My Pregnancy Tried To Kill Me: 6 Insane Realities
Hey, internet! Let's talk about reproductive rights! Whoa, you have torches and pitchforks out already? Do you just keep those things under your desk? That's clearly a fire hazard. But perhaps unnecessary; we're only talking about abortions performed when a mother's health is on the line right now. Such scenarios are often the crux of the argument when the rich and disconnected old men in Washington gather to discuss what to do about the problem of vaginas, but they're actually fairly rare. We spoke with KC, whose pregnancy complications put her in early danger. She told us ...
Your Pregnancy Can Be Deadly Right From The Start
The bleeding started at work. This was two weeks after I broke up with my boyfriend. I'd gotten irregular with my birth control lately, and slipping like that can do some weird stuff. I wasn't too worried. I took a pregnancy test, and the results were negative. Then came the sudden stabbing pains in my lower right abdomen. It was four days before my period was due, I was at work once again, and along with the pain came more blood. It would gush for a second or two and then stop, and then start up again a little later. I plugged the leak, tried to put it out of my mind, and went back to my duties of providing awesome customer service to boutique radio owners.
"Ma'am, could you please stop moaning in agony? I'm trying to compare midtones here."
Cramps came next, all across my pelvic region. I threw up from the pain, and within an hour or two, I bled through my tampon and soaked the pad below. I was scared, but I needed the hours, so I plugged back up and stayed on shift, but I called my doctor, who said to head for the ER if the bleeding continued for more than an hour. It had been going for several hours off and on at this point, so I figured there wasn't much harm in sticking it out. I finished out the work day, and my ex came to pick me up and take me to the hospital.
I'd eventually learn that I was pregnant after all ... sort of. I had an ectopic pregnancy. A fertilized egg had implanted in a Fallopian tube instead of the uterus. Without treatment, the cells would multiply, as cells generally should. But instead of forming into a baby and being born, they would grow until they ruptured the tube and killed me. The miracle of childbirth, everybody!
Catholic Hospitals Can't Even Talk To You About It
I'm terrified of hospitals, I hate having my blood drawn, and on top of all that, I was dealing with the embarrassment and fear of leaking blood everywhere. So by the time I got through the 30-minute wait at the ER, I was bawling my eyes out. Then they checked my hormone levels and saw that they were what doctors call "clinically fucked." They told me I was pregnant. My first (a bit too loud) words to the nurse were: "Get it out!" Even if I hadn't known there was something wrong with the pregnancy, the response would've been the same. I simply can't stand babies. They're conniving rotten little puke machines up until they're of an age to swing an ax or cure cancer or something else useful.
"Get a job, you lazy ... uh ... well, we haven't got a name for your generation yet ..."
The nurse at this Catholic hospital gave me a look of dismay and pity. "I have to ask," she said, "are you ... being abused?"
"No," I said. I wasn't.
"I also have to ask," she said, "are you on drugs right now?"
I told her that no, I didn't do drugs. (Pot doesn't count, right? I wasn't on any at the time, anyway.)
When the doctor approached, I again asked, "How do I get rid of this?"
He said, "Please don't say that," and took me to a curtained-off room.
"At this point, hospital policy requires us to speak only in Pig Latin."
Before even discussing my options, or talking about the pregnant elephant in the room, he said: "You're going to need a rhogam injection."
When I asked what that was, he replied, "It will help save the baby."
I had no desire to bring the pregnancy to term, and I told him so. He told me I would need the rhogam regardless. When I asked him what it was for, he again said, "It will help save the baby." I refused it, tired of this surreal Catholic MD game of "Who's on first." In reality, the injection would stave stem off infection because of my specific immunity profile, and I needed it to survive having future babies (regardless of what I planned to do with the current fetus). But they had to phrase everything as "saving the baby," correct information be damned.
"Sorry, but we find that patients understanding their conditions occasionally causes them to hold differing opinions."
I asked both the doctor and the first nurse if birth control had something to do with the bleeding, and they refused to give me any reply. I'd later find out that it was in fact very important that I stop taking the pill at this stage. By continuing to take Ortho Micronor, I was putting myself in danger. But these doctors couldn't instruct me to stop using birth control, because they weren't allowed to mention birth control at all. So I went on using it, which I'd find out was the wrong thing to do, causing me additional pain and interfering with test results.
