It was early Sunday morning when I felt a shooting pain rip through my abdomen. It was June 3, 2018. My day was planned down to the hour. I had done quite a bit of travelling in the weeks prior to this day, so I was glad to finally have the time to catch up on writing stories. It was supposed to be a productive day…
I rolled out of my bed and made it to the bathroom, but the pain wouldn’t cease. I recognized the pain. I had felt it nearly two years earlier.
My two children were in my bed, sleeping soundly. It’s so interesting how the world around you can be so tranquil while a storm brews within you.
I knew I needed to get to the nearest hospital because I was losing another baby. Five days earlier I had discovered I was pregnant again. We were elated.
Since our last pregnancy loss in September 2016, we had been trying to conceive again. That pregnancy had been a surprise. But at six weeks, I’d been rushed to the hospital in excruciating pain and the ultrasound showed it was an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic or tubal pregnancy is a potentially life-threatening condition where the embryo begins to grow outside the uterus. The most common ectopic implantation site is in the fallopian tube. It is quite a rare condition and accounts for 1-2 percent of all pregnancies.
By the time the medical staff diagnosed my condition, my right fallopian tube had ruptured and blood had begun to pool in my abdomen. I needed emergency surgery to save my life. As midnight approached, the surgical team was called back to the hospital. They had left for the night after performing their last surgery.
“We have an ectopic!” they were told.
I needed time. Just a couple of nights ago we were discussing names and now this…
Were they sure they had gotten it right?
“Isn’t there anything you can do to save my baby?” I asked desperately.
The doctor told me there was no time to waste, but I needed time – time to understand what was happening, time to plead with God, time to say goodbye to the life growing inside me, time to tell my job I wouldn’t be able to finish my last few assignments, time to think about whether I would make it, time to think about what I was signing on the consent forms, time to call my mother…I needed to hear her tell me everything would be OK.
I. Just. Needed. Time. But there was none.
I was whisked into the operating room and the surgeon explained the procedure, but I heard nothing. My mind couldn’t or wouldn’t process her words. She would do everything she could to preserve my fallopian tube, she said.
In recovery, I was told the damage to my right fallopian tube was too severe to save it. The dressings over the three small incisions in my abdomen, groin and bellybutton were so tiny. Insignificant compared to the catastrophe that had happened within my body and mind.
The weeks and months following the loss were hard. Feelings of guilt overwhelmed me because I hadn’t wanted more children when I conceived. I was content with my two kids and couldn’t fathom how I would take care of three. But as the days rolled by, I warmed up to the idea and grew excited. Is that why God took this child away? Was it punishment for not being over the moon at first? The feelings of guilt morphed into anger. Why did you disturb me, God? Why would you give me something I didn’t want at the time, and then when I embrace it, snatch it away so harshly? It seemed cruel.
“But you have two beautiful children…” people pointed out. God bless them. I tried to tell myself the same thing. Those words were meant to encourage me, but I felt like it dismissed the life I had just lost.
The loss created a desire to have another child to replace the one I’d lost. With one good tube left, my OB-GYN told me all we had to do was wait one menstrual cycle before we could start trying again. And since I was 38, she encouraged us not to wait too long. We tried, but nothing happened.
Life as I knew it fell apart completely. But by late May 2018, I was surprised to find out we were expecting again. With my parents scheduled to visit in a couple of weeks, it would be a perfect time to break the news to them.
Then, June 3 came…
The pain was back. I called my kids’ father but couldn’t reach him. I woke up my kids and managed to toast and butter some bagels for them. It’s remarkable how a mother can muster up the strength to care for her children. As they began to eat, I slowly made my way back upstairs doubled over in pain. Once I got to my bedroom, I closed the door and lowered myself to the floor. How could this be happening again? Who could I call for help? It was so early in the morning I didn’t want to disrupt anyone’s day.
I felt defeated. The last two years had proven to be the most difficult for me emotionally, financially and spiritually, and I was completely spent. I had experienced blow after blow I couldn’t go on living this way.
The pain in my abdomen intensified and I groaned in pain. I made up my mind not to seek medical help. If God was going to take another baby from me, He would have to take my life, too. This was my out.
My kids would be fine without me. Their mommy was broken; what good was I to them anyway? They had a father; he would take care of them. They had grandparents. Surely someone in my family would raise them.
As I sat on the floor with my back against my bed, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs.
“Mommy, are you OK?”
I snapped out of it and reasoning returned. I had to live for my children. I was the one raising them; they needed ME. I struggled to my feet and called for an ambulance. I packed the kids’ tablets so they could be entertained at the hospital. The kids were excited. It was an adventure to be able to ride in an ambulance. Their father finally called back and said he would meet us at the hospital.
I knew before the doctor told me that it was another ectopic pregnancy. This time it was a cornual ectopic pregnancy – a rare form that is found in 2-4 percent of ectopic pregnancies. The doctor said the embryo was implanted right where the fallopian tube meets the opening of the uterine wall. She even drew me a picture to illustrate. It almost made it. But everybody knows, almost doesn’t count.
The doctor explained to me that despite having a previous ectopic pregnancy, my chances of having a subsequent ectopic pregnancy had not increased because the damaged fallopian tube had been removed, and my remaining tube was perfectly functional.
In that moment I felt so unloved by God. I wanted more children. Why had a loving God created a desire in me if He had no intentions of fulfilling it?
The doctor was talking again…
I knew the drill, “Sign here, here and here. We’ll try to save….” I wanted her to stop talking. What were the chances of this happening twice, with the second time being even rarer? The first time my case fell within 1-2 percent of all pregnancies, and this time it was 2-4 percent of that 1-2 percent?? How could this be so? And now, I wouldn’t be able to have more children.
Like before, the procedure was quick and “successful.” I was discharged and sent home by that evening. No instructions, just a number to call if I became ill. Nobody really tells you how to pick up the pieces.
I didn’t really want to talk about it. What was the use. No one had answers for me. Google told me all was not lost. I could still conceive through IVF or some other fertility treatment. But I wasn’t willing to get my hopes up. Besides, with my luck, it wouldn’t work out anyway.
It was a blow but I pushed through the disappointment. I continued to interview women and publish their stories on The Weight She Carries. I had to keep the stories flowing because I needed them like air. Women would send me emails and messages thanking me for providing a platform to share their stories, not knowing that God was using their stories to strengthen me and keep me sane. He drew me close, comforted me, and in His goodness, began to reveal some of the reasons why things happened the way they did.
I thank Him now because He preserved my life and protected me from things I was oblivious to at the time.
I am learning to look at disappointment differently because there is always something greater at work behind the scenes.
As I begin to share layers of my own story with you – how at 39, I found myself back in my parents’ home and starting over completely; how everything I tried to hold on to for dear life crumbled before my eyes; and how I’m trying to figure out who I am now, not as a mother, not as the wife I once was, but as a woman – I hope my story can be a reminder that you don’t have to have it all together to be a blessing to others. In fact, it’s often because you are broken that God can use you to help others.
Vimbai E. is a writer, journalist, ghostwriter and the founder of The Weight She Carries. With hundreds of articles publishing online, in print and for broadcast, her love of language and storytelling shines through every piece of writing that bears her name.