Cancer-Fertility, Motherhood/Fertility

Ectopic Pregnancy Loss – Managing Grief & Recovery

Our Ectopic Pregnancy Loss: I have been struggling to find the words for this blog post. After taking a week to process my grief, care for my body after the surgery and put my thoughts onto paper, I am ready to share this experience with the My Cancer Chic community. I will start by staying that every pregnancy no matter how short is special. As women, the biological bond we form with a child begins immediately. Before we even know what the changes in our body represent,  our hormones tell us  that something has changed forever.

Though I only had this sweet baby within me for a few weeks, I experienced great joy and great loss that will always be a part of me. I hope that by sharing the story of our ectopic pregnancy loss, you will feel less alone in your own experience of loss and more empowered to help loved one through similarly painful experiences.

Cancer History & Fertility

Our Ectopic Pregnancy Loss Story

For those of you who have with me throughout my cancer journey, you know I went off hormone blocking treatment in January of 2018 in hopes of getting pregnant. My period returned and we spent the last 3 months trying to make a baby. I learned to notice every small change, every smell, every feeling and every emotion in an effort to become more in tune with my body and my cycle. Despite the pressure of time and the looming 2 year limit off hormone blocking medication, we were doing our best to live in the moment. The joy of planning for a family kept us grounded and brought Mac and I closer together.

The Joy of a Positive Pregnancy Test

Ectopic Pregnancy Loss_Pregnancy Test

Last week after having some odd spotting and positive ovulation tests for over 10 days I started to get excited. I was hesitant to take a pregnancy test too early, but the butterflies circulating in the back of my mind kept telling me I was pregnant. Something just felt different. By Wednesday I was 2 days late and woke up ready to take a test. I left the house early, and bought FOUR  pregnancy tests at Walgreens.

Waiting for that pee stick was the longest 3 minutes of my life. My heart was racing and somehow I already knew it would be positive. Seeing the “YES” on that tiny stick, my heart exploded with joy!!! I spent the day floating on a cloud with a goofy grin on my face all day long. The excitement of planning a surprise for Mac was the only thing that kept me grounded all day.  I made him a beautiful graphic, bought a frame and spent all day thinking about the little peanut growing inside of me.

Our Ectopic Pregnancy Loss

The Pregnancy Confirmed

The doctor confirmed my pregnancy with a blood test – it all felt so surreal. I couldn’t believe we had made it to this point after all the sadness we had endured. I vividly remember the days following my breast cancer diagnosis where I feared we would never reach this moment.  We immediately starting planning how we would surprise our families, and welcome a baby into our lives.

The thought did cross my mind that it may be too early to tell anyone, but I will never forget a friend once telling me that waiting to tell her friends before her miscarriage robbed her of sharing that unique joy she would never get back. I knew I wanted to share this joy with a few special women who have gotten me through the darkest hours. If something were to happen (which at the time I had no fear that it would), at least I would be surrounded by my tribe.  Little did I know I would need them sooner rather than later.

Pregnancy Loss_Support & Grief

Warning Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Thursday around 4:45pm, a wave of pain washed over me. The pain was so similar to another experience in early May that I almost brushed it off as gas pains, another long term side effect of cancer. With the recent pregnancy news though, my panic took over. My heart rate skyrockets, I began to shake and sweat dripped down my face. It took me about 20-30 minutes to calm down and I slowly crept to the car as the pain ebbed and flowed.

That night the pain lessened and we were more and more inclined to think it was gas pains. I had nothing to compare the pain to other than stomach issues and I had no idea that these were warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy. We were in contact with the doctor and scheduled to see her the next morning for routine tests. The words concern and possible problems circulated, but I pushed them from my mind. As long as the pain remained stable I was in the clear.

Ectopic Pregnancy – It’s Not Just Gas!!!

Friday morning, we were up early heading to the beach for my mother in law’s wedding. Filled with excitement, we made a quick stop at the doctor for my second HCG test and decided to forgo the ultrsounds because my pain had lessened. Embracing our favorite fertility nurse who has been with us since my cancer diagnosis made the pregnancy seem so real. Joy enveloped us and there was no hint of fear.

