At some point in my life, I was tricked into believing that my twenties would be remarkable….that I would finally have my shit together, fall in love, and conquer the world. While I did fall in love, I definitely do not have my shit together nor have I conquered anything except for the 4th season of House of Cards. In fact, my twenties have been downright brutal.
I know what you’re thinking: everyone’s twenties are brutal. And that fact of the matter may be true. To be honest, I can put up with a lot of shit. But there’s nothing more terrifying than when your whole future comes crashing down around you in less than an hour.
What started out as a normal morning quickly morphed into a journey down one of the most terrifying paths of my life. There I was at work, dreaming about a latte from Starbucks, when I felt a sharp, jabbing pain in my right hip. My mind directly backtracked to senior year of college when, believing I was invincible, I did not exactly mind my health. Back then, I had two ruptured ovarian cysts, a UTI, and, for the zinger, tested positive for chlamydia.
As soon as I felt that similar pain, my first thought was “Fuck, not again!” I truly did not have time for another health episode. I was just recovering from my latest flare up of rheumatoid arthritis (diagnosed at 18, thanks to 16 years of competitive gymnastics), I couldn’t take off any more time from work, and my bank account simply could not withstand another ER bill. But the pain was excruciating and I knew that if I didn’t go to the ER, my problems would just get worse.
I called my boyfriend, telling him I was probably dying and that we needed to go to the hospital that very second. So I left work, picked him up, and off we went. Fortunately for us, it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday, so the ER wasn’t busy at all. The nurse gave me some morphine (bless the creators of that), and did my physical exam, along with a urine test.
“Any chance you could be pregnant?”
My boyfriend and I looked at each other.
“I don’t think so. I just had my period last week.”
Disclaimer: My boyfriend and I are definitely going to get married. A large family is in our future. But I’m 24, he’s 27, and we are both getting started in our careers. We want to have kids, but not yet.
The doctor tells me they’re going to do an ultrasound on my pelvis anyways. So they roll my bed back into the freezing exam room, and the tech instructs me to shove the little ultrasound stick up my vagina. After two very uncomfortable minutes (not because I was naked from the waist down, but because I was in so much damn pain), she says to me, “Well, your pregnancy is no longer viable.”
My eyes nearly bulged out of my head.
“You didn’t know?”
I informed her that I had just had my period a week prior, so I doubted I was pregnant. She informed me that, on the contrary, I was indeed pregnant, but it was only a few weeks along.
The tech wheeled me back to the emergency room cubicle where I had previously been, and placed me back behind the curtain with my fear-stricken boyfriend. The doctor walked back in.
“So the ultrasound revealed a pregnancy, and the urine test confirmed it. You are pregnant.” We both just sort of stared at her, unsure of what to say. She continued, “But…”
There was the “but” I had sensed was coming.
“It seems the pregnancy, for whatever reason, has ended. We call this intrauterine fetal demise. It happens in about 1 percent of pregnancies.”
The next ten minutes were a complete blur to me. I didn’t really understand how I could have gotten pregnant (my boyfriend and I are very safe when it comes to sex). I had also previously been told that due to my rheumatoid arthritis, getting pregnant would probably be an issue for me.
My mind raced. What am I going to tell my parents? Do I tell my mom that I’m pregnant and that it has ended, or do I just not tell her because it isn’t a big deal now that it’s not even going to result in a baby? Will my dad kill my boyfriend? What will his parents think? Am I going to be shunned from my entire family?
We left the hospital knowing a couple of things. One, I was pregnant. Two, the pregnancy had ended and would result in a miscarriage. Three, I had a ruptured ovarian cyst (I totally called that and for that reason, I am obviously the next Christina Yang). The ER doctor had referred me to a gynecologist in the area (I just moved and have been in my city for about 7 months and have yet to establish a primary care physician).
On the drive home, we called my mom. I decided it was just best to spill everything to her, because she’s my mom and what the hell else am I going to do. I was so nervous, because I didn’t want to disappoint her. But to my surprise, she was very calm and understanding, and even shared her miscarriage experiences with me. She said I should wait to tell my dad until I knew for certain what was going to happen.
The next day, we went to see the gynecologist. He was young, but very nice and explained things well. We sat nervously in the exam room waiting for his diagnosis.
“I don’t want to say the pregnancy has ended yet, because your Beta HCG levels haven’t dropped yet.” I must have looked confused, because he clarified: “It’s totally possible that the pregnancy could be normal and healthy, but you’re only a week or two along, so it’s hard to tell at this point. We will need to do blood work in 48 hours to determine if it has in fact ended.”
Now I was even more confused, not to mention still totally terrified. It was only yesterday that the ER physician had confirmed that the pregnancy was already over. But because my pregnancy was only a few weeks along, it wouldn’t have a heart beat yet, and the lack of heartbeat was what prompted the ER doctor to tell me the pregnancy was over.
