Anxiety

Less Sorry

A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh. – Leonard Cohen

I wanted another baby.

It’s strange to be saying that out loud, because for a long time not even my own mother knew that I wanted a third child. A couple of my friends knew, but when we discussed it I never used the word “trying.” I danced around the subject. Oh, you know, we’ll see what happens.

I kept the fact that I wanted another baby to myself for two reasons: one, because I’m superstitious, and have always secretly believed that if you admit you really want something (like a job offer, or a good grade on a test), you’re putting in a direct request with the gods to shut it down, and two, because I already have two (healthy, wonderful, et cetera et cetera) kids – a boy and a girl – and wanting another seemed selfish. If I got pregnant by accident, then sure, but the fact that my husband and I were trying for a third (or at least trying to the extent that married parents of multiple co-sleeping children can, which is more like “trying,” in air quotes) wasn’t something I was eager to broadcast. Even to myself.

But I wanted another baby. I did. For six months, I tracked my ovulation and cornered my husband at least once during what I figured was an appropriate time. For six months I peed on sticks and saw single lines and felt sad, but also felt like, you know: next month, maybe.

I’ve talked about what happened when I did actually get pregnant to some extent, with the first ER visit and then the second and then the rush into emergency surgery to take out the part of my body that had to go if I was going to stay. It’s tricky to get more specific, because the details range from unpleasant and gory to medical and boring. At the most basic level, they require me to talk about things like periods and bleeding and sex, and even though I’m a grown woman I still feel shy when I talk about my bodily functions, because those are the kinds of things you keep to yourself.

…Which means that miscarriages – and ectopic pregnancies – are, too.

Which is the problem.

My ectopic pregnancy almost killed me, and I think a significant part of the reason that I’m still here is that I had someone to talk to about what was happening to my body; someone who listened. Walking home from preschool drop-off one day, I told my friend Erin that I was cramping and bleeding – a lot – and that it didn’t make sense because it was in the middle of my cycle. It couldn’t be implantation bleeding, I said, because it was too heavy, and also because I couldn’t be pregnant – I’d been traveling, and hadn’t had intercourse since my last period.

I Lost My Fallopian Tube from an Ectopic Pregnancy, And I Don’t Think I Had To

Erin listened to me complaining, and then told me I needed to take a pregnancy test. I laughed and told her that made no sense, but she wouldn’t drop the issue. Then, when the test she made me take showed that I was, indeed – impossibly – pregnant, Erin dropped everything she was doing and drove me to the hospital, because she knew what I didn’t.

What I know now: I’d been pregnant for six weeks, and my cycle had continued as if I wasn’t because the embryo was located not in my uterus, but in my fallopian tube. My bleeding and pain? It was the embryo looking for space to grow in a place where it couldn’t.

The first time I went to the ER, they gave me a pregnancy test, cheerily confirmed that I was pregnant, did an ultrasound that showed nothing, and said that was probably because it was too early. I explained that the facts, taken together, seemed to me to mean that I couldn’t be pregnant. I said that I thought it might be an ectopic pregnancy. I said that there was no way this was normal. I said that I’d been pregnant twice before, and that nothing about this time was right. They sent me home.

For that little window of time I let myself be excited, even though I knew there was nothing to be excited about, and that letting myself imagine there might be would only make it worse. I named him, or her. I want to tell you those names. But I can’t, because it hurts.

An hour later, I rang my neighbor Alisa’s doorbell, and asked her to watch my kids because I thought I might have to go back to the hospital. Then I collapsed right there where I stood, on her doorstep, and stayed there in a ball on the ground until my Uber arrived a few minutes later. The pain on my right side – right where my fallopian tube was located; right where they say an ectopic pregnancy shows its face – was like nothing I’d ever experienced, apart from childbirth. I curled up alone in the backseat of my Uber and screamed all the way to the hospital, so loudly that I scared the driver half to death (in addition to terrifying Erin, who I’d accidentally butt-dialed and who was now listening to her friend crying as if she was being ripped in half).

At the hospital, they took a blood test and told me I was having a miscarriage. I explained again that I couldn’t have been pregnant in the first place; at least not with a healthy pregnancy. I got on all fours because it was the only position I could bear, and screamed help me over and over. I begged for medication, and I could tell they thought I just wanted drugs. I waited. I told the doctor who finally came that I was having an ectopic pregnancy. She tested me for appendicitis. She told me it might be kidney stones. She gave me a prescription for painkillers, and sent me home.

Over the next three days my stomach grew and grew, swelling until I appeared four months pregnant, at least. Finally my OB, who’d been checking in with me over the weekend, called me in for another ultrasound. I was in emergency surgery within the hour. I woke up to discover that my right fallopian tube had been taken out, along with 7cm of what was determined to be embryonic tissue, and that my left fallopian tube had been found to be heavily scarred (likely due to a previously undiagnosed bout with endometriosis).

