According to the 2019 MBRRACE Maternal Deaths and Morbidity Report 2015-17, there are on average two deaths per year in the UK and Ireland due to ectopic pregnancy. In the 21st century, no woman or pregnant person should die of an ectopic pregnancy. Devastatingly, Jesse and Mark have suffered this worst outcome.
We recognise that this is an incredibly difficult read and may be a trigger particularly for anyone who has experienced ectopic pregnancy and loved ones. Please do consider carefully whether reading this experience is suitable for you.
These are Mark’s powerful words. This is Mark and Jesse’s story.
Where do I start? I guess all I can do is start with who Jesse was.
Jesse was always about others. Every job she did was to help people, from abused teenage girls, to teaching the next generation as a school teacher, and her last job as a therapeutic project worker. She would always drop what she was doing to help a friend or even a stranger.
I first met her when we were teenagers and we quickly fell in love. But the fates are fickle and due to outside influences, we parted. She went to university to study English, we both married others, and each had two children. But we both still felt that love inside on the two occasions that we saw each other.
It wasn’t until our marriages broke down that she reached out to me to ask how I coped being a single father. For years we laughed about the way she reached out, as we both knew exactly how we felt about one another. She was, at the time, living in Birmingham and I was just outside London, but somehow, we made it work. Both sets of children and ourselves, we made it work and became the 2.4. Things were not easy, but we had each other and nothing was going to split us up again.
But as I’ve said, the fates are fickle. We were never actively attempting to add to our special family being in our 40s. We had my two boys and her beautiful girls. The world was perfect and we were happy.
I remember Jesse calling me a little flustered one day, thinking she was pregnant as she had had a positive pregnancy test. We decided to get another test to check, which came back negative. Honestly? We were relieved, but then things started to go wrong.
Jesse complained that she had pain in her shoulder. My man-brain thought ‘Yeah, yeah. You just want a massage.’ But then, what we thought was her monthly period was extremely heavy and slightly clotted, along with what she said was a severe stabbing pain. So, we called the doctors and made an appointment.
I remember sitting outside the doctor’s surgery on the wall for 30 minutes waiting and worrying. I wasn’t allowed inside with her due to COVID restrictions. I remember the smell of an old fellow smoking a cigar and watching a workman collecting office equipment from the surgery; It’s strange what I remember so clearly now. When she came out, it was a smile and nothing to worry about. Just the contraceptive pill and maybe a reaction to it, so they’d swapped her pill.
For the next month or so, everything seemed normal again. She was my happy, normal Jesse. The weekend before the fateful day, I watched her get picked up by her dad on Sunday at noon. I watched that gold car slip out of view from my window, not knowing that that was the last time I would ever see her alive. She was, again, fine on the phone the night before I was due to go around and pick her up. “I love you and I miss you. I’m going to give you a big squeeze tomorrow!” were her last words to me.
The next morning, I woke up to “Hey, babe, are you awake?” so I called her, but her phone was switched off. I drove round and found an ambulance outside the house; she had called 999 at 3:30am with severe abdominal pain. It had to be bad, she was a tough little cookie. The reports say she couldn’t give her name or address and was confused. By the time the ambulance got there, she had already passed away. We didn’t have any clue as to what happened until the coroner’s report.
Her passing had destroyed our life plans. I had never had an easy life, but I always believed I was strong enough to cope with anything it had to throw at me. How wrong was I? I collapsed. It felt like a punch. It was so hard. All the colour in the world just drained away. It still feels like it.
As a fiancé, I had to beg the coroners to enable me to book a viewing, like I was buying a house. Things changed when the report came back as an ectopic pregnancy and, with me obviously being the father of the child, I was given the reports.
That’s when the anger started. How can this happen? The symptoms we listed were all listed as possible ectopic pregnancy?! I was angry with myself and I guess I’ll carry it forever. But I always research stuff. Why didn’t I research it this time? Was it because we had booked a doctor’s appointment? I always look things up. The doctors have asked me many times if I’ve studied medicine because I like to try and have an informed opinion to help with any diagnosis.
