Written by Tabitha Cummings
I finally feel at peace with sharing my story, of spreading hope.
I fell in love, deeply. My life was finally evolving into the fairy tale I had envisioned since my youth. We had a plan: We would marry at my family home, surrounded by our friends and family, then we would honeymoon in Europe, ultimately taking in the sites and making a baby.
Turns out, it isn’t always that easy.
After months of trying and countless times of us huddled over a pee stick anxiously awaiting two pink lines, we longed for answers. Why wasn’t it happening? Why weren’t we pregnant?
My lady parts were messed up. I was Broken.
And so, I underwent my first laparoscopic surgery, which would remove a large cyst that had formed on my ovary, preventing eggs from traveling into the fallopian tube and implanting in the uterus. After the surgery, we thought we were in the clear. We had determined the issue, we had underwent surgery to correct the problem, and now we were ready to make a baby!
Except we weren’t.
Again, after failed pregnancy tests, we went back to the drawing board. Turns out, we would need to take Clomid, a fertility medication. This meant more pee sticks. Nothing is less sexy than a pee stick.
I still remember the day I saw two lines. I had stumbled out of bed, spitefully, with the urge to pee. It was a Saturday and we had discussed the night before that I would take a test the next day. We had high hopes, as we often did, but we also had a sickening feeling of the disappointment that would likely fill our whole beings. I didn’t wake my husband. I closed my eyes and half slept as I waited the three minutes for the results. I honestly didn’t expect it to be positive.
Two pink lines. Two!
This was a moment in my life that I truly, honestly, didn’t know if I was dreaming or awake. I stared at the stick. My eyes filed with tears. Moments later I ran into the spare bedroom, the room that would become the nursery. I knelt and I prayed. Then I franticly searched for the onsie I ordered so long ago. The one with my husbands favorite sports team monogramed on the front. I ran into the bedroom and hovered over my husband holding the tiny shirt infant of me. Slightly panicked he opened his eyes. It took a moment for it to register. Then, he took me in his arms and we wept together for a long time.
Our first child was born on August 23, 2013. He was perfect.
The following September, we decided our family had enough love for another baby. We began the process of Clomid and were prepared for the dreaded pee sticks and negative tests, but we were hopeful in conceiving within a few months.
I remember taking a test the morning of October 20th. My husband and I were throwing a party that night and I wanted to be sure I wasn’t pregnant before I took part in the festivities. However, taking the test was more to prove to my husband that we were in fact pregnant. I was positive that we were, I could just feel it. However, after waiting the three terribly long minutes, the result was negative.
The following Saturday, I took another test. It was positive. I immediately ran into my sons room grabbing the “I’m a Big Brother” shirt I bought a few weeks before and rushed down the stairs, tears in my eyes, holding the shirt out to my husband. He looked at me in disbelief, embraced me in a hug and my first born son bounced at our legs as he could recognize our excitement.
We were pregnant.
Little did we know, we would spend the next month in a horrible, inexplicable limbo. As a high risk patient (a title I got after my first laparoscopic surgery), I was asked to come in for an HCG test the next business day. This is a blood text given to monitor the level of “pregnancy hormone” in your body. In the first trimester, the doctors expect your levels to at least double every seventy-two hours. And so, I returned for my follow up HCG test on Wednesday. The results are not typically ready before you leave the office and so the nurse calls you with the results sometime later that day.
“Your HCG levels did not climb as expected.”
We would need to repeat the test in three days. It was a roller coaster of fear and sadness and hope and happiness. Some days, my HCG levels were climbing at an acceptable rate, other times, they weren’t climbing high enough or fast enough.
On a Sunday in early November, I had cramping on my left side. Cramping that wouldn’t go away. I called the on-call doctor at my OB office and I was referred to the emergency room. My husband, mother and I sat for hours in the waiting room. Once I had been admitted my HCG levels were drawn again and I was wheeled down to the ultrasound room. The sonographer said nothing as she viewed the screen. My grip was tight on my husbands hand and I asked, “are you able to tell us what you see?” Her response was hollow.
