It’s now been 5 months since the day they removed my pregnancy and my left Fallopian tube. The operation went swiftly and I was so relieved. Relieved that it was gone, relieved that the ordeal was over, relieved that there were no more decisions to be made. I could move on with my life.
I didn’t feel the loss. Not then. I didn’t think of my pregnancy as a baby growing inside me. I had only known for a week. We had only been trying for a month. Getting pregnant so quickly was a huge, lovely surprise. It didn’t feel real. I didn’t feel pregnant. The tests (and I had taken 4, just to be sure) had said I was 2-3 weeks pregnant. (I bought the tests in the same town, Bexhill, as where I had bought the test that had told me my first son, Magnus, was on his way. I wanted it to be the same, just in case. And it was. I loved that.)
The hospital notes said 6 weeks. So my little bundle of cells was actually bigger than I thought. But still, I didn’t think of it as a baby I had lost.
I had been up until 1am, working. I am a barrister and this is what we do. We work crazy hours. I then woke up at 5am to continue working, and noticed a small bleed. I thought: probably an ‘embedding’ bleed. I had cramps but they weren’t that bad. I continued to work, finishing off my skeleton argument for an asylum case I had that day, printing it off and gathering all the bundles together. My son Magnus, who had just turned 2, woke up at about 6.30am and I woke up my husband for him to look after Magnus whilst I finished everything.
I told my husband about the bleeds and the cramps and he told me to take it easy, to not worry. I told him I wasn’t worried. And I wasn’t much. I had bigger things to think about, like my case. Adrenaline is a powerful thing and even though I’ve been representing asylum seekers in the courts for many years, I still get a surge every day. Every day is important. It’s somebody’s life at stake.
Strangely, my little sister was shadowing me at court that day. She was keen to see what I actually did. I met her at Clapham Junction and off we went to the delight that is Feltham, and to York house, nestled cosily between a superstore Tescos and DHL just off a screaming dual carriageway.
I had stuck in a tampon to stem the bleeding as I didn’t want to be in court with blood dripping down my thighs. So I couldn’t tell whether I was still bleeding, but the cramps persisted. Once court started, all thoughts of myself dissipated and I was in the zone. The judge was cantankerous and uppity and furious that video evidence was being requested to be served and shown only that day by my client. I love a good fight and so off we went.
At about 3pm, court finished and we headed back to Feltham train station. After a bit of impromptu shopping in New Look (it’s right by the station, it’s rude not to) and discussion of whether I should go to my GP, we decided I should at least call my GP just in case. I did. They told me nobody could see me today but I should got to the Early Pregnancy Unit at St Thomas’.
On the way, I became nervous but mainly for Chloe. I had gone with my older sister for a routine check up of her pregnancy once and was there when the cold nurse told her that there was ‘no viable pregnancy’. Just like that. I recounted the story to Chloe, about how awful the nurse had been and how unsympathetic and icy she was, how upset and shocked Gemma was. I felt bad that I was taking Chloe all the way to hospital, on a sunny day in September when we could have gone to the Lido or the Common and drank in the last of the year’s warmth. I told her I would like her to come with me just in case but I understood if she’d rather not spend her afternoon in a waiting room. She stuck with me and thank God that she did.
We waited for a while. They took my blood pressure, weight, heartbeat. We had our own waiting room because I had had diarrhoea the night before and that morning. So we had a rather lovely view of the river and privacy to chat about this and that. After a couple of hours, they took me in for an internal scan. The one where they get a large skinny dildo and lubricate it with KY Jelly and stick a condom on it then stick it inside you. It’s a rather cold, strange sensation. Chloe had not expected that at all and thought the stick was going on my stomach, which made me giggle. The young male nurse was silent for quite a while, moving it around deftly with his right hand, eyes focused on the screen ahead and his left hand working the computer mouse. He didn’t say anything at all. And then: “Yes…I can’t see anything. I’m afraid, there is a miscarriage. There is nothing in the womb. I’m sorry”.
I cried instantly, softly, squeezing tightly on to Chloe’s hand.
“I just want to get a second opinion” the nurse said, and left. After a hug and some more crying, I drew breath and said to Chloe, that at least it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy. Those were really bad and could be awful and I was just so relieved it wasn’t that. I actually said that.
Then in came the male nurse with an older female nurse. The scan was repeated. Silence again. And then. “I’m afraid it’s an ectopic pregnancy. It’s a pregnancy in the wrong place, in the tube. I’m sorry. We’ll get the doctor to go through the options with you.”
Then I got silent. I was scared.
I called my husband. I couldn’t speak. I called my best friend, she cried and I cried more. I called my sister, Gemma, and I couldn’t speak again.
When it comes to ectopics, these are the options: it resolves itself naturally. This means the body realises it’s in the wrong place, it stops producing the growing hormones it usually does with a pregnancy and it just comes out, in the form of bleeding. This is the best possible outcome as it requires nothing but waiting and seeing and no medication or surgery.
The second option is to take medication. In the UK they use Methotrexate. It’s a drug that stops the early ectopic pregnancy from growing. It’s been used before in cancer trials as it stops cells multiplying. It has pretty awful side affects and sometimes you need more than one dose. It is not guaranteed to work so sometimes you take the medication and then feel awful for a few weeks and then have to have surgery.
The third option and last resort is to have surgery. Rarely, it seems, can a pregnancy be removed without removing the Fallopian tube too. Therefore it’s not a surgery to go into lightly. It’s under general anaesthetic and like all surgeries, there are risks of damaging other organs, infection etc.
What can also happen is that the pregnancy grows so big that the tube ruptures. This is very painful and causes a lot of bleeding and will require emergency surgery. It can be fatal.
Those were the options that faced me that day, still in my court attire of black suit and white shirt. It all seemed absurd.