Guest Share: Ectopic Pregnancy
Guest writer Cheyenne shares a personal account of an ectopic pregnancy and abortion.
Typically, an ectopic pregnancy is not one of the first situations or reasons we think of as leading to an abortion. The overturning of Roe v Wade has massive implications, and we are already hearing of accounts in this country where birthing people are being prevented from getting the abortion care they need for their health. Thank you to Cheyenne for sharing this account and giving a personal story of an experience around an ectopic pregnancy and the connection to abortion access.
Surgery Story October 9 2020
Generously shared by Cheyenne Scarlett
On Saturday October 3rd,,I decided to take a pregnancy test. I had been bleeding for about a week and a half (since September 21st) and didn’t know what the issue could be. At first, the bleeding was heavy like a normal period and was on time for when my period should be. Then, after about 4 days of normal bleeding it turned brown and I only needed a panty liner. I didn’t think anything of it since my periods are so often irregular. I was lying in bed with my son trying to nurse him to sleep when I googled my symptoms. Two things came up as possible causes: cancer and pregnancy. I decided to take a pregnancy test the next day and to my surprise it was positive. I knew that there was no way that would be a viable pregnancy because of how much bleeding I had already experienced. I had thought about going to the walk-in so that I could get blood work done but when I realized that all of the blood clinics were closed I didn’t bother. I also didn’t want to go to a walk-in in the middle of a pandemic. I was feeling well and had an appointment with the doctor by phone on Monday anyway, to discuss my infertility and PCOS. I continued taking pregnancy tests on Sunday and Monday and the line got darker, indicating the HCG was going up. I continued spotting.
On Monday, I told the doctor what had been going on. I told her I thought I was having another miscarriage since I was experiencing similar symptoms to when I had a miscarriage in June of 2017. She basically told me not to count myself out yet, she gave me a requisition for bloodwork and an ultrasound. I did the bloodwork that same day and got the result later that night. My HCG was only 99 and I knew something was definitely not right. I scheduled an appointment for Wednesday to have an ultrasound done, which I expected would either confirm I was pregnant or that I had lost it. I honestly did not want to go the appointment. I expected them to say that they didn’t see anything and that I should come back in a week. But that’s not what happened. When the tech was done she told me to wait in the waiting room for further instruction. I knew right away something was wrong. I stupidly forgot my phone at home and wasn’t able to distract myself or call anyone. I logged onto their WIFI on my watch and texted my husband and a friend about what was going on. I knew exactly then that they were going to tell me it was ectopic.
After what seemed like an eternity the receptionist received a call and asked me to speak to the doctor on the phone. He asked how I was feeling and I told him I was feeling fine. He told me he saw fluid in my pelvis and near my left ovary and thought that fluid was blood. He told me I needed to go to the ER immediately and to bring a copy of my scans. I rushed home to get my phone and was then dropped off.
The triage nurse was new and had a hard time checking me. She was unsure what to write in my chart because I looked well. I heard her say to her preceptor “but she’s so calm”. The preceptor said “but she has a confirmed diagnosis” referring to the reports I had brought with me. I was checked in and got blood work done quickly. I was put in a room and the physician’s assistant came in to ask me questions and feel my stomach. It wasn’t too painful but not comfortable either. The doctor came in after that and told me that because I look so well “I’m not buying what they’re selling” and said he wanted to repeat the ultrasound even though I had just had one literally half an hour before. They called the on-call OB who I don’t like at all. Hate him actually. I have seen him in his office previously for infertility and he was extremely dismissive and unkind. He also agreed that they should repeat the scans. I went up to the ultrasound floor and had another intervaginal scan which was painful as hell. She pushed the probe in and pushed down on my stomach. She was very kind and apologetic but it still hurt like a bitch. She had previously done a scan for me when they thought I had appendicitis (was a kidney infection) when I was pregnant with my son. I waited on the results in the waiting room and was called back in pretty quickly. The doctor said that the ultrasound did indeed reveal what appeared to be an ectopic pregnancy but because I was feeling well he didn’t want to rush me to surgery. He said that the doctor said they would probably give me methotrexate to end the pregnancy but they wanted to send me home and refer me to the early pregnancy clinic and to ask the other what she wanted to do. They said the HCG had only gone up to 119 which is not consistent with a healthy pregnancy. I overheard the doctor saying that he wanted the physician’s assistant to get me an appointment the next day after she said they didn’t have any appointments until the following Wednesday. I went home and felt well enough.
I chose not to push to be seen by the OB on call because I did not want him to treat me. I had to make the choice to either work with a doctor I know I absolutely do not trust or wait till the morning and hope for someone else.
