What happened when I published a piece about my ectopic pregnancy:
Over 100 women personally reached out to me to share their own stories of loss. Some were close friends who had been holding their pain so close to their own chest that I had never actually seen their struggles, while others were complete strangers who by the power of the internet had found my blog post. I had women who were merely acquaintances suddenly show me the most intimate and vulnerable parts about themselves. I had more than one person tell me how I was the only person they told about their loss besides their partner and their doctor. I am so humbled by the amount of support and compassion that we received yesterday, but especially from the women who feel empowered to speak about an otherwise very off-limits topic.
This is a sisterhood and holy shit I’m so grateful for it. I went back and forth for a long time about whether or not to share our story. On one hand, I felt like I should be quiet about the loss. That felt like the protocol that you’re supposed to follow. On the other hand, I was afraid to hurt other women who have experienced pregnancy loss. I didn’t want my words twisting the knife in their own wounds because they were too raw. The last thing I wanted to do was resurface someone else’s pain. But that’s not what happened. My story became a safe zone for sharing, a platform for empathy, and a step towards breaking the silence around this type of loss.
Do I think that everyone should share their losses?
Absolutely not. This is such a personal decision and you have to do what is right for you. We are a very open couple and transparency has always been our default, but what is right for us is not necessarily right for other couples. There is this stigma around loss and that is what I want to shatter. Women should feel just as empowered by choosing to share their stories as they should be by choosing to be private. The last 24 hours have been absolutely eye-opening for me because of two realizations: pregnancy loss is not uncommon and women are so fucking strong.
I heard stories of women who tried to conceive for years and years and then lost their babies, women who have had multiple miscarriages and still don’t have any children earthside, women who have also suffered ectopics, women who bravely delivered stillborn babies, and women who finally have their arms tightly wrapped around their rainbow babes. Every story is unique, heart wrenching, and so full of love. Pregnancy is no joke. This shit is hard and a positive pregnancy test does not always give you a healthy baby. We give up our bodies and our souls to become mothers and when you put that much on the line, any loss – no matter how early – hits hard.
What exactly is an ectopic pregnancy?
I’ve been talking a lot about how common pregnancy loss is, but I’m using that as an umbrella term. An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage; however, ectopic pregnancies only occur in 1.5% of pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancy is not a miscarriage and should not be used interchangeably. Physically, they are quite different. I am losing my baby, but I am not miscarrying. My pregnancy took place in my fallopian tube (where 98% of ectopics implant) and therefore cannot continue. A healthy pregnancy must take place in the uterus, and anywhere else is considered a life-threatening condition. This is because as the baby continues to grow, it puts an enormous strain on the tube and if not diagnosed and treated in time, will eventually rupture and cause massive internal bleeding. Ectopic rupture is the leading cause of first trimester maternal deaths and the only lifesaving option is emergency surgery.
There are many risk factors for ectopic: over the age of 35, previous abortions, chlamydia, pelvic conditions, getting pregnant with an IUD or other forms of birth control, smoking, previous ectopic, or scar tissue from pelvic surgeries. Personally, I didn’t have any of these factors and yet I still ended up with an ectopic. Sometimes the embryo just ends up in the wrong place and there’s nothing you can do about it.
What about getting pregnant again?
A lot of people have asked me about this. First, I have to get my body back to a non-pregnant state (an hCG of 0). This can – and probably will – take a few more weeks at best. Then I’ll have to be on folic acid supplements for 12 weeks to get myself healthy enough to actually grow a baby again. The methotrexate works by depleting your body of all of its foliate in order to halt the progression of the pregnancy. Foliate is imperative to a healthy pregnancy so I’ll have to restore my levels before we’re cleared to try again. Once we do get pregnant, I will be considered high risk until they can identify a fetus in my uterus on an ultrasound. My hormone levels will be monitored closely as soon as I get a positive pregnancy test because my chance of having another ectopic will be 1 in 10 for all future pregnancies. I don’t love those odds, but it is a chance that I’m willing to take.
In terms of fertility, everything comes down to scar tissue and my tubes. Lovely, right? Our biggest motivation for trying the methotrexate before surgery was to preserve my fertility. Most ectopic surgeries result in the removal of the affected fallopian tube because the scarring makes it too risky for another ectopic. Scar tissue is unavoidable and can present very real complications for future pregnancies. If I lose a tube, my chances of never conceiving again are 30%. Some women end up losing both tubes and for them, IVF is sometimes an option. Many women go on to have normal, healthy babies after ectopic pregnancies, but we’re also being pragmatic about our options.
What should you say to someone who is dealing with pregnancy loss? What shouldn’t you say?
I’ve heard some fucked up stuff the last two weeks, and most of it was well-intentioned. If you don’t know what to say, that’s totally fine. Sometimes the simple act of holding space with someone is the best thing that you can do. Most likely, you’re not a doctor and you can’t solve this shit for me, so just bewith me. Listen, hug, and look me in the eyes. One of my favorite things anyone has said so far came from a dear friend, Lindsey, who just asked, “how can I support you?” That’s perfect.
What not to say? Don’t tell me that there will be other babies. Don’t call this my “practice round”. Don’t remind me of how sick my baby was. How it ‘wasn’t meant to be’. How I had no choice, or how this baby would have killed me if we did nothing. Don’t assume that I’m as bible thumping as you are because God’s plan ain’t working for me right now. Don’t make this about your religion. In fact, don’t make it about religion at all unless the person experiencing the loss takes it there first. Be conscious of your words and the impact that they have. I’m in hormonal-mama-bear-mode right now and I’m ready to check your ignorance, unapologetically.
What am I thankful for right now?
So, so much. The holidays have a way of bringing this to the surface. We got engaged on Christmas morning last year. This has been the year of my highest highs and lowest lows. My husband is a freaking saint. He is always my partner-in-crime but this experience has brought us even closer together. He held my trembling body through the second round of methotrexate while I sobbed into his hands, and found the strength to tell me how strong I was in my darkest moments. He’s not unaffected by this. It might be happening in my body, but we are going through it together.
I’m also thankful for my (relative) health. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve been quite sick the last two weeks, vomiting in parking lots, losing a bunch of weight, being completely anemic, and pumping my body full of toxins. The methotrexate combined with the hormones has made me feel like a steaming pile of garbage, but things could have been much worse. I could have gotten on that plane and ruptured. No shit, I could have died. As of right now, I still have both of my tubes and have avoided surgery. I finally got my hCG levels to drop by 27% yesterday. Things are slowly moving in the right direction and we’re feeling optimistic.
Finally, I am immensely grateful for this community of friends and family we have. I am especially grateful for all of the women who have shared their personal stories with me and continue to put their own hearts on the line. They are the true warriors, the mothers of all types, and they are my role models. I have neverfelt this supported, even on our wedding day. I have the thickest-of-thieves badass group of women behind me. People have stepped up when we needed them most: they have offered their homes, their cars, their booze, and their hearts. We have had a squad helping to keep our dogs and horse cared for while we cannot be there. We are immeasurably lucky to have you all. So thank you to anyone who has held space with us, offered us solace, or shared their love. We love you all, too.