My fertility journey is not typical. My husband had two teenage daughters and a vasectomy. Our doctors recommended against reversal. IVF was our only option. They also diagnosed me with diminished ovarian reserve, but being an ER doctor, I was convinced I was healthy.
I underwent an egg retrieval and came out of a propofol haze to find out I had 8 eggs. Only 8. The downward spiral started. On our transfer date (in October), we were happily “going to put a pumpkin in my belly.” Our plan was for two embryos. Until we found out that we ONLY had two embryos. There were two others still growing. We put in both. I spent hours laying on the floor with my legs propped up against the wall, trying to force those two embryos to make a home in my uterus and wondering what I had done wrong.
I spent the next morning waiting for news about my two growing embryos. I asked my nurse to call me. Instead, she emailed, “No frozen embryos 🙁 ” Sad face – like the one with the colon and the parentheses – yes that. Breaking bad news is hard. I break bad news almost EVERY shift in the ER. An email with a sad face to a woman jacked up on hormones is NOT a good option. My downward spiral turned to hurricane force. Those two embryos were my ONLY chance of getting pregnant. Ten days later, our home pregnancy test was positive. We were overjoyed. But my blood pregnancy test came back at 49 – too low. My 48-hour repeat quant was 98. EXACTLY doubled. So we waited for our six-week ultrasound.
As soon as I saw the clear stripe of my uterus, uninterrupted and utterly empty, I knew. I had an ectopic – that diagnosis I am always eager to rule out in others. She scanned my adnexa, and there it was – a gestational sac and a yolk sac. My doctor said the most honest thing she could, “I am so sorry. You probably diagnose this way more than I do. It’s extremely rare with IVF, less than 1%.” Yes, I do diagnose them more often. And yes, I am in the 1%.
Wonder what happens when you get diagnosed with an ectopic? I am an ER doctor married to a firefighter (with a vasectomy) who underwent IVF resulting in an ectopic pregnancy.
The night I was diagnosed, I had the residency over for a wellness Thanksgiving dinner. I couldn’t cancel. Then, I went in for my overnight shift. The next day, a friend administered my methotrexate injection – my husband couldn’t bring himself to do it. Then I went to work another overnight shift. I have never felt so ill at work. At one point, I told the chief resident working with me my blood type, just as a precaution. But I survived the shift. So that was it. We had survived the ectopic. Or so I thought.
A few days later I was home alone, when I had intense, 10 out of 10 pain that dropped me to the floor. I couldn’t move, couldn’t get to a phone. The ER doc in me was no longer composed – my brain raced with worst possible scenarios. My ectopic MUST have ruptured. I was going to die on the floor of my bedroom in my underwear. I was certain. Eventually the pain subsided. I put on scrubs to go to work and drove myself to the ER .
My friend did an ultrasound, showing free fluid – a LOT of it. I checked in the ER – MY ER. My husband left the fire station, rushing to the hospital. A colleague covered my shift. I put on a patient gown. I waited behind closed doors for OBGYN. I got wheeled through the hospital corridors in a patient gown, past residents, firefighters, and a lot of puzzled faces. I waited in radiology for a formal ultrasound. I waited for someone to push me back downstairs to the safety and security of my ED.
I did not have a ruptured ectopic. I was “lucky” enough to develop 2 large cysts on my ovary, in addition to my ectopic. When I got back to the safety of my hospital room, behind the closed doors, I cried. A lot. My personal life and my professional life had truly collided. And finally, I was forced to take time to grieve.