The day my husband and I got married, all I could think about was wanting to start a family. Even though my career wasn’t where I had wanted it to be, I didn’t care; like so many other things in life—I wanted it NOW. My husband wasn’t so sure however; he wanted us to be more financially secure. There were problems with his company, and he was worried about losing his job. So we waited. I was rather surprised then to realize, after he had actually been laid off from his job, that I was pregnant. Worrying about him finding a new job put a damper on things, but we were happy nonetheless. Then, a few weeks later, he had a new job, and everything seemed to be perfect!
I was so excited to tell my mother—she has always wanted to be a grandmother, and although she has a beautiful stepgrandson, this was something she had been hoping for from my sister and I since we were born! We knew it was premature, but we began hunting for baby things and stockpiling it away. I started reading all sorts of books, and my husband and I laughed as we thought up baby names.
Suddenly, on a beautiful day in August, just after I had told a few people at work that I was pregnant, I went to the washroom and was horrified. I really think I felt my heart stop. There was this thick, brownish blood. I immediately sent a quick note to my boss, jumped in my car, and went home. I called my doctor, who said if the blood wasn’t bright red, I shouldn’t worry about it; all I could do was wait and see. My husband did his best to get home from work as soon as he could because I was borderline hysterical. I kept telling myself that this happens to some women, everything was OK, I wasn’t going to lose this baby. Days went by and the blood didn’t stop. I called the hospital several times but didn’t get any help, so finally I told them I was coming in for an appointment. My husband did his best to change his schedule and take a few days to be with me, hoping his new job would understand.
I spent a long, miserable day at the hospital. My doctor was on vacation, so I had one of her colleagues, who happened to be the doctor of a close friend of mine, and she was wonderful. They couldn’t find the source of the bleeding, so I was sent for an ultrasound. We had to wait a couple of hours before the appointment. When we finally went down for my appointment, we ended up waiting another hour. All the while I felt like I was going to throw up from the anxiety. The woman who did the ultrasound was very pleasant and informed me that the radiologist needed to come in to consult. I couldn’t hear much of what they were saying other than “placenta.” Never “baby” or “fetus.” I knew something was terribly wrong. When I went back up to see the doctor, she told me that there was a fetal pole, but it didn’t seem to be more than about 6 weeks or so. They were also worried it could be a molar pregnancy, which would mean I would have to have a D&C. I should go home, she would call me and tell me what’s going to happen.
The doctor called me that night and told me I would have the D&C the next day. She had consulted with a colleague and thought it best to err on the side of caution by having the D&C rather than inducing the miscarriage. My parents came down early the next day so they could take us to the hospital. Although my day at the hospital was fairly quick, it was far from painless. The staff at the hospital were wonderful, but each and every moment that passed I felt swept over by the most mind-numbing despair. I could only hope that they were wrong, that it wasn’t this “molar” pregnancy (I hadn’t done much research on this yet because I was hoping I didn’t have one and because I had heard I may have to wait 6 months to try to conceive again!) and that after some physical and emotional healing, we could try again soon.
I recovered well from the surgery and somehow convinced myself that surely I couldn’t be one of these rare women who has a molar pregnancy. I almost had myself convinced when I got the phone call at my office confirming the mole: Yes, it was a partial molar pregnancy … I’d need to come in for a follow up appointment … continue doing blood tests every week … I couldn’t believe it. Hadn’t we been through enough? Now I had to worry about a cancer-like condition and couldn’t try to get pregnant again for months? I almost completely shut down. I left my office again, sobbing almost uncontrollably, thinking that if my luck continued, surely I’d end up with this type of cancer, and things would never get better. My mother came down again to be with me and help me get through this because my husband had to return to work.
I went diligently for my blood tests every week. Just 4 weeks post D&C I had my first negative result. Thank goodness! Maybe there was a bit of light at the tunnel after all! I researched as much as I could about this condition and found this Web site among a few others. I found a couple message boards where I could read other women’s experiences and share my own. I couldn’t believe how much this helped. Just knowing women I didn’t have to explain this condition to made my life so much easier. It was on one of these message boards that I read about a paper written by two physicians/researchers from the New England Trophoblastic Disease Center (NETDC) who claimed that with a partial molar pregnancy, women whose levels fell to negative in 7 weeks or less needed only to be followed for 3 months. Eureka! This was the first good news I’d had in ages. I printed off the paper and left it with my doctor who, although wonderful, admitted she hadn’t dealt with molar pregnancies much in the past. In fact, she’d had only one previous molar patient, a woman with a complete mole who’d had no desire to have any more children. My doctor consulted with the specialist who’d performed my D&C, and they agreed that the study authors were the “gurus” of trophoblastic disease, so she felt comfortable saying I could try to conceive again in 3 months.
