Letter

Colleen’s story: Finding hope after ectopic pregnancies

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My husband and I had difficulty getting pregnant. Well, that’s not entirely true. We were actually fortunate at getting pregnant, but had difficulty growing viable little ones.

The first positive pregnancy test was a terrible precedent.  I was in significant pain, at times unable to walk up straight. I could feel pangs of shooting pain on my right side. When electricity wasn’t piercing my right side, I had a dull ache on my left side, like a hollow pulsating. I knew something was wrong.  When I told doctors my symptoms, they immediately rushed me to ultrasound to view on the screen a little dot of beautiful life making a home to grow in the wrong spot – in my fallopian tube.

As a woman, when something is growing inside your body where it’s not supposed to, you can sense it to your core.  I could feel its pressure and its weight, and sensed it before it was diagnosed. The doctors confirmed that my tube would inevitably burst if we didn’t act soon and prescribed pills for cancer patients to kill the cells that were abnormally growing. My first unborn child. I felt heart broken, guilty, and yet no longer scared at the same time. The simultaneous conflicting emotions were unbearable.  I wrestled the competing emotions, grief and guilt about losing precious life, and simultaneous emotions of gratitude and peace that the terrible pain, and fear of internal bleeding, would cease.

colleen williams 3The next time I was pregnant I announced it with excitement because it was absent of the symptoms. I knew she was healthy and I didn’t fear. She is now beautiful and excelling in kindergarten! I assumed the first abnormal pregnancy would be the rare occurrence. I was very wrong.

Several pregnancies occurred after my daughter, and the same old symptoms occurred on my left side: dull aches, shooting pains, a feeling of something internally that didn’t belong. I announced those pregnancies delicately to my husband to spare his excitement, but a part of me still hoped I might be wrong. I still imagined the future of raising each child. By protecting him, I in turn faced the pain and the loss alone. Nothing compares to the private pain a parent feels when losing the dreams of a future for a child.

I eventually went to the doctor for medical advice because I emotionally couldn’t keep having these losses, and my body physically couldn’t handle more of them. The doctors did many scans and tests and finally told me that my entire left reproductive side was irreversibly damaged. I would be unable to conceive again.

I was 29… and heartbroken. Jacquelyn, my sweet angel, was indeed an angel, and apparently a fluke. I, one of nine children, would never conceive a large family like I intended, or simply be able to give my daughter the blessing of even one sibling.

The doctors strongly suggested I immediately get my left tube removed. ‘Strongly suggested’ is an understatement. I felt pushed and almost bullied into doing it, which was a reality that I couldn’t quite face. I almost scheduled the surgery based on their medical facts. However, a part of me told me to wait. A hesitation and mistrust came over me that I had never experienced. I have always been a rule follower and I typically listen to the expertise of others without question, yet I couldn’t ignore the feeling in my gut. I chose to think about it and pray on it. I scheduled to come back to plan the surgery.

I prayed about it, cried about it, prayed some more and waited, and at my appointment to finalize the surgery, I was surprisingly and successfully pregnant. Healthy and pregnant. On my left side. The side they told me needed to be removed. The side they told me was impossible and infertile.

I am stronger and prouder because I trusted my faith, but it makes me feel simultaneously so heart broken. I think of what life would be if I had the surgery as advised. Worse, though, I think of the lack of a pro-life culture in the medical profession. What if I wasn’t as strong or didn’t have the faith? Other very vulnerable women could be in similar or in identical situations right now. Others may be trusting medical professionals and may be missing out on the blessing of life based on inaccurate advice from a culture that lacks respect for prenatal life.

If I had listened, I would have missed out on my second born—a beyond beautiful baby girl. Funny, sweet, spunky, and a literal miracle. Even more of a miracle because she defied medical opinion and defied medical fact.  She is now taller than her classmates, developmentally ahead of her classmates, and more of a blessing every day. If I had listened, I never would have this miracle in my life. What a sad life for me and for her loving sister that would be. What sad life for her father, her friends, her school, and her community.

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If I could teach women two things, it’s that 1) ectopic pregnancies are legitimate losses. Women are not alone like I thought I was in my grief. Many like us have gone through ectopic pregnancies silently and you don’t have to be alone. You are not alone! I wish I knew that back then. I also wish the tradition of waiting three months to announce a new baby was no longer a superstition. It was essential to my emotional well-being to put pride and tradition aside and ask for prayers and support at conception. The best thing I ever did was start announcing immediately my pregnancies, so I could celebrate or mourn with others. For women like me, it is a tragedy to not only lose a child prematurely in the pregnancy process, but to go through it without friends and loved ones knowing or reaching out. It is very sad and lonely. My heart goes out to all of you who have gone through the terrible loss of a child.

And 2) I urge mothers and women everywhere to follow your gut, to pray or hope or have faith, (whatever your religious beliefs may be), and reflect deeply before making major life decisions without second and third opinions. Don’t blindly trust medical opinion as fact, without lots of thought and research and prayer. I almost did.

If I had blindly trusted medicine, my eldest daughter wouldn’t have a sibling, a sister, a true life-long best friend; and I wouldn’t have this miracle in my arms right now.

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