Darkest of days
To say that 2020 was such a turbulent year is an understatement. We thought the Taal Volcano eruption early that year and the COVID pandemic that followed were the worst things ever. But one of the most devastating ordeals happened to our family in October 2020.
In mid-October 2020, I was feeling tired and nauseous all the time. I kept thinking, "Is this it? Have our prayers been answered? Was I finally pregnant again after years of trying?" But I brushed it aside because I didn't want to get my hopes up yet. Until one night, I felt extreme abdominal pain that almost had me passing out in the bathroom.
My husband rushed me to Asian Hospital, where I had to go in alone because it was the height of the pandemic. We had no one to leave our daughter with, so my husband had to drop me off at the emergency room, while he waited in the car with Amara.
It took them hours to get me a sonologist. Because it was SOP in hospitals during the pandemic to test for COVID, and I hadn't had a test yet, I had to be isolated in a separate room. And despite the emergency, I was last on the list because they had to be extra careful not to expose the doctor and others just in case I had COVID. Completely understandable. But it was a lonely and terrifying experience.
The ultrasound result showed I was 6 weeks pregnant. But sadly, the sonologist said he couldn't detect a heartbeat, and I might be having a miscarriage. I had to wait for the baby to naturally pass - and it could take days or weeks, he couldn't tell exactly. But I was to come back and have another ultrasound in a few days to check if the baby was still there. There was nothing they could do, and I was to manage it at home.
And because I was all alone, I had to go down to the cashier to settle the tumatagingting na Php16,000 bill (!) on my own, despite the pain and exhaustion. There was no way I could just transfer the payment electronically, they said. It took me more than an hour of waiting in a wheelchair, while spotting and feeling unwell.
When we finally got home, we hugged, and cried, and prayed. We were hoping against all odds that there was a chance for this baby to live. My husband and daughter kept hugging my belly and singing to the baby all week. Lord, we've been praying and waiting for this baby.
My bleeding was not so bad, I said to myself. There's still hope, I thought, even as I stared at the blood-red toilet bowl. I was in denial.
Endless trips to the hospital
Five days later, my OB in The Medical City in Pasig confirmed the heartbreaking news: the baby was no longer there. But I only bled a little, I protested, it can't be gone just like that. She said there was only a sac left, and I was to come back for another check-up to see if I needed a D&C procedure. I was devastated. This was the second baby we had lost, you see. (I suffered an ectopic pregnancy in 2014. They took my right fallopian tube then.)
The strange thing was, all those weeks after this miscarriage in 2020, I was still feeling very pregnant. My breasts were sore, and I was still feeling very nauseous. So I went back to my OB, and she ordered more tests.
By God's grace, during this time, my dad was home in the Philippines, so we were able to leave Amara with him during our hospital visits!
We had to keep coming back to the hospital, because the doctor wanted to monitor my hormone levels. We had to sleep in the car - nearby hotels were reserved for quarantine. The doctors discouraged us from staying inside the hospital for fear of exposing us to COVID.
To make things more complicated, my test results always showed low hCG levels - meaning I wasn't pregnant anymore. My ultrasound also showed there was no more baby in my uterus. But I kept telling my doctor that something felt really off, and that I still felt very much pregnant and unwell. I was rushed to the emergency room again because of abdominal pain, but they checked and I wasn't bleeding anymore.
So my doctor wanted to monitor my condition even more closely, and I was to have my blood tested many more times.
Turn of events
As I was waiting in the parking lot one night, my husband came back from the hospital with outrageous news. He had just come from the lab, where he was informed that the last few results we received were erroneous - my hCG levels were in fact 1000x higher than reported! Whuuut! What we thought were in the two-digit levels were actually in the very high thousands - meaning I was still very pregnant. My doctor suspected that I might be having another ectopic pregnancy - even if I had just had a miscarriage. A shocking turn of events!
There might be a twin. What are the odds!
It turns out it was possible to have two embryos in two different places - it was a rare condition called a heterotopic pregnancy. One embryo in the uterus (the one I lost a few weeks ago) and one ectopic (not in the right place) that will never make it.
I had to have repeat ultrasounds until they could confirm if indeed there was another embryo, and where it was exactly. I was a ticking time bomb that could explode anytime - the embryo could grow larger and burst, and I could bleed internally. (This was what happened in 2014).
Imagine the pain of numerous tests and ultrasound scans, the anguish of waiting for the results, and the emotional burden of pining for the baby while knowing I could die anytime and leave my daughter and husband behind.
But we surrendered everything to the Lord.
They found the embryo after the 8th (or 9th?) scan that week. In the beginning, they thought it was in the stump of the tube that was taken away in 2014. But succeeding scans showed it was stuck in my left fallopian tube. So I was immediately scheduled for emergency surgery: I was already at risk of rupture and hemorrhage.
I had to wait in the pre-labor room, along with the pregnant mommies in labor. Can you imagine how heart-wrenching it was, being in the same room with excited expectant moms while I was waiting to have my belly cut open, but no baby to bring home after. This, after a miscarriage just two weeks before.
After an excruciating epidural, they sliced me open, took out the ectopic pregnancy, along with my last remaining fallopian tube.
This was our third baby now in heaven. The odds of all this happening! We would've had twins! 😭 My daughter, who has been praying every night for a brother or sister, has just lost twin siblings. 😭 Imagine the odds - me with one remaining fallopian tube getting pregnant with twins! Then losing both babies and my last tube, because of a heterotopic pregnancy.
It took me months to heal physically. And it took a year for my emotional scars to heal. I still feel waves of grief now and then.
At one point, my husband felt no one was taking care of him anymore. I was dysfunctional. I am still on my journey back.
But throughout this ordeal, even while feeling hopeless and tormented in one of the darkest seasons of our life, we cried out to the Lord, holding on to Him for strength and guidance. I do not claim to have unwavering faith, because I slip and fall again and again in this difficult journey. But through God's grace, I continue to hold on. As I wrote in my Facebook post last year, we felt He was trying to bless us throughout all this.
Thank God for my husband! I wouldn't have made it through without him.
Thank God my doctor was very thorough and kept asking for tests and ultrasound scans! If she wasn't, the ectopic pregnancy could've gone undetected, and I would've hemorrhaged internally! This is the second time she has saved my life!
Thank God for my Daddy who stayed with my daughter throughout all this! And my mommy, who babysat her virtually.
Thank God for my Tita Vivian and Tita Monette who gave us a place to stay near the hospital! Tita Vi sent us yummy home-cooked meals all the way from Antipolo.
Thank God for my sister-in-law Teene who helped us with our HMO, so our hospital bill was almost completely covered!
Thank God for my sisters-in-law Rea and Manang Rufil for baking me a cake, and for my Tita Inday who sent a cake to cheer me up.
Thank God for my cousin Kristine who was consoling me all throughout, and my cousin Grace who took care of me at TMC.
Thank God for everyone who prayed for us and sent us messages of hope and comfort.
So many blessings in those dark days.
We continue to pray for the miracle of another baby! I still do not know the plans He has for us, and I may never fully understand, but we will continue to cry out and and pray for peace that transcends understanding.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4: 6-7