It was 14 December, 2004. I remember the day clearly, like it was just yesterday.
I had been experiencing stomach pains overnight and was feeling very unwell. My fiancé found me sitting on the edge of the bed, sweating and in a lot of pain. It was a week early, but I was convinced that I was experiencing bad period pain. My fiancé wasn’t so sure.
“You should stay home today,” he said. I reassured him that I would be okay. Period pain usually only lasted a couple of hours.
I arrived at work early, as always, and when my colleagues arrived they could see that I wasn’t well. The painkillers were not working. I struggled on for a couple of hours and was confused why pain hadn’t eased at all. With difficulty I walked about down the road to the chemist and bought some different painkillers. By lunchtime, and three lots of medications later, the pain was no better.
I asked to go home. Before leaving work I phoned the doctor’s surgery and booked an appointment for that afternoon. I also phoned my mum to pick me up from work as I wasn’t feeling up to driving. With a couple of hours to spare before the doctor’s appointment, I went back to mum’s and laid on the lounge. I really didn’t feel like driving to the doctor’s so I told mum I was going to cancel the appointment and just rest for the afternoon. Mum convinced me otherwise.
Inside the surgery, the doctor carried out an internal examination. It was extremely painful. My doctor decided to run some tests including a urine sample. A moment later my doctor looked at me and said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant.”
At that moment I swear time stood still. I was in terrible pain and my doctor had just congratulated me. She must have seen the look on my face and realised how bad the situation was. “I think you should go straight down for an ultrasound,” she said as she picked up the phone and rang ahead to the radiology centre. I knew that something wasn’t right.
“Will my baby be okay,” I asked.
“We’ll know more after the ultrasound.”
I called mum and asked her to pick me up. As I struggled to walk out to the car park, it all hit me. The tears streamed down my face and I think my body went into shock. I tried to hop in mum’s car but my body kept cramping and spasming. We went in for the ultrasound within a few minutes of arriving at the radiology centre. A man placed the jelly on my stomach and started the ultrasound. After quite a while he said, “I can’t see anything, it’s all dark. Do I have your permission to perform an internal ultrasound?”
I nodded. I was terrified. The internal ultrasound was done and once again he told me that he couldn’t see anything and that I needed to go straight to hospital.
At the hospital several doctors studied the ultrasound report, they concluded that I may have been carrying an ectopic pregnancy. I knew that if it were true, there was no hope of saving my baby. I was rushed off to theatre to have keyhole surgery to investigate whether there was an ectopic pregnancy and if so, have it removed.
When I woke, I was in a room alone with my fiancé. “What happened?”
“It was an ectopic pregnancy. The tube had ruptured and that’s why it was so dark on the ultrasound. You were bleeding internally. They tried to do keyhole surgery but the damage was so bad that they had to make a bigger cut to remove one of your fallopian tubes and stop the bleeding. You were gone for hours.”
I was shocked. That’s when I noticed the bag hanging next to me. I was having a blood transfusion. How could this be happening? I was so confused.
They had made a cut similar to a caesarean section. It was about 10cm long and I was in a lot of pain. I cried for hours that night. The same day I had found out that I was pregnant, I had it all taken away from me. And I also lost one of my tubes. Could I ever have another baby?
The blood transfusions finished the next day and against doctor’s advice, I discharged myself. I hated hospitals and I just couldn’t stay there any longer. I went and stayed at mum’s house as I couldn’t walk up the stairs at my home. Christmas came and went and I was still feeling very sore and depressed.
I went to my obstetrician a few weeks later for a follow up. It was at this appointment that I realised how serious my condition had been. The specialist told me that if I had not gone to hospital that day, I would have died overnight from internal bleeding. While the pain was really bad I would never had thought it was enough to mean I could have died.
I went through an emotional rollercoaster for many months after and felt very alone. Not many people understood what I was feeling and it was really difficult.
I was lucky and fell pregnant again 12 months later. Due to my history I was required to have my blood levels monitored every second day until I was far enough along to have an ultrasound to make sure it wasn’t another ectopic pregnancy.
When I saw my baby’s heartbeat for the first time, I cried with relief. This time my baby was in the right spot.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem