I hadn’t known I was pregnant for long and I wasn’t sure what pregnancy brought with it. All I knew was that I was in pain. Sharp, stabbing pain. It got worse with every breath I took. I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sit up straight without a searing pain pulsating through my abdomen. Ironically, only the fetal position could comfort me. I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.
I’d been bleeding abnormally for a few days, and to me bleeding of any sorts was abnormal. I hadn’t menstruated in over a year, and knowing I was pregnant I chalked it up to implantation bleeding, or so the internet told me. It also told me it could be an ectopic pregnancy, but something like that would never happen to me. Every time I went to the bathroom I was petrified yet intrigued at what I was seeing. Jelly like clumps of blood. I was embarrassed I found this interesting and carried on without much thought, thinking it would go away on its own. Within three days the pain started. Maybe it is an ectopic pregnancy I would think to myself. Ashamed to admit it could be the best case scenario. I didn’t want the guilt of an abortion that I knew would destroy me and I wasn’t ready to be a mom. My eating disorder had a tight grip on me and no baby could come between us. I didn’t want my body to get bigger, I didn’t want to nourish or take care of myself, let alone a tiny human. I was beyond selfish in this thinking. However then my rational thoughts emerged. “Sarah, before this you were told you would never be able to get pregnant without help from doctors and procedures. Maybe this is the only chance you will have to be a mom. Maybe this is meant to change your life. AJ was told his chances to impregnate a woman were less than 50% of the average male. With our statistics alone, this is a miracle pregnancy – it’s now or never.”
AJ was working Friday night and would be done around 2am. We had previously discussed making another trip to the hospital when he was finished as a precautionary measure as neither of us knew what else to do or what could be wrong. I showed up at 1am on April 23rd in hopes he may be done a bit early. He wasn’t. I remember sitting with Lauren and Ian while he worked, everyone else is a blur. I tried to not let my pain show on my face as much as I could. Neither of us had really told anyone that I was pregnant, it was too soon. I sat there in agony, curling into the table awkwardly time and time again. Minutes felt like hours.
When we pulled into the hospitals emergency parking lot we sat for a moment. I remember thinking that this was silly and the doctor will tell me all is normal, send me on my way and I’d have made a big deal out of nothing. Yet in the back of my mind I had a weird feeling that maybe after years of diagnosing myself on WebMD, this time I would be right.
The waiting room wasn’t too full, yet both of us knew this could still take a while. After all, it was now almost 3am and unless its a life or death situation nothing moves too fast at that hour. I was triaged quickly, blood pressure was a bit low but that’s normal for me. The nurse asked me what brought me here and I simply replied “I found out a week ago I was pregnant and I’ve been having abnormal bleeding and (which was now even more) intense pain.” Her facial expressions didn’t change, no sense of concern and sent me on to the next nurse who confirmed all my health information and slapped a hospital band around my wrist.
AJ and I took a seat in the back corner of the waiting room expecting to make ourselves comfortable. Joke was on us. Within five minutes my name was being called and we were following a different nurse to what would be my room for the next 10 hours. We passed one branch of the ER where I had waited for the doctor the previous week while getting blood work to confirm the pregnancy when the bleeding first began. I thought it was strange I wasn’t placed in that area again, and my heart sped up a little bit. Then we passed ambulatory care and kept walking – my heart speeding up more. I looked at AJ with a “WTF is going on, where are we going” look on my face. Then we entered acute care, my room was the last one on the left. What did acute care mean? Small issue? Something with a quick fix? Thats what I first thought. I then googled the term, and chuckled a bit in disbelief. There’s no way this is “life-threatening” condition I thought.
Despite being rushed in, the wait in the room was long. There were no windows so sense of time escaped us. The on-call doctor told me that specialists weren’t in until 8am and I’d likely need a vaginal and abdominal ultrasound and exam. AJ and I passed the time playing hangman and making jokes. I don’t remember the other parts of that wait, but I feel as though both him and I did our best to avoid facing reality. When exhaustion hit, he crawled into my hospital bed and we closed our eyes trying to rest as each of us had to work the next day. I’d never felt more connected to him than I did in that moment. I felt safe and I felt loved.
