I’m The Woman Whose 99.6% Effective IUD Failed

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A Surprise Pregnancy

“I stare down at the gadget in my hand in complete and utter shock. Two pink lines stare right back at me. Ever the optimist, this is unexpected. Not just unplanned, but actively planned against.

Although I totally believe that I will win the lottery, I didn’t expect this. In fact, when my doctor told me that IUDs were 99.6% effective, I really believed that I would fall into that majority category. Lady Luck, you wicked beast!

I head to find my phone as I think about all the reasons I cannot be having a baby right now.

There will be a huge age gap in between my two older children and this baby…we want to move overseas…I want to write a book…aren’t my husband and I too old?! I find my phone and schedule an appointment.

Positive pregnancy test lying on jeans
Courtesy of Jaci Ohayon

The next day, I find myself in an unfamiliar OBGYN clinic waiting for them to call my name. There are soft faces and big bellies all around me. I sit as far away from the stacks of pregnancy magazines as I possibly can, visibly uncomfortable.

‘Jaci!’ a voice says. Before I even look up, I know that I know this voice. It’s a friend.

Oh no, I think. Not a friend. As soon as our eyes lock and I see the look on her face, tears threaten to spill down my cheeks.

‘I have an IUD,’ I stammer. ‘I haven’t told my husband yet. I don’t want him to worry!’ She hugs me and we both hold our breath as she looks to see what secrets lie beneath my belly.

Except that she sees nothing. I am either only a ‘blip’ pregnant as she puts it, or I’m at the end of a pregnancy that is not viable. Blood must be drawn to help determine what I am facing.

‘The IUD needs to come out,’ doctor I have never ever met before says to me after the ultrasound. And then I recall all those stories I heard long ago.

‘But won’t that abort the baby?’ I question and it catches me off guard because I can hear the motherly worry in my own voice. Where did that come from? I wasn’t even happy about this baby…or was I?

‘If your pregnancy is viable, the IUD may compromise that. If it is not, then the IUD has already proven that it is defective. It needs to come out.’

I nod, speechless, as I lay back and watch her put on her rubber gloves. In one quick cramp, she holds the offending hardware up for my view.

‘You need to tell your husband,’ she says to me, concerned. ‘We aren’t sure what you are facing yet, and not only do you need the support, but he needs to be watching for signs that you need to go to the ER.’

I go home that night with the twinge and twang of sharp pains in my belly and a little bit of spotting, not knowing if I am growing a baby or losing one.

Breaking The News

When my husband gets home and asks me how my day was, I say I’m not feeling good. When he unexpectedly shows up with a hot cup of tea for me, I start to cry.

‘Baby! What is going on?’ he says worried. And I tell him.

Before I can even reason through whether or not it’s a good idea, the past two days rush out of me in one long, run-on sentence. He turns white at the news and his eyes bulge out of his head. And then he composes himself. And then we laugh.

We laugh so hard that tears stream down our cheeks. He reminds me that no matter what we are facing, we are in this together.

The next day I go in for more blood tests and that night, as I am making dinner, my elbow catches my wine glass full of water and shatters it on the floor. As I pick up the shards, it hits me…I want this baby. At this moment, it feels like I want this baby more than I have ever wanted anything in my entire life.

I start to cry on the kitchen floor just as my husband walks in from work. ‘I’m so scared that we are going to lose this little life. How ridiculous is that? I didn’t even want this baby and now I am petrified that we will lose it,’ I bawl in his arms.

‘It’s not ridiculous at all,’ my husband says softly taking the broken shards from my hand. ‘You are a mother, Jaci. Of course you love this baby. Of course you want this baby.’ And there it is. Such simplicity. Such truth.

Smiling husband and wife embracing in front of ocean
Courtesy of Jaci Ohayon

Nothing else matters any more. Gone is the focus on why I can’t have this baby, replaced by all the reasons why I simply must. We don’t need to move away to France right now nor do I need to write a book right this second. Anyway, there are a heck of a lot of benefits to already having older kids who can help out.

The next day I sit in front of my computer, hands trembling. The results of my blood test should be posted by now and I silently curse my slow computer as I wait for them to load.

And then it appears, in black and white: ‘HCG Quantitative Pregnancy.’ All I have to do is push it and find out.

