You knew when you took that test, it would be negative. They have been positive for seven weeks straight, but this one was finally going to be negative. You were finally going to be free from the same Monday morning appointment. Finally going to be free from not being able to travel. Free from no sexual contact...free.
You remember what freedom feels like, right? Freedom is being on the Seven Dwarfs Mine train with your husband and son, hair rushing past your face as you scream in excitement. Freedom is a long car ride home with your bare feet stretched out in front of you, nodding your head to whatever song comes across the radio. Its a shaky, excited exhale when your family doctor tells you that you are pregnant.
“Are you sure? I just had my period like two weeks ago?”
“Ma’am, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never been wrong once. If I am, feel free to come back and tell me.”
Freedom taste as sweet as the words falling from your lips to your husband’s ears. “It happened at Disney, I guess? I don’t know, but are you excited! Me too!” Freedom is planning a Valentine’s Day birth announcement with your husband and child. Freedom is enjoying the moment, grasping at your belly before going to sleep. Freedom is, “finally.”
Even though, deep down, you knew something was wrong. You had gone to see your family doctor because you were in pain and spotting. You left his office and went straight to your OBGYN because something wasn’t right. Even after a blood test revealed you were pregnant with good hormone levels, you asked to speak to the nurse because you knew something...was off.
“It’s normal to feel some pain at this stage. It’s still implanting in your uterus.”
“But, I didn’t go through this with my first pregnancy. It’s a lot of pain...and it’s sharp pain.”
“Again, normal. Unless it gets so bad you can’t stand it, it’s totally normal.”
Except, it wasn’t. Two days later, at 5:00 a.m., it was you bent over at the front desk in the ER, crying and trying to explain that you were pregnant and while the pain wasn’t unbearable, it couldn’t be normal. It was you twitching in agony as an ultrasound was administered. It was you shivering in a cold room as a doctor hastily informed you that your pregnancy was ectopic, and wouldn’t elaborate on what that was or what that meant. It was you sticking your arm out while a nurse put an IV in, prepping you for a surgery you didn’t know you needed. It was you, crying into your husband’s shoulder when your OBGYN came in.
“The problem is that there are two masses, one in each tube. If you do surgery, we would essentially have to cut both open, risking damage to your tubes and your fertility.”
Two masses? Two children?
“There is another option, which I would recommend. Methotrexate therapy. It will stop the fetus’ from growing. It’s less invasive, but you will still be at risk for rupture until your treatment is complete.”
Two shots later, you were sent home with instructions not to work, not to travel. You refused pain meds because being in so much pain somehow masked the hurt from your loss, but even that was temporary.
Physically, the pain faded after around two weeks (and another dose of methotrexate); emotionally, your world fell apart. February 14th came and went with several friends making their own pregnancy announcements. “Oh, god, we were due the same week.”
Family just wants to know if you’re OK, and that is just another reminder. Your son keeps asking you about babies and you just want to disappear. Your husband offers to take you back to Disney, but half of you doesn’t want to go because it would serve as a reminder and the other half of you realizes you still aren’t free to travel. “When will I be free from this?”
Between abnormally large loads of laundry and picking your son up from school, the answer slowly came to you. You’d be free when you understood what freedom was to you: living, without boundaries, without fear. For weeks, you’d lived in fear of rupture, in fear of death. In fear of some invisible shame.
You told your friends, family, everyone that would listen about your grief. You allowed yourself to cry on your mother’s shoulder. You went to lunch, with a good friend that you had vowed to avoid since her good news served as a reminder to your bad news. You allowed yourself to be sad whenever you needed and rest. Lots of rest.
You named your babies, both of them: Winnie and Liam. You mourned for their lives and thanked them for their gift: the gift of you living. Most of all, you apologized to yourself for only thinking of enduring, instead of finding a way to heal.
Because, freedom is being in an ER and being able to make a choice about your treatments. Freedom is being in an oncology room with cancer patients, watching an inauguration you vowed to boycott. Freedom is people caring enough to give you space, lend a shoulder, or write a card. Freedom is sobbing in the shower. Freedom is months later, sitting at your tablet and writing about it because other people encouraged you to, when you felt up to it.
And above all, freedom is feeling no shame or pause being able to share a story, in hopes that another person reads it, and knows that they aren’t alone.