Some time in May I got my period just like normal. No big deal. When I was younger my periods were erratic, coming whenever they felt like it (or not at all, I frequently missed them during Track and Cross Country), and lasting however long, usually between five and ten days. Ten was the longest ever. After I had The Kid things settled down nicely, and since then I have pretty much been able to set a watch to my periods and track them easily. Every 28 days, lasting about six days, with day two being the hardest, and things trailing off from there.
This time, day six came and left, and things picked up intensity. I went through twice as many tampons as normal by day nine, including a whole box of the highest level absorbency available, which I never use. By day ten I was cramping, a lot, something which is pretty unusual, as I usually suffer some back pain, but nothing like this. By day twelve I was lightheaded and lethargic. I was also a little worried. But each day I went to bed thinking it would be over with the next day…and I am oft reluctant to involve a doctor for fear of being ridiculed for worrying about trivial things.
Day fourteen we called the doctor.
With my usual slew of medical issues the General Practice Major ran a CBC and wanted to make sure I wasn’t anemic or having a thyroid issue. The last thing he expected, since I use an IUD (currently the most effective form of birth control), was for my pregnancy test to come back positive.
To be honest I didn’t expect it either.
Leave it to me to be inside of that less than one percent.
Since I have the oldest uterus in my immediate family I was afraid of cancer, cysts, and any myriad of other big scary things that could have popped up. The positive pregnancy test gave me a non-stop trip up to OB/GYN to meet with the On Call doctor, Dr. Kim. I had to wait another agonizing hour for a quantitative test to come back, which was still inconclusive. The hormone levels in my body were too high to be normal, meaning I was pregnant, but they were too low to confirm anything outright. A trans-vaginal ultrasound (they always, always hurt me) revealed nothing visible in my uterus, except for my IUD, perfectly in place.
So, what we were looking at was one of three scenarios. Either I had been recently pregnant (no more than a couple of weeks) and was suffering a rather nasty miscarriage, I was pregnant and it was too early to see anything or have strong hormone readings, or I was pregnant and it was ectopic.
Now there’s a word no one likes to hear.
If I was dealing with an ectopic pregnancy, Dr. Kim told me, it was too early to see, and also too early to be actually dangerous. Anything he would be able to do for me would depend on actually confirming the presence of something where it shouldn’t be. I would have to go home and wait for a few days and come back for more blood work, with strict instructions to proceed to the ER in the case of severe cramping and pain. Three more days of cramping (which was now kind of freaking me out) and bleeding, and I can assure you that after the numerous pelvic exams I had that day the bleeding increased with a vengeance.
I started crying.
Funny thing, with my experience with doctors, especially military doctors, is that they are all about protocol, and not one of them actually stops to take care of me. How I am feeling, or to assuage my fears.
Dr. Kim did that.
He laid out scenarios for any of the three possible outcomes (all of which include the removal of my IUD until matters are resolved and I can get a new shiny one). He told me, in his very frank way which I have come to endear in many of the Koreans that I interact with daily, that his priority was to keep me alive and to ensure to the best of his ability that my reproductive parts would all be there for me to use in the future if I so chose.
If it was in fact ectopic, he said, there would be no need for surgery. An injection to abort the out of place cells would work fine, and be safer for me over all.
He said it like he was telling me that washing my hands would be the best way to prevent the spread of germs.
And I found that amazingly comforting.
I have had doctors tell me that an ectopic pregnancy would require the removal of my fallopian tube. I have had them tell me it would kill me instantly. In an effort to keep me from obtaining an IUD, recommended for its lack of hormones by my other doctors,those doctors told me that it would cause an ectopic pregnancy leading to aforementioned removal of said fallopian tubes or death (luckily, I know how to read). Dr. Kim’s casual use of the word “abortion”, with no emotional or political charge to it, calmed all my slow rising panic. A simple injection, and a little time for the bleeding to run its course (paying attention to my iron levels), and everything would be fine. Easy as that, he said.
I made note, in my mind, how comforting that was. How relieved that made me feel, to know that this was available in the event that my life was in danger. How lucky and privileged I am to have a doctor who not only values my life and intends to do anything to keep it, but who does so without attaching any sort of message to it at all. Presenting the option of an abortion like any other medical option.
Because it is.
A legal, and safe, very very safe medical procedure.
And in my case, potentially life saving.
It kind of drives home my thoughts on abortions being a medical procedure provided by doctors, one of many. Here I was in an office where I had been surrounded in the waiting room with women bulging at the seams waiting to see my same doctor, and in between measuring their bellies and making sure their fetuses were healthy he was making sure I knew that the option to abort a blastocyst that could kill me was available.
I wonder what it must be like to not be so lucky, and I grieve for the women who have to go through what I have been through emotionally the past few days without the reassurance that everything would be just fine. Not knowing if I was or formerly was pregnant and not knowing if it was or was not life threatening. Even with The Guy at my side, reassuring me that no matter what we had the resources available to take care of me, not having Dr. Kim and his guarantee to offer me a life saving abortion would have left me panicking. Hells, I was already a wreck with panic. Not knowing what I would do if in fact something that didn’t belong in my fallopian tubes happened to be growing there. I grieve for the women who don’t have access to safe and legal medical options, and it pains me to think that there are those out there who would deny any and all of us access to even this most benign and life saving abortion.
It boggles my mind to think that someone out there would or could try to tell me that this shouldn’t be allowed. That there are those who would tell you that an abortion is never necessary. Those who would have us all believe that the only way to avoid death due to an ectopic pregnancy is to have a fallopian tube surgically removed. Or that it shouldn’t be bothered at all. To risk dying or having an extremely invasive and potentially dangerous surgery when a simple injection under the care of a compassionate and concerned doctor could be all it takes to keep a woman’s life, to keep my life, in tact. I assure you, it is often necessary. My daughter and my husband would tell you that something that saves my life is in fact necessary.
And perhaps when the overwhelming emotions of these past few days (and the few to come, since I have to have yet more comparative blood work to confirm) has passed I will be ready to talk about the what ifs of the other scenarios. The conversations The Guy and I had over a nice steak dinner with broccoli (iron, FTW!) and a big bottle of wine through many tears and fears might make for a good post when I am finished with life events at hand. Maybe not. Recent events and debate really hit home for us this past week, and while the wash of relief is still settling but not certain we aren’t ready to talk beyond our private lives just yet.
Because in the end it is about your private life, and the things you think through and the decisions you make inside those confines. About the things that are necessary.