When I got the call that I might be pregnant, but that the results might be indicative of something other than a healthy baby, I was paralyzed. What do you do with a piece of information like that, other than hope and pray?
I remember getting into a taxi to go to the hospital to get an ultrasound. It was one of the longest cab rides I have ever taken, but then again all the cab rides in this IVF process have seemed like eternity. The feelings of hope were over-shadowed by feelings of dread but I kept telling myself that this could be the miracle we had been waiting for, that all the doctors could be wrong, and that this could be a healthy baby. When you are going through the IVF process, you hear so many wild stories about people getting pregnant against the most unbelievable odds that at every turn you hope that you are going to be one of those success stories, however outlandish your current circumstances seem to be.
When I got to the hospital, my heart was pounding. I distinctly remember lying on the ultrasound table while the doctors hummed around me, thinking that their white coats seemed particularly clinical on that day, though I don’t suppose a hand knitted sweater with embroidered bears would have made me feel much better. After a few quiet moments on the ultrasound table, I’ll never forget my doctor saying there was strong heart beat and feeling my eye lift to hear the rest of the good news that was about to follow. But instead, he confirmed the pregnancy was in one of my fallopian tubes and would be life threatening if it wasn’t removed at once.
I thought I’d have to go into surgery then and there but instead I was sent home with the knowledge that the initial treatment for ectopic pregnancies is actually an application of the very same medication used in chemotherapy. I was scheduled for two doses, one the next day and one a week following. I can’t really explain the agony of knowing you have a growing embryo inside of you with a healthy heartbeat, while also knowing that the next day you were planning to willingly be injected with chemotherapy medications to stop that embryo from growing.
I felt like a piece of my heart had died; I felt like the worst parent in the world because there was nothing I could do to save my baby. After the longest week of my life was over, I went in for a follow up ultrasound to make sure that the embryo was no longer growing. More bad news: they found that the medication had not worked, and that the embryo was continuing to grow. The doctors gave me a moment alone in the examination room while they frantically called around to schedule an emergency surgery to remove my fallopian tube and the growing embryo before the tube burst. I called Daron and could hardly get the words out. At the time, I felt like I should say something to the embryo, or the baby. The doctors called it an embryo but of course it felt like a baby to me. Still, to this day, I am not sure what to call it.
As soon as the doctors returned, I was rushed through to the ER and then told to undress so I could be prepared for surgery. I can’t tell you how badly I didn’t want to take off those clothes, as every piece that I removed brought me closer to having the pregnancy terminated, and there was still a part of me that couldn’t let go, a part that kept hoping for a miracle. It does bring a tiny smile to my face now thinking that, in the midst of all of this, I kept refusing to take off the bracelet Daron had given me for my birthday. It is a gold bracelet that can only be removed by unscrewing a tiny gold screw and, in an attempt to hold on to some shred of control, I was obstinate that it be left on….of course, no jewelry is allowed at all during surgery, but I was having none of it.
It’s funny how the small things that seem to devour you in those moments are, in retrospect, just attempts to avoid thinking about the reality of the situation. The doctors must have thought me insane, focusing so intently on the well-being of my bracelet in the face of such a serious surgery, but in fact I was just trying to hold on to something, anything. They eventually brought in a janitor with a tiny screwdriver and Daron took charge, removing the bracelet and bringing me back to reality.
Finally my doctor pushed away my wheelchair and all the noise of the ER was gone. The cold, sterile ride to surgery was filled with silly commentary from my doctor about the weather. But what was the poor man supposed to say, what could he say?
This particular doctor had been with me since we found out we had secondary infertility. He was not a very touchy feely kind of guy (but then again, I’m not either). However, on this day he leaned in and rubbed my arm and told me not to worry, he was going to take care of me. And honestly, in that moment that was the best thing anyone could have possibly said. I will be eternally grateful to him for making that moment as they put me under that tiny bit easier to handle. I knew the moment the anesthetic took effect that, the next time I would be conscious, I would not be pregnant anymore. In that moment before I went under, I wasn’t’ sure how I was going to handle that and whether this was the end of the road for me, whether we’d stop trying after this.
I took the next day off from work and spent the entire day staring at my son JR, remembering how blessed we were already. If it weren’t for him, I am simply not sure how I would have gotten out of bed that week, or even that month.