We had a long and busy summer in 2013, filled with vacations and fun. My husband had finished his nursing school, and family time was upon us. In August we came back from our cruise, and I felt a little funny. I love to eat, and even with all the buffet menu of the ship I didn’t feel like eating. A week after we returned, I thought perhaps I could be pregnant. I do chart my monthly cycle as we practice natural family planning (NFP), but since our youngest just turned two my mind had been on perhaps adding a fourth to our happy clan. We have a boy 6, girl 4, and girl 2. This may seem like plenty, but both my husband and I come from large families. So I headed to the store and took a pregnancy test. It was positive. (I have only taken a few that were negative). Being my fourth, it seemed pointless to go to the doctor until the 3-month mark, but I had no idea when I could have become pregnant. I had stopped charting back in April and hadn’t a clue to my last period. Thankfully I had gone to a regular family doctor close to the house, so I headed there for a pregnancy test. Positive. Then on to the OB/GYN that I had seen for my last two babies. Positive. The only problem was I had no idea about my last period. This is the infamous question they always ask. I felt a little dumb, but it was the truth. They set an ultrasound for a week away, so we could find out a due date. Before that could occur though, my life-changing moment was about to happen.
The bleeding started very slowly and increased at night. Many doctors will tell you this is normal, but for me it was not. My pregnancies were all healthy babies (lots of puking on my part), and I never had any complications even during labor. Was I experiencing a miscarriage? I hadn’t a clue. Sunday morning came and instead of going to church I called my mom and cried. I told her I was worried and needed her to take the children. I was bleeding and felt something was wrong. Thankfully she was calm and prayed for me and spoke words of comfort.
My husband and I headed to the ER at the same hospital I gave birth to our two beautiful children. Once inside we were admitted quickly and the journey began. The nurses came in and ask the usual questions.
“What is wrong?” My response: I am bleeding vaginally.
“When was your last period?” My response: I think in May or April?
“How far along are you?” My response: I have no clue.
The doctor came in and poked around my insides to see what he could. Soon they gave me an ultrasound. It was not the happy kind where they put on the jelly and talk about how the baby is doing, but rather they just silently take pictures and talk about other things. I did hear when she was listening for the heartbeat and almost tapped my husband to tell him to listen, but I heard nothing. At that moment I knew something had to be wrong. I had read various online information that morning before I decided I needed to head to the ER. I had narrowed down my worse case scenario to ectopic pregnancy and something called molar pregnancy. The molar pregnancy had seemed more likely.
After the sonogram, we went back to the ER room. A friendly doctor came in. He was retired special forces like my dad, and he had a student doctor with him. He asked if they could do a sonogram. I had no problem with it. We chatted about life, and he went over my different inner parts with the intern. Soon an ER doctor came in and took him out for a moment. Then he came back in with another ER doctor. When you are in the ER and three doctors plus an intern are in your room, it means you are a special case. I knew bad news was coming as they had worried looks on their faces. He looked right at me and said, “You are not pregnant.” Then I replied, “Well, two doctor offices told me I was.” I thought perhaps he thought I was one of those nuts that imagines they are pregnant or perhaps I liked puking every day or perhaps I enjoyed looking at a dirty house for the past month that I had no energy to clean. Is he accusing me of something or trying to tell me something? Then he went on to explain that I had a molar pregnancy. Perhaps that was that weird piece of white junk I had seen in the toilet? He told me that the OB/GYN doctors were busy with a birth and would come to talk with me when they finished. Then the ER doctors left. The nice doctor stayed to answer all my questions, and soon he left too. It was just my husband and I staring at the white walls wondering what the solution was. Surgery? Medicine? Observe and wait? The nurse came in and asked me if I was going to include my shot card in my baby box. I mumbled that I don’t include shot cards in my kid’s baby books. I get a shot each pregnancy due to my blood type. Perhaps the doctor failed to mention to her that I was not really pregnant. I was busy dealing with my own emotions, so she would just have to find out on her own.