Are my levels rising or dropping? Is this pregnancy, this miracle of a pregnancy, viable or not? Will my little foursome of a family become a fivesome? Do we need to get a bigger car?

I click on the link and discover my pregnancy hormone has doubled. We are having a baby. Laughter erupts out of me, and I am elated.

The doctor calls an hour later to confirm. ‘Looks like you better prepare for a baby,’ she says to me and I can feel the smile through the telephone. She asks me to come back to her office in a week for another ultrasound and I enthusiastically agree.

Ectopic Pregnancy Journey

Over the week, I grow more and more excited over this pregnancy. My husband and I busy ourselves by coming up with names, brainstorming ideas on how to tell our children, and laughing over this unexpected gift.

I make a point of being gentler with myself and resting when I need to. I stop drinking my routine morning coffee and replace it with herbal tea. I work harder at being actively patient with my children, hoping they mimic my actions when it comes time for them to be the big brother and big sister.

I spend my shower time talking softly to my baby, just as I did with my older children. I purchase a new fancy phone that takes top of the line pictures.

When Monday rolls around, I put on a nice dress and curl my hair. This will be the first time I see my baby and I want to look pretty. But when my friend, the ultrasound tech, starts probing around for the gestational sac, I can tell from her face that there is something wrong.

She goes and gets the doctor. My husband squeezes my hand. I look away and try not to cry. They don’t see the baby on the ultrasound and according to my HCG levels, they should.

Husband and wife holding hands
Courtesy of Jaci Ohayon

‘Jaci, I am pretty sure you have an ectopic pregnancy,’ the doctor says to me after the empty ultrasound. I get off the paper-lined bed to pace the room, stupid curls bouncing as I walk.

‘Your left ovary has enlarged quite a bit since last week and there is no visible pregnancy in your uterus. You need to get a shot of methotrexate, a type of chemo, to dissolve the pregnancy before your ovary ruptures. This is serious.’

I am stunned. After all of this? After a .4% chance of getting pregnant with this miracle? After waiting 48 hours in between blood draws to make sure the pregnancy hormone has doubled? After spending the week dreaming and planning with my husband? And now the baby is not going to make it? I can’t wrap my head around it.

‘Are you sure?’ I ask. When she ignores my question, I ask again. ‘Are you sure?’

‘I am 95% sure,’ she says. ‘We will draw some more blood to confirm, but if you were my daughter I would be extremely worried about you and I would want you to get the shot. If you do not and it ruptures, it very well could kill you. If the blood results are good, you need to get the shot; otherwise, you may have to have emergency surgery.’

I avoid making eye contact with my husband as the nurse draws my blood because it is easier for me to avoid sobbing if I trap everything inside of me. We head home, shaken, to wait for the phone call which will tell me whether I need to go to the hospital for surgery or report back for a shot.

When my phone rings, it is the doctor, telling me that she believes my blood results confirm her suspicion and I need to get back to the office immediately for the shot.

Except that I cannot. I just cannot. Last week a doctor’s 95% certainty would have been enough for me. But this week? After having a .4% chance of getting pregnant and succeeding all of a sudden a 5% margin of error seems gigantic.

Besides, I am at my children’s school. They are about to find out what teachers they have and whether their best friends are in their class. I can’t just run out.

I wave hello to people I know and quickly move through the crowd of eager students. As long as no one hugs me, I know I can get through this next hour without crying.

‘Don’t think of it as a baby. Think about it as saving your life!’ my friend, the ultrasound tech, tells me later that night over the phone after finding out that I didn’t go get the shot.

But, of course, I cannot. My husband was right. I am a mother and this is my baby. Mine and my husband’s baby. Perhaps unplanned and planned against, but created in love just the same.

Couple kissing passionately beside pool
Courtesy of Jaci Ohayon

Taking that shot goes against every fiber of my being. It is contrary to my soul. I just can’t do it.

I spend the night hiding in my room and Googling various medical terms. I find out that 1 in 50 pregnancies is ectopic and that out of those ectopic pregnancies, only 1% are in the ovary. So basically, I need to go to Vegas because wicked Lady Luck just won’t leave me alone.

