I have three new scars. They tell me I’m recovering well. Neatly stitched, they close this confusing chapter. They will fade but they won’t be forgotten.
On Sunday, I decorated my scars. I drew a cartoon face. I cut out the features and arranged them around my belly button scar – a fine nose, I think you’ll agree! Dad 100 laughed at the photos.
“You’re daft,” he said, which made me happy.
After six weeks of inconclusive tests, we booked a scan with an early pregnancy specialist. It wasn’t an easy decision because £380 is a lot of money for us to spend on a second opinion. Were we overreacting? I did ask myself this, especially when our hospital downgraded the risk after a scan on Tuesday. I was grateful for the reprieve from methotrexate, I really was, but there was still a quiet voice inside me, whispering that something wasn’t right. Dad 100 was worried too, which decided it for me.
So, on Thursday afternoon, we went to see Mr Jurkovic in a grand Georgian house on Harley Street. He had a large office on the first floor, with high ceilings and comfortable chairs. His face was serious and kind. He asked us questions and listened carefully to our answers – good doctors always have good ears. I handed him a typed summary of the last 44 days: beta-HCG levels, scan results, blood and pain. Through spectacles, he considered the information. Then he asked me to prepare for the scan.
Through the red door
Dad 100 and I held hands during the scan. Would we get another uncertain diagnosis? We turned to the other-worldly images on the screen. Mr Jurkovic confirmed there was no pregnancy in my womb. He found my ovaries and pointed to some blood in my abdomen. Within minutes, he became focused on a round mass. He drew lines across it on the screen, measuring from top to bottom, side to side.
“Here it is,” he said. “The ectopic pregnancy.”
As quick as that, he found it. I felt a spike of adrenalin. To my untrained eyes, it was just a grey blob, but I didn’t doubt him. At 9 weeks pregnant, we saw our pregnancy for the first time. There you are, I thought, all along. I felt relief and sadness and love, all squashed in one ball of emotion.
The pregnancy measured 33mm x 27mm x 20mm. It was in such an obvious place – through the red door of last week’s drawing, inside my left fallopian tube.
“How could they have missed this two days ago?” I asked.
“It does happen,” he said. “You really have to know how to look.”
One way to go
Mr Jurkovic advised us to go straight to A&E at the nearest hospital. Emergency surgery was essential, he said, due to risk of rupture and further internal bleeding. Methotrexate injection was not a good option, he said, due to the damage to my fallopian tube.
“How much damage?” I said.
I knew what was coming. I absolutely knew in my gut, before he spoke. My left tube would have to be removed too. He explained the high risk of another ectopic pregnancy with a damaged tube. I looked at Dad 100. His face mirrored mine. Mr Jurkovic reassured us that many women have healthy pregnancies after losing a fallopian tube.
Did it sink in? Not really. There wasn’t time to think about implications. We thanked Mr Jurkovic for the clarity and waited downstairs for his report. We were given cups of hot chocolate. We agreed it would be foolish to ignore his instructions.
The final wait
We went to A&E at University College Hospital. Their systems were down and an angry drinker was swearing in the waiting area, but still we were admitted quickly and assigned a bed. Beneath fluorescent lights, I took off my clothes. Dad 100 helped me to put on the hospital gown, but he couldn’t figure out the ties. A nurse helped out with two efficient knots, then two cannulas were fitted, one on each arm. Then doctors with questions, another scan, more tests.
When it was just us, Dad 100 pulled his chair up beside the bed. We talked about the best experiences we’ve had together:
- watching the sunrise in Venice on Accademia bridge
- seeing the brightly painted houses of Burano
- stargazing on Brighton beach
- getting lost near Bolney wood on a charity walk
- the night Dad 100 proposed to me in a teenage disco in Camden, after Italy knocked out England in Euro 2012
“Four years ago tomorrow,” Dad 100 said, “I asked you to marry me.”
“Is it really?” I said.
He’s always been so much better with dates than me.
“Do you understand?”