My husband got the munchies, because we had been there about two hours. They had sent me to get an x-ray just in case the mole was spreading (it was not). During that I had left my bra on, and the tech after taking a picture came over and told me to take it off. I smiled because I wondered how the x-ray had looked to him. A skeleton with a bra on?
My husband returned with some candy bars in his pocket. I was famished, so he offered me one. I was unsure of how long it might be before I got out, so I ate two. It seems like only seconds later and the doctor rushed in to ask why I had eaten something. I was hungry and you failed to mention surgery was my only option! He then went on to find the nurse and ream her out. He had never told me anything but wait. Soon the OB/GYN doctors came in, and they explained I had a growth inside of me that needed to be removed, so I would have gone to surgery at 5 p.m., but since I ate then I would have to wait until 10 p.m. or so. I called my mom and explained that I needed surgery and asked if she could watch the children. Fortunately between her and my other family members, including an awesome sister-in-law, the children would be fine and have their first sleepover. Then we waited.
The OB/GYN doctors came back and advised me to wait until the next day or schedule a surgery for Tuesday and come back. I was bleeding, and there was no way I was going home in that condition. I wanted experienced eyes watching me just in case. The nice doctor had said that I looked exceptionally well for the problem I had. As a second oldest of six, you don’t often get to complain, but you have to be tough and look out for others. Perhaps this is why I tend to hide my pain so well. I was wheeled to a purgatory room to wait for my night room. It was quiet, and I reflected on how thankful I was that they knew what the problem was and how to resolve it. I was going to get a D & C (dilation and curettage), which I figured was the same as how they perform abortions. I prayed that the surgery would go well and asked others to do the same. They explained I would have no scars as they would just use my God-given holes to go in and carefully extract the mole. I was mid-peanut butter cracker eating when they came to prep me for surgery with a small object to dilate me. I should have finished my small meal, because after that I was in uncomfortable pain and could eat.
Later that night I got into a room with girl a bit younger than me who had a liver problem. She was doing better, but had a baggy attached to her side and an IV. Once admitted to the ER, I also had had an IV put in. The pain of not being able to bend my arm was rivaling my stomach and the dilator at this point, but midnight was approaching, and I forced myself to eat a baked potato from Wendy’s my husband loving got for me. He was my constant companion and strength. I could tell he was sad that our fourth child had not materialized. It was hard because I had no idea what lay ahead and had no idea what to say that would bring him comfort except that we were getting to spend some time together alone and that was nice.
Both my roommate and I were fasting, but once she had her MRI and was ordering Chinese food I got on the phone. It was about 1 p.m. and I wondered when they were going to call me for surgery. Long story short it was not until 5 p.m. that I was finally knocked out for the first time in my life and operated on. The anesthesiologist was nice and said she had a special cocktail for me to help me relax. This was my first surgery and a resident doctor was going to do the surgery. Thankfully all went well and he told me that it was a full molar pregnancy, which helped me considerably. During the few weeks that I had thought I was pregnant I had seriously felt like ripping my stomach out. I hadn’t felt any connection to the “new baby” and even when I tried to talk to the “baby” I didn’t feel any connection. This may seem odd to some, but the surgery brought a huge relief from the pain I had been feeling for the past month. It would drop my numbers from 600,000 to a mere 1,000 or so.
Then came the blood tests. The hard part was going into the OBGYN and seeing other pregnant moms and praying no one asked about mine. I have this belly that always looks like I am three months pregnant. However, I was lucky each time that no one said much except the nurse asked the date of my last period. I told her April maybe. They asked me on the following visit if my period had returned. I wanted to scream, “Well lady I have been bleeding for a while now and have no idea. Do you know how to differentiate between surgery blood and menstrual blood?” After surgery I bleed for about 2 weeks and did weekly blood work to watch my numbers drop. About nine days later the bleeding started again. I was worried and had no idea if this was good or bad. It was brown, and I had no idea what the discharge was. It turned out to be bleeding, and my levels were at 784. They had hung around 900 and dropped and then went back up. I was worried when the doctors would hold little meetings to discuss my case. I seriously thought they were looking on the Internet or in their books for answers. Many of them had never had a molar pregnancy patient. They were contemplating sending me to the oncologist.
