It was a gorgeous break in the crazy-humid weather so we met up for a playdate in the park for the kids. We were walking along the greenway, chatting about our kids, about adoption, fostering and sibling-hood. I shared with her my desire to give O a sibling. His desire to have a sibling. His big-brother heart and how much I wanted to give him a sibling. Adoption has been on our hearts for years, but we don't see it happening anytime soon. Between the expense of it, and our travel-filled lifestyle, now is just not the time. But after the last three traumatic, failed pregnancies, I just didn't see it happening in the natural either. "But, I'm two days late, so who knows?!" I laughed, dismissively. Her expression was one of shock and she offered me an old (but unexpired) pregnancy test she'd found during their recent move. "Aw, thanks. I've got one in the back of the cupboard too from the last time. I doubt it's anything though."
* * *
Two days later. Before the two minutes was up: +
I was baffled. Dumbfounded. I, quite literally, couldn't even remember the last time my husband & I had an 'encounter' that month. July was such a busy month for us, with a cross-country road trip, a couple weeks of house-sitting, a couple weeks of volunteering at a summer camp, and swim lessons and gearing up for getting O in school - it was a crazy month. So I checked my tracking app (because if I don't track certain female things I will just not remember them, let's be honest, I still get mom-brain even though my kid is 7.) Sure enough. I was four days late. And we had ONE. 1. Single encounter that month.
Every other time (besides O) that we tried to get pregnant it took years of tracking cycles, taking temperatures, timing things just right, behaving like rabbits... ALL the tricks. Why on earth would I be pregnant now? When it wasn't even on our radar? When we hadn't even been trying, let alone thinking about trying? What. In. The. World.
The funny thing though? I wasn't stressing out. When I found out I was pregnant with Malachi I was filled with dread, fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But this time I found myself filled with hope. I felt great and I figured if God was going to get us pregnant with (just one-encounter away from) miraculous conception then maybe we could really do this! I called right away to get an appointment, since the doc said I should if we were to become pregnant. I'm officially in the 'high risk' category because of my history. I had an appointment for about two weeks later, the day I would officially be 6 weeks. That means we'd get to hear the heartbeat!
* * *
A week later I started spotting. But, miraculously, I still had no fear. I had this unexplainable peace about everything. I told hubby, "If something is happening, there's nothing we can do to stop it. If nothing is happening, great! Either way we can't live in fear because that's not going to help anything." We were both on the same page about it. And it was so great. So FREEING.
* * *
At our Thursday appointment, they ended up booking us for an ultrasound due to my spotting and cramping. The ultrasound tech looked stoic, asked if I'd had any pain. I knew something wasn't right. And I couldn't see anything on the screen that looked like a little being was in there. The doctor confirmed my suspicions - there was no visible gestational sac, as there should be at 6 weeks. She asked if I was sure about my dates and I told her I was positive. She said they also noted a bit of a shadow on one of my fallopian tubes, but that it could be nothing, it was just too unclear to say for sure. She was thinking with the lack of GS visible and that tiny shadow on my tube, that it may just be an ectopic pregnancy. And if I was positive about my dates and I really was 6 weeks along, it could be dangerous. So she instructed me not to eat/drink the rest of the day in case I needed to go in for surgery in the morning. The blood work would be in first thing and that would tell her what was happening -- if my HCG was high, it was ectopic and it would have to come out ASAP.
Friday morning the doc called me herself and was sounding much calmer than she had the afternoon before. My levels were very low, only in the 500's, meaning that I was much earlier along than we had suspected, or I was miscarrying. Either way, she was much less concerned, ordered another blood test for Monday, and instructed me to call if anything changed over the weekend. I asked her if we could continue with our plans to go camping in the mountains. She wasn't thrilled with the idea of me being so far away, but said with my levels the way they were, chances of anything happening were quite low and that it was up to us if we wanted to go or not. We decided to go. I didn't want to stay at home laying in wait, living in fear over this. We had planned this trip for weeks, it was one last summertime hurrah for O before starting school - we were doing it. So we did. And it was a blast.
We went hiking, chased after waterfalls, ate lunch by the lake, made fires, roasted s'mores, read books in the tent while it rained, and had so much fun. On Sunday morning before breaking camp, I noticed I had passed a good bit of tissue and a clot overnight. I figured that was our sign: it was a miscarriage. I was a little sad, but not filled with grief. I told Bill, and we went on with our day. I called the nurse once we got back into town, and after consulting with the doctor she said to go ahead and keep the lab appointment on Monday so we could use the numbers to confirm our suspicions. If it was a miscarriage, the numbers would go down. If not, they should double, indicating a viable pregnancy was still in there.
Tuesday morning when the results came in, the numbers hadn't dipped. They hadn't doubled either. They stayed the same. It was very weird. I still felt completely normal. I had no pain, cramping or discomfort of any kind. So doc ordered another set of labs for me to get taken on Wednesday.
