A little less than a week ago, we lost you, our unborn baby. You were an ectopic pregnancy. You tried to grow in my fallopian tube, which burst the tube*. To save my life they removed you, my right fallopian tube, and my right ovary, in an emergency surgery. The day they ended your pregnancy, Thursday the 26th of July, you had already went through several stages of growth and nearly became the size of a lentil seed (5mm), like the one I am holding on the top of my pinky finger in the photo above.
We have always wanted two babies, and since I am not a very young mom, we had hoped to have you relatively quickly after Babel was born. My plan was to start trying for you after Babel was 18 months old, because apparently it’s best to wait at least that long after birth to get pregnant again. Things did not work out that way because we practice natural term breastfeeding, which means your brother breastfeeds until he naturally weans from the breast. This can naturally prolong the return of a mother’s menstrual cycle and fertility and in my case it definitely did. My period didn’t return until February this year, 33 months after Babel was born, and I was elated! This meant we could finally start trying for you, our second baby.
Your uncle Djamo and aunt Yasmin recently got married in Kuwait, and when they invited us to their wedding celebrations in Morocco I warned them we might not be able to fly there if I was to be pregnant with you. As I did not want to risk your potential pregnancy in any way. Your uncle Djamo was hoping I would not be pregnant before the wedding, but instead that we would conceive you in Morocco. And that is exactly what happened.
Your Papa and I tried our hardest the four months before the wedding, we used a phone app and ovulation tests to track my unbelievably irregular cycles and we got busy a lot, but we were unsuccessful. We left for Morocco and I decided to just enjoy the vacation and give trying-to-conceive you a little rest. The app did predict ovulation during our time in Morocco, but it hadn’t really been correct before and I did not bring any ovulation tests to make sure. Still, Djamo’s joke about conceiving you in Morocco was in the back of my head and it felt like it was meant to be. I kind of believed in it. So on the night of the wedding celebration your Papa and I gave it one quick try, our only try that cycle, and you were conceived at the beautiful Berber Lodge in Morocco. This gorgeous vacation will forever be a treasured family memory, and you are named after it as you are forever a part of that memory. We arrived without you and we left with you in my belly.
The weeks since, I kind of stopped thinking about you because I did not want to get disappointed again if my period returned. I felt we conceived you in Morocco, but I was afraid to believe it. I had some early pregnancy symptoms like mood swings and painful nipples, but I had them before and then they were due to PMS. Last week Monday, the app said my period was due, but that didn’t mean much since my cycle length has varied from 25 days to 45 days since February. On Tuesday, your Papa got quite sick with a tummy bug, so when I woke up on Wednesday with sudden and terrible cramps coupled with nausea I assumed I’d caught Papa’s bug.
I soon realized it was something else. I thought it was my period since I found a tiny dark blood clot in the morning. Before Babel, my periods were rather painless, after Babel, they’d been more uncomfortable and much more painful. But not this painful, this was crazy, this reminded me of when I was in labor with Babel, but worse. The cramps were intense and constant, I was dizzy and lightheaded, extremely nauseated, my face was covered in cold sweat, I was freezing even though it was very hot in our apartment, I was very pale, I could hardly move, paracetamol did not help, going to the toilet was painful and impossible. I was scared.
After a few hours, and there was no bleeding, I realized this was not my period. Was this pregnancy, was this implantation? I never experienced this with Babel’s pregnancy. For some reason, I looked up ectopic pregnancy. Even though I had all the symptoms, the NHS website said this isn’t necessarily a sign of a serious problem and can sometimes be caused by other problems such as a tummy bug. Just in case, I made an appointment with the GP for the next Monday and started taking notes of my symptoms.
Sitting on a chair compressed my belly a bit and made the pain more manageable, I could not stand up, it was too painful. In the afternoon, I suddenly got very nauseated and very dizzy, I passed out, fell off the chair and threw up some clear liquid on the floor. I have no memory of this and came to lying on the floor under the table. Your Papa and brother were sitting next to me looking very worried. I was puzzled. What was I doing there? I was confused and a bit amused by what happened. It felt unbelievable. Your Papa wanted me to go to the hospital, but I felt silly going there. I’m always afraid to waste the time of doctors. It surely wasn’t that serious, besides the nausea was gone after vomiting so I felt a bit better.
Early in the evening, I tried to go to bed with Babel. I’d managed my pain sitting in a chair most of the day, but trying to lie down was excruciating. This made me scared again. I ended up nursing your brother to sleep, while sitting next to the bed and started imagining going to a hospital for help. I had thought things were improving, but clearly they had gotten worse. I was scared again.
I opened the ectopic pregnancy page on the NHS website again. It said get medical advice when you have a combination of any of the symptoms and you might be pregnant, even if you haven’t had a positive pregnancy test yet. I scrolled down and noticed the “when to get emergency help” section for the first time. It said to call for an ambulance immediately, if you experienced a combination of symptoms that could mean the fallopian tube had ruptured. This would be very serious and surgery needed to be carried out as soon as possible because it is life-threatening. I had not just suffered a combination of symptoms, I had suffered every single symptom on the “when to get medical advice” and the “when to get emergency help” list.
