On Thursday, three days ago, I had emergency surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy.
Basically, that means that the fertilized egg never made it to the uterus. It got stuck in one of my tubes and kept growing there, sending me into terrible pain starting Thursday morning, and causing internal bleeding. When this happens, there’s no chance to save the baby.
I was 7 weeks pregnant. I had just found out I was pregnant the previous week, but even then things didn’t seem to match up. The test said I was pregnant, but I had been bleeding two weeks prior, so the very day I found out, I assumed I had already miscarried and was seeing the remaining traces of hcg in my body. But after two days of mourning what I assumed was the loss of a baby, and after two blood tests, I was told my hcg levels were rising, which seemed to indicate everything was a-ok.
As soon as I heard this, hope flooded my heart.
I was so happy. With a February due date, I started dreaming about welcoming the new one. I sorted through my old bag of maternity clothes and did some purging. I thought about where the new baby would sleep. I told Alice, “you’re going to have a new sibling, honey. There’s a baby in mommy’s tummy.” She drew near with a puzzled expression and checked under my shirt. Hmmm … no baby there. What the heck is she talking about?
On Sunday, a week ago today, I was in church rejoicing in secret in my heart about this little life that no one else knew about.
Our worship leader sang a song for a time of reflection. The song is about the hard things in life, the suffering we see and experience, and each verse ends with the reassurance that “this too shall be made right.” The song has these words:
There’s a time for peace and there is a time for war
A time to forgive and a time to settle the score
A time for babies to lose their lives
A time for hunger and genocide
This too shall be made right
I can’t explain it, but when he sang the line “a time for babies to lose their lives,” I knew he was talking about my baby.
A moment later I dismissed the thought. No, this baby is fine, I told myself. But the impression on my heart was right. That line was sung for me.
The pain started Thursday on my way to work. It was intense, and I thought I might faint, but I rolled down the windows and prayed out loud and knew I could make it to the office. My toddler Alice comes with me to work, but when we got there I didn’t have the strength to change her diaper and put her down for a morning nap like I usually do. Instead, I lay on the floor. Alice sat next to me and read a book quietly, sensing something was wrong. Around 10:30 I rallied my strength and put Alice in her Pack n Play to have a nap. I came back out and lay under my desk. I thought, surely this pain will end soon.
My coworker came back from running an errand and was immediately alarmed at my state. He wasted no time, and put plans into action to get me to the ER. “This isn’t right. You’ve got to get to the hospital,” he said. I argued at first that I just needed a little more time to figure out how to manage it. But by 11am I was crying from the pain. A sense of urgency filled me–if I was about to be out of commission at the hospital, I had to get my work done. I struggled up to my desk and, crouched over my keyboard, tried to get some papers ready for some shipments leaving to Mexico. But I couldn’t keep going.
“You need to call your husband,” said my coworker. The thing is, he was about to teach a class, and I knew his cell phone wouldn’t be on. Regardless of the class, it’s pretty much never on–he’s not a cell phone kind of a guy, which I totally get. But I realized I had to try anyway.
This was the first miracle. My husband had forgotten his watch, so he had just turned on his cell phone to check the time. My call came through, and he answered immediately. I couldn’t believe it.
Through the fog in my brain and sobs, we formulated a plan. My coworker drove Alice in my car to Melissa’s house–a friend from church who immediately agreed to take care of Alice. Another coworker drove me to the hospital in his beater car.
As I left, our friend David, an elder at our church and our Bible study leader for many years, called my cell and prayed for me as I buckled myself into the car.
Ten minutes after checking into the ER, the first friend from church arrived, David’ wife Beth. She brought me a book and helped with some logistics and told me to call if I needed anything.
I don’t want to relive the next few hours. They involved blood tests and ultrasounds, and sobbing in a hospital gown as I was told I had an ectopic pregnancy and potentially dangerous internal bleeding happening. As I waited for the OB to come consult with me about the next step, I heard the nurses talking outside my door and saying, “yeah, she’s going to OR for surgery, but she doesn’t know it yet.”
I couldn’t believe it. I started laughing. Someone came in and put in an IV as I laughed and the tears poured down my face.
