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January 26, 2021

Grieving and surviving an ectopic pregnancy

My second child would be 12-years-old this month.

“Would be” is a sorrowful phrase. My beloved baby died inside me at just 10-weeks-old.

A heartbreaking twist of fate caused this child to develop outside my womb. In a normal pregnancy the fertilized egg implants itself in the rich uterine lining where it has plenty of room to grow for nine months. I had tubal ectopic pregnancy, an abnormality in which the fertilized egg implants itself in the narrow fallopian tube that leads from the ovary to the uterus.  The baby can live only a few weeks until the tube ruptures. Without medical attention, the mother can die as well.

Because of a long history of endometriosis and uterine fibroids, I knew conceiving and carrying a child could be difficult. However, my heart’s desire was to be a mother, and I dreamed of a large family. I underwent surgery to remove a very large fibroid prior to having my first child, a gentle ginger-haired baby girl. She was born a month early, but she was perfect. Two years later, my husband and I were wonderfully surprised by a second pregnancy.

Discovering the pregnancy
Because of my history, my doctor saw me when I was eight weeks along. On the surface, everything looked normal. The blood sample revealed the hormones associated with pregnancy. My doctor told me to come back in a few days for another blood test an early sonogram. I was looking forward to the seeing the image of my baby’s beating heart.

Things took a turn while I waited. I began spotting and having pain on the left side of my abdomen. I went back to the doctor’s office a few days later, but my regular doctor had left for an extended vacation. I told the other physician about my symptoms, and he immediately ordered a sonogram. I was scared. As I sat in the waiting room, a teenage girl and her mother emerged from the sonogram room. The girl was fuming, and the mother was silent. “I want that damn thing out of me!” the girl yelled. “I don’t want to have a f__king baby! ” I was stunned. Before I could do anything, the technician called me back for the exam.

The sonogram was uncomfortable. I looked at the screen and saw the grey images of my uterus. I squinted my eyes in hopes of seeing the tiny twinkling star that would be the baby’s heartbeat. The technician moved the scanner up to my ovaries and tubes. She then excused herself for a moment. I knew something was horribly wrong. She came back with the doctor. He did the scan himself and paused over my left fallopian tube. There it was.  I started to cry. He turned the machine off and helped me sit up.

He spoke for a few minutes, but the only things I heard were, “ectopic” and “we have to do this to save you.”

I don’t know how long I was silent. “Can’t you just move it down into the uterus?” I sobbed.

The doctor shook his head. “I wish it was that easy,” he replied.

My child would die so I could live
The next few minutes were a blur. The doctor left to order a drug from the hospital pharmacy. I was told to return in a few hours because it would take a while to prepare it. The drug, methotrexate, was a cancer treatment that would stop the baby’s development. A nurse reassured me the drug was a much safer option than surgery.

I picked up my toddler daughter from the patient childcare center and went home. I called my husband and told him the news. He came home immediately. I cried hysterically. I didn’t want to do this.  I felt immense guilt; my child would have to die so I could live. Part of me wanted to do nothing and let God take both me and the baby, but my husband reminded me about our little girl and how much she needed her mommy.

We returned to the doctor’s office a few hours later. My eyes were red and swollen. I literally collapsed in tears in the waiting area. The nurses took me to the doctor’s private office. He sat down in front of me and held my hands. “Please tell me this won’t cause the baby to feel pain,” I sobbed. “Because if it does, I want to have the surgery so the baby doesn’t suffer.” The doctor told me there would be no pain. I reluctantly agreed to the injection. I was told to come back in two days for another blood test. I would need to have several tests to make sure the hormone levels were dropping, thus indicating the end of the pregnancy.

I returned two days later for the first blood test. The hormone levels had increased. The second blood test revealed additional growth. I became upset. “The baby is still growing,” I cried.  “Sometimes these things take a little while,” the doctor said.

The hormone levels finally starting dropping at 10 weeks. It was over. My baby’s soul had returned back to our Heavenly Father, and I would be reunited with my precious child when my time came. I spent days in a fog. There had been a death, but there would be no funeral or memorial service. Well meaning friends tried to comfort me with kind words and clueless others tried to reassure me with expressions like, “Well, at least you didn’t have time to bond with it,” “It wasn’t a real baby at that point,” and “You can always try again.”

The final goodbye
Just a few weeks later, I began experiencing horrific pain on my left side and went back to the doctor’s office.  Another sonogram was done. I heard “blood in the abdomen,” and I was immediately prepped for surgery.  I woke up six hours later in a hospital room.  I glanced down to find a stapled incision running across my lower abdomen. I later learned that my tube had burst and the doctor had to amputate what remained.

My regular doctor did hospital rounds the next morning, and I broke into tears when I saw him. He hugged me and apologized for not being there. He had my surgical photos in the chart and reviewed them. I asked to see them. He cautioned me. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. I nodded. I needed to see and say goodbye.  I looked at the photos and whispered, “I’m so sorry, baby.”