Luckily, I had insurance and was able to move my case to another hospital to get proper advice and treatment. The gynecologist at the Catholic hospital even transferred my case herself once she suspected that I might be in danger from the pregnancy. I was able to do these things because I live in Boston, which is one of the best cities for bio-medical help in the country, if not the world. But all this nonsense tells you the sort of problems that prop up when hospitals in general let religious beliefs interfere with medicine, particularly in places where women don't have a choice on which hospital to visit.
The Pregnancy Is Nonviable In All But Miracle Cases, Yet Some Still Want You To Have It
That Catholic hospital couldn't give me any further advice on how to proceed, because any treatment would be seen as killing the baby growing in me -- even though ectopic pregnancies are nonviable and the proto-baby could never be born. That statement on nonviability is reinforced by the Mayo Clinic, and even the highest authority of all (WebMD). Pretty much any medical professional will tell you that this is a condition, not a pregnancy.
For doctors to be any more in agreement, Dre would need to release a diss track against Fallopian implanting.
That doesn't mean that absolutely no ectopic pregnancies have ever come to term. This one did in 1999 in the UK, and was hailed as a miracle. Here's another from 2008 (that fetus developed in the ovary, not the Fallopian tube). But medical authorities still call the pregnancies nonviable overall. It's like how Cracked has covered people falling two miles onto power lines and living, but they can't recommend it as a viable means of travel. The CDC notes that about 25 American women a year die from ectopic pregnancies. The fetus ruptures the Fallopian tube, and the woman hemorrhages. The fetus dies too.
Still, pro-life advocates (such as here and here) point to the rare successful ectopic births to argue against treating ectopic pregnancies with a focus on saving the mother. I saw some family members react this way. My newly-minted Catholic aunt offered me support and funds to "keep the baby." I told her it wasn't a baby. It was a growth of cells in my Fallopian tube, and at any point, this little biological bomb could burst and take me with it. We came to an understanding after I referred to "the baby" as a Fallopian IED.
You can't really bust out "womb grenade" in a conversation without being clear as to your options.
During the next couple weeks, I got repeated blood tests and transvaginal ultrasounds while doctors figured out exactly what I should do next. Since my hormone levels were rising at such a slow pace, the doctors had a good idea that the pregnancy wasn't viable. Unfortunately, the human body gives zero shits about what you, doctors, and especially the Catholic church thinks.
You Develop Strange Mutant Powers
The pregnant body disrupts any function that puts baby-making at risk. In five words or fewer: I could not poop. Pooping is disruptive -- a great big pile of used food shoves the uterus around as it passes through the lower intestine -- and the biological traffic cop that is my body erected a passive-aggressive road block to stop that nonsense. I lived on a cocktail of prunes, prune juice, water, and stool softeners, yet still could only manage two of the daintiest bowel movements this side of a shy rabbit. Twice while visiting the emergency room for gushing blood and pelvic pain, I attempted to poop and wound up passing out in the bathroom. There's nothing like waking up on a floor with your pants around your ankles. I'm sure many Cracked readers can relate to that.
Any toilet paper savings are lost on laxatives.
There were also some weirder long-term changes. Ectopic pregnancy leads to a freakish sense of smell (even beyond that of normal pregnancy). My roommate was epileptic, and I was able to smell these seizures -- just before and for a couple of days after an episode, he smelled like the milk breath of pre-weaned puppies. When my co-worker brought his girlfriend in to meet the crew after a lunch break, I (and only I) could smell that they'd had sex recently. I was also able to smell my boyfriend's arousal. Every so often, you get these studies claiming that women subconsciously detect pheromones in male sweat, but it became conscious for me -- a scent which I can only describe as turned-on dude funk. This continued after the pregnancy. It's the most useless superpower ever. If I'm close enough to a dude to smell his arousal, there are likely other red flags, or at least things to hang those flags from.
The weird hormone imbalance also caused me to grow hairs out of my nipples, chest, and chin. I have a complex plucking and shaving regimen even today. And the fine, frizzy, dark brown hair on my head turned into big auburn curls with some red and bronze/blonde streaks -- again, permanently. I guess that's one upside, right? Mermaid hair for the win.