What all this means: I probably cannot have another child. We can try – it’s not impossible – but we did that. We tried. And now maybe something, somewhere is telling us that it’s okay to live here, in this life we’ve made.

Maybe we are enough, just as we are.

I’m writing this because I didn’t know that any of this could happen, and now I do. You can get your period, and still be pregnant. You can go to a hospital with clear signs of an ectopic pregnancy, and be sent home with a handful of Vicodin. Your innermost body parts can break into pieces, and people can look the other way and pretend that you’re whole.

So what to take from this?

You advocate for yourself. You ask questions. You seek out other opinions. And most of all, you trust your body when it’s telling you something is not right. I was lucky to have a friend like Erin, but my chances of survival shouldn’t have depended on her.

I’m also writing this because I want to say goodbye to a part of myself. I’m ok, you know. I’m not depressed. I’m not in mourning. I don’t think of what I lost as a “baby” – we’re talking about totally unsustainable embryonic tissue, not a human child. Not my child. But still.

Still.

For a moment there, there was a tiny light inside me, even though I didn’t know it, and I want to remember that it was real. That it happened. So when I went to LA last weekend to see Francesca, I decided to get a tattoo at the spot where my tube had been removed – but I didn’t want to cover it. Having my scar disappear was not the point.

tattoo to cover the scar from an ectopic pregnancy

I circled my scar with a heart that I drew myself, so I will always remember what could have been, and also that it’s okay to let it go. I cried the whole time I was laying there on the tattoo artist’s table – the first time, I think, that I’ve cried, really cried, since this happened.

When the artist – Mike, that was his name – finished, I was embarrassed for having cried in a tattoo parlor, surrounded by people just trying to have a little fun. “Sorry,” I told him. “I’m so sorry.” Mike put down his needle, looked me in the eye, and said something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

“Be less sorry,” he told me. Like it was an order.

I got up and crossed the room to Francesca. I held onto her, crying for a minute more. When I was done, I showed her my tattoo, and we laughed at our silly selves, getting inked on a Saturday afternoon.

Then we headed off in search of eggs and bacon, and the day went on, as it does.

  • Katy

    I’m so sorry that this happened to you and that doctors treated you that way. Thank you for sharing.

  • Ronja Stavrou

    “be less sorry”… wow so simple so powerful. I’m going to try to listen to Mike too. 🙂

  • mandrmandr

    This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read on your website.

    • jordanreid

      thank you <3

      • Allison Crawford

        Yes, it made me teary. Thank you so much for sharing. xoxo

  • Revisionist

    Strange, because you’ve said several times that you weren’t haven’t any more kids. You even got your boobs done because you weren’t having any more kids. Revisionist history for the sake of the lawsuit?

    • jordanreid

      gross. please stop.

    • Leenie

      A person isn’t allowed to change their mind? I can speak from experience and tell you that you can have an unexpected and possibly unwanted pregnancy and still become attached quickly and then devastated when you’ve lost it. She made herself of honorable and spoke about incredibly difficult subject. Be kind.

      • Leenie

        Made herself *vulnerable

    • Beffgus

      WTF? You can fuck right off. I won’t change my mind on that.

    • M

      I feel bad that you need to toss such hatred into the world. I don’t know why, but Revisionist please know it is never the answer. Causing pain won’t erase your pain.

      Jordan, thank you for sharing. It gave me tears. We really struggled for our second and I remember telling everyone we were sticking with one. It was easier than admitting to a dream that seemed like a long shot. If you feel like someone is missing at your kitchen table then I’m crossing my fingers for you.

    • Jenn

      You are an awful person.

    • shilpi

      Revisionist, I too was curious about that since boob jobs do seem to happen once women are done having babies, but the fact that Jordan had an pregnancy meant that they were probably trying, since fertilization only happens during ovulation, even for ectopic pregnancies. If she was really done having kids, I’m sure they would have been more careful during that time.

  • laurenj79

    so so beautiful. and i’m so sorry that you had to go through this. that hospital absolutely failed you.

  • Beffgus

    Mike is a wise man. <3 to you!

  • Sydney

    Jordan, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I was wondering if you would be willing to share how you and your husband decided that you wanted a third? Had you always known you wanted three? I am trying to decide right now if I want a third as well, and it’s a tough decision.

    • Sydney

      And I understand if it’s too difficult to talk about 🙂

      • jordanreid

        Hey Sydney 🙂

        This is such a complicated question, because I wish I had clarity on this, and I don’t. We were pretty sure we were good with two, but never totally closed the door on anything (the boob job mentioned below was because we were leaning more heavily towards being done, but always with the knowledge that breast implants don’t negate your ability to have more children, so it didn’t feel like a final declaration, if that makes sense). And then about a year ago we started playing around with the idea, and it was…you know, it’s always some combination of terrifying and exciting, thinking about having a child. And when it comes to a third, it seems like there are SO many pros and cons. The world really is set up for families of four; everything becomes exponentially harder with three, it seems. You can’t just divide and conquer; you’re outnumbered. We have family who live far away; we worried we’d see them even less.