I was so thrilled. My “sentence” had been cut in half! I would be able to start trying again in December. So it came as a shock to me when, at the end of November, shortly before I was to be cleared to try again, I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I realized that we had had ONE slip up in all the time since we were told to wait, but apparently that one time was enough. We were terrified at first, but I had to believe that fate couldn’t be so cruel as to do this to me twice. However, my husband had been let go from his new job during that time (apparently they weren’t as understanding about giving him the time off during our crisis as we had thought; although they never said as much, I firmly believe this was the case). Regardless, we were determined to be optimistic.
My doctor was very understanding and told me to come in each week to have my levels checked to make sure they were okay. We would do an early ultrasound at around 6.5 weeks to see how things looked. I was so excited. Then, on a day off that I had taken to go Christmas shopping with a friend, I started to get awful cramps. I told myself that women sometimes get cramps when they’re pregnant. But that was a short-lived thought when I suddenly saw the blood. No, no, no! This was NOT happening again. Everything seemed to be falling apart around me. I spent another complete day in the hospital, and all the memories and emotions from the molar pregnancy came flooding back. They couldn’t find the source of the bleeding, and I’d have to go for an ultrasound. As I lay there having my second ultrasound, I wondered if I would ever be there again for positive reasons. When they were done she said, “I’m afraid your pregnancy is ectopic. It’s about 2 cm in diameter, and is in your left fallopian tube. You’ll need to take a note back up to your doctor, and they can discuss what you should do.”
Come on! You’re kidding me, right? A molar pregnancy AND an ectopic? How is this even possible? But it was. I was sent off to see a gynecologist, who decided the best course of action was to give me an injection of methotrexate. As a “folic antagonist” it destroys the folic acid in your body that the embryo needs in order to grow. When it stops growing, your body reabsorbs it, and that’s that. So now I had a 1% chance of having another molar pregnancy again (not so bad) and about a 12% chance of having another ectopic (not so great). I’d have to come in again each week to follow my levels down to zero (gee, why did that sound familiar?).
As I write this, it’s been almost 6 months since I had the D&C for the molar and a little more than 2 months since I had the methotrexate shot for the ectopic. I’m cleared to try and conceive again, and of course I’m terrified. But that’s not going to stop me. I admit to not being a particularly strong person of faith. But I believe there is some force out there that has to agree that I’ve had about enough, and am due some better luck. If nothing else, I know that I can certainly GET pregnant!
If I were to offer advice to anyone who’s had a molar pregnancy, it would be this: You are your own best advocate. I’ve heard so many stories of women not being followed properly, getting conflicting advice, and so on. Do your homework, write down questions for your doctor, and if you don’t think he or she is doing everything possible to help you, find a new doctor. Your health, and possibly the health of your future children, are too important.
Update: May 13, 2005
On October 30, 2004, one day after my 28th birthday, I gave birth to a beautiful 6 pound, 9 ounce baby boy. I had complications during my pregnancy; my AFP test came back as abnormally high, and they were concerned about possible spinal issues. Fortunately it turned out to be a placental defect that, in my case, didn’t cause any serious problems. It did, however, cause my blood pressure to skyrocket just shy of 2 weeks before my due date, so I ended up being induced early. Unfortunately, my body didn’t progress well, so after 48 hours of labor, I ended up having a c-section. I was in the hospital for almost a week, because on the day we were to go home, they realized the baby had very low blood sugar, and he had to be admitted to the NICU and put on an IV as well as be treated for jaundice. Thankfully, 36 hours later we were able to take him home.
Holding him in my arms finally, after all the loss, pain, and uncertainty, was the most incredible moment of my life. Every day is the most amazing gift and I realize that I would go through anything, even all of this, 100 times over to have him.