I had been checking my mail, like any other day. It had been sitting on the floor by the front door after being dropped through the mail slot by USPS. I picked it up after work like I always do, went through each envelope one by one, decided if each was trash or not. I got to an envelope from my medical insurance company, which I could only assume was my son's medical card which I had been waiting for forever. I tossed the rest of the mail, which was junk, onto the mail table. I slid my finger across the envelope to open it, and pulled out a pamphlet instead.
"We heard the news! You are having a baby!"
All at once I felt this lump in my throat and this heaviness in the pit of my stomach, and a pressure on my chest. No, I wasn't pregnant, but I had been about 2 weeks before receiving this shitty piece of mail. And everything I thought I had recovered from, washed over me immediately, knocking the wind out of me. I thought I was fine for a while, I hadn't talked about it much since it happened, not even with Maurice. I felt everything all at once and although it took that two weeks, it hit me like a ton of bricks when it did.
I kinda remember Maurice asking if I was okay when he got home. I remember being angry at the insurance company for making the assumption that I was still pregnant, I even remember saying "What if I wasn't happy to be pregnant? Why do they send this to people? Why don't they know what happened when they get all the information sent to them?" I wasn't really mad at them obviously, but I was still very raw, and I definitely hadn't grieved my losses or dealt with all the emotions associated with everything that had transpired.
No, I wasn't pregnant anymore. In fact, I had only known I was pregnant for an hour or so before I wasn't anymore. I didn't have much time to process everything. It felt like everything happened in 5 minutes. I didn't have a second to breathe. In fact, I found myself holding my breath for weeks, waiting for everything to feel real. But that day, the day that pamphlet was sent, it became very real.
It all started in December, the pain I was in. It was inconsistent until around January 6, 2019. I was at work and I remember feeling an immense amount of pain in my abdomen. It began as a dull, constant pain, increasing to an unbearable pain that stopped me from even being able to sit up straight. I'd braved through a day of work, or most of a day. I remember asking to leave early and making a call to my doctor's office. My doctor suggested I get a transvaginal ultrasound to get a better look at things. The pain was coming and going, but when it came it was insufferable. I went for the ultrasound the next day after work at an outpatient lab. It was pretty quick, but of course I had to wait for the results and wouldn't get any answers that same day. So I went home and tried my best to cope with the pain.
For hours, I sat home, balling myself up, stretching myself out, applying warm compresses, taking medicine; everything and anything to stop the pain. But nothing worked. I was home alone because Maurice had gone to the gym and taken the kids with him because I'd had the appointment after work. I called him and let him know that I was going to the ER and that I would call him when I was done. I didn't think I'd be there for long and didn't want him to go anywhere besides home with the kids.
I drove myself to the closest ER, which was UPenn, which was usually pretty good. I got there around 8 pm, got checked in and answered the standard questions, where was the pain: right lower abdomen, was there a chance I was pregnant: no, my period was actually on now, level of pain on a scale of 1-10: a 9, had I taken anything: a Tylenol a few minutes before leaving the house. I was in more pain than ever before. I was called up about 4 times, first for vitals, then to provide a urine sample which I couldn't do, because when I attempted to I was in so much pain and literally couldn't pee. I was called up for vitals again, then for blood work at some point.
By the time they'd called me up for vitals the second time, I'd began to feel an intense pain that came with standing and sitting repetitively. I was given a wheel chair and asked again to go to the bathroom, which I still couldn't.
I was crying at this point, in so much pain and having been there for 5 hours. I had been on the phone with Maurice, and it was about 1 am by this time. He asked if I wanted to leave but cautioned me not to because of the amount of pain I was in. I'd complained about the wait to the staff and was told that there was a shortage for rooms because of renovations. Eventually, I was moved to a fast track bed where they took my blood and told me I didn't have to get up again. After I was in the fast track bed for a few minutes, I was told a room was ready for me.
When I got to the room, I was finally able to give a urine sample and give it to a nurse. Time passed slower than it had been in the few hours I had been there. My phone was on 3% and it was 2 am, I was alone, in pain and scared shitless. I was so out of it, I didn't even know what questions to ask and what to expect next. After a while, the nurse returned and told me the urine was used for a pregnancy test but that the results were inconclusive. She said they would have to wait for my blood work to come back but wanted to do an ultrasound to see what was going on.
The doctor stated that she believed it could be an ovarian torsion, which is where your ovary twists on itself and would need to be untwisted in a minor surgery. The other possibility was an ectopic pregnancy. This would mean that I was pregnant but that the embryo was stuck in my Fallopian tube. During the ultrasound, I was told that there was free fluid in my abdomen (blood) and that it wasn't clear what was going on. As soon as the gel was wiped off, the attending doctor was walking into my room.
"Ms. Branch, your blood work came back and it looks like you're pregnant."
She barely looked at me, moreso at the resident. She said she wanted to repeat the ultrasound and see if there was any chance of seeing what was wrong.