“I don’t see a fetus in the uterus.”
Nothing more. I couldn’t look at my husband, I couldn’t respond. I just sat staring at my stomach as my face burned with heat and my tears flooded my eyes. The sonographer stood, and left the room. My husband held me and I sobbed.
We lost the baby?
When the sonographer returned she led me to the hall where my stretcher waited. As I struggled to catch my breath, my husband pulled the blanket over my bare legs and followed behind as the sonographer wheeled me quickly down the hall and back to my room where my mother sat. She didn’t need an explanation. She just hugged me and cried too.
After some time, a lot of time, a doctor came in with a nurse from the labor unit. She sat next to me and explained that there was a chance I didn’t loose the baby. It was possible my levels were too low to detect the fetus in the uterus. She explained that we would need to continue to monitor my HCG levels closely and that we could have an ectopic pregnancy.
After waiting 48 hours, we went back to my OB to follow up. We were terrified. We had held onto the little hope that we could still be pregnant. Our HCG levels had increased. We were full of hesitant hope. Again, we returned three days later.
“It’s an ectopic pregnancy. I am so sorry.”
For some reason I could accept the words so clearly stated. I begged for doubt, but there was none. We were given a few moments alone and then, two nurses came in with two syringes filled with methotrexate. I didn’t even flinch as they administrated the shots to finalize the death of our baby.
I was numb. Then, angry, hurt, and confused. Then I was sad, so miserably sad.
It had only begun.
When you have an ectopic pregnancy, you are watched closely to make sure the methotrexate completely kills the cells of the fetus. And so, after three days I returned for another blood draw, and again, and again. About a week later, I had pain in my side. I didn’t know if it was serious so I called my doctor. Due to my HCG levels not decreasing dramatically over the past week, I was asked in for an ultrasound. When I got to the waiting nook, I was only half surprised that my mom met me there.
I needed her. I needed this to be over.
I don’t remember much from the ultrasound other than the awkwardness of the sonographer and my mom. They were trying to make this horrible moment slightly less horrible so I laughed along to their well-meaning jokes. The ultrasound ended and I went to stand, except I couldn’t. I was so dizzy. I was asked to lay back down as the sonographer quickly left the room.
I was so scared.
I started to cry. Then the room was full. There were so many women asking me questions, taking my vitals, and checking my body.
The pregnancy had burst and I had internal bleeding. I would need emergency surgery.
I begged my mom to call my husband, who met us at the hospital. I remember thinking I was going to die. It sounds dramatic, but for weeks I was told about the risk of ectopic pregnancies. How women die of ruptured cells that lead to internal bleeding and how I needed to carefully watch my HCG levels to ensure it didn’t happen. Now it was happening. I was scared I wouldn’t live to see my first child grow. I was scared that my fairy tale would end like this.
I lived. I was okay.
But if I wasn’t broken before, I sure was now. I was tired, sore, depressed, and I had only one fallopian tube. Just one.
It was a raw few months.
Then, we decided to try again. I needed to try again. I needed the rainbow after the storm. I guess that’s why the call them rainbow babies.
The day we knew we were pregnant with our third baby we didn’t celebrate. We told family and friends because going through pregnancy alone is hard and if it goes horribly wrong, you need a supportive community even more. And so, for three long months we waited, together. Through every HCG test, we held our breaths. And on the day of the ultrasound, we prayed.
It was a healthy baby, in the uterus.
Our third baby was born on October 20, 2015.
Tonight, on the eve of my second babies first birthday, I want to honor them. I wonder who you were and what you would have become. I wonder what traits you carried from your beautiful father and which ones you carried from me. I wonder what your laugh would have sounded like, or even your cry. More importantly, I want to recognize how much you have given me. Because of you, I am stronger and more resilient then I ever thought possible. You have shown me that chance is worth the pain and love is worth the risk.
You will always be a part of our fairy tale, happy birthday sweet baby of ours.