When the doctor finally came back I was told I’d be going for an ultrasound shortly and to not make any plans for the rest of the day. At this point AJ reached out to our employers in order to get my shift covered, and luckily they offered to cover his as well so he could be with me. I was wheeled through the emergency department into the main hospital where I laid on the hard bed as a cold jelly was rolled around my belly for the ultrasounds. The technicians face was indecipherable, I had no hint to what was going on and that irked me. I got back to my room where AJ was waiting patiently with a worried look on his face, and I made a snide and sassy comment to lighten the mood. The on-call doctor came in with an update about the results of the ultrasound and blood work I previously had upon admission. My HCG levels had risen over the past week indicating I was indeed pregnant however the ultrasound showed no implantation in the uterus or anywhere else they could see. I wasn’t really sure what this meant or how that could be possible. I was told they’d have to wait to get the specialists opinion before moving forward. This implied another wait was in store because the gynacologist I was to meet with wasn’t at the hospital yet. I asked AJ to let Shaun know what was going on and where I was. He and I had planned to meet for coffee that day and clearly I was not able to. I also asked AJ to go to my house to pick up the essentials, toothbrush, deodorant, headband and what not.
I was alone for maybe twenty minutes after that. It’s as though as soon as Shaun got AJs message and heard I was in hospital, he dropped everything and came. I remember thinking how shocked I was he had shown up. We hadn’t talked or been very close lately. I thought he had given up on me because of my eating disorder, I thought he didn’t want to be my friend anymore, I thought he didn’t love or care about me. He had no idea what was going on, or why I was there but his face said it all – he was very worried. “Whats up? What the fuck is going on Braun?” he asked me in his big brother tone of voice. I didn’t know what to say, this wasn’t how I was going to tell him. I didn’t want to disappoint him anymore than I had. Despite the distance between us, the coffee I asked him to meet me for that day was when I was going to tell him about the baby, not lying in a hospital bed due to undetermined complications.
I told him everything in the nonchalantly way that I do to avoid emotions leading up to where I found myself now. There was no judgement like I had expected, just a calm, simple “Okay, so whats the plan now, what do we need to do?” He kept me company and waited with me until the specialist arrived. I don’t recall the conversation, I was just happy he was there. I remember thinking that when it really comes down to it, despite the tension or distance between us, he truly does give a shit and maybe he will always be there for me like he has always said.
The door burst open and thats when I met the gynaecologist I’d be waiting on, Dr. Pressey, for the first time. White doctors coat on, stethoscope around his neck, balding a little on the top and a few wrinkles around his eyes, probably from his friendly smile. He introduced himself to me and reiterated what I already knew as he read my chart. As I laid on the bed he quickly lifted my gown and explained he just needed to feel around a bit for any abnormalities. Shaun quickly looked it away, it was a bit awkward for both us. When he was finished he looked at me and professionally told me I had a few options. Number one; if there is in fact a baby implanted somewhere other than my uterus I could be given a methotrexate injection (a type of chemotherapy drug) which over the next 7-10 days would dissolve and the terminate the pregnancy as it was unable to come to term due to its whereabouts – which was still unknown. Number 2; it could be something other than pregnancy causing my symptoms and high HCG levels and they could go in and do an exploratory surgery to examine further, putting me out of work for a few days. Number 3; if it is in fact an ectopic pregnancy once they got a better look doing an exploratory surgery they would terminate the pregnancy during the procedure. This would put me out of work for 4-6 weeks he said, and due to finances that was not going to be an option in my mind. He then back tracked and said if the chemotherapy drug didn’t work to terminate the pregnancy or if its already to late to inject it due to a rupture that my life could be in jeopardy. I don’t know if that didn’t matter to me or it just didn’t register as a real possibility at the time. Dr. Pressey told me to think about it for 20 minutes and he’d be back to hear my decision.