        So we never explicitly said “Yes, for sure we want a third” – but I suppose we just got swept up in the excitement of the idea, so we were trying (poorly, as married people of young children do), and sort of not talking about it all that much so as not to make anything definite, because, like I said, that lack of clarity made being definite too scary.

        I’ve always been so jealous of those people who just *know* how many kids they want; *know* when they’re “done.” I’ve never really been able to find that surety, because how can you reject the possibility of meeting another person who you’ll love more than anyone on the planet? And I still don’t know. I mean, I think what happened, as I said above, is a pretty good sign (or what have you) that we are whole, but it is so hard for me to say “no, never.” I can’t say it. I’m scared I’ll hit the age when “maybe we will” will become “we definitely can’t,” and will regret the choice not to try again to have another child so deeply that I’ll never get over it.

        But every life has it’s weird and unforeseeable course, and of all the things that are out of our control, how many children one has is up there. This may be the course our life has taken for now -and I think it’s important to find peace with whatever your walk through the world brings you.

  • Olivia

    I’ve read this now 3 times and cry every time.

  • Staci Lawrence

    You are so powerful. I’m grateful for you. xo

    • jordanreid

      this comment made me weep. thank you.

  • Lindsay Satmary

    So beautifully written. I’m sorry for your loss and glad you have an amazing friend like Erin. I, too, have endometriosis. I have three miracles. I hope you can have another baby if your heart desires one more.

  • Julie Larson

    Jordan – I also experienced an ectopic pregnancy. It was a little over two years ago, and it happened about 2 months after I lost my job of 12 years. I’ll never forget the experience for the obvious reasons, but also because it was Christmas Eve. I finally decided to go to the ER after speaking to the after hours line at my OB office. From that conversation I knew something was seriously wrong. I had just found out I was pregnant days before and started having severe dizziness, pain and violent vomiting. (I’ll spare you all the details) I have a son, and I thought wow, my initial pregnancy symptoms were not this bad with him. I went to the ER thinking this can’t be good because I just don’t feel right. Like your situation, they tried convincing me that i had the flu because it was going around and it was really bad that year. I knew my body and I knew it was not the flu. I looked at the NP incredulously and said, “Sooo, you aren’t going to do an ultrasound?” I had already told them that I had just found out that I was pregnant just days before. They inferred that question as me ‘asking’ to have an ultrasound so they ordered one. The results indicated that I did in fact have an ectopic pregnancy. I remember the tech asking me if I had any other children, and now I know why she asked that question. I was due 8-16-16. And the idea of never knowing the growth that would become one of my children is painful still today.

    I can only say to you that you have to dig deep in your soul and figure out what is right for you. I had lost my right fallopian tube to a nasty cyst after my son was born, so I was already down one. With my ectopic they were able to save my remaining tube and told me I could try again. I remember thinking, ‘yeah right, I’m not an idiot! I am not going through this again.’ I, like you, was afraid to admit I wanted another baby, and I carry the same superstition about wanting too much and the universe making me pay for it. Then, after going through the entire ordeal with the ectopic pregnancy I didn’t think I would ever make myself that vulnerable again. But I did. I recovered. I persevered. I cried.. a lot. And I said to myself that I was not going to live my life with any regrets. I didn’t want to look back years from now and think, ‘what if…’ So, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and we decided to try again. The attached picture is my daughter who was born last July. She’s now 9 months old. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7434a78fd937b2b1949d4b21de34b08566df25e6b940458771e0361d8acbeadc.jpg

    • jordanreid

      This is lovely – and she is lovely. Thank you for this.

  • Jen Curran

    So beautiful Jordan thank you for writing this. I loved it. I’m having a hard fertility struggle right now and this help me feel less numb. Thank you, I’m remain a huge fan 💕

  • HopeV

    “be less sorry” is some of the best f’king advice i think i’ve ever read. i’m in tears. *hugs*

  • Manda

    You write beautifully and realistically on this topic.

    I too hope that if your dream for a third persists, you get what you want. After starting to try to have kids at 33, five unsuccessful rounds of IUI, one successful round of IVF, a traumatic pregnancy with my first, and a subsequent miscarriage, I got pretty comfortable telling people, “No, just one. We already have a perfect daughter.” Which was true, but my heart wanted a second so badly. I too felt selfish, having told myself so many times throughout treatment that I would never ask for anything again if I could have just one. Eight months ago, at 39, my second daughter was born with absolutely no fertility treatments. It seems so trite, but you never know. Wishing you all the best.

  • “Be less sorry” bawwwwwling 😭😭😭

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