That night I was comforted by a dream.  My husband’s father and grandparents, all of whom died many years ago, stood next to my bed. His grandmother held a bundle in her arms and whispered to me, “We’ll take good care of this little one until you get here.”

The blessing of another child and the promise of a future
Despite my medical issues and loss of one tube, God saw to it that I would be a mother once again. Two years later, my little warrior was born. His fighting spirit was evident the moment he entered this world literally peeing all over the doctor and nurse who were there to greet him.

Although I would love to have more children, I am content with the three precious souls I was allowed to carry in my body.  My daughter and son know about the sibling who will meet them in Heaven. To my daughter, the baby is the little sister she always wanted. To my son, the baby is the big brother who paves the way for him. My husband mourns the loss of this child, but his loss is not as intense as mine. That child grew within me. That little mind was comforted by the sounds of my heartbeat, those tiny hands and feet gently touched my abdomen, and when it was over, that little soul passed through mine.

I often think about the October birthday parties that never were, and my soul feels a little lonely during the month. It’s like part of me is missing.

I miss you, sweet baby.

Happy birthday.

Author’s Note: I use the terms “baby” and “child” because this real person was never a mere embryo, fetus, product of conception or potential human being. This was a child – my child. Please be respectful of my convictions, and remember my “Play Nice” comment policy with others.

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21 Comments on Grieving and surviving an ectopic pregnancy

  1. Thank you for sharing. Your story sounds so much like what I went through this past fall. Agreeing to allow the doctors to give me my injections was the hardest thing I ever had to do. My heart is still broken.

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Angela.

      You loved – and will always love – that child, and I’m so sorry you were forced to say goodbye in such an abrupt and painful way. Please accept my prayers for physical, emotional and spiritual healing after this heartbreaking experience.

  2. Kim, that was excellent. Really!
    Your words took me back to our own stories of loss as my wife & I went through miscarriage – twice. We men tend to be stoic and hide our pain so the dad’s feelings often go unnoticed. Speaking for myself, the pain was acute and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Back then, I journaled often (I really should start that up again) and I’m thankful that I took the time to write down my account of that story when it was still so fresh in my mind. Years later, I included an excerpt from my journal in a blog post. If you’d like a peek into a daddy’s perspective on miscarriage, here’s the link to it:

    • I am running out to Costco to buy a pallet of Kleenex. Your blog post made me cry. I think that women go through miscarriage and feel like they are completely alone — even their closest friends can’t really connect with them. However, your post points out that daddies feel the loss as well and experience their own kind of pain. Thanks for sharing your post. I look forward to meeting your babies in Heaven someday.

  3. I was also 10 weeks along when I experienced my first loss. My husband was out of town for work, and I was home alone with a 4 year old and 1 year old at the time. We had just lived in that area a few short months. No family lived near us, and the only people I knew at that point was the lady who had a home day care, that would watch my girls as I was still going to school. I was so thankful she was home, and could take the girls there. Sitting alone in the doctors office, being told that there is nothing that you can do to help that precious child is so overwhelming. The tears I cried for a child I hadn’t even felt move…had I not gone through it myself, I just don’t know that I could have ever truly understood the depth one could feel at that point. Three months later I found out I was again pregnant. I remember not allowing myself to get excited about it, not wanting to feel joy. I felt an incredible amount of guilt. I remember thinking if I was happy about it, the child I lost would feel like it really wasn’t wanted after all, and I couldn’t bear the thought. Mother’s Day rolled around, and I remember sitting in church, and our pastor said he needed to speak directly to those who had lost an unborn child. He reminded all of us who sat there silently that we were the mothers of those babies, even though they were not here on earth with us, and when we join them in heaven someday they would know us, and we would know them. I suppose I had known it before, but God used him to remind me of that. I took comfort in his words, and for the first time in that pregnancy I felt peace, and joy. It carried me through my last three months, through the birth of my sweet Emery Cait. I am so very thankful for the ones I have, and for the ones I’ve lost. It is amazing how much love I have felt for each and every one of them, even the ones who had done nothing yet to deserve it. I can’t even begin to imagine how much more our Father feels for each and every one of us. I pray comfort for your soul, and blessings on your family…

  4. Amazing post and writing. This was so touching and heartfelt. I’m sorry for your loss… much love, energy and thoughts go out to you and your family.

  5. Crying and I love how you talked about the terminology. I remember sitting in the ER losing my first baby while the words “spontenious abortion” were thrown around. It was no abortion. I wanted my baby. I wanted to hold him or her in my arms. God has blessed me with two beautiful girls since, one who will be turn 16 this weekend. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this time.