The Treatment Is Intense And Painful
Treatment meant stopping the uncontrollably growing, still-living cells. Arguably, an abortion. It was enough of an abortion that the Catholic hospital couldn't tell me anything (they could only tell me to go elsewhere to figure out my options), but no other doctors ever referred to it as one. They went out of their way not to refer to this as "the baby." When I went into the GYN, they didn't seat me with the mothers, expecting or otherwise. Looking back on it, they were amazing at helping control the emotional impact involved with my situation.
But by labeling the procedure as something other than an abortion, the doctors assumed an extra burden. They had to make absolutely sure that I wasn't also pregnant normally, in my uterus, even if it was too early to detect that using normal means. This meant I needed an endometrial biopsy, which both determines with certainty the location of a pregnancy and often terminates ectopic pregnancies. I turned the local anesthetic down when I saw the size of the needle. I soon regretted that.
Here's a heads up: A needle the size of a ballpoint pen is always a warm-up for the real pain.
The speculum was frigid, and I had a very uncomfortable apparatus stretching my vagina open. It's probably the most vulnerable position I've ever been in. They don't strap you in, but I couldn't move regardless. I was being held down to a table by a clamp on my cervix, and this doctor was displacing my cervical tissue with a thingy that was ever so slightly larger than the other thing that they were trying to put it into. Round peg, god-I-wish-that-round-hole-was-a-lot-more-stretchy. That vulnerability, coupled with the pain and inability to move, wrecked me. I didn't notice the sounds I was making until the doctor told me my screaming (and probably crying) wasn't helping anybody.
That awful procedure didn't wind up terminating the pregnancy, and my hormone levels continued to rise. So there were more days, more needles, more various and sundry beeping objects shoved into my vagina. I was warned not to jump off of anything higher than 24 inches for fear of fracturing the Fallopian tube. They also told me no sex, not even anal (I asked), not to put my legs above my head (you already said no sex), not to lift more than 15 pounds, and, if possible, refrain from riding in off-road vehicles. If possible, try not to race any ATVs. Doctor's orders.
"Dirt bike tests are still inconclusive. Motocross at your own risk."
Then came the final treatment. They injected me with methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug. Methotrexate is poison. The cells were a cancer, and this would kill it. The first injection into my lower back didn't do it, but the second did. The "baby" was dead.
No Matter What, You Still Feel Like You Lost A Baby
For the record, I didn't "lose a baby." I just didn't die from a disorder. Yet when I talk to other women who've had an ectopic pregnancy, they use the "lose" language. We use the b-word as well. After the cells died, my body didn't even expel them out through the vagina -- I reabsorbed them. Yet I kept thinking of it as a baby, no matter how much I tried not to.
From the start, I told myself it was essentially a tumor. One that was going to kill me if I didn't take action. But behind the ability to intellectualize, part of me still believed (and probably still does?) that life begins at conception. I grew up Christian before becoming agnostic. The spiritual part of me kept questioning. That, plus hormones, can really mess with your mind.
Goodbye physical discomfort, hello emotional discomfort.
I suffered from postpartum depression. I felt like I'd failed as a woman. I kept thinking that my womb must be some kind of barren wasteland where babies go to die. I couldn't have sex without feeling violated for years afterward, which sucks because sex, if you weren't aware, is pretty great. I got back together with the father during those weeks in and out of the hospital, but we broke up a month later. I don't know how a relationship can recover from that kind of blow.
Sadly, a lot don't.
Yet the experience kick-started my life. I quit my customer service job. I started painting. I walked 400 miles to deliver a rhetorical question to Congress. I began a new career in internet radio, research SEO, and social media management. The ectopic experience changed the specific gravity of each situation I view. The litmus test is "Will this kill me?" If the answer is "No," I figure out how important it is from there.
I'm a better person because of what happened. But I still don't like babies.
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For more insider perspectives, check out I'm In History Books And I'm Only 28: 5 Weird Realities and Abortion On Request: 5 Facts Of Life As A Surrogate Mom.
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