A life-storm and how it helped me find my strength
1 in 30,000… that’s how rare a heterotopic pregnancy is. It’s rare enough that most people have never even heard of it before. I certainly hadn’t. (It’s an ectopic pregnancy along with an intrauterine pregnancy… in case you haven’t heard of it either.)
Matt was halfway around the world (literally!) in China for work when I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t believe it; it truly was a miracle! Thankfully he was on the plane and headed home already, so I’d only have to wait a day before I could tell him. We had a whole of two hours of celebrating - hugs, laughs of unbelief, and smiles so full my mouth hurt - before an intense, sharp, unforgiving pain sent us to the Emergency Room. We drove to the ER with a bucket in my lap.
The pain was so horrible I was ready to be sick. We made it into an ER room and I could hardly hold still. “10,” I told them, without hesitation when they asked for the pain level. Having just found out I was pregnant, I took nothing they offered but Tylonel. My pain was fresh and my strength was still intact. I was ready to do what I needed to, to experience the pain to protect our little miracle baby. We were eventually sent home with nothing concrete - just instructions to come back if the pain worsened or I started bleeding. Amidst the pain, the cough that started while Matt was out of town worsened, and breathing got harder.
A trip to an Instacare... I had pneumonia. Great. Coughing hurt and we could hardly keep it under control, even with medication and a humidifier. I'm not sure which was more difficult - tolerating the pain or breathing. It was days later and the pain again reached a point I couldn’t take much longer. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t hold still. Matt was still so exhausted from his trip and the rough nights we’d had, I couldn’t bear waking him up. “I’ll wait until 5:00,” I thought. “Give him time to sleep. Another few hours won’t make a difference for me. I can wait.”
I came out to the living room and turned on “‘nowman oofie” as Shadyn calls it :) Frozen… a comfort movie. I layed on the couch, I paced through the living room - anything to deal with the pain. I couldn’t even feel tired. And then I started bleeding. My heart pounded as I realized we’d be headed back to the ER and were most likely going to lose the baby. I don’t think I even had any tears. I’d been in pain for days and was just ready to have the situation behind us. I’ve never been good about dealing with things all alone. I need someone to listen, to hold my hand, to give me a hug, to offer reassurance.
I only made it through that night of pain and worry until 3:00 before waking up Matt. I made it another hour before he called my mom to come and be with our little guy while he slept - thankfully, oblivious to the panic going on around him. The pain didn’t seem any worse than it had been for our first ER visit. But now I was tired and worn from days of pain and was ready for whatever they could safely give me. The initial effect of the morphine in my body was unexpected and uncomfortable. But the sleep and relaxing effect that came after was more than welcome.
I remember being surprised how little it affected the pain in my lower stomach. It was just enough to take the edge off, but the way it relaxed my body made up for the lingering pain. More blood work, another ultrasound, and hours later I was admitted to the hospital. They could see a shadow in my Fallopian tube - something that could potentially be dangerous. What I remember from that day…
A couple more days later… the pain spiked so high at one point, I passed out. My mom insisted that I call the doctor’s office. Mother’s intuition must still be strong as ever, even when your kids are grown ups :) I made the phone call. Then waited. Then a phone call back: “You need to go back to the ER… right now and get another ultrasound. We may need to remove your Fallopian tube. It can’t wait until tomorrow.” What?!
Thankfully Shadyn was already with his aunt and cousins. We were just getting there to pick him up, but instead just came in long enough to say hi and arrange for him to stay a while longer. I held it together while I hugged Shadyn good bye then lost control as I walked away from the house. I must have felt deep down that we weren’t coming back to get him that night, even though I kept reassuring myself that everything was going to be fine. It surely was just extra precautions they were taking.
We checked in at the ER for the third time in ten days’ time. I could tell the doctor looking over my chart was wondering what we were doing back again. At least until he gently pressed on my stomach. The pain was excruciating! A gasp is all that escaped my lips but my reaction must have been enough for him to realize something wasn’t right.
We’d later learn that he called the surgeon and had him start prepping the Operating Room before they’d even done another ultrasound. The OBGYN / surgeon even came down to be there for the ultrasound. In less than a minute, he told us something wasn’t right. It was incredibly rare but was most likely a heterotopic pregnancy. “I’ve seen one in my career,” he said, “but I shouldn’t be seeing another one.”
“So what needs to be done?”
This time the anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks - hard, heavy and all at once. He went on to reassuring us he’d be as careful as possible but there were no guarantees that the surgery wouldn’t cause a miscarriage and we’d lose the good pregnancy. As happy as we’d been to find out I was pregnant, risk of miscarriage didn’t even have room in my mind at that moment. This was life threatening. I needed surgery. What if something went wrong?
We were told they'd never consider doing surgery on someone so newly pregnant, much less someone who was just barely recovering from pneumonia, if it wasn't absolutely necessary. I was grasping for whatever faith I could reach inside me, but pushing past my anxiety was almost impossible. Somehow I was blessed with the strength to tell Matt I loved him and let them wheel my bed into the OR without completely falling apart.
And then I woke up.
Even though I was in more pain than I’d been in before the surgery (hard to believe!), I felt relief and gratitude. I was alive. It was over. And yes, that was certainly a very real thing to be grateful for. The blood vessels in the Fallopian tube were already rupturing and bleeding internally. The surgeon said I’d probably had until the following day (18 more hours) before the entire tube had ruptured. I probably wouldn't have made it. I’d spend three more days in the hospital and endure a really tough road to recovery.
I’m sure it’s an experience never to be forgotten. Trials come in and out of life - some come like light breezes, some like tornadoes. And the stronger the wind, the more willpower and determination it takes to stay grounded. It’s during these times that hope is hard to hold onto and carefree happiness is unattainable, not even as a memory. The phrase “heavy heart” couldn’t be more accurate.
But I’m learning that it is only when you’ve reached that breaking point that you truly find your strength. And when you’re in the middle of a tornado, you don’t need strength to stand. Rather strength to hold onto the foundation that will keep you safe enough to survive the storm.
My foundation? Faith and my angel husband… and you can better believe I held onto them for dear life. I held onto my faith that a loving Heavenly Father had no intention of letting me face this (or anything else) alone and that every heartfelt prayer is heard and answered. I held onto my faith that it's experiences like these that shape me into the best me and that I’ll be given the strength to not only survive them, but come out a better, stronger person. And oh how I will forever hold onto my incredible husband. My calming presence. My anchor during the storms. My better half and ever-patient, giving, loving companion always. He’s heaven-sent and the biggest tender mercy I’ll ever see in this life.
Trials… well, I have to be grateful for them. They help me find my strength. They allow me to learn in a powerful, sacred way. And I love the person they’re enabling me to become. Life just isn’t meant to be easy. It’s meant to be experienced. The laughter and joy, the pain and the tears… all of it adds to who we are. I guess I’m hoping that these are the things I’ll remember when the next trial comes my way. That, with this newfound strength, I can accept whatever is ahead and step forward into the storm with faith.
Oh, and despite everything, our little miracle baby is just that - a miracle - and continues to grow. I can’t wait to meet her :)