Shortly into the ride, my pain returned worse than ever and once again the panic set in. I could barely walk to and from the rest stop and sat dizzy on a bench. Though doubled over in waves of pain, I kept holding onto hope that it was just gas. We made it to a Walgreens to get medicine and as I was waiting at the counter talking to the pharmacist, my phone rang.

Dropping HCG Levels

Instead of the nurse on the other line, I was met with the sympathetic voice of my fertility specialist. Her tone said it all. Something was wrong. She informed me that my HCG had dropped from 189 to 139 when it should have doubled. She was concerned that the dropping HCG in combination with the pain may be evidence of an ectopic pregnancy, which could be life-threatening. If the pain returned or worsened in anyway, I was instructed to go to the ER immediately.

My Heart Shattered

I blindly stumbled to the car and promptly shattered into a thousand pieces. It felt like all the air had been sucked from my lungs and my body was collapsing. Ectopic pregnancy… I knew what it meant, but couldn’t process the words. The embryo had implanted in the wrong place. I could not bare the emotional pain and tried to hold onto hope. A part of me already knew something was very wrong with my baby and there was nothing I could do. Mac held me in his arms and I sobbed uncontrollably. Every fiber of my being seemed to be dissolving –  I hurt beyond repair.

Pregnancy Loss – Surround Yourself With Love

Pregnancy Loss, Ectopic Pregnancy

So thankful for those I had told about the pregnancy days before, I texted my girlfriends for support. Of course there was nothing anyone could say to relieve the pain and fear but lines of communication kept me from drowning in panic. I immediately felt the love around.

The rest of the drive to the beach was a blur. We stopped for food and I clung to Mac unsure of myself, my ability to walk, constantly wondering if we should drop everything and rush to the hospital. The pain was still present but more dull. This is embarrassing to say now, but I was afraid of going to the hospital and finding out it was all just constipation. At the time, I had no idea that these signs are common in ectopic pregnancies.

You Know Your Body Best

When we arrived at the beach condo, a new wave of pain took over. This wave was worse than the others. Every minute I sat in pain I thought more of the ectopic pregnancy fears.  The panic was unbearable. I collapsed to the floor, unable to move paralyzed by panic and pain. Mac held me, wiped cool towels on my body and whispered in my ear as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. Knowing the ambulance was on the way brought me a great sense of comfort. I may be broken and shattered emotionally, but they would take care of my body. Professionals could “fix” this.

Non-Viable Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy Loss

Blood tests, urine tests and an horrifically painful ultrasound later we heard the dreaded words, “non-viable pregnancy”. Once again I slipped away from this word. Overcome with emotion and physical pain I gasped for breath. It felt like those words alone had ripped my child away from me. 24 hours before I had been over the moon, planning for our child and now I felt the doors of motherhood slamming in my face. Would I ever be a mother again? Could I get pregnant moving forward? How would I survive this emotional pain and live day to day? I wanted to curl up and die as these emotions coursed through my veins. It was a visceral reaction unlike anything I had ever experienced.

Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment

Our Ectopic Pregnancy Loss Story

The ultrasounds showed liquid outside my uteras that could be ruptured fluid, so instead of using a chemical treatment such as methotrexate, I was told I would have laparoscopic surgery. If not for the morphine I don’t know how I could have processed this news. With my pain under control, survival took over. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening and I knew this is what needed to happen to keep me safe.

By midnight I was drugged up and wheeled into surgery, somehow with a smile on my face. My stomach was filled with gas and they went in to remove the ectopic pregnancy as well as my damaged right Fallopian tube. The doctors informed us that was better to remove the damaged tube to help minimize risk of future ectopic pregnancies. This alone gave me some sense of comfort talking about the possibility of future pregnancies. The body is truly an amazing thing, and I now have to trust my body to heal.

Ectopic Pregnancy Loss

There is No Right Way to Handle Loss

I spent a lot of time following the surgery thinking about how on earth I would recovery and carry on. Cancer knocked me down before, but nothing prepared me for the emotional pain and devastation of a pregnancy loss, never mind the ectopic surgery. Despite an army of love surrounding me, I felt alone in my grief unable to see hope for the future. No one, not even my caring and loving husband understood the grief in my heart. One minute I would be crying, the next I was smiling. Each smile was followed with guilt for experiencing even a minute  joy after the loss of a child.  My mind was filled with expectations for how I should be handling this horrific experience. My therapist reminded me – “There is no right way to handle loss. However you handle it is exactly right for you”. It’s taking time to internalize that perspective, but I am getting there.