I started to feel panic and got very scared, so I took the advice of the NHS and dialed their 999 emergency number. They asked me some questions, seemingly trying to asses me for a heart attack or a stroke, nothing related to an ectopic pregnancy. They deemed my situation not an emergency, advised me to go see a GP, and then they hung up.
I tried the non-emergency 111 NHS number, they took me more seriously. They said they would send an ambulance to assess me, but they had no idea how long it would take for them to get here. After waiting for about 40 min, they called again telling me it would take at least another two hours for an ambulance, so they suggested me to take a taxi to the hospital’s A&E (Accident & Emergency) department. I was worried about leaving Babel behind, because he nurses through the night. I had liked the idea of paramedics coming to our home first, to assess me to see if something was actually wrong with me or if I was just freaking out over nothing. The paramedic on the phone told me that he was pretty sure that in both cases I would end up at A&E because I needed a scan. Also, arriving at A&E by ambulance does not necessarily mean you will seen sooner than if you had walked into A&E yourself, so the next two hours would be better spent waiting in line at the hospital. I took his advice.
I arrived at the hospital around 00:30, it said the average waiting time at that point would be 3-4 hours. I had told the registration staff and a nurse what I suspected was wrong with me, but I was afraid that maybe I was just making a big deal out of nothing. I genuinely did not want to waste their resources, but I was just scared something was really wrong with me, so I probably used a lot of diminishing language. I registered myself, and waited on a bench in silence trying to manage my pain as best I could. After about 2 hours, they called me in, took my blood pressure, took blood and put in a cannula. They didn’t ask me any questions, and I didn’t say much, I wasn’t aware this was triage and I was trying to save my energy. They sent me back to the waiting room.
The longer I waited the more I felt like a wimp, clearly the people there, like the emergency people on the phone did not think I was big enough of an emergency. New people kept coming in all night and kept getting prioritized. The louder and more difficult people were the quicker they got helped.
I had no energy to scream or moan, so I sat, bent over, silently for 5 hours. I had told them what I thought was wrong, I had told 111 and that info was in their computer, they took my blood and they had those results, so if they thought a bleeding lip from a drunken fight was more urgent then maybe I shouldn’t really be there. I considered going home, but I had been there for so long already and really wanted to know what was happening.
At 05:30 the emergency waiting room was almost empty, it was just me and some (also quiet) guy who had only just arrived, and a doctor finally called me in. She apologized profusely for the extraordinarily long wait. She listened to my story and quickly broke the news: I was indeed pregnant.
This was shocking. A short burst of intense happiness, because you are so very wanted, and then immediately intense sadness. After having googled ectopic pregnancy for 5 hours, I knew this meant you would not survive, we would never meet you, you would never be born. I was trying to force myself not to cry, because I could not bear the physical pain, but of course that was impossible.
Things went quickly after that. I heard the surgeon instruct others that every moment counted and I needed to be scanned first thing, I was finally a priority and deemed an emergency. It was surreal. There I was alone in the hospital, pregnant with you, about to lose you, too many emotions to process, nearly too much pain to handle. Many very sympathetic nurses and doctors trying to comfort me, trying to help me. Some even gave me hope saying your pregnancy could still be viable. What an emotional roller coaster. Wish they had never given me hope, that made things worse when the ultrasound scan and internal scan confirmed the ectopic pregnancy and the need for emergency surgery.
When all the people (there were so many people) in the operating room were prepping me and the anesthetists were trying to put me under I had a near panic attack. The oxygen mask was claustrophobic and I realized not only was I losing you, but maybe Babel was losing his mother. I had tried my best to kiss him goodnight before I left, it hurt so much to reach him on the far end of the bed, and I even asked your Papa: “this is not the last time I see him right?” In the operating room I realized, it could have been.
A few hours after finding out you were there growing inside me, you were already gone, and with you my right fallopian tube and my right ovary. I was only supposed to be in the recovery room for an hour but ended up being there for 7 or 8 hours. I was losing a lot of blood and had dangerously low blood pressure, I received two blood transfusions and they kept me starved in case I needed more surgery. All this time, I was fantasizing about drinking water (my throat was so dry I felt I was going to suffocate) and about smelling Babel’s head.
When I finally saw your brother in the early evening, he was very scared to see me in the hospital bed with all the tubes coming out of me. It took a long time for him to get used to me and get him to come close to me. I tried to get in as many cuddles as he would let me have. I really need him to help me heal from losing you.
It completely breaks my heart we will never get to meet you, because I know you would have been every bit as amazing a human being as your big brother. I would have loved the honor of raising you and introducing you to life. I wish I could have held you, nursed you, cuddled you, kissed you, been with you. You were in my belly for just a few short weeks but you are in my heart forever. You have existed, you will be remembered by your Mama, I love you.
* Actually, you were trying to grow in my ovary and ruptured my ovary. But I didn’t find out until December when carefully reading my hospital discharge papers, for the first time.