  6. Oh Kim what an awful thing to go through…. even as a mum of four I could never imagine the pain of losing a baby though when pregnant the worry is always there in the back of your mind….. You are so brave and strong and I’m glad you were blessed again to have another baby and I love the fact he came out peeing on everyone lol….. He must be a real character…. Love to you and your family on this day of remembering your little bundle of love. And you’re right it doesn’t matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in they are our babies from day one xo

  7. Very beautiful story. I lost three babies before the third month. Turned out my uterus could not support a pregnancy due to adenomyosis. Doctors later said having one child would have been a million to one odds. (His name is Rob and he and wife is about to make me a grandma again) A second child, the doctors said, would be nothing short of a miracle. (Her name is Sandra and she is mom to Lilly) We adopted Willie, who we were advised would probably be a vegetable and never learn to walk or talk. Willie was on the student council and lettered in swimming doing the butterfly! Never quit looking for miracles. As much as it still hurts to lose my other babies, I know it was not forever. They are waiting for me.

  8. Thank you for this. I lost my daughter due to eclampsia 7 months into my wife’s pregnancy. I understand the hurt that you describe. It is difficult to find comfort. Every time I go to the cemetery I am afraid that I will break down, but oddly I always am comforted by the fact that I can see her name. It reminds me that she was here and she was real. Thus my daughter is a witness that ALL babies are real. I know that my child and yours are safe in God’s arms and that we will meet them again. What a glorious day that will be!

    God bless you.

  9. This post brought me to tears! The dream you described at the end gave me chills. Like the commenter above, I believe your dream was a true connection as well. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself with us, your readers. Happy 12th Birthday to your baby and thoughts to you and your family this month.

  10. I am so sorry about your baby. You’re brave to share your story. You’ve made me cry; that’s the mark of a good writer. Your comment about making the shutdown as painful as possible made me laugh through my tears, another mark of a good writer. Epic loss + epic pain + sardonic humor = epic win, epic courage and epic strength. I would like the privilege of calling and talking to you on the phone. I will message you on FB with my contact information. I am glad I discovered you.

  11. Wow, I cried from the moment I saw the pic to the end of the post!!! What a terrible time you had, but praise God you went through it with the Lord beside you, amen!!! You are by the way, a wonderful writer, this story is extremely well written. And it made me think of the verse in Jeremiah 29:11 ~ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. He is so good to us. Blessings and peace as you grieve Shazza.

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. I too lost an ectopic pregnancy – early 2011. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I found out I was pregnant at the exact moment I found out I wasn’t as they rushed me to the hospital for surgery. It all happened so fast, and I was too shocked to ask too many questions. I don’t know for certain even how far along I was. But I have always believed that that baby would have shared October as a birthday month with my oldest son. So while I celebrate the birth of one, I also mourn the loss of another whom I never got to meet… I don’t let one overshadow the other. Instead I soak up every second of the family that is here with us. But I truly appreciate your story during this time.

  13. It hurts, The worst part is as a mom there is nothing you can do to save them and make it all better. No band aids no reassuring kisses and hugs. Your child is struggling for life and you cannot stop it. I felt the world was rushing past and I was stuck in one moment. My third child would have been 6 this last June. I finally bought a tree to plant just last week. Wanted to do that for a while, but something always kept us from following through. I am glad we waited, because we moved twice. Now I feel we are permanently located, so it is safe to plant, keep it near, watch it grow and bloom.

  14. Kim, I too lost babies, two to be exact. The first one I only found out I was pregnant two days before the miscarriage so it wasn’t as hard for me as the second. The second I knew for a few weeks. I was 10 weeks pregnant. That one I took pretty hard.

    My beloved Grandfather who helped raise me and my six sisters was in the last stages of his life (cancer). Rob and I drove down to Alabama to say our goodbyes. I took it pretty hard and wonder if grieving his death might have put too much stress on my body. Whatever it was, I was home just a week when I started spotting. I immediately went to the doctor and the blood tests showed that I was in the throws of miscarriage once again. My heart was broken!! I passed the baby later that day at home.

    I always think that God knew that Jack’s soul needed to be a part of our family because due to my advanced age, I would have taken the necessary steps to stop having children had that child been born. He certainly added a lot of color to our lives with his unique personality and I always think I would not have experienced “Jack” had either of those babies lived.

    People have asked me for years if Jack was a surprise given that my boys are 5 years apart. Certainly they think no one would have their babies that far apart. I always tell them I didn’t plan it but our plans are not God’s plans. I feel very blessed in spite of the pain, to have Jack as my reward for waiting.

  15. You are so right in what you feel, and you expressed it so beautifully.

    You indeed had a child you had already bonded with emotionally and intellectually, loved and nurtured in your body physically.

    The pain, loss and grief do linger. Having other children has nothing to do with not remembering, mourning or honoring that baby’s memory.
    Other children are not a replacement – it is a wholly separate love.

    It sounds like the dream you had was a very genuine connection with Spirit. That loving and true information passed along in dream form is something sweet.

    Bless you and you baby – all of them, at all ages and stages.

  16. What an absolutely amazing post! Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life. Not sure I would be able to do the same. My prayers are with you and your family as you get through this particularly rough month.

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