Thursday morning, shortly after I had dropped O off for his second day of (American) school (!!), the nurse called with my results. The HCG levels had gone up. Not doubled, but risen. Which was not a good sign, and likely meant it was an ectopic pregnancy. She wanted me to come in at noon for an ultrasound and appointment with the doctor. I had to ask if it was alright to decline, because we had tickets to The Lion King. My mom had purchased them for us back in April when we found out it was coming to Charlotte - it was collective birthday gifts for us all and we had been counting down the days! She said, "Of course! Go to the show, it's amazing! We'll get you in on Friday at noon instead."
So, of we went to the Lion King! Yes, I pulled my kid out of his second day of school at lunch time - because Lion King is Africa and Africa is life. I don't care if you judge me.
We had so much fun. The show was incredible, beyond words. I cried and got very homesick for our days of life in Tanzania. I missed our South African friends, both in SA and in Aus that we'd met last year. We laughed, we romped around in Uptown after the show, met up with some friends, and had an incredible evening. We weren't covered in fear, worry, anxiety of the unknown. We just had this inexplicable peace over us - a hope - that everything would work out just fine.
* * *
On Friday, Bill left work on lunch to come and meet me for the appointment. The ultrasound was first, and when the tech was a little stoic, I assured her I knew what we were looking for, and what was that she was seeing? She said, "That's the ectopic." as I drew in a sharp breath because holy OUCH batman- when she put that wand on my fallopian tube it hurt! We went in to see the doctor and discuss options. Since I had gotten a little light-headed from the pain of the ultrasound I'd had some crackers in the waiting room before going back to see the doctor. That meant I couldn't go in for surgery until around 6pm to be sure the food was through my system. So she called over to the hospital and set it up, with my check in being 4pm.
To be honest, we were kind of in a daze. I vaguely remember sitting on the bench outside the doctors office just staring at my phone, wondering who I could get ahold of to pick Owen up from school, and keep him overnight on just a couple hours' notice. How I was going to get his pick up ID tag, carseat and overnight things to said person, communicate the plan to Owen without freaking him out, and also go home and get myself around for this? Everything seemed to be happening so fast, yet in slow motion at the same time. We didn't even think about calling family or anyone because it's like our brains were on autopilot.
It all ended up working out, Owen got to have a fun sleepover with some of his favorites and we talked with him before I headed into surgery. He knew I'd been having some stomach cramping and that the doctors were trying to figure out why (he'd gone with me for the blood draw on Monday). So I explained to him that the doctors had found some cells that had gotten stuck in one of my organs that looked like a tube, and it was stopping it up - kind of like a hose that gets plugged. I told him they'd do surgery to go in and clear out the tube so it would be open again and my stomach pain should go away. He wasn't thrilled, but when I reassured him I'd be home the next day to see him it cheered him up a lot. After we got off the phone, is when a tiny bit of fear crept in for me, too. The last two times I'd gone in for surgery I'd gone/been septic and ended up in ICU for days. I voiced my concerns to the doctor, who knew my history quite well, and he reassured me that wouldn't happen this time. He said with the other two miscarriages, it was a completely different scenario and this one showed no signs of infection. I trusted him, and my fear went away. At that point I was just getting hangry because I hadn't eaten in seven hours. :)
By 10pm I was being wheeled out of post-op and into a room for the night. Other than feeling like my entire core had been used as stomping grounds for a heard of elephants, I was feeling great. Doc thought it'd be better to stay the night, even though it was an outpatient procedure, just to be on the safe side and avoid sending me home at 2am, especially because we live kind of far from the hospital. We met my nurse for the evening - Helena. I noticed her accent right away and asked where she was from - Liberia. Oh it did my heart so good to hear that sweet accent! And she was equally excited to hear that we'd lived in Tanzania for several years. We all chatted and reminisced about our favorite continent and it was a sweet reminder that God is truly in all the details.
* * *
The next morning Doc came in and said that everything went amazing with the surgery. He was able to save my tube and ovary (there was a chance one or both would have to come out if they were damaged). He was able to (laparoscopically) slit a hole in my tube, remove the fetal tissue, and patch it back up. While he was in there he checked out the other tube & ovary and said everything looked great - he even showed us pictures. He cautioned me against getting back to life too fast - that even though it's just three small incisions, they are 'through and through' and that it will take a while to regain movement again. And strictly no driving for at least a week.
I was shocked at that one. Until I tried getting in and and out of the car after leaving the hospital. Ouch. And I still can't sit up on my own from laying down. I'm like Ralphie's brother from The Christmas Story. Only I can't even roll that much.
* * *
This isn't just a chronicle of a (nother) hospital story though. What I can't get over is how much peace and hope has come out of all of this. God has done an amazing work in me - in us - for us to not have been chased around by fear and anxiety through all this. It has been a crazy few weeks. A rollercoaster of events, emotions and so much blood work! And through it all, I have never felt more at peace. And it's renewed our hope to (maybe) someday soon try to grow our family again. Try to give our boy a little sibling to dote on and love with his amazing big-brother heart. Because, we've known it all along, but our God is greater than any of this. Greater than any circumstance. Greater than any diagnosis. And above all, he is Love. And the way in which we felt his love through this is something that I never want to forget.