Saturday, July 30, 2011
Cupcakes for the Pain
A week ago, I was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.
Two weeks before that, I already knew I was pregnant. We have been trying for a few months, after all, so after being delayed for a week, I was excited/scared to take a home-kit pregnancy test. When the two lines indicating a positive result appeared, I was beyond elated. I wake up a sleeping Matt to tell him, who was jubilant as any half-awake person could possibly be.
Announcements were made tentatively, beginning with immediate family. As the reality slowly set in, everyday our excitement built-up, and it became harder and harder to keep it under wraps. We began telling our closest friends, wanting to share the good news of this amazing blessing.
But, during my first ultrasound, we received some crushing news. I remember it vividly- the technician (also a doctor, but not my OB) said, "Yes, you are pregnant. But we have a problem." My heart immediately jumped up to my throat, I looked helplessly at Matt and my mom, who both looked equally perplexed.
The uterus is empty, she pointed out, and she shifted the ultrasound towards the left, and pointed with the cursor where the sac is embedded. The fertilized egg attached itself to the widest part of the left Fallopian tube, whereas it should have continued its journey down the tube and attached itself to the thickened lining of the uterus. The technician then points at the center of the sac where you could see what looks like a blinking white light. It was the fetus' little heart, beating.
An ectopic pregnancy is probably one of life's biggest sucker punches- at the height of all the elation and excitement, you are suddenly told, "nope, sorry, it's not going to happen." A ruptured tube from an ectopic pregnancy can cause internal bleeding, and even lead to the mother's death. I cannot even articulate the devastation of being given the most beautiful gift, only to be told later on that there is no way in the world I can keep it. It all began to sink in on the car ride home, where Matt and I finally broke down, sobbing quietly, as we sought solace in each other's arms.
We got a second ultrasound the following morning in another hospital, which yielded the same result, and then everything happened so fast after that. My doctor instructed me to have myself admitted at noon for a laparoscopy, saying that delaying the surgery would only increase the risk of rupture. And based on my research, that is the last thing I want to happen at that point- it would lead to intense pain and also call for a more complicated procedure. My surgery was scheduled for 5PM and I remember being wheeled into the OR at exactly 5:30PM. The anesthesiologist gave me a first shot which was meant to sedate me- "like being drunk on Patron", she joked. The second shot I felt running up my arm from the IV, and before the feeling hit my shoulder, I was knocked out.
The procedure usually lasts four hours, the nurses told us. Mine was done in a little over an hour and a half.
Laparoscopy allows the surgeon to explore and perform surgery with the aid of a thin, tiny camera and minuscule incisions. The doctor made a small slice on my left fallopian tube, and then scooped out the "growth". The blocks on the tube were caused by endometrial growths, which she also found on the right tube and behind the uterus. The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are several theories. Whatever it is, mine was finally discovered and dealt with, and now it's gone. "I fixed all that needed to be fixed, to prepare for your next pregnancies," my doctor reassured me. I find consolation in the fact that at least all my parts are still there- my tubes and ovaries intact. At least.
After two nights at the hospital, I go home to continue my recuperation. I discovered that painkillers are good for the actual "surgical pain", but not the stomach cramps from gas. That was where most of the discomfort came from. The best cure for it was to move around- roll from side to side, or get up and walk around a bit, even if it hurt. I never would have imagined farts to be such a precious commodity, but at that point they were. Now, I'm still taking it easy, spending most of my time off my feet. I sometimes forget that although minor, I just had a surgical procedure performed on me, and I should allow my body ample time to heal. I am very thankful that I have that luxury, since not all women can stay in bed for a week or more.
All this free time allows me to be introspective and see the beauty in the midst of my misery. The love and support from family and friends have been overwhelming, and even up to now I would cry alternately out of both sadness and joy. I am thankful that my condition was diagnosed early on, allowing my doctor to act quickly and perform the surgery at record time. It really could have been a lot worse, I realize that now. And on that note, I'm just so lucky to have had an exceptional doctor and the best healthcare. St. Luke's Medical Center at Fort Global is an excellent hospital (Matt described it as "very first-world") and I hope that we could find a way in the near future for this kind of medical care to be made available to everyone.
More importantly, this experience brought my relationship with my husband to a different level, adding a different dimension and greater depth. I feel so close to him now, and seeing how he handled himself throughout this ordeal made me appreciate him even more. He is a strong and loving person, and he will make an amazing father when the time finally comes.
So, to get myself through this, I have put myself on a high-sugar diet. The first morning at home, back from the hospital, I was feasting on my niece's goodie bag (she celebrated her 5th birthday the same day of my surgery): breakfast was Reese's chocolate peanut butter cups, bite-sized Milky Way bars and Gummy Bears. Flipping through my sister's cupcake cookbooks brought on a different craving, which my husband was only too happy to indulge- the day before our anniversary (which we had to celebrate at home) he surprised me with four gorgeous cupcakes from Sonja's, two of which were my favorite Red Velvet.
No, cupcakes do not cure a broken heart, but they remind you of happier times and better things. These situations tend to reinforce the presence of a Higher Being, and- as cliche as it may sound- that things happen for a reason. And I believe that. I have to. Because- despite cupcakes not having any curative properties- they are good. And all will be good.
Note: The rate of ectopic pregnancies have risen over the years- currently, it is 1 out of 50. It is the number one cause of deaths for mothers during the first trimester. If you think you are pregnant, a trans-vaginal ultrasound could confirm if the pregnancy is in utero or otherwise. Do not delay treatment or surgery- talk to your OB about your options. Remember: the sooner the diagnosis and treatment, the better the results.