Either You’re Pregnant Or Not. You Can’t Be Half-Pregnant, Right? Wrong.
I met my second husband at a choir, though we didn’t date until years later. A young man, never married, no children…Me, married young, teenage daughter, divorced… Within a year of dating, we started living together. Soon after, I became pregnant. We were thrilled! I began to eat better, he was taking care of me, the family was celebrating. Everything seemed fine until one day, I noticed something odd: I began to spot.
It had to have been early on, around week six or seven. I went to the doctor right away. He had an eco-machine, with which you can hear the baby’s heartbeat, but no sonogram equipment. They took a hormone test, and my pregnancy hormone (hCG) levels came out pretty high, so I was “very” pregnant. The doctor prescribed progesterone and sent me home to rest.
Before long, I started bleeding heavily with big clots. I called my doctor’s nurse, who happened to be my mother-in-law from my previous marriage, and she said it was likely a miscarriage. A part of me knew, but I was hoping for a miracle.
The doctor ordered a sonogram right away, as well as a hormone test. The sonogram indicated an incomplete miscarriage, but the hormone test came out extraordinarily high.
Something was wrong.
The “remains” of my pregnancy had a funny look — like a cluster. The doctor did some research and returned to me with an answer: a molar pregnancy.
So yes, I was “very” pregnant, though it was a tumor growing in my womb instead of a child. Soon, it would threaten my organs if it passed through my uterine wall.
I remember crying a little there on the stretcher, but for some reason, I didn’t despair. I was curious, I suppose. Maybe I was so naïve that I thought everything would be over soon, that I would get pregnant again.
We scheduled a D&C procedure for the following week. It was essential to get the mole removed as quickly as possible, since these tumors, although most of the time benign, grow as quick as cancer. I told my daughter; she was a little sad but supportive. To the rest of the family, it was a miscarriage. It was easier to explain this way.
It was the 4th of September; I remember it was the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend. We got to the hospital in the morning. I was there, waiting, lying in bed, with nothing to read, no phone, and no way of communicating with anyone. But the nurses were very friendly and gentle with me. One of them explained that she also had a molar, years back.
I met with the anesthesiologist, and he explained the need for general anesthesia since the D&C would have to be very aggressive to remove the tumor already embedded in my womb. They told me I had to spend the night at the hospital because it was getting late, and because there were women giving birth, and other emergencies, but I took it well. They called my husband to tell him to come back the next day. He was worried, nervous, and furious. I spent the night in a cot in a cubicle, cold in my paper gown, with noisy birthing women all around.
The next day came. Around mid-morning, I was ushered to the operation room. I don’t even remember when I fell asleep. I remember waking up, with my throat in pain, wrapped in a thermal sheet. I couldn’t speak, but I smiled at the nurse who asked if I was okay. I think they gave me something for the pain; I went to the bathroom, ate something, and then I was ready to go. The kind nurses called my husband in, even though men were not allowed in the maternity area. He helped me get dressed and get ready to leave.
Weeks passed, and I felt as pregnant as before. I was having morning sickness, my breasts were gigantic and tender, I even had refluxes and everything. I felt bloated, and my belly looked bigger. I went to the doctor to check my hormone levels, as they were supposed to decrease slowly. In molar pregnancies, hCG levels grow higher than in healthy pregnancies and take longer to get back down to normal levels.
That day, my hormone levels were above 184,000 units, which is exceptionally high. The doctor ordered a sonogram, which revealed a bigger tumor resembling a carcinoma. The mole was growing again, as it hadn’t been completely removed in the procedure. Another D&C was scheduled in a rush. For the second time in a month and a half period, I was at the hospital.
My husband and I arrived at the hospital at 6:00 am. I was in a paper gown again, waiting with nothing else to do. I went through the procedure once more. This time, no one but my daughter and my husband knew about it. For some reason, he felt guilty. I woke up wrapped in a thermal blanket, my throat aching, but this time no one was around. No sweet nurse, not anyone. So I waited. My cubicle’s curtains were shut, but I could hear everything around me. So when I heard it was past four, I started to panic. I had been in recovery for at least four hours. It seemed like everybody had forgotten I was there. I tried to call someone, but no sound came out. I was desperate. I felt time passing by; I thought about how desperate my husband might have been, not knowing anything about me since the early morning. I cried silently.
Then suddenly, the curtain was swung open, and the look in the nurse’s face told me everything. She had forgotten about me. She removed the thermal sheet (I was already sweating by then) and asked me if I had any pain. I did, but I didn’t tell her anything. I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I was regaining my voice and asked her if I could see my husband, who must have been waiting outside for hours. One of the nurses suggested he should help me dress as he did before, but the bitter nurse who forgot about me said she would do it. And she didn’t. She just pulled me roughly by the arms to sit me, threw my clothes in the bed, and told me to walk to the bathroom to dress. As soon as I stood up, I bled and left a trail of blood all the way. She hurried me to the bathroom, closed the door, and told me to “clean my mess” with some surgical pads she gave me. I found myself alone there with puddles of blood, in pain, bending to clean my own blood, naked and vulnerable. That’s where I lost it. I tried to control myself, but it was too much. I cried loudly, a lot.
Somehow, I managed to “clean” the bathroom, dress myself up, and eat the cold food that has been waiting for me for hours. My husband was told I was fine, whatever that meant to them. It was after 6:00 pm when we finally saw each other again.
Throughout this pregnancy, I was the strong one. I’d never cried in front of my family, followed every instruction, been the perfect patient. It was my husband who took the worst of it. He was scared for my health, afraid to lose me. He was heartbroken, worried, and traumatized. He kept telling me we would try again later, but he always changed his mind. We ended up deciding not to.
It took me six months to get my hormone levels back to normal, and a year to get my period back. It was a long journey that will always leave scars, but it helped me appreciate how strong I am. It helped me grow closer to the man I love.