Claire describes her experience of an ectopic pregnancy and how she and her husband have coped.
I think we are both changed forever.
My husband and I have been trying to conceive for over two years. We were both into our 30s when we met and knew we wanted children. We never imagined just how difficult this journey would be and both agree it has been the most traumatic experience of our lives.
I think we are both changed forever. I don’t cope as well as he does and look to him to help find the strength to get through each day. We are completely in love and devoted to one another, however there have been times when trying to conceive has almost broken us. We dreamed of a child as a final piece of the puzzle, but in reality, it has, at times divided us. We have received no relationship advice or counselling as promised and we just keep trying to stumble our way through. I am now trying to prepare myself for a life without Tom’s child. I figure if I can envision a life without our child, I may get stronger in time. We have no guarantee of ever having our child and I have to find a way of dealing with this fact.
We arrived home from our honeymoon and I knew I was pregnant. I took the test the next day and never felt happier in my whole life. I had finally married the man of my dreams and now I was pregnant with his child. I was complete.
Exactly one week later I felt a bit poorly. Tom was away on business. He came home and I wasn’t myself, I was tearful and I think I always knew the pregnancy was never going to last. I don’t know how or why, maybe it was because I wanted it too badly. That night I had sharp pains in my left side and as I cuddled into Tom, I knew the pregnancy was ending. I began bleeding the next morning. Tom was wonderful and he just let me cry. I continued to feel poorly and after confiding in my mum, she suggested I see a doctor as the pain on my left side was getting worse rather than better.
What followed was two months of hell. We ended up in A&E, but were informed no one was available to do a scan as it was the evening. We had no idea why I was in so much pain on my left side, but I kept thinking about a story of an ectopic pregnancy I had heard back in school. My husband could not bear to wait, so he found a private company to scan me that evening.
The private company took another pregnancy test which came back positive, but found no sign of an embryo. They began to use the words ‘ectopic’ or ‘pregnancy of unknown origin’. We returned to the hospital and I was admitted to a ward.
Tom slept with me that evening and whilst everyone said to stay positive as the pregnancy may just be too small to see, I never believed it. The next morning, they took us down for a scan. I sat amongst all the pregnant ladies waiting for their pictures. I could feel my heart breaking and I knew the break would never be repaired. I looked to the staff for support, but I felt no empathy. The scan showed the embryo wasn’t where it should be.
One nurse held my hand when I broke down but, to the rest, I felt I was nothing more than a hindrance on a very busy ward. Tom and I headed home but were asked to come back a week later for a re-scan. Tom is a forever an optimist and kept believing that maybe the baby was just too small to see. As my hormones bounced around and I had no closure, I spiralled into a depressed state. Unable to move forward, I also felt extremely unwell and nothing anyone said seemed to help.
Bloods where taken every 48 hours for two weeks. The pregnancy hormone continued to rise, but slowly. I complained every appointment of a serious pain in my left side, but the nurses just gave me a sad look and continued with their checks. At one appointment, I requested they actually make a note of my complaint of pain. Tom was living in limbo for weeks, not able to yet grieve for the loss of our baby. I was progressively feeling worse and finding everyday duties more and more difficult.
I was re-admitted to hospital and told I would need an injection to end the pregnancy. This happened quickly one day after a blood test. I was almost relieved, maybe now I could start to grieve and begin to feel better and move on. But as the injection was administered, I felt a new wave of pain, we were ultimately ending the life of our child. No amount of; ‘it would not grow’, ‘it could never be a healthy child’, and ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ helped me at this point.
That night I was extremely sick and could not stop shaking. Tom again slept in the hospital bed with me and the nurses left us alone to grieve. The next morning, we were discharged and told to continue with the routine 48hr bloods. I felt awful, Tom had to take care of me whilst he was also in emotional pain. Over the following weeks, the bloods showed the pregnancy hormone begin to drop and eventually it was under five so we were discharged completely. However, through this whole time, I still complained of pain on my left side. I was admitted twice during the night as I woke screaming in pain, only to be told the hormone was dropping so everything was fine. I began to doubt myself, maybe I was imagining the pain.
A year before I noticed my periods had become heavier and this came with other symptoms. I could not access any help from my GP, so eventually paid to see a private consultant. Privately he had arranged for me to have a scan. The scan had showed a polyp or possible endometriosis. However, the consultant then went off sick and so it was a long time before this information was fed back to me. I was told a laparoscopy would be best to confirm the problem. But the wait for one on the NHS was a year, and during the wait is when we got pregnant. Just by coincidence the private consultant I saw was also my NHS consultant during one of my later hospital admissions. So, following the ectopic and the injection, we both wanted the laparoscopy to go ahead, so they could work out what was going on. The hospital refused, even though the consultant was working again. I continued to complain of pain on my left side. After six weeks Tom broke, he rang the hospital and said if they did not take this seriously he would take me private as I was in pain.
