As the thought of trying to have another baby slowly becomes a reality, I have been reflecting on my first pregnancy with my son. I did not have the easiest start to my pregnancy. With severe implantation pains very early on, I spent the first weeks of my pregnancy thinking that it was ectopic, and that I would miscarry. I had absolutely no idea that implantation pain as badly as mine, was a symptom of pregnancy our body could go through. At the time, it was absolutely terrifying.
It was just a normal night. My husband had spent pretty much all day in the kitchen cooking up a storm for dinner. But I was only a few bites in, when all of a sudden I was hit by a wave of nausea and cramping so powerful, I instantly ran to the bathroom and was violently ill. “It’s not that bad is it?” my poor husband said, in between patting me comfortingly on the back. Turns out, that it had nothing to do with the food, it was actually hideous implantation pains from early pregnancy.
The pain I experienced came in waves all night. I would be fine, and then all of a sudden be hit by debilitating cramps. Similar to period pain but on a much more epic scale. I would go incredibly pale and weak, get dizzy and shake and be very nauseous. It was a long night. The next morning I called in sick to work and took myself to the GP. After spending about 2 minutes in my company, the GP said I had a bowel infection, prescribed me antibiotics and sent me on my way. At no point did he ask me if I could be pregnant, and I just didn’t even consider it as an option at the time.
After spending an agonising day writhing in pain (the antibiotics did nothing), I rang my husband and said I was going to go to hospital. I had never been to hospital before in my life. I told him not to worry about coming home from work and joining me, as I was sure it would not be anything too serious. Instead I called an Uber and had a very interesting drive trying to be both polite and not make too much conversation.
Hospitals are not fun at the best of times. Emergency is always chaotic. I am one of those people who don’t like to create a fuss, so I was pretty embarrassed to even be there. The nurses were lovely though and when my name was called by the Doctor, I wasn’t too afraid. The Doctor asked me lots of questions about the type of pain I was experiencing, where it hurt and for how long. Then he asked me if I could be pregnant. My husband and I had only been trying for a baby for such a short time, so I said to him that I guess I could be pregnant but I surely wasn’t.
I was admitted and told to do a urine sample for a pregnancy test just in case. They didn’t want to send me for XRays, or run any other tests, until it was ruled out. After about a five hour wait (hospitals run very slowly!), I was called into one of the ‘scary’ rooms at the hospital with the same Doctor. He told me very matter of factly that I was in fact pregnant, but because of my symptoms, it was likely an ectopic pregnancy and I was going to be sent to the Women’s Hospital straight away for more tests.
An ectopic pregnancy is when the pregnancy is growing outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. One to two percent of all pregnancies are ectopic and without treatment, an ectopic pregnancy can seriously impact on your health and fertility. I was in shock.
I always envisioned finding out I was pregnant by excitedly peeing on a stick and maybe doing something really cheesy and gross like putting it in a present for my husband to open. Instead, I had to call him on the phone from the hospital room and tell him I am pregnant, and they think I am going to have a miscarriage, so pack a bag and come to the hospital. It was probably an equally shocking way to be told for him to be honest. I didn’t sugar coat it, I was too upset.
The ride to the hospital was agonising. I begged the doctor to let my husband pick me up and drive me instead of getting an ambulance over. Luckily he agreed. We were sent to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Centre, where I had an internal examination by a doctor. The good news was, although I was in a lot of pain, I was not bleeding. I was told that I had an appointment the following day for an early vaginal ultrasound, was given some very strong painkillers and sent home.
After a long night of pain, I had the ultrasound the following day. But because the pregnancy was so new, a small pregnancy sac could be seen, but no embryo or heartbeat could be detected. I was given a blood test to check the hormone levels. I was told to come back in two days for another blood test to check if the hormone levels had risen. If a pregnancy is developing normally, the hormones will double every few days. If the levels are rising slower or falling, it would mean that either I was miscarrying or the pregnancy is ectopic.
The following day I was still experiencing extreme agony from cramping. I lasted until the evening when my husband and I decided to go back to the hospital to see if there is anything further they could do. I still wasn’t bleeding, but I knew there was something seriously wrong, and I didn’t want to not go in just in case. Unfortunately, as we suspected, we were told that unless there was bleeding, they did not have any definitive answers for us. I was given even stronger painkillers from a very sympathetic doctor, and sent back home again to watch for bleeding.
Over the following weeks, I went back into hospital three more times to have blood tests to see if my hormones levels were rising. Thank goodness, they were. My pain was not as severe as it was initially, and as I still was not bleeding, there was nothing much more that could be done until another early pregnancy ultrasound at six weeks. But it looked like my pregnancy was developing normally.
These weeks were a very scary and isolating time for both myself and my husband. We chose not to tell anyone else in case we lost the baby. I was constantly anxious and upset as I did not want to feel any excitement over the prospect of becoming a mother in case it did not happen for us. To make matters worse, I had to return to work and basically lie about my absence. I was very close to my colleagues, so they must have known something serious was wrong. Especially as I continued to get cramping and nausea at work and often had to leave early.
At the six week scan we were able to see our baby’s heartbeat. I remember feeling so much joy and emotion that this could actually happen for us, we could become parents. I had been feeling so angry at my body and almost physically pained with grief, that to feel a spark of hope was incredible.
The story ended well for us, as after the harmony testing at 10 weeks and then the 12 week scan, where we could really start to see our baby, everything looked normal and healthy. We were able to start sharing the news and actually be excited.
The rest of the pregnancy was fairly straightforward. My son measured small the whole way through, so I had to have extra scans along the way to make sure he was okay. But he was healthy and perfectly proportioned in his smallness. There is no explanation for my early pain, except that it must have been severe implantation pains. I had never heard of this so I do get worried the same thing could happen to me the next time I am pregnant. But then I push those thoughts out of my mind and remember the moment where I pushed my precious 2.6kg baby boy, drug free, into the world and held him in my arms.
Looking back, I wish I had spoken to my close friends about what I was going through. Women are made to feel so isolated during these times. We would not hesitate to speak to our friends about a break up or a lost job, yet the topic of losing a baby is almost taboo. I am so incredibly lucky that it all ended well for me in the end. And that although the first few months was so scary and painful, I have almost now forgotten, as I watch my toddler running around. But for the women who have lost their precious babies, please know that you are loved, and the love that you feel for your baby is just as deep and just as powerful as the love I have for my son.
**A few months after writing this article, I had a miscarriage. I subsequently found out that I have endometrial cysts on my ovaries. This is likely the cause of the pains in my previous pregnancy.**
Want to hear more about what happens to your body post natal? The weird and wonderful (not wonderful) changes. Check out My Surprising Post Baby Body
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