My boyfriend and I spent the next few days on an emotional rollercoaster. Are we or aren’t we going to be parents? What do we tell our families? How will we afford to raise a child, with rent and a new dog and my college loans? Will we move back home with one of our families? What does this mean for us?
Two days later, I got the lab work done (on a Friday). Because I have shitty luck, I didn’t get the results until Monday. My doctor called to confirm that yes, my pregnancy had indeed ended, and my body would have a miscarriage.
At first I was alarmed. I’m only 24. Why am I having a miscarriage? Is something wrong with me? Will I ever be able to have kids? It seems like everyone on my Facebook is having babies. Why are they all getting pregnant, and why am I having a miscarriage?
My doctor assured me that having a miscarriage is a relatively normal thing: as many as 75 percent of conceptions miscarry. My options were as follows: I could either let the miscarriage occur naturally over the course of a week (similar to a period, but with more bleeding and cramps), take a pill that would induce the miscarriage and speed up the process (happen over the course of a few days), or have a D&C (Dilation and curettage…aka surgery). My doctor also told me that I would want to take time off of work for whichever option I choose, because having a miscarriage would be an emotionally and physically draining process.
I didn’t want to take a week off of work, so I definitely had to either take a pill or have a minor surgery. I knew surgery was not an option (both because of my job and finances, as well as the risk of scar tissue, which could complicate future pregnancies), so I decided to take the pill and have the miscarriage over the course of a few days.
After consulting my mom and my boyfriend’s mom, who is a nurse, I felt much better about going through a miscarriage. On the morning I was scheduled to take the pill to induce the miscarriage, I took my boyfriend to the airport, as he was heading to across the country for work for two weeks. I went home, took the pill, and prepared for a heavy two-day period.
I had been warned that I would have heavy bleeding and heavy cramps. By 7 pm, I had no bleeding, but I did have severe cramping. I’m talking World War 3 in my uterus. My entire abdomen hurt. Was this normal? I had no idea. I had no clue what would be considered normal for a miscarriage, because everyone’s bodies react differently. I tried to sleep it off. I took one of the extra-strength ibuprofen that had been prescribed to me for this process.
I tossed and turned throughout the night. When I woke up the next morning, my abdomen pain had gotten worse and it was actually slightly swollen, and I was having severe shoulder pain with difficulty breathing. Again, I didn’t know if this was normal for a miscarriage. I called my gynecologist’s office (he had told me to call the office at any time if I was having problems), and he himself picked up at 6 am. I told him what was happening, and he sent me to a diagnostics office for an ultrasound (he was heading into a surgery that morning and couldn’t see me himself).
Now that my boyfriend was out of town, my sister had to call off of work at take me. The ultrasound wasn’t clear. The tech called the doctor into the room, and they called my doctor. I was clueless and in the dark. The doctor came back into the room, and told me to go straight to the emergency room.
At this point, I had no fucking clue what was happening. Nobody could give me a straight answer. All I knew was that I was supposed to be having a miscarriage, but there was blood around my uterus, making the ultrasound hard to decipher. I also knew that an ectopic pregnancy could very well happen. I had done my research, so I knew ectopic pregnancies were very dangerous, often life-threatening issues that required emergency surgery.
My sister and I arrived at the ER. Usually, when you go to the ER, it takes forever for the doctor to finally see you. But this time, as soon as I got there, an entire team of doctors and nurses swarmed into my room, hooking me up to a double IV and taking my temperature and asking me a zillion questions. My heart rate was low, which was not a good sign. They told me that my pregnancy was in fact ectopic, and that I would need to go into surgery right away, as it had ruptured in the fallopian tube and I was now bleeding into my abdomen. My normal miscarriage had turned into the worst possible life-threatening situation.
I was prepped for surgery, but was a rollercoaster of emotions. There was a chance that I could use a lot of blood and need a blood transfusion, which could lead to a slew of problems. There was a chance I could lose one or both of my ovaries or fallopian tubes. I had to sign paper work that dealt with the exposing of the fetus. Overwhelmed was an understatement.
The surgery took less than an hour, and I had to stay in the hospital overnight so they could monitor my vitals. My recovery took about a week, and now, a month later, I have two small incisions on my abdomen, and one in my belly button. I can still feel the tenderness in my abdomen.
I have no idea what any of this means for the future. Because my first pregnancy was ectopic, it’s likely that I’ll have another one, but it’s also likely that my next pregnancy will be normal and healthy. My experience is rare (except that Christina Yang had an ectopic pregnancy too!) considering all factors. But at the end of the day, I suppose everything happens for a reason…even if that reason is unbeknownst to us.