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Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

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Read Erin's Story here:

______________________

It took me awhile to get this down. Should be easy, right? It’s my life, I lived it. But for some reason, the thought of re-living was terrifying. I’m sure in some way it will be therapeutic...or at least one can hope… 

My husband and I met in college, freshman year in English 101. How perfect is that? At first, he wasn’t someone I was totally attracted to but he won me over with his sense of humor and his ability to tease me while making me feel like the most important person in the room. He still manages to do this on a daily basis and it's one of things I love most about him. He doesn’t take life too seriously and he’s thoughtful in what he says. I’m the opposite, impulsive and stubborn but with a big heart. Always trying to put other people and their feelings before my own. 

Our relationship wasn’t perfect, never has been really but it’s great. Filled with lots of love, understanding and just respect mostly. We were together for almost 7 years before we got married and we grew up together essentially. We got married in April of 2014 but weren't interested in a family/kids right away. We were still pursuing our careers, living in downtown Chicago, enjoying restaurants, new bars, weekend getaway trips, exciting vacations, concerts, etc. You name it, we were doing it and luckily we had jobs and careers that allowed us to do some really fun things in our first few years of marriage. In October of 2017, Sean and I were sitting on the beach in Hawaii and I remember bringing up the idea of starting a family. We talked about it before but the timing didn’t seem right. But for some reason on that day, on that beach – it felt right. We thought the timing was perfect so we started trying. 

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

Reflecting on the first few months of trying, I just keep laughing at how naive we were. We were convinced it might take a few months and we needed to be patient but in reality it was fun “trying” to get pregnant. I miss those days. After about 8 months of trying, we fell pregnant. The exact same month I scheduled an appointment with a fertility clinic. Now the reason I jumped so quickly to see a doctor is because I had been off birth control since our wedding essentially and I have an early miscarriage the first year we were married. So after 8 months of trying I started to think something must be wrong… After a few doctor’s appointments, I suffered a miscarriage in June of 2018. It was heartbreaking. Mostly because we wanted it so badly to work this time around. We were both ready and we had taken steps towards building a home for our future family that summer out in the suburbs. It was a bug step but we were so serious about starting the next chapter in our lives. 

After the loss in June, our doctor advised us to keep trying. We were getting pregnant and that was good news. It just wasn’t a healthy embryo/pregnancy and statistically it would work very soon. In August, just a few short months later, I took a pregnancy test and was shocked that it was positive. We were still actively trying but didn’t expect it so soon. A few short days later, as my best friend’s wedding was coming up in a few short days. I started bleeding. Another early miscarriage and at my best friend’s wedding, as I stood up as her maid of honor. I miscarried. It was hard. Harder than I expected but also reflecting on it now, I became strong that day and it prepared me for what was to come. In December of that same year, history repeated itself. As we were going through the initial fertility testing required by my doctor to start trying. I got another positive pregnancy test two days short of the Christmas holiday by the day after Christmas, I was bleeding again. We got through those tough few days and looked forward to 2019 and the start to our fertility treatment journey. 

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

As 2019 begins, we started with our first IUI. I was excited, hopeful and knew this would work. We just needed a little help after all. The first one failed and we jumped right into our second one in February. The second one worked! Wow! We were thrilled, everything was good. Bloodwork/beta/progesterone all came back normal and we anxiously awaited our first ultrasound at 6 weeks. On March 4th of 2019, we had our first ultrasound. We were finally going to get to see a baby! Sean was giddy, I was oddly quiet but knew I would feel some relief once I got confirmation that everything looked OK. During the ultrasound, the tech kept pointing at a “sac” in my uterus and she said it was measuring a few days behind but that was normal. I had googled images of 6 week ultrasounds for weeks – that’s not what they looked like but I thought yeah maybe she’s right. I’m sure we’re just a little behind. She took some photos and said, I’ll check your ovaries and have you on your way! I looked at Sean and I remember smiling at him until I heard her gasp. I looked back and there it was – the image I was looking for. It was a perfect gestational sac with a tiny little embryo and that’s when she said “I’m so sorry – it’s ectopic”. I knew exactly what that was and I knew it was bad. I knew we would never meet our baby. Sean was confused. He doesn’t talk much in our appointments but I remember him asking all these questions. What’s wrong? What does that mean? Can’t we move it? I knew all the answers and I was eerily calm. I don’t even think I cried right away. They immediately got our doctor and he can in and started talking about treatment. He shared that I needed a methotrexate shot to dissolve the pregnancy and we needed to act fast before the baby grew anymore. He talked about risks for me and my health and that’s when Sean and I realized the seriousness of the situation and agreed to his course of treatment. They took my blood and the plan was to come back in for the shot to end the pregnancy. 

I’ve since asked Sean what the worst day of this journey has been – he still says that was the worst for him. We cried together on the couch pretty much all night. He tried to get me to eat and we watched “A Star is Born” that night. Every time I hear the song “Shallow” my eyes immediately fill with tears. Even though it was one of the hardest nights in our relationship, it was still so special. It felt like we had one night left with our baby, just the three of us. We woke up the next morning and the doctor called to share that my bloodwork came back and I could take the methotrexate shot. For those that aren’t familiar, methotrexate is a nasty chemo drug and from what I’ve read you have to have your blood work come back to ensure you are healthy enough to take the shot. As we replayed the last 24 hours in our head, we couldn’t stop thinking about what the ultrasound tech saw initially during our scan. Was there another sac? Maybe another miracle baby? We got a second opinion at a pro-life gynecologist down the street from our house. He confirmed that the sac was nothing but he was gentle, thoughtful and he gave us time to say goodbye to our babe. We scheduled the methotrexate shot on March 6th at our fertility clinic. 

Wednesday, March 6th 2019, we woke up and I showered. I remember feeling sick to my stomach and I told Sean that I felt pressure. We both brushed it off, saying it was probably just the baby growing in my fallopian tube and obviously it's not supposed to be in that small of a spot so that explained the pressure I was feeling. We arrived at the clinic and I remember my eyes being so swollen that I wore my sunglasses the entire time. The nurse administered the shot