I looked at Shaun and he simply said “You’re doing the surgery.” I laughed in his face, my mind was made up. I was not going to be put out of work for a few days let alone a possible month. Inside I was still a bit undecided, but I had to keep my guard up – I’m fine, everything’s fine. Shaun went about his day and said he would be back later on. I asked the nurses if I could go outside for a smoke while I thought about my choices. It was a windy morning, but the sun was out and I liked the combination of the cool breeze and sun on my face. I called AJ over and over again wondering why it was taking him so long to return – no answer. Finally he arrived back at my room, I already had to stall Dr. Pressey once. The OR was only available at 1pm that day and if I chose the surgery I’d have to get prepped right away. I told AJ all my options and he looked at me with a dumbfounded look on his face, “Well clearly you’re doing the surgery” he told me. It was two against one now. The two people I’m closest with both want the same for me, so I decided to trust them. I told Dr. Pressey I had agreed to the exploratory surgery and double checked that if they didn’t find anything or have to remove anything I could be back to work in a of couple days. He nodded and called the nurse in to prep me for surgery.
It was such a quick transition once the OR was booked, that the half hour before surgery is mostly a blur. “Do you have any metal on you?” the nurse asked me. I did. My whole head was covered in black metal beads from my semi-permanent extensions, and there was no way I was shaving my head for this. She sighed with a frustrated look on her face and moved on. An IV was then placed into my right arm and she locked the vitals cart in to move with the bed. I lifted my hand to let the nurse put the pulse ox on my index finger and she simply looked at me and said in a flat tone that I needed to remove the nail polish I had on. It was shellac, so that was not going to be an easy task. I sat there briefly chipping away at it until she sharply said “That’ll do, we will make it work.” I felt like such an inconvenience to her and world at this point. My employers were probably angry both AJ and I couldn’t make it in that night. AJ was likely bored out of his mind at this point. Shaun dropped everything and came by. And now the nurse is annoyed with me.
Next thing I knew I was told it was time to go. I always thought going into surgery is a cute scene in the movies, but real life was kind of anti-climatic. Or maybe thats just because my mind was racing with so many thoughts that the outside world was a blur. “What if I died on the table? No Sarah, thats not going to happen. This is an easy surgery, its not like they are operating on your head or heart. You’ll be fine. Yeah, but what if my heart cant handle the anesthesia because it’s to weak from my eating disorder? Still, you wouldn’t be that lucky. I guess it’d be a better way to say you died during surgery rather than your eating disorder killing you or committing suicide. Oh well, whatever happens will happen – I don’t care.” All these possibilities danced through my mind as I was wheeled through the back halls of the hospital and up to the surgical floor, with AJ by my side. When we got to the doors separating the waiting and recovery rooms from the operating rooms, AJ asked if I was scared, I said no. I truly wasn’t. One, because I didn’t think this whole scenario was real, and maybe I was oblivious to how critical the situation was based on the phrase “exploratory surgery.” To me that indicated nothing was wrong, and it was just a quick in and out surgery. They gave me an estimated time frame of 30 – 40 minutes until I’d be seeing AJ again. Or two, because I honestly didn’t care if I lived or died. AJ wished me luck and told me he loved me when he kissed me on the forehead before I was brought through the big white doors.
I was left in the hall after that for what felt like an eternity until I was eventually taken into the OR. I remember thinking it wasn’t nearly as fancy as the ones I’d seen in Greys Anatomy, but then again, its Sarnia. The room was unappealingly white with a hint of faded beige. The OR nurses were nice, 2 females, 1 male and a student. I thought that was a lot for a simple surgery. Dr. Pressey arrived and made a corny joke while scrubbing in, as I’d later learn being cheesy was quite normal for him. The lights above the table came on. They were bright. I don’t know if it was the pain meds but now I felt like I was on an episode of Greys Anatomy and a rush of adrenaline flowed through my body. An arm appeared over me from the right side with the anesthetic mask. I expected to be told to count down from 10 like on TV, but the nurse casually talked to me until next thing I knew I was waking up in a different room, completely disoriented from time and space.
