had also lost a Fallopian tube, and felt angry. I remembered that I had seen my baby and their beating heart in that very Fallopian tube just hours earlier, and now they were gone, and I felt devastated and empty all over again.
I always imagined (though never wanted to) that losing a baby in pregnancy, in any way at any time, would be devastating, but that feeling of emptiness, like there was a gaping hole in my body, was something that I’ve never experienced before. To anyone else who has suffered a loss like this, in any way, at any time – I am so sorry, for you and your family. My hope is that knowing we are not alone can be a small source of comfort, and maybe in sharing this we can bring these tragically frequent, awful experiences out of the shadows and into the light, where they can be acknowledged in the way that they should.
These things are hard to talk about, but in some ways, maybe even harder not to talk about.
Our babies were here. They were real, they were part of us, and we love them, forever.
Thank you to Emma for sharing her experience of ectopic pregnancy. If you would like to share your experience of ectopic pregnancy, please remember our support services are available at any time.