One Year, Two Ectopic Pregnancies
Christine Koenitzer is our newest EMC running ambassador, an attorney and mother.
While Christine was in the midst of training and helping recruit people to attend the upcoming JOYRIDE RIDGEFIELD & KILOMETERS 5K to benefit Every Mother Counts, she suffered her second ectopic pregnancy. Christine wrote this essay while experiencing this potentially life-threatening and tragic complication for the second time.
By: Christine Koenitzer
I’m sitting in the hospital waiting to be admitted, and cannot believe I’m here again. Not just here in the hospital, but here; right back in the same place in life that I’ve been so recently. This is my second ectopic pregnancy in just over a year. The first time I was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy I knew very little about it. Since then I’ve learned that an ectopic pregnancy is one where (for little or no reason) the embryo implants somewhere other than a woman’s uterus. Most frequently it implants inside one of the fallopian tubes; which happens to be the case for me. An embryo that’s implanted outside of the uterus cannot survive. Unfortunately, it also cannot be moved to the uterus. What it can do if left untreated, is kill the woman who’s carrying it. If the fallopian tube ruptures, the mother will suffer tremendous internal bleeding, and without proper medical attention, she will ultimately die.
These were the details my doctor mentioned while he performed an ultrasound and I stared blankly at a monitor, overcome by a mix of fear, sadness and disbelief. The last time this happened, my doctors were able to save my fallopian tube. This time I was not so lucky. My doctor shifted the ultrasound screen towards me so I could see the pregnancy developing in my right fallopian tube, which was inflamed and bleeding. He advised me it was only a matter of time before my tube ruptured. The tube needed to come out. Today.
At the hospital, nurses fitted me with a paper gown and accessorized it with a plastic bracelet. They took my vitals, bombarded me with questions, and made sure my husband was on his way. And just like that they were gone. It was just me, my paper gown, and a ticking time bomb in my belly, which also happened to be a baby I desperately wished I could keep.
Sitting in a room knowing that my fallopian tube might rupture was one of the more frightening experiences of my life. With every passing minute the pain got worse. From time to time nurses would ask me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten. That word “pain” had been coming up a lot today. Certainly it was pain that originally sent me to the doctor. I’m not talking about the type of pain that politely whispers, “Psst, when you have a minute, we need to talk.” I’m talking about pain that stops you in your tracks, spins you around and screams in your face, “Hey! Go find some help, something really bad is going on in here!” It was the kind of pain that just a year ago sent me to the Emergency Room and caused me to pass out on the waiting room floor.
The last time they asked for a number on the pain scale I responded with seven.
“At what number does a tube rupture?” I wondered. “Eight? Ten? Please, God don’t let it be seven. My two year-old son is at home and he needs his Mommy. Please, God don’t take his Mommy from him. Please, God don’t let the answer be seven.”
A few minutes later I was taken to surgery. Within an hour my right tube was removed. My son’s Mommy was coming home.
I’m not sure there are words to effectively describe the emotional pain that comes with losing a pregnancy, but I can assure you it can’t be rated on a scale of one to ten. In just over a year my husband and I have lost three babies: two ectopic pregnancies and a miscarriage in between. It’s an agony you don’t want to experience once, let alone three times. Along with the pain and grief losing a pregnancy often comes with tremendous anger, guilt, shame, loneliness, and fear. It’s the type of pain that steals the joy out of your future positive pregnancy tests and replaces it with anxiety. It makes you stop saying “when I have a baby” and start saying “if I have a baby.” It’s the kind of pain that I’ve struggled with for so many months, and it’s the kind of pain from which I once desperately sought relief when I poured gut-wrenching words onto a piece of paper, shoved it into a yellow helium balloon and let it go. Even then, the relief was minimal.
During those moments when I feel most angry and frustrated, I remind myself that in some ways my husband and I are very lucky. We are lucky that we have a son, and hat on those occasions when pain stopped me in my tracks, spun me around and screamed in my face, all I needed to do was pick up the phone to find medical help was on the other end. There are other pregnant women out there who have been confronted with the same or similar pain as me. They too were stopped in their tracks and spun around, and pain screamed in their faces, “Go find help, something really bad is happening in here!” The difference is, those women looked around and thought to themselves, “Find help where?” I take comfort in knowing that if I get pregnant again, I will have the medical care I need, and for that I am so very grateful.