At 8.30pm, we met our surgeon. He was tall and slim with eyes of pure concentration. He named the procedure: a salpingectomy, left side. He gave precise facts about the operation. He asked me to repeat back what I understood. I passed the comprehension test.
Then we were alone again. Dad 100 and me. Perhaps it was to do with speaking the words out loud, perhaps it was meeting the surgeon, but I woke up then, I realised fully what was about to happen. Sadness covered me like shrink wrap.
“I love you,” Dad 100 said. “More than ever.”
I looked across at him. How wonderful it was to hear those words. I wasn’t diminished in his eyes. In fact, the opposite was true.
The clock raced on – nine, ten, eleven. Each hour disappeared, so very fast, as if hospital gremlins were devouring great chunks of time.
At 11.30pm, the call came from theatre. There was lots of activity in our cubicle. Dad 100 and I kissed goodbye. A porter wheeled my bed out of A&E. There were faces at odd angles, two police officers, pale yellow walls, a well-used coffee machine. Then inside a silver lift, going up and up and up. Out on to a high floor in the longest corridor in the world. Not a soul in sight. There were black windows to my left, London city lights outside. I was floating down a tunnel to a parallel universe. At the end of the corridor, through double doors, there were people inside. They were expecting me.
In the anaesthetic room, the clock said twenty to midnight. Tom the anaesthetist prepared his potions, while his assistant Steven wrapped a blood pressure pad around my arm and clipped my finger into a pulse monitor. I put my hands on my stomach and said a silent prayer. May the life inside me be protected from unnecessary harm.
Tom passed me a plastic mask. He told me to hold it over my nose and mouth. “Nice deep breaths of oxygen,” he said, “you’ll taste vanilla.” The smell was like those air freshener trees in cars, artificial and sweet. I focused on my vanilla breathing, as I watched the second hand on the clock. Time was slow now, almost unmoving. Then Steven tickled my throat and there was the black juggernaut, hurtling towards me, that shocking and irresistible oblivion. Could I beat the blackness? I tried my very best. But soon there was the taste of anaesthetic, seeping from my windpipe on to my tongue.
A hand, a voice
When I came round, I was sobbing and shaking. It was like waking from a nightmare I couldn’t remember. It was an instinctive cry of loss and surrender. There was a clock, 2.15am. Then Dad 100 was by my bedside in the recovery area. I don’t have any visual recollection of him, but I felt his hand holding mine. And there was the sound of his voice, comforting me, though I don’t recall the words. On the ward, our conversations calmed me. When he was falling asleep in the chair, I told him to go home to bed. I drifted in and out of semi-conscious corridors. It wasn’t an unpleasant place to be.
At dawn, I opened my eyes to surprising light. I studied the diagonal shafts across sea green curtains. The angles and patterns occupied my mind. The sunlight stretched into my cubicle, warm and hopeful.
That’s when I decided to take this photo. At 4.50am on Friday – no longer pregnant and one tube down – I realised I have nothing to hide. I wanted to show my face because I remembered the love in our community. Infertility is not a shameful condition. It’s a fact of my life.
Finally, some proper sleep, two or three hours. When I woke up, I sent a text to Dad 100 – he was already up, just about to leave for the hospital.
I am happy to be home. I appreciate my bed and sofa. I am lucky to live in a comfortable flat in an area I love. I am getting out when the sun shines.
I am very grateful for Dad 100’s love. He is a strong and available man. He wants children as much as I do, but he’s always said the most important thing is my health. I am lucky to have a partner who values me, above anything we are trying to achieve. I must make sure he knows he is loved.
I am still determined to be a mum – more than ever – but this is not about having a baby at any cost. My goal is now to stay safe, sane and happy while we try to conceive. We’re not in charge of the result.
I have some thank you cards to write this week – to all the NHS departments that have helped us and to Mr Jurkovic. Though this isn’t the outcome we wanted for IVF1, there are still dozens of nurses, doctors and support staff who tried their best for us.
I also need to find some new work. I would love to work in this field now. There must be a good use for this experience.