After a sonogram, they thought they hadn’t seen anything and the consensus was to be safe and send me there. Do I have cancer or not? How can it not really be cancer, but just in case I am being sent to the oncologist? I was confused, and my anxiety began to build. I had been reminded that God takes care to clothe the flowers in beauty, and He still loved me in this difficult time. I could have asked, “Why me?” but that phrase seemed imply that I was better than others. Only others deserve bad things, and I am above that. Do bad things only happen to bad people? No. I needed to stay strong and believe I would be taken care of. There was a reason for my pain. I had to learn not to take for granted my health or the ability to have children. During surgery I had thought that if necessary they should remove my childbearing parts if it meant saving my life. It is times like these that make you thankful for what you have.
In the meantime my husband had been searching for an answer. He is very interested in herbal medicine and was an LPN at the time (he is RN now). He found a plant called Biden Alba growing in our yard that was an anticancer plant among other medicinal uses. Really I think it is a miracle he discovered this. As I stared down the dark hallway of chemo, I gave it a shot (if the doctor recommended chemo though and this was my only option I had decided if my numbers were not going down that I would do it). I met with the doctor on the fourth of November and started taking tea on the fifth. I had been bleeding at this point and it continued. Each day I would take tea. I would pick ten or so leaves and place them in hot water with another tea such as green tea. After a few days I would not see the bleeding in the morning, and I would hold off taking the tea. A few hours after I would take the tea the bleeding would come. At this point I began to see that the bleeding for me was good. Looking back I feel the tea was extracting all that was not good in my system. It was a bit tiring. I added neem tree leaves, but really it was the Biden that did the job. I was apprehensive about my next blood test. I prayed the tea was working. I felt like a human guinea pig at this point. My blood test was on the eleventh and usually I had to call my OB/GYN on Friday and ask for the results. I never expected the doctor to call me the next day. I checked my phone that night and the doctor had left a message. His voice was very excited and he said my number was 30. He mentioned how we didn’t even do anything and the numbers dropped. Well “we” didn’t, but “I” did. Perhaps I had heard wrong. I was hoping for 500 or so. When I called the next day, the receptionist answered and repeated the same 30 to me. She had been expecting me to call as the doctor had told her I might. By the nineteenth of November my bleeding had ended.
November 24, 2013, I ovulated. How do I know? Well, I charted very meticulously at this point. My only option was birth control. No pregnancy for one year. Being Catholic I had a strong conviction against this, however, I do know if medically necessary it might be okay. I wrestled with the idea. Was I crazy to stick to my conviction? What if I messed up? What if I had another mole? I prayed. God answered. It is amazing how this happens. A friend of mine was going to see her OB/GYN who actually doesn’t believe any chemical birth control is good. The OB/GYN had had her own experience with a tumor and that was that. She told the doctor about my dilemma and she said that adding birth control would only make it harder to see my cycle. I must mention that although I have three children I did go to classes for an extended period of time to learn NFP and have charted successfully, but when you don’t follow the rules, babies happen, and they are such cuties I would never give them back.
Following this my period returned on December 12, 2013 and then on January 12, 2014 and then February 21, 2014. All of these were regular cycles. I could go into more detail why, but that would take a while. Currently I am not seeking to get pregnant, as I need time to heal both inside and out. During the summer of 2013, everyone was asking when baby #4 was coming. Now no one says much, and I like that. I think I felt pressure. Like I need to keep on a time schedule or that four was the perfect number for me. Today I am thankful for being blessed with three healthy children. I look forward to kissing them each and every day. I hold them tighter and hug them longer. If I am meant to have four or more then the time will come, but for now I am content to just be a mother of three.