The next morning I woke up around 9 and called the doctor’s office and left a message. The early pregnancy clinic called me shortly after and asked me to come to the hospital at 12:45 to get bloodwork and an ultrasound and then to have a consult with the OB on call. They told me to have a good breakfast and drink water for the ultrasound but told me not to have anything else after that. Shortly after, the receptionist called back to make sure I did indeed get an appointment with the early pregnancy clinic and told me she was sorry for what was happening. The first health care professional to say so. I thanked her and told her she was the first person to say that and she said she was sorry that no one else had yet.
My husband ordered us breakfast and coffee and I had eggs-benedict and a caramel macchiato. By this point I was in pain my lower back was hurting and I was having some cramping. I thought that I would be having methotrexate and knew that it wouldn’t be safe for breastfeeding. I nursed my son one last time and took some pictures knowing it would be the last time. I cried.
We decided he should spend the day with my mom and so we dropped him off together. My husband dropped me off at the hospital and I checked in, got my bloodwork done and headed to ultrasound. They were a little bit behind so my bladder was hella full when I actually got into the room. The tech was very nice and apologetic for having to hurt me with the probe. She said the report takes about 30 minutes and to head upstairs to the clinic. I went up to the clinic and she asked me to wait in the childbirth waiting room which was kind of weird. A nurse came to see me, she brought me into a smaller room and asked me to tell the story again. When I told her that the ER doctor didn’t do anything because I seemed fine she said “are we waiting for you not to be fine?” annoyed that I was dismissed. She told me to go back into the waiting room while she waited on the results and the doctor. I worked on my doula training journal while I waited. The nurse came back about an hour later and brought me back to the little room where the doctor was waiting. This doctor was my OB with my daughter but did not attend her birth. He was always nice and I never had an issue with him. I was so relieved that it was him doing my surgery and not the other doctor who was on call the other day, because I do not feel safe with him at all. Period. At all. When I went into the room, he asked how I was doing I told him still fine but in a bit of pain. He said that based on the scans it was definitely an ectopic pregnancy. He said usually they can treat it with medication but because of all the bleeding I’ve been having and because the mass of blood had grown from 2.3 cm to 3.7 cm in about 18 hours it was too far gone and surgery was the only option. He said my HCG had gone up again but only to about 133. I filled out some forms and signed a consent form. He informed me that he would try to just remove the pregnancy but if needed he would need to take the tube as well. He said that it wouldn’t impact my ability to get pregnant again. I was in a bit of shock and suddenly got really hot. They told me they were going to fill in the paperwork to get me checked in for surgery and to just wait in the hall. I sent a voice note to mom and my husband to let them know that I needed surgery.
The nurse then walked me downstairs to get registered for surgery. After checking in I waited in the waiting room and called everyone I needed to call to make sure the kids were okay and who was taking care of who. My daughter was at her dads because she was waiting on a negative covid test, which thankfully, it was.
Two volunteers who were teenagers came to bring back to get changed and I was brought into pre op. The nurse there was amazing. She was very sweet and so calming. She was the only person I came in contact with that said she was sorry for my loss and said she wanted to take a moment to acknowledge my loss. She took great care of me until it was time for me to go upstairs into my room. I went up around 7 and stayed there till 10 when I was brought downstairs. The porter who brought me was a guy I went to high school with and was in band with me so it was nice to see a familiar face after being alone all day. They were a little behind in surgery so I actually waited in the hall by myself from 10:05 till 10:54. When they brought me into the OR the nurse asked me to take off my underwear which was surgical underwear and get onto the table. She put the arm straps up and I felt weird being stretched out like that. The anesthesiologist asked me a few questions and then we were ready to go. For some reason, the fact that he had alopecia calmed me. It was like I knew he probably had lived experience of discrimination and it made me feel better. The nurse gave me some oxygen in a mask and then they gave me the gas to go to sleep. I felt like what it must feel like to die. I felt so heavy and my whole body was sinking into itself. I couldn’t fight it, nor did I try.
I woke up at 12:35 in terrible pain. My throat was hurting, my stomach was hurting and I knew right then that he had taken my tube. I could feel the emptiness on my left side and I just knew it was gone. I cried because of the pain I cried because of my loss. The nurse seemed annoyed with me at first. I told her how much it hurt and she gave me fentanyl. I calmed down and tried to slow my breathing while tears continued to stream down my face. She wiped them away. I don’t even remember going back upstairs, I must have fallen asleep. I remember getting myself into bed and that it was painful. I think I fell asleep again pretty quickly. The nurse was in and out a lot checking my temperature, pulse and blood pressure. She brought me ice and water and this lemon swab thing which didn’t do shit for my throat. She got me my lip balm for my cracked lips. Every time I fell asleep it was like that falling sensation all over again and I would wake up feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
Around 130 I was able to get my phone and read that I was right and that my tube was indeed gone. My husband had messaged our group and said what the doctor had told him after the surgery. I was sad but okay with it. I got some more pain medication and was able to sleep a little. I barely slept but when I did it was hard and deep.