Wednesday night we were having dinner with friends. Thursday morning I was having my regular coffee and cereal bar for breakfast and looking forward to meeting with our Bible study group that evening, when I planned to tell the women I was pregnant. But by Thursday evening, I was going to be having abdominal surgery and a baby removed from my body.
I had a chaplain bring me a Bible. He prayed in his thick Asian accent, “Dear God, Jenna ask ‘why this happen to me?'” The thing is, I wouldn’t be asking that until a few days later–until now. I was just in shock. In fact, I remember thinking the opposite–“why not me?” I know people who have lost babies, and in much more painful circumstance than this–so why not me too?
Having that Bible was incredible. I latched on to Psalm 20 and I felt courage flood my heart. I felt God’s closeness, his comfort, and a strong desire to bring him glory in any way I could. I prayed for God to touch the hearts of everyone I encountered, to bolster their faith, and to bolster mine.
My husband arrived. We cried, we texted our families, and we waited. Finally the surgeon came to discuss what was going to happen. As I realized he might have to destroy one of my tubes I cried out to God, “not that.” (and he didn’t have to–praise God for that) Soon after the surgeon had explained the procedure, my husband was reading Psalm 20 out loud and the anesthesiologist was giving me a sedative. I was wheeled into the operating room and I felt myself grow drowsy. The last thing I remember is saying–about God– “I love him . . . I love him . . .”
Now I’m home. Sometimes, very briefly, while I’m talking to someone or reading, I forget everything that happened. Then I remember, and the sadness just crashes over me. I have lost a baby. I have lost a baby.
My mother-in-law and brother-in-law are staying with us as long as we need them. I’m taking pain meds and finally able to pee again after the catheter during surgery made me forget how. I watched “Miss Congeniality” last night and laughed until my incisions hurt. I’m showing Alice the three “owies” on Mommy’s tummy so she remembers to be gentle. I’m hurt and angry and I want to be hopeful but I feel despairing instead. I’m comforted by the Bible and the next minute I think God must have decided to stop listening. “He’ll get me through,” I think, and then my heart sinks, because I don’t want to think about getting through.
I just threw away the positive pregnancy test that had been sitting in the bathroom for two weeks. Now I know that this baby was growing in the wrong place while I was in Stevens Point over Memorial Day weekend eating burgers and celebrating my 31st birthday, and partying with my family at my cousin George’s wedding. That whole time things were going terribly wrong, and I didn’t know.
I need to find a way to back to work next week at least to get the bare minimum done, and I’m dreading it. I don’t know how I can face “normal” and send emails. I don’t know how I can say “good morning” to my boss and wait in traffic and answer phone calls with a cheerful voice. Right now that sounds like hell.
One amazing thing during this time has been our family–our physical and spiritual family.
I don’t know how people without a church family can go through tragedies. They have been there to hold us up. They’ve taken care of Alice, helped with logistics, visited us in the hospital, prayed, sent encouraging emails, called, and are bringing meals this week. Thank you to all of you for reaching out and being there, especially Melissa and Jonathan for taking care of our baby, and David and Beth for being there so quickly. Thanks to my cousin Will and his daughter Elizabeth who came out of their way to visit us here, through hated Chicago traffic, and were such a comfort. My in-laws immediately started driving to Chicago from their vacation in Minnesota the minute they heard, and my mother-in-law Sara has been plying me with chocolate, listening to me cry and say all manner of things, and taking the best care of Alice ever. My sister Erica offered to fly in asap despite her busy life with two boys under the age of one. I feel . . . very loved.
I wanted to write this post because I want to update everyone on what happened and how I am. If you’re a person of faith, pray for my faith. Pray for God to give me another baby for the one that was lost . . . and to not delay. I’ve already been waiting, and I’m tired of waiting. And pray for something of great worth to come out of this. If I have to suffer like this, God had better use it for something amazing. I’ve had words with him about this, so please add your words to mine.
Thanks everyone for the love you are showing us during this time.
The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans. May we shout with joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.
Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.
Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.
Give victory to the king, O Lord; answer us when we call.