10 days to go until vacation; the reality of curling my toes in the sand with an ice-cold margarita in one hand and a trashy novel in the other was so close I could taste it. Barbados, here we come.
Well, my body decided to take me for a quick detour before I could truly settle into vacation mode.
Let’s start from the beginning.
After having our second little girl, my husband and I went back and forth deciding which method of birth control we/I would use until we knew what we wanted our future to look like regarding more babies. After discussing different options with a few of my girlfriends, I decided on an IUD. It couldn’t come more highly recommended! It was a no-brainer.
My (progestin hormone) IUD placement procedure was at the end of March, just 8 weeks after my daughter was born. I was a little crampy at first, just like everyone said I’d be, but I rode the wave, and it soon went away. I’d have some spotting every month right around when I’d normally get a period, then it’d go away, and it went like this for a couple of months.
Fast forward to the beginning of August and I start spotting again. “No big deal” I shrugged to myself; it’ll be gone soon enough. One week passed, then two weeks, then three. Every time I went to the bathroom, I’d leave with the same thought, “why am I still bleeding?” I called my OB to schedule an appointment to make sure my IUD was correctly placed and wasn’t stabbing anything inside me. Thursday, August 19th rolls around; she checked me out and left with the promise that everything looked good! I probably just had a cyst on my ovary (which apparently is very common) and it was likely bleeding, but it’d resolve on its own.
Oh…. ok…. So that’s that? I just sit tight?
Being the person I am, and not wanting to make a big deal out of “nothing”, I sat tight and waited to see what would happen. Well, Sunday night rolls around and I’m feeling a cramping pain, similar to a bad period cramp. I just ruled it out as bad gas from the junk food we ate earlier in the day. Monday comes and as I’m walking around the store the pain almost brings me to my knees. Something isn’t right, I know it.
I came home unsure of what to do. I’d likely just lay down until it was time to pick up the girls from daycare. Before I succumbed to 100% relaxation in my bed, I ran to the bathroom to pee. On the way, I grabbed a pregnancy test that I randomly bought a month ago, JUST to rule that out.
I waited 5 seconds. It was positive…POSITIVE.
How? When? Why? How?! I have an IUD! More than 99% effective!! Not possible. Let’s do it again.
5 seconds. Positive. Again.
“BABE?!” I called out as I ran down the stairs into his office. He was on a call but looked over to me. I was frozen in the doorway, eyes wide, full of tears and my hand over my mouth. “What’s wrong?” he mouthed. I held up my pregnancy test. “Let me call you back” were the next words out of his mouth.
He enclosed me in his arms as my knees buckled under my weight and I began to sob. Core shattering sobs. The kind you can barely breathe between. I couldn’t believe it. Neither could he. How was this possible? The IUD was the best option for us, we weren’t ready to even THINK about having more kids, let alone with our youngest only 6 months old.
Shortly after, I called my doctors and explained everything to them. Yes, I’m pregnant. Yes, I have an IUD. Yes, I’m bleeding. Yes, I’m in pain.
First thing Tuesday morning I spoke with the doctor, and she told me to go get my blood drawn, head to the hospital for an ultrasound, then to their office for a follow up. No problem, I’ve done all of this a thousand times before – the joys of being pregnant! After getting my blood drawn, we headed to the hospital. Now, I don’t know about hospitals near you, but this hospital has the strangest layout with different elevator shafts for different wings. We were instructed to take this elevator to floor 2 then walk around the corner and take that elevator to floor 3 then head to the main lobby. HUH? Me, in an already anxious mind-set, was freaking out. After about 15 minutes of being “lost” we finally walked into Women’s Imaging.
“Anna?” the ultrasound tech shouts from the glass door. That’s us. Finally, time for some answers. Before entering the hallway, she asks, “so…. You’re pregnant?”
Her: “And you have an IUD?” she presses, almost insultingly.
Me: “… Yes.”
Her: “Wow. I’ve never seen that.”
My husband and I look at each other, exchanging similar thoughts.
Tucking the paper sheet into the top of my pants as I’d done so many times before, I was ready to see the results of an ultrasound. Maybe it’d show that my IUD was in fact, out of place or poking something within me. Maybe it’d show an embryo in my uterus, and it was in fact a healthy pregnancy. Or maybe, as my Google searches warned me, it was an ectopic pregnancy within my fallopian tube or ovary.
Well, the over-the-belly ultrasound didn’t provide anything more than the urge to pee and a sticky belly. Next up, the internal ultrasound probe. Oy.
Now, if you’ve ever had one of these, you know how uncomfortable it can be. My tech kept searching around for anything that might clue her in to this mystery. She stopped at each ovary and fallopian tube, poking, prodding, pressing, snapping pictures, click-clacking on her keyboard which seemed to reverberate off every wall, shaking me to my core. My husband can still feel my nails embedded into his skin.
“What are you looking for?” I pressed, scared at whatever she might say.
The tech explained that she couldn’t get a clear picture of my left ovary. She said, “I’m trying to find it’s borders.” She might as well have been speaking another language. After taking as many pictures as possible, she removed the probe and told me my IUD was in the perfect position and she can’t tell exactly where the embryonic tissue was. It could be in my uterus and up against my ovary, it could be in a cyst on my ovary, OR it could be in my fallopian tube. It was too early in the pregnancy to tell. Her next task was to send the images to the lab for examination and we’d have our answer by the time we arrived at our next appointment.
We left the hospital and headed to my OB’s office. I finally got my HCG levels back: 244. This number meant I was anywhere from 2-4 weeks pregnant. My doctor explained everything to me stating this was very rare when using a progestin IUD (as opposed to a copper IUD) and informed us that it was most likely an ectopic pregnancy. If left untreated, it could rupture my ovary or fallopian tube, resulting in surgery and complete removal of that tube and ovary. This was not a chance I was willing to take. After removing my (apparently useless) IUD, my next step was to be injected with a drug called Methotrexate which is used to attack rapidly multiplying cells, such as cancer or embryonic tissue.
The nurse, who was an absolute angel, walked in with two syringes full of bright yellow fluid. She greeted me saying, “I hate to meet you under these circumstances! I’m so sorry but I actually need you to turn around and pull your pants down a bit; each butt cheek gets a dose.” Those needle pricks were the least pain I had felt all day. I was grateful for this nurse.
She then went on to tell me I couldn’t drink for two weeks, and I should also limit my sun exposure. Remember when I said we were going on vacation…to Barbados? But it’s better than the alternative – not catching this and ending up with a ruptured ovary on an island 2,100 miles from home.
As I laid in bed after my appointments, feeling my body churn and waiting for the day to end, I hoped for some feeling of normalcy in the following days. While this specific instance is extremely rare, it’s also very important to listen to your body and what your gut has to say. I don’t know why I randomly bought a pregnancy test a month prior. I don’t know why I thought to take a test that day. I don’t know why my IUD never felt “right”, but I do know, I’m thankful for my instincts.