I was able to get up to pee by myself around 3 am which was not pleasant but I was glad I was able to do it. I needed support to get in and out of bed but I did it. I was also STARVING I hadn’t eaten since 10 the day before and didn’t get breakfast until 8 am that day. I had some eggs, a muffin, fruit and cheerios. They also gave me some sorry excuse for coffee which I didn’t drink.
While I was eating, the doctor came in to check on me and to update me about the surgery. He told me he wasn’t able to save the tube and that he also saw some damage from previous infections. He told me to wait 2 months before trying again and that I should take it
easy for another week. He also asked that I book a follow up appointment with him in one month to see how things are healing.
They told me I could go home between 10 and 11 so I told mom to bring my son to my dad’s and then come pick me up. She brought me home and got us Tims. I’m writing this as I watch Les Mis. My son is going to stay the night again with mom tonight so I can rest for real. I think we are going to stop breastfeeding since it has already been about 30 hours since I last saw him. I miss him so much but I need to take care of myself right now.
I’m so grateful that I have knowledge of these things so that I wasn’t completely blindsided when it happened. Of course this a loss and of course this was traumatic but I was able to mitigate some of that trauma by the fact that I knew what could be coming. I had wanted more than one more child, and I still do but I don’t think it’s in the cards for me. I can’t take more loss. I won’t.
My first miscarriage was harder because I had a positive test. I thought everything was going to be great but I lost the pregnancy 2 days later. With this one, I already felt a sense of loss when I started bleeding and I thought it was just my period starting. If I had found out the other way around it would have been so much more difficult for me.
I had to go through all of this alone because of covid-19 I was not allowed to have anyone with me. This could have ended in me losing my life. I’m so grateful for modern medicine and that this was caught early.
I shared this post on Instagram following my experience.
This thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for modern medicine. I am thankful for my children. I am thankful for my support system.
These past 48 hours have been the scariest time of my life. I went for an ultrasound to get confirmation of what I thought was a miscarriage, only to be told that I needed to go to the ER immediately. The scans revealed that there was fluid in my pelvis which indicated I may be bleeding internally due to an ectopic pregnancy. .
Ectopic pregnancy only happens in about 1-2% of all pregnancies, and I just happened to be unlucky. The ER doctors didn’t believe that I was having an ectopic pregnancy because I wasn’t in pain and I looked well. They sent me home and requested I return the next day for further testing. Repeat bloodwork showed that I was definitely pregnant, and the ultrasound showed that the amount of blood in my pelvis had nearly doubled in size in only 18 hours. Because of this internal bleeding my doctor decided that medication to end the pregnancy was not an option.
He informed me that I would need to have surgery… immediately to remove the pregnancy from my fallopian tube. Although I was in total shock and disbelief that I was going to have surgery I knew that if they didn’t get in there soon, I could die. .
I waited a few more hours and had surgery at 11 pm last night. I knew immediately when I woke up that something wasn’t right. I could feel that my left side was empty. I knew he wasn’t able to save the tube. I was in so much pain from the surgery and from the intubation that all I could do was cry.
Once I got some pain meds and settled down, I was able to get some rest and talk with my doctor this morning. He informed me that the tube did not burst but the embryo had embedded itself too deep in the tube that it couldn’t be saved.
I’m currently trying to process the loss of this pregnancy and losing part of my sacred reproductive organs. I’m also processing the fact that I had to go through all of this alone (physically) because of COVID restrictions in the hospital. I have struggled with infertility, PCOS and have experienced a pregnancy loss in the past, but this really takes the cake. I am also grieving the loss of my breastfeeding relationship with Elias, the separation and the medication has caused our journey to end shorted than we wanted it to. So now, in addition to the pain from the surgery, I am dealing with engorgement as well.
I will constantly be reminded of what happened from the scars on my belly and the emptiness I now feel. I am SO thankful, SOOOO thankful that I don’t live in the US where abortions are so inaccessible. The staff at Markham Stouffville all treated me with respect and kindness and I am forever grateful for the excellent care they provided and for literally saving my life.
All of this going on in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of the race revolution, during pregnancy and infant loss awareness month is all just a hell of a lot to process. .
I’m sharing this story so that others who have or will experience ectopic pregnancy do not feel alone like I did. We need to end stigma associated with loss and infertility <3