I read story after story of women who were diagnosed, incorrectly, as having an ectopic pregnancy. There is a report from Canada that says 40% of all ectopic pregnancies are actually misdiagnosed. There are even stories of women who were misdiagnosed, took the chemo shot, and then went on to find they had viable pregnancies, which resulted in babies with deformities.

These stories take turns petrifying me and giving me hope.

Maybe the doctor is wrong. Maybe this pregnancy is viable–it just needs a little more time. I need a second opinion from another health care provider.

Getting A Second Opinion

That night I cry myself to sleep. I dream that my ovary ruptures and that I am dying. I wake up thinking I am in pain just to realize that it is all in my head. I think my heart is pounding in my lower left pelvic area.

When my kids each take a turn waking me up with bad dreams, I hold them closely. By morning, I am exhausted as I get them ready for their first day of school. I beam false smiles at them, make a million promises that they will have a great year and rush them out the door.

At 9:01 a.m., I am on the phone making an appointment for a second opinion. When I tell the receptionist I have been diagnosed as ectopic, she puts me on hold and then comes back on the line and moves my appointment up by several hours.

Please God, I plead in the shower. Please spare this baby.

Knowing that I am in a race against time if it is ectopic, I ask God that if we are meant to have this baby, that we please see it on the ultrasound. I meticulously curl every hair on my head before my appointment, a testament of my faith that we will see our baby today.

But we do not.

The second doctor believes there is an 80-90 percent chance that the baby is growing in my left ovary, but also acknowledges he could be wrong and the pregnancy could be fine. He outlines my options:

(1) Take the shot of chemo to dissolve the pregnancy.

(2) Have surgery to remove the pregnancy.

(3) Wait it out for a few days, have more blood tests, and then another ultrasound (and take the risk my ovary will rupture and kill me).

Each option sucks. ‘How am I supposed to choose?’ I ask him, voice trembling. ‘I do not know,’ he replies, ‘but you must.’

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I tell him that I need to talk to my husband. That I need some time. Another hour to debate with myself. What if I take the shot and it turns out the pregnancy is viable? What if I don’t take it and it kills me? I consider each scenario in turn.

The analytical lawyer in me takes over: I need to make an informed decision. Gather all facts and make the best decision I can based upon those facts knowing, of course, that hindsight is always 20/20.

Over an uneaten lunch my husband and I take turns asking each other the same question, ‘What do we do?’

My phone rings. It is my doctor friend. The one whose opinion I trust more than all other doctors put together. He knows me. He knows my husband. He knows my kids.

This is probably our 15th phone call since this whole situation began a couple weeks ago. He is emotionally invested. He loves us.

‘What do I do?’ I ask. I plead with him to make the decision for me. ‘I cannot advise you on that, Jaci. You must make this decision.’

‘Then tell me, what would you want your wife to do?’ He loves his wife very much. I have seen the way they look at each other. I know true love.

He sighs. ‘Please don’t ask me that.’

‘Too late, I did, and I need you to answer,’ I respond desperately. ‘I would want her to take the shot,’ he says quietly.

And I know what I have to do even though tears are pouring down my cheeks and my guts are on fire. I think of my children coming home from their first day of school in a few hours. I cannot chance them having to grow up motherless.

I think of my husband, nervously waiting for me in the restaurant. We have been through a lifetime in our years together. We are a team, and I cannot leave him wifeless. I know that if the situation were reversed, there wouldn’t even be a question in my mind; I would be giving my husband that shot myself.

I love this baby with my whole heart, but I love my little foursome family enough to put an end to this life-threatening scenario.

Pregnancy Loss

I walk into the clinic and will myself to get a grip. ‘I am here for the shot, please.’ The receptionist, noting my tear-streaked face and bloodshot eyes smiles at me sympathetically. ‘I will let the nurse know.’

‘Jaci, I am ready for you,’ the nurse says and instructs me to pull down my pants—the third time this week I have had to bare myself for a stranger–and tells me to count to ten.

I feel a pinch, then a burning sensation as the poison rushes into my body. I try to make myself cry more silently, more motionlessly, so as not to dislodge the needle and chance having to re-do it. And then it is done.

On the way home, my husband and I hold hands. It is so strange how two weeks ago the presence of a baby was a hole in our guts and this week the absence of one is, ironically, the same thing.

The 15-minute drive home takes a solid year. No music. No small talk. Not even any big talk. Just silence. The air heavy with our crushed tandem breath.

‘I’m so sorry baby,’ my husband whispers and grabs me tightly as soon as he parks in our driveway. ‘If you want another baby, you only have to say it, Jaci. We can have another baby.’

And I am sorry, too. I am so sorry. I internally apologize to God, to the baby, to my husband and then to myself for making one of the most excruciating decisions I have ever, ever been faced with.

I go inside my house and throw away the positive pregnancy test and my first ultrasound pictures–the ones I was saving for the baby book. Now I have nothing left to remind me of the life that would never be, besides cramps in my belly and matching Band-Aids on my left arm and bottom from today’s blood draw and shot.

I go inside my house and sit by myself in the living room.

I feel like I have been stabbed in the heart, but my son and daughter will be home soon, bubbling over with excitement to tell me all about their first day of school and I both need and want to be present in that moment. I know that I am not finished grieving this lost baby, but now is not the time. I must cap this.

Gratitude And Grief

One by one, I start going through my list of the abundance of blessings I have to be grateful for. This is the way I calm myself down when I feel like life is spinning out of control.

When I feel upset at God for allowing what feels like another unjust boulder, no mountain, to be thrown my way, I start with things like fresh air and clean water and continue until I reach weighty things that make up my gravity.

Things like this week’s heroes: my doctor friend, my ultrasound tech friend, my husband and my two beautiful children. By the time I draw to the end, my tears have stopped and my breath is less painful.

I may not know why this had to happen, but I remind myself, for the millionth time, that I trust in God and that God does have a plan even if I am not privy to it.

I hear my husband return from school with our big kids in tow. I can hear them get out of the car, shuffle up the stairs, and open the front door. They are full of chitter-chatter and excitement. So much joy. So much enthusiasm. So much life.

With one last deep breath, I pick myself up off the couch, go wash my face, and head to the door to meet my two children, the only ones I will ever have, and genuinely listen as they tell story after story about their day.

The evening passes slowly, ever so slowly. But finally, I find myself alone in my bedroom with a raging headache and a metallic taste in my mouth–side effects of the shot. I collapse on my bed and curl into the fetal position. So grateful that in this moment, I do not have to put on a brave face or beat back any emotions.

Woman with glasses lying solemnly on couch
Courtesy of Jaci Ohayon

It is just me, God, and my baby. I touch my hand to my lower belly and the grief rushes out of me in flood of scalding tears, snot, and verbal heartache.

I sob into my pillow. I have spent a lot of time crying in my life, but the sorrow that pours out of me now is unlike any I have ever experienced. It is the sound of a mother who has lost her child.

It is a rare occasion, indeed, that I surrender to my emotions without trying to control them with my superior practicality and reasoning skills. In this moment, it does not matter that there are more horrific pains in life than this, and that so many others have gone through far more terrible things.

In this moment, there is only the aching in my heart, the burning sensation in my belly and the devastating feeling of complete and utter hollowness.

‘Goodbye, Sweet Baby,’ I say out loud to the empty room and I feel the echo of those words vibrate in my empty womb.

I hear the door creak and feel the weight of my husband on the bed. Soon, I feel his arms wrap around me, protective and safe. His warm breath on my neck. And we lay there, in silence, each grieving this loss. Each saying goodbye to the baby, unplanned and planned against, but so very very wanted. So very very loved.

‘Goodbye, Sweet Baby,’ I say, again.

And when I have cried until I have no more tears left and my eyes are swollen to slits, I remove my hand from my belly and begin my prayers of gratitude.

I am grateful for fresh air.

I am grateful for clean water.

As I continue with my list, I remind myself over and over that I trust in God. Right now I don’t know why our hearts had to be stretched to prepare for another child, just to experience pregnancy loss, but God does.

I’ve been through enough grief in my life to know that time doesn’t actually heal anything, but it does make it easier to bear. Tomorrow I may feel just a tiny bit better than I do right now and that’s enough hope to get me through this excruciating night mourning the baby that I never got to hold.”

Husband and wife smiling in front of restaurant
Courtesy of Jaci Ohayon

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Read more about ectopic pregnancies:

Infertility Warrior Surprised With Miracle Twins After Miscarriage, Ectopic Pregnancy

Woman births rainbow baby after ectopic pregnancy

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