The hospital gave me a date for the laparoscopy. I once again said I felt like the pregnancy was there, I could feel it. The consultant assured me this was not the case and once again I felt like maybe I was going slightly mad. I woke from my laparoscopy in agony. My husband was next to me crying. The consultant had come and apologised to him following surgery. They had found the pregnancy in the left tube and so had removed the tube, along with other work to repair the damage caused without consent. Again, we were almost relieved, maybe we could now begin to move on.
The nurses were cold to me after my husband left. I complained of pain and needing meds to help, they rolled their eyes. I didn’t know if I could get up due to the pain, so when I asked again the nurse almost laughed, and said ‘of course, just get up’. Later that night when I cried in pain the nurse went to get my file. She was shocked when she saw the pictures inside and asked me how long the pregnancy had been there. I believe they were not informed of the tube removal along with various other treatments I had. They thought I had just had an exploratory laparoscopy so of course they rolled their eyes when I asked for pain relief.
The consultant came with the cremation papers and by this point I was a shadow of my former self. I wish my husband could have been there whilst I signed consent. The hospital stay did not get any better and I rang begging my husband to come and get me.
I did eventually begin to heal clinically, but emotionally I went further and further downhill. My hormones did not feel like they had balanced out and I remember thinking the pain would never go away. My husband and I were in no way prepared for my emotional outbursts and to be brutally honest, on two occasions I thought it would end our marriage.
Fast forward a year, I still have not healed, but I was beginning to recognise a new me. The trauma is never going to leave, it’s there forever now. Six months ago, whilst at work I received a call to say we were now at the top of the list for fertility treatment. Apparently following the operation the consultant referred us on. I felt a small sense of hope. We had been trying for eight months since I was given the green light by the consultant. Every period brought fresh pain. I tried to relax but it was impossible. If I did the ovulation tests I would get so anxious we would end up arguing when we should have been baby making. If I didn’t do them, it was a guessing game all month. I become gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, gave up alcohol, started working out and working harder to keep my mind occupied. Nothing helped, I just got better at disguising it all from others. Every time someone announced a pregnancy or birth, tears would fill my eyes and then I would question what type of person I was wishing it was me rather than them. I still feel this.
And so we began the IVF process. Seven weeks of hormones and hospital checks, painful egg collection and finally the transfer. The two weeks wait from the transfer date is torture, but I have to laugh about it now, I can’t keep crying. Tom and the nurses told me to stay positive. I laughed and joked at my appointments, but inside a new pain was beginning, what if this doesn’t work?
It didn’t work and now Tom and I wait in limbo until a nurse calls us to tell us the next step. I cried for a whole day last week and my hormones seem to be playing up again. The hospital told me they will arrange for me to speak to the counsellor, but that never happened. Following the ectopic pregnancy I requested a counsellor and eventually went to the GP requesting counselling, no referral was ever followed up.
We may have one more attempt with the NHS, but nothing is guaranteed, in fact the odds are pretty stacked against us. Do you continue on, now that you have come this far? Do you try and make all the pain and suffering worth it? Or do you begin to build a new life?
I feel I was failed on nearly every aspect of NHS care, but I can’t deny that clinically they did the right thing in the end. Tom and I are quite strong characters and I dread to think what someone who didn’t like to keep speaking up would have to go through.
Now, I have a ‘live in this moment’ strategy. I can’t think about the future when we are trying; it overwhelms me. I have to work hard to just concentrate on enjoying the moment with my husband. I have to think about feeling close to him, not about making a baby. Its exhausting to keep redirecting your thoughts but I have to continually remind myself, I am lucky to have this man that has gone through this with me and has taught me how to be stronger.
If God means it to be only us two, then we have to still try and enjoy every minute together. This is by no means easy, my hardest day is always the day my period arrives. I lock the bathroom door and cry to myself. Then I come out and continue as normal. I have taken up yoga and often receive massages. I need to love my body more. I can’t carry anger towards it or anyone else. I override bad thoughts with positive ones and find reasons to be thankful. I give my time to others going through troubles, I feel useful if I can make someone feel better.
I took up yoga and meditation and have found it helps me. I can control my thoughts and anxieties better and I give my body care and attention, rather than being angry at it because its not doing what it should find completely natural. Reflexology and acupuncture have also been beneficial, along with regular massages. In fact, massage helps me greatly, I feel relaxed and feel my body is working correctly, its comforting and almost resets me.