“Katie, I’m 8 weeks pregnant, I held off from telling you as long as I could because I know this news could upset you, but I consider you a close friend and I want to tell you and others first before I make it public” she tells me in a voice note on instagram.
A very close friend is pregnant. I listen to the words on repeat, I hear myself whisper those words.
I can’t breathe. Those words are splinters puncturing my heart. Envy lodges in my throat. I feel nothing and everything all at once.
This is an announcement that is meant to exude joy, but an avalanche of despair, jealousy and rage crashes through me. An emotional maelstrom whirls around me, and I crumble into a heap. A wailing banshee on the living room floor. Thank god my partner was at work.
It is a rarity for me to exhibit such fevered emotions, I’m often stoic with a quiet demeanour, astrologers would report it is the placement of Virgo in my moon sign that’s the reason for my placid and down to earth nature, I tend to try and analyse my emotions, never quite feeling into them. I’ve also never really known jealousy because I liken our lives to wildflowers, each of us experience and grow in varied ways, a daisy is not envious of a buttercup and a bluebell is not jealous of a poppy. Considering my little analogy I’m often happy for others, even during dark times in my life, I know those moments won’t last forever. All of us witness the ebb and flow of life at varying stages. We’re all wildflowers just doing our best, trying to thrive in this meadow of life.
But this was different. This was something I attained and it was brutally taken away from me. This is something I still desire and it is out of my reach. It feels as unattainable as the moon. Dark memories of blood and death bubbled, every tremor of grief erupted from my glacial stoicism, cracked deep along my emotional faultline.
I want to be happy for my friend. She is beautiful, kind and sweet. I want to reach out and hug her, to be excited and supportive.
But instead she is the mirror. The wishing well, reflecting back at me what I lost and what she accidentally acquired with no effort.
A cruel irony.
I’m screaming, with hot tears streaming down my face, a hard subtropical storm. “It’s not fair! It’s not fucking fair!!!” Possessed by a frenzied fury deep in my bones. Tempestuous. Tidal.
Her news to me was delicate and aching, just terrible timing. I wasn’t angry at Sara, I was heartbroken. This was a sick joke played on me by the gods. Looking out the window and reflecting on the news of her pregnancy, the trees tell me It is mid November right now and the air is crisp, leaves are falling and homes are cosy. Yet behind the cosiness is the haunting anniversary of my near death creeping closer to my door like frost.
November 2020 I found out I was pregnant, but instead of celebrating new life, I was rushed into surgery to save mine. I am an ectopic pregnancy survivor. A one in eighty chance of such a torture. I’m a bereft of an 8 week old pregnancy and my left fallopian tube. The dead foetus severed and whipped out of my belly button like an alien birth.
Ruptured… Butchered….Damaged womb.
The simplest things trigger me, trigger a meltdown. Flashbacks and nightmares invade my thoughts and dreams. Showering and moisturising my skin was once a great pleasure, a beauty ritual that made me feel like queen Cleopatra, now riddled with torment at having to look at my body. I avoid touching my scars. I neglect placing my hands on my stomach. I can not bring myself to love that part of my body, even though it needs it the most. my body was punctured like Frankenstein’s creature. I felt like a creature, a barren broken animal.
It’s been over 12 months now. I know my pain is old news and people tell me to move on, get over it, it’s just a scar, it was a quick operation, at least you’re alive. Comparing my trauma to the removal of a vestigial appendage.
But it’s all still so raw for me. I shudder at the flashbacks whilst washing the dishes and taking a shower. The recurring nightmares of nurses pinning me down as I struggle like a caged leopard backed into a corner-hissing and scratching, terrified and mumbling with shock, blood oozing out of my vagina like lava and doctors rushing around me like moths poking a lightbulb. I remember waking up on the recovery ward to see tubes sprouting from my body like vines, draining out the blood from my stomach, canullas pumping medication in my arms and a catheter inserted in my urethra. Barely moving. I’d lost a lot of blood, I wasn’t eating. I was weak, disorientated and enveloped by grief.
I remember being frightened and bleeding heavily in the early pregnancy unit, waiting in a silence that cuts like knives and then…
“I’m sorry, your pregnancy is ectopic, you are bleeding into your stomach, we need to prep you for surgery.”
I’m staring with sorrow at the bloodied hysteroscope and a poster of a happy couple holding a baby in the background.
I was supposed to have the operation in the afternoon to give me time to adjust to the news. Within minutes over ten medical staff began fluttering around me like panicked butterflies. The nurse couldn’t place the two cannulas in my arms and I screamed in pain at the 3rd, 4th, 5th attempts. I had lost so much blood my veins were failing.