I must have instinctually known something was wrong. I kept asking “When can I see AJ” as I went in and out of consciousness while the anesthesia wore off. I can’t remember coming to, or much time spent in the recovery room other than a intense desire to be with him. Once I was at my new room on the medical floor, AJ pulled back the curtain and entered carrying my excessive amount of belongings with a concerned smile on his face. “How are you” he asked. I felt great, the meds were incredible – as if I hadn’t even had surgery. Thats when he told me I was in surgery for nearly three hours, opposed to the estimated thirty minutes. I didn’t think much of it, or maybe it didn’t register to me at that time because of the pain meds. Nobody came in to check on me for a while after that, and when they did, I asked if I could speak to the doctor about going home. It was a firm no and I was told Dr. Pressey had left for the night and I’d need to wait to speak with him in the morning for more information about how the surgery went.
I was visibly frustrated and quickly moved on. I attempted to get out of bed and lean over to grab my cosmetic bag in order to freshen up and re-do my hair. After all, I had visitors coming. AJ asked what in the world I was doing and reminded me I had just had a serious surgery and my appearance is the last thing I should be focusing on right now. I ignored him and carried on. AJ had been in touch with Shaun during surgery and he, Markus and Cian would be heading up shortly to visit. All I really remember from my time with them was how thirsty I was. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink until the next morning (which I then negotiated to midnight). A nurse on the floor, Nick had been good friends with AJ in high school and also knew Shaun, he came in to say hi and brought everyone but me ice cream from the cafeteria. I thought it was a cruel joke to not let the anorexic eat. Each of them did sport a look of concern as they looked at me, and it was nice to feel loved in that way I suppose. They left, and another two friends from work came to visit as well. By this time I was desperately craving cigarettes and wanted nothing more than a slurpee. I convinced the nurse to let me go outside in a wheelchair with my friends for a smoke. If it wasn’t obvious I was on pain meds before, it was now. Everything seemed as though it was in slow motion and I kept asking AJ to push me faster and faster throughout the hospital. He didn’t, but it felt like he was going so fast at the same time.
We had no information throughout the night until the next morning. AJ refused to leave my side and I wanted to be as close to him as I could at this time. Like I said, maybe it was instinct but I believe I subconsciously knew things weren’t right. Nick set us up in the lounge with a recliner, blankets and pillow for AJ and I had a pretty comfy set up as well for the night. Neither of us were really able to sleep, and at midnight AJ ran out to get me the slurpee I so desperately wanted.
Around 7am we were brought back to my room and tried to get some rest as we both squeezed onto the hospital bed. What felt like shortly after shutting our eyes, Dr. Pressey barged in and jokingly stated “Sleeping in the same bed is how you two ended up in this situation in the first place!” AJ shot out of bed and skirted around to the chair on the other side as I laughed. Dr Pressey asked how I was feeling as he stared at my chart. I told him I was in pain, he looked up over his glasses and said “Well I’d imagine you are. Anyone who had their fallopian tube removed would be in pain.” I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what this meant exactly. He then went on to explain that it was a good thing I chose the surgery when I did or I’d have gone home and died within twelve hours. Turns out when they got in there, my tube had already burst and my abdomen was filling up with blood, fast. They tried to save my fallopian tube, but he said it was too shredded by the time they got to it. I knew why, but I wanted to hear the reason it burst, so I asked him. He told me that when the egg was fertilized it did not implant in the uterus. Instead the it implanted in my fallopian tube. Thats when he said it – the baby was growing too big for the environment and caused the rupture. The pregnancy was never viable. There was no way to save my growing baby.
I was 7 weeks along. I will never get to meet them. I will never know what he or she would have looked like. I will never get to hear their laugh or wipe their tears. I will never get to hold them in my arms or watch them grow up. I will never get to say their name to him or her. But I am, and always will be be a mother to my angel baby.