"Unfortunately, it looks like this is probably an ectopic pregnancy. And because we can't see much on the ultrasound, I want to do a laparoscopy."
She went on to explain that they wanted to put a camera through my belly button, see what was going on then make two incisions on either side of my abdomen to fix whatever needed to be fixed which was "removing the pregnancy" and a whole lot of other medical mumbo jumbo.
I heard every word she said, but I was frozen, confused, in pain, and afraid. In less than 5 minutes I was informed of a pregnancy then told it was no way that the pregnancy would be able to progress.
I wanted to cry, call my boyfriend and just go home. But I couldn't. I was told had to be rushed to surgery because of the blood in my abdomen, which was causing the unbearable pain. I was trying my best to process everything and remain calm. I was trying to brave through the pain and save myself from anxiety getting the best of me.
The rest was a blur of anesthesia consent paperwork, making sure I gave them contact info, texting my supervisor that I wasn't going to be in later before my phone died completely and texting Maurice that I was pregnant, losing the baby and going into surgery. I was overwhelmed to say the least. But I understood somewhat what had to be done. The last thing I remembered was being on the operating table and being told to count backward before going under. I got to 7 and then everything went black.
I woke up in a recovery room, very out of it and tired. My body felt heavy and I was very sluggish. I vaguely remember a nurse explaining that they'd had to remove my right Fallopian tube because it was damaged from the ectopic pregnancy and telling me that she would call my emergency contact because I was leaving soon. It felt very rushed and surreal. It was like something minor had happened, not that I had lost an entire piece of my reproductive system. More trivial thoughts fluttered through my mind like the fact that my car was there and I couldn't drive, the fact that I'd have to explain this to people and get those sympathetic looks, and that I was being sent home after just a few hours had passed since surgery.
I laid there, slowly beginning to feel pain; sharp, stabbing, unbearable pain on the right side of my abdomen. Within the next hour, Maurice was there to pick me up. The nurse read the summary of surgery from a paper but wasn't able to answer his questions much. She went over the medications that I needed to take, added that I wouldn't be back to work for a while and how to care for myself.
In a nutshell, I felt like I was being rushed out of recovery any didn't understand much more than I did beforehand. To make matters worse, I got a notification from my doctors office visit the day before when my phone had charged a bit. It was a message from my lab results from the day before.
"Results of your ultrasound are normal, call if you have any questions."
I was baffled to say the least. I had plenty questions! How could I have possibly had a "normal" ultrasound when apparently I had an ectopic pregnancy, a damaged tube, and whatever the fuck else. I felt myself getting upset and turned my phone off. I had no clue what was going on still. Nonetheless, we were out of there pretty quick. I can remember my parents coming to get me so that Maurice could drive my car home. I remember the immense pain I was in and almost wetting myself because I couldn't hold my pee in traffic. I remember feeling very drugged up and tired. I slept, with a lot of difficulty, but I got a bit of rest.
The following morning, I got a phone call from someone with a very heavy accent, telling me I needed to go back to the hospital as soon as possible. It made me feel panicked and worried that something had been wrong. I was instructed to get blood work done to "be sure that I wasn't pregnant because the pregnancy couldn't be found in the tube." I demanded an explanation from the man but he simply told me that he wasn't the doctor who did the surgery and couldn't answer my questions about it and to just get my blood work done as soon as I can.
It took me a while to leave the house because I was a wreck of pain pills, tears, confusion and of course STILL in pain. I couldn't drive while taking the percocets they'd given me so I caught an uber to the hospital.
Upon arrival, I was in a daze and trying to make sense of the entire situation. I was grieving the loss, healing the hurt, and following up all at once. I proceeded to get the lab work done and was sent home promptly after.
I was hysterical my entire ride home, talking to Maurice, thinking about contacting lawyers in the event that the surgery wasn't necessary, still very confused. In the following days I'd followed up with my OB/GYN, spoke to once of the doctors at the hospital that had performed the surgery and a family friend who was a nurse. All telling me different things, all causing me to be even more confused. The pain had eventually subsided, but the strain it had caused mentally and emotionally seemed a bit more permanent.
I worried about my fertility and ability to successfully carry another child. I was now a 25 year old, with 1 Fallopian tube and felt like it would hinder future possibilities. Research and internet access dug me into a deeper hole, and I'd convinced myself that I'd never have a baby again.
It all feels silly now, thinking it would be impossible to have another baby. Now, I've done a lot more homework on the subject, noting that plenty women go on to have babies after having an ectopic pregnancy and tube removal. It's possible to have children, although I'll only ovulate every other month. I learned that my life was in danger and the doctors who did my surgery were working with my best interest in mind. After speaking with Maurice, and being reassured that we would try again when the time was right, I'm now sure that I came out of it okay. And although I have educated myself and healed quite a bit, seeing that pamphlet only reminded me of loss and what could have been.