Going into shock, body cold and shuddering, I begin to mumble incoherently as a doctor tells my partner “If we don’t operate now, you’ll lose her within the hour.”
The so-called ‘simple’ one hour procedure became two and half hours, to quote the surgeon “It took longer than expected— it was a bloody mess”.
My partner had no idea if I had made it, he was left waiting, wondering. No medical staff updated him. Three incisions were made, two for tubes to drain the blood and a third for the laparoscopic operation through the belly button to cut away my ruptured fallopian tube and foetus.
My first day on the recovery ward, I was informed that my body will still think it is pregnant for many weeks and will continue to produce pregnancy hormones. That this would cause great emotional distress and I was advised to be gentle with myself. To feel both full and empty at the same time broke my heart. To feel full and blossoming with life but knowing it’s a mirage, that my womb is vacant destroyed me.
I often think of that tiny being, it got stuck and accidentally almost killed me. It had the beginnings of a heart beat, a consciousness and was potentially frightened as it was dying alone. Although I can’t say for sure, it’s a passing thought, I suppose from some short lived residue motherly instinct wishing I could have saved my pregnancy. There are days I find myself whispering to the aether “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. Please forgive me.”
This heartbreaking experience pulled me deep inside myself, I lost the joy in the small things, working on my passions or socialising became painful. I kept blaming myself for the loss of my baby and I’m still scared for the future- Can I conceive again with only one fallopian tube? Will an ectopic happen again? Making love will no longer feel 100% safe, there will always be fear for my life during an act of love meant to create life.
There are still days I feel like I am drowning, and over the past 12 months I let myself. I let myself feel it all. I surrendered to all my sorrow and anger. I allowed my anger to erupt like a volcano. I am angry for every woman who has been silenced in liminal agony. I am angry at society’s failure at protecting and supporting women. I am angry at the unease of which it feels to be a woman knowing my body is an invitation for constant judgement. I am deeply saddened by perpetuating mistreatment, dismissive and impudent commentaries of tragic birthing and pregnancy loss stories. I am angered by lack of social and medical care towards pregnancy health, especially in the first trimester.
But slowly as I saw through the fog, I noticed for the first time, in a long time, the profound beauty that had always been in front of me. I see now that this near death was a rebirth. I am here to speak up and be an advocate for change. I see now how precious life really is, when you look death in the eye, you face your sweet mortality and you realise that time is short. I want to fill my time with reverence and awe at the world, I’m not going to waste it on things that really don’t matter.
Self-growth takes sacrifice, the phoenix doesn’t just rise from the ashes, she must first set fire to herself. She rises not from simply destruction and devastation around her, she destroys every bit of what defines her in order to become the next rendition of herself.
On my healing journey I took steps to burn away all that defines me and all that was holding me back. My ectopic pregnancy made me redefine so many aspects of myself.
I no longer hold the weight of the past or the static noise of others drowning out my voice and my truth.
I have room for my stories to weave their way through the strands, to become a way-finder and I’ve been able to grow into someone I am proud of.
Despite it all, I conquered. What was stuck will move, what was lost will be found, and what overwhelmed me will be what allowed me to grow and become the person I was always meant to be. So much changes with time, and perspective is a powerful thing, it’s only been over a year but everything is different now. And while I am still on my healing journey, I have made great waves in finding myself. And I hope to always find the strength to burn and set fire to what I must when it’s time to begin anew and rise again from the ashes. With this death, birthed a voice inside me that has become a protectress of my sovereignty, my body and that of others.
Moving through my pain, my remedy is standing by my close friend who is pregnant with her first child. I can not neglect her the way society neglected me and many other women on this journey. I take ownership of my own jealousy, I want to transform my hurt into love, soothe my shadows so that I may be of the light, walking with my friend so that she doesn’t face the hardship of pregnancy alone. Being her guardian heals the wound within my womb and births so much love deep in my heart.
Katie Ness is a writer and poet living in London. Her poetry is published with Hecate magazine, Wandering Autumn, Beyond the Veil Press, Solstice Literary and more. Her short stories, essays and articles can be read in Mulberry Literary, We for Women Stories, Little Lion Press, Kindred Spirit, Femme Occulte and more. Her poetry chapbook ‘Aphrodite Fever Dream’ is soon to be published with Undressed Society Publishing. When Katie is not writing, she is a yoga teacher specialising in women’s wellbeing. As an ectopic pregnancy survivor she openly speaks out about her experience to spread awareness for women’s reproductive health care and body autonomy. Katie has a BA Hons degree in Fine Art and is looking to do an MFA in Creative Writing & Journalism in the near future. She is currently working on a short story collection and travel memoir. https://www.instagram.com/katie_wild_yogi/