When my first baby was only 5 months old, I found myself bleeding uncontrollably and in incredible pain. I soon discovered that I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy because of a misplaced IUD. (I talk more in depth about my experience in this blog post.)
It was a traumatic experience, to say the least. Even though the pregnancy wasn't planned, and I was nowhere near ready for another baby, my heart still ached for the loss, and my mind swirled with questions of what the future held. Because the ectopic pregnancy was caught late, my fallopian tube had already ruptured by the time I was rushed to surgery. I lost one of my tubes -- and I knew my chances for conceiving again had just taken a hit!
Infertility is a haunting word, and an all-too-common occurrence these days. The fear of its ugly face lives in the mind of every woman who is considering having a child. It definitely lived in mine.
After that experience, it would be another year before my husband and I would discuss growing our family again. Those feelings of loss, anxiety, and fear all came rushing back. At the time of my surgery, my doctor assured me that there was a great likelihood that I would be able to conceive normally again. In fact, she reassured me that it likely wouldn’t take much longer to conceive than it did with our first, assuming that my other fallopian tube was healthy, and there was no indication to suggest otherwise.
But even with all that reassurance, I was still never able to calm my nerves. However, just one month after deciding to start trying for another baby, we found we were once again pregnant. It felt almost surreal. How was that even possible? We had gotten pregnant the same month that we had started trying. I felt like the other shoe was about to drop, and we were in for some sort of sick joke.
I called my doctor’s office almost immediately begging them to let me come in for an early ultrasound. Women who experience ectopic pregnancy once have a 10% chance of experiencing another. And though that statistic might sound small, when you’ve already been a part of the 2% of women that will experience an ectopic pregnancy you start to think you’ll always be on the short end of the statistics. Luckily my doctor let me come in at six weeks for an early ultrasound to confirm a healthy baby was growing exactly where it should have been. That appointment was such a relief, hearing a strong little heartbeat, and the confirmation that everything looked normal gave me the peace of mind I desperately needed.
The relief wore off quickly though, and every day I was reminded how suddenly things could take a turn for the worst. The trauma from my past experience was not soon lost. So, like most pregnancies, the first few months were filled with a lot of anxiety, excitement, and a whole lot of naps. The first pregnancy after a loss can be overwhelming. The fear and grief fill in all the little cracks between the excitement and hope. It’s a lot of emotions to feel all at once, and can be hard to unpack and deal with. Add that emotional baggage to my already full plate of being a full-time mom to a busy toddler and the wife to a busy husband, and I was quickly in over my head.
Along with reassurances from my patient husband, lots of walks in the sunshine, and the increasingly strong kicks of the growing babe in my belly, I did my best to take the pregnancy one day at a time, trying to let the anxiety take a backseat and to focus on the day-to-day miracles that I was witnessing. I was soon reminded how special it was that I had the ability and privilege to bring life into this world. I was able to process through the fear, through the anxiety, and all the uncertainty and embrace the excitement of the arrival of my second daughter.
That pregnancy ended up being the definition of normal, medically speaking, and it gave me back the confidence in my body that I had lost the year before. It gave me so much hope for the future, and it healed a piece of my heart that I didn’t even know was really broken.
It can leave you feeling broken and fearful that the future you had hoped for is now out of reach. Grief comes and goes in waves, and it can be strongest when you least expect it.