It was early October.
On the morning that I turned seven weeks pregnant (according to my obstetrician’s dating scan the week before) I woke up with intense pain in my upper right torso.
It just so happened that a friend of mine was visiting Paradise and staying with me for a few days. And it further just so happened that this friend of mine was a nurse.
She was in the kitchen when I woke up, so I hobbled in there and confessed that I was pregnant and also in weird pain right below my ribcage.
She took me back into my bedroom, got me to lay down on the bed and examined me.
Based on my pain response, she said that the pain was isolated in my stomach and gall bladder region.
“Look I don’t mean to alarm you, but given pregnant women are more at risk of gall bladder attacks I think you need to go up to the hospital.” she said.
So I called in sick at work and then phoned my mother. She was driving to Paradise that morning anyway to have lunch with me, so she was luckily close-by.
She diverted to my house and picked me up, then drove me up to the local public hospital.
I was worried I was in for about a six hour wait just to be seen by a doctor in the emergency department, as is commonly the case when you visit a large public hospital.
When I arrived I was triaged by a nurse at the front desk. I explained that I’d had four previous pregnancy losses, was seven weeks pregnant and having bad pains in my upper torso.
To my surprise I was given priority care and within ten minutes I was wearing a hospital gown and had been given a bed in the emergency department.
The doctor who examined me confirmed that the pain was in my stomach and gall bladder, and ordered blood work and an ultrasound of my torso. I was then admitted as a patient of the hospital and made nil by mouth.
While the technician was scanning my stomach and gall bladder, we chatted and I told him all about IVF, my miscarriages, my husband leaving and my surprise miraculous pregnancy that may or may not be continuing. He was absolutely fascinated and even when he’d completed his task, he still kept me there chatting.
“Hey listen,” he said. “The paperwork here says I was only supposed to scan your upper torso, but do you want to have a quick look at your uterus too? I’m dying to see if you have a baby in there.”
Did I want him to do a quick scan of my uterus? Well…is the Pope a Catholic? I mean, yes. Yes I did.
He spread the cold gel onto my belly and I held my breath while he placed the wand across my middle.
The hospital’s ultrasound machine was brand new and significantly better quality than the little dinky machine in my obstetrician’s office. Straight away a fat little blob appeared on the large screen and I could clearly see the flicker of the blob’s heart.
There it was. Undeniable proof I was still pregnant.
“Well you’re definitely pregnant!” The technician said, as if reading my mind. “I don’t see a second baby in there. But to be honest I’m not trained in pelvic scans so I don’t really know what I’m looking for.”
When I was taken back to the ward, I was again visited by the doctor who told me that my stomach and gall bladder were clear of blockages or issues, and that his best guess was an aggressive bacteria in my stomach had caused the pain.
He wanted to keep me in overnight and give me antibiotics and morphine, but I asked to be discharged. Knowing there was definitely a little baby still growing inside me, I didn’t want to be putting anything unnecessary in my body – particularly hardcore painkillers. I promised to return straight to the hospital if I started feeling very unwell and the doctor reluctantly signed my discharge papers.
As my mother was driving me back home, I started vomiting. Luckily she had a bucket in the back of her car. It was pretty horrific.
Arriving at my house, my mother asked me if I wanted her to stay but I told her to go and I’d be fine. But unfortunately the vomiting continued all evening and all through the night. It was absolutely horrific and I couldn’t even put a swig of water into my mouth without being ill.
Early the next morning, while I was lying on the bathroom floor with my head resting on the cool tiles, James appeared in the doorway. He looked absolutely distraught.
“What’s the matter?” I asked through my exhaustion.
“Sadie I’ve figured it out.” He said solemnly. “I’ve figured out what’s been going on with you lately.”
I swallowed a lump that had suddenly formed in my throat.
“Wh-what do you mean?” I spluttered, sitting up.
“The constant doctors visits…blood tests…scans…you’re vomiting all the time…you’re moody…you were at the hospital yesterday.” He said, so upset he was almost crying. “I’ve figured it out and I know what’s going on here.”
Oh god. It was time to finally face the music.
“You have cancer!” he said, practically sobbing. “You’re dying aren’t you? It’s cancer!”