Then I was angry – a simple sonogram and an hour operation and she might still be here and that lack has destroyed my life. The kids’ lives. We’ve lost such a loving, beautiful person. All for what? I got one hour to say goodbye to the best woman I’ve ever met. I was left reading message after message from my friends in a cold room in a basement of the local hospital. I don’t even remember the walk to or back from the hospital.
I wasn’t the strong, confident man I used be. I was completely broken. That kind of broken where you avoid everyone. I ignored people, pretended I was on my phone when I wasn’t. I was living in my bubble, being a dad, doing the things a single parent does, but trying all the time to not break, not to let my boys see me broken. I had no support network, nobody to just break down in front of. I still don’t. I’ve always been private. I’m a man. I can’t talk about my feelings and have tears. So, I carry on and tell everyone I’m okay and hide it all until I’m alone.
Then the begging began. Begging God, begging her, begging for miracles and time machines. I started reading books about life after death and the soul. There was nothing else left. She was my life. How can I survive without her? You always get the same responses from people. “You’ve got your children.” “She’s in a better place.” Nobody understands the point! Yes, I’ve got my boys and I adore them, they keep me alive. I’ve never been someone who gives up, but that’s not the point either. What’s that saying? You’ve never really, truly known what you’ve got until you’ve lost it. Well, I’d lost my life, my wife, my best friend, everything.
You spend half the time trying to find a reason, a reason that you never find. I’m not religious, so I can’t find comfort from faith. I need evidence, evidence that somehow, she isn’t gone. She was my soulmate and if anything can cross that line than it has to be love. So, what do you do? I can try and block things out, but if I manage one day of blocking, I just feel guilty about it. I’ve read grief is like waves hitting you, but it’s not. It’s like having an invisible bully that follows you around forever. They just keep hitting you. You can’t tell anyone because you seem crazy, but you can’t just keep it to yourself because society won’t allow you to just suffer alone. Society wants you to work, pay taxes. If you can’t do this, you’re questioned and nagged, so where do you go? The pain gets so bad that I have tried medication, more medication, and CBT. So far, I have yet to find something that helps me. I struggle to sleep because all I only see Jesse die alone. This isn’t only in my dreams. It can be triggered by smell, place, a simple word.
I have to carry on for my children, and for hers. I don’t fear death at all and I just feel like all I have left of her is her dog. He’s only four, but how much will it hurt when I lose that last piece?
I’m not sure what advice I can give anyone suffering this pain. All I can do, and it’s for selfish reasons, is to fight. But who do you fight? I don’t want to advise others how to cope, I want them not to have to not to feel the loss. So that’s why I will ride 100 kilometres on Jesse’s birthday, the 11th of August, to raise awareness first and foremost and some money to support everyone that is affected by ectopic pregnancy. Awareness could save a life. If by sharing my pain it makes people more aware, if it empowers just one woman to push for a sonogram because it might be an ectopic pregnancy, if it saves just one single life? Then maybe it’ll help. Because I would walk to hell just for one more minute with Jesse, one smile, one squeeze, I would give away everything I owned for that minute. So, I give you all my minutes in the hope you will never need that extra one.
When I was asked to share my story, the one question I asked myself was: ‘If I had known what an ectopic pregnancy was, would I have been demanding a sonogram?’ The answer was unequivocally yes. Had I known, had I read The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust information before December 2021, my beautiful girl might be sitting with me, smiling at me right now. I’d like to thank you Kerri for editing a broken man’s writing and understanding, because you and all the ladies out there are the heroes. They may be my words and my suffering, but it’s all of you that are shouting it out every day, and making people aware. The knowledge and guidance that you offer every day is incredible. I only wish I had known them earlier. I hope maybe my ordeal will help you further, not just women’s awareness, but men’s too, because we need to be armed with more information, so we cannot just understand but also potentially save the most important woman in our lives.