Our Ectopic Pregnancy Loss

Drawing on Past Struggles

I tried to think back to my cancer diagnosis and the days that followed. If only I could remember how I made it through. What got me through those horrific moments of fear and sadness? The tear-filled nights of anxiety and pain following chemo? Little by little I realized no one thing got me through that pain. It was the small routines of  life, the day to to day steps towards physical recovery and sharing my pain with others that helped me begin to heal.

Survival and Recovery Quote

Each and every day I got up, and every night I went to sleep. It did not mean the sadness, and fear was gone. It just became a part of me. With time, that part of me lessened, but I had to learn to accept. I assume the same will be true with this loss. I never imagined I would have an ectopic pregnancy, but now it’s a part of my story.

Surviving is Recovering

Recovery is an odd word because it makes us think the pain is gone. It makes us think we are completely healed and disconnected from the awful experience. In reality recovery is just surviving one moment at a time for a long time until the joy begins to outweigh the sadness  In time surviving can transition to thriving, but after cancer that took me a lot of hard work, reflection and self-care. It didn’t happen over night. I am sure the same will be true as I rebuild myself after pregnancy loss.

Surviving After Pregnancy Loss

One Day at a Time

I will take it one day at a time, embracing each and every emotion that I feel. My tribe will continue to surround me with love and kindness and I desperately hold onto our hope for the future. We will try again and we will deepen our love for each other and our future family. This experience will not destroy me.

Little by little I will rebuild, heal and become stronger than ever. Not only will I have new immense sense of gratitude and love for the child we someday welcome into this world, but I will have the strength and resilience to raise a child who is able to thrive in the face of adversity every single day. If you are in your own moments of darkness, do not give up hope. You are not alone in your grief and I send you comfort and love in hopes that one day you pain will lessen.

If you are looking for more information about ectopic pregnancy, I found this website very informative and comforting.

 

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36 Comments

    John Snyder

    July 7, 2018
    Reply

    Anna, No words can comfort you as you recover from this tragedy, but please know that your grace
    and courage in coping with cancer and this unimaginable loss are an inspiration to me and I many others.

      Anna

      July 7, 2018
      Reply

      Thank you so much Joe. It’s crazy but survival is the only way. Somehow now I think we bounce back quicker but the pain is still immeasurable.

    Joanna

    July 7, 2018
    Reply

    Such a beautifully written post. It is truly amazing how our bodies continue to move even when we are paralyzed with fear and sadness. Even in your worst moment you still found the courage to smile. Your tribe will always have your back ❤️

    Annette

    July 7, 2018
    Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost a 4 month pregnancy on my honeymoon and it broke our hearts. It was the first time I saw my husband cry. I had had many miscarriages and then that loss broke our hearts. However, we now have two amazing, intelligent, sweet boys. It is hard to see the sun when you are in the middle of a storm. You are beautiful and strong and you will have better days. I know by experience.

      Anna

      July 8, 2018
      Reply

      I am soooo sorry for your loss. Knowing I am not alone and others have walked this path before me gives me strength. Thank you for your support.

    Olivia Faith

    July 7, 2018Reply

    Anna, my heart aches for your loss. And I am in absolute AWE of your strength to open up and talk about this with your tribe who absolutely adore you. I am praying for the swiftest recovery for you, physically and emotionally.
    You are amazing, my dear friend.
    The strongest, greatest inspiration and shining light in this world.
    Forever grateful I e-met you on this blog journey.
    All my love
    Olivia Faith

      Anna

      July 8, 2018
      Reply

      Olivia the feeling is mutual. You help me feel inspired and strong to carry on. Thank you for your continued love and support

    Melisande Balleste

    July 7, 2018
    Reply

    I am 😐 for your loss. 😥❤️

      Anna

      July 8, 2018
      Reply

      Thank you sweetheart. It is so painful but we are inspired and hopeful to carry on toward our dream of a family

    Danielle Livingstone

    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    Oh Anna I am so sorry for you and your husband. We are all praying for you both. Your body is amazing, your baby will come soon I am sure xxx

    Laurette Thompson

    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    You are totally amazing.!!! Reading your blog tonight brings much sadness to my heart. I will be praying for you and Mac and that baby you will one day have!!! We love you and I thank you for the encouragement you give to soo many, including me.

    Rach

    July 8, 2018Reply

    This post was so beautiful Anna. And this was so brave of you to share. By sharing this, I know you will help many people out there. You are so right and our bodies can do amazing things and recovery means taking it day by day. Love you girl!

    Mac

    July 13, 2018
    Reply

    I love you hunny.

    Mac

    nancyspoint

    July 26, 2018
    Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss and heartache. Thank you for sharing about this. Talking about the hard stuff matters so much.

    Jesh

    July 31, 2018
    Reply

    I am sorry for your loss and I just want to send your love and hugs from my side of the world. I had an ovarian ectopic pregnancy in 2016. Your post brought back memories and I just want to tell you that the grief is real but so will be the healing process. Right now, I am battling with BC, starting my 2nd chemo soon. Trust & hope that tomorrow will always be better than today!

    Katie

    October 6, 2018
    Reply

    I’m reading this post as I sit at the hospital waiting to be discharged after my ectopic pregnancy experience. I also required surgery, mainly in an effort to prevent complications in the coming week.. I’m getting married a week from today. Your raw emotions and words are truly comforting and reassuring. I wish you nothing but the best in the future and I can only hope that I can reflect back on this experience in the same way you have here. Thank you so much.

      Anna

      October 7, 2018
      Reply

      I am sooooo sorry for your loss. I know nothing can take away that raw awful pain and sadness. I only hope with time like I was able to heal you will be as well! Sending you love and much joy for your wedding

    Cass

    April 6, 2019
    Reply

    I just recently dealt (and am still dealing) with the emotional rollercoaster of an ectopic pregnancy as well. I felt like I needed to read this today, so thank you. Your strength is beautiful and I hope that someday soon, you are blessed with the child that you sincerely deserve.

      Anna

      April 8, 2019
      Reply

      I am so glad that I could help in some small way. I hope that you too have the child of your dreams someday and that your pain passes.

    Ashley

    May 8, 2019
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story! I went through an ectopic pregnancy recently (April 8th). I was 18w5d when I went to the ER and discovered that I had a ruptured Fallopian tube. We were told I was dying and the only way I’d make it is to have emergency surgery, but our baby boy wouldn’t be able to make it outside of my body. These word broke me. I am so thankful to be alive and miss my boy everyday, but it’s gotten better with every passing day. Your story gave me encouragement and comfort that I’m not alone. Thank you. – Ashley

    Lauren

    November 4, 2019
    Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss. I experienced a ruptured ectopic pregnancy on may 13, 2018. I am so sorry you had to feel that pain physically and emotionally. I am sending you lots of love and light.

      Anna

      November 6, 2019
      Reply

      Thank you for your kind words it’s not something I want anyone to ever go through but I have to believe I am stronger now as I am sure you are too

    Laura

    January 17, 2020
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing. I suffered a ectopic pregnancy, just over a week ago, resulting in emergency surgery and the loss of my left tube. After trying to get pregnant for so long this broke my heart. The surgery itself is taking me some time to process and accept. I am scared for the future, of trying again but your post is just what I needed today. I am not alone. I will get through this, with my loving husband by my side. Thank you for sharing your story, by doing so you are helping others like me. ❤️

    Alexis

    February 11, 2020
    Reply

    😭😭 thank you for sharing! I have never Been pregnant before, I honestly didn’t even know if I could. I took a test on a Friday but I was bleeding lightly.I tried not to get too excited until Monday to find out more. But it was the first time I ever seen pregnant on a test, I was actually pretty excited.
    THEN Monday came. They sent me to the ER because I had blood in my urine test. Every test, blood, urine all of it said PREGNANT so they thought I was miscarrying I had kind of accepted it. Until… they came in and said I had to do emergency surgery. I was 7 weeks pregnant, with a non- viable pregnancy, it was in my right fallopian tube they were going to have to take the whole tube and the pregnancy. It was so much at one time. Luckily they didn’t have to take the whole tube just some but, our stories just seemed very similar. It’s been exactly a week today, and it’s still just a lot to process. So thank you for sharing.

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