For about thirty seconds I’m pretty sure I sat on the bathroom floor staring at him like he’d grown a second head. How could a grown man be so…silly?
“What!” I finally gasped. “I don’t have cancer you idiot! I’m pregnant!”
Much more silence.
He just stood there, eyes wide, gaping at me. And I sat, staring nervously back at him.
Then James let out a huge sigh of relief.
“Pregnant? Is that all? Oh thank God!” he said.
Well…that sure wasn’t the reaction I’d been expecting.
He asked me a few questions about how far along I was, and why I hadn’t told him before that point. I explained that there was an expectation I was going to miscarry and I didn’t want to worry him needlessly, given he didn’t want more children. He actually thanked me for trying to protect him as long as possible.
He was extremely calm and I was extremely grateful. To be honest it was sort of a relief that James finally knew.
I told him that I had an obstetrician appointment in a couple of days, and that I would have more information to give him then. He accepted that and promised not to ask more questions or tell anyone until after my appointment.
Two solid days of vomiting later (turns out the illness I was suffering from was actually severe morning sickness!) I turned up for my appointment with Doctor Eminem. Given I’d seen the baby a few days earlier at the hospital and I hadn’t had any bleeding, I felt fairly confident my pregnancy was progressing.
Sure enough, when Doctor Eminem scanned me he confirmed that there was one baby in the gestational sac measuring perfectly based on my ultrasound the previous week. The baby had a healthy heartbeat of 163bpm. He printed off a photo and handed it to me.
A photo…of my baby.
The baby I was pregnant with.
After the scan was over, we went back to his office for a chat.
“I don’t understand.” I said. “How is this happening? How is this possible? Eight cycles of IVF and then I was told I’d never have children?”
“You know what really bugs me?” Doctor Eminem asked, pushing his glasses up his nose. “When fertility doctors tell women it’s their fault.”
“What do you mean?” I replied. “I have proven infertility factors – endometriosis, PCOS, blocked tubes…”
“Yes and did the doctors focus on treating those factors? Did they perform surgeries, give you medications, perform IVF?” he asked.
“Yes…” I responded.
“And in all your years of trying, how long did doctors spend focused on your husband? My guess is he had a sperm analysis and not much else.”
He was right. It was only at the very end the experts had suggested genetic testing to look for a sperm problem and that’s when Doug had left me.
“You see Sadie you are suffering from reproductive problems but you are able to have children. Clearly your uterus is good and your eggs are good.” Doctor Eminem said. “The insurmountable factor – the one that meant you’d never have children – that factor was not yours. It was your husbands.”
Suddenly it was like someone had dropped a heavy weight across my chest and I couldn’t breathe.
“You’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner and fallen pregnant almost straight away. Why? Different sperm!” The doctor continued. “Because the reason you previously couldn’t have children was your husband’s sperm. Ultimately, you were not to blame. Your husband was to blame.”
It made sense. It made so much sense.
The reason IVF had failed was not my fault. It was my husband’s fault.
His sperm analysis had showed C and D grade sperm, but the truth was actually much worse. There was something genetically wrong with his sperm which had caused dozens of our embryos not to develop, and had caused me to miscarry several times.
My husband had left me because I couldn’t have children, but the truth was that he couldn’t have children.
HE COULDN’T HAVE CHILDREN.
I was in complete shock. Utter dismay and shock.
And also…secretly a little bit smug.
That douchebag had no idea that he’d blamed me for his own problem and it served him right.
Doctor Eminem asked to see me again in a week’s time to check on my pregnancy’s progress and I left his office on cloud nine.
I was finally really truly pregnant. Maybe this time I was going to be a mum. Maybe this time all my dreams would come true.
The baby looks good. Measuring on track. Heartbeat is 163bpm. I texted through to James.
A few minutes later my phone buzzed and I opened up James’s response.
Ugh no! Are you kidding! How have you not miscarried yet? What a bummer.
Good mood ruined, suddenly I felt so deflated. I couldn’t believe James had texted something so callous that clearly assumed we’d both been rooting for bad news.
Suddenly I had a terrible feeling this “dream” pregnancy was going to be more like a nightmare…