I was readying myself for the start of second grade for Gabby and preschool for Zoe. It was the end of summer, and other than some unexplained bleeding, I was feeling pretty good. I had already had an ultrasound and they had found a couple of fibroids, so I had chalked the bleeding up to that. But it was still gnawing at me: it felt like there was something more than that. But it was a busy time of year with school about to start, so I put it out of my mind.
That was until early in the morning the first day of school. I woke up to the most intense pain I had ever felt in my life and quite a lot of bleeding. I didn't know what to do. After all, it was the first day of school, and the girls would be getting up soon. I woke my husband up and left a message with the answering service for my doctor's office. A doctor I didn't know (it was a group practice) called me back and made me feel like I was exaggerating and that I wasn't bleeding enough for it to be considered an emergency. She made some inappropriate joke and then told me to call back when the office opened a couple of hours later and briskly hung up.
So, I waited even though I knew something wasn't right. I got the girls ready for school as best I could. Normally, we would have walked the 10 minutes to school, but there was no way I could have done that, so my husband drove us (he had called in sick since it was clear I would need a doctor's visit). I put on my best face possible as we stood and met the teachers and waited to say goodbye.
An hour and a half later, we were at the doctors' office. My regular doctor was in surgery that day so they scheduled me with someone else. Just like the doctor on the phone, she dismissed my concerns and then told me that it was probably just an "incident" and would resolve itself. But I wasn't giving up that easy. I pushed for her to try and find an answer. Eventually she decided to perform an endometrial biopsy to rule out any cancer. She asked if I could be pregnant. Since I had been bleeding and getting what I thought was my period, I said no, I didn't think so. To this day, I am still not sure why she just didn't do a simple pregnancy test.
The biopsy is painful at any time but especially when you are already having cramping and severe pain (a tube gets inserted in your vagina and a small piece of the lining of your uterus is clipped for sampling). It felt awful and I was so glad when it was done. The doctor told me to rest for a little while before leaving. But each time I went to get up, I didn't feel right, so I laid back down.
Eventually, the nurse started coming around, trying to usher us out as we had clearly overstayed our time. So I made my best effort and got up, stopping at the bathroom on my way out. As soon as I got up from the toilet, I knew something wasn't right. I came out the door as fast as I could and collapsed into my husband's arms. When I came to, there were nurses and another doctor huddled around me. This doctor said I needed to go to the ER across the street. I credit her for saving my life.
I will leave out a lot of the details of the next hours except to say that it turned out that I was pregnant -- but not in the good, happy ending way. It was an ectopic pregnancy and it had ruptured. My body was filling with blood, and that is why it didn't feel right. Another doctor went in a few hours later and removed one of my ovaries and one of my fallopian tubes and stopped the bleeding. When she came to see me in recovery, she told me that had they waited much longer, I would have died from all of the blood loss. She also said that there was so much blood that they had to turn me upside down during surgery to drain it all. I ended up needing blood transfusions and spending the first couple of days of my girls' new school year in the hospital.
The reason I'm sharing all of this is that I feel it's vital for women to know the possible signs of an ectopic pregnancy (link here for those) and to trust your feelings. I knew deep down that something was wrong, that this wasn't just an "incident' as the doctor who saw me had dismissed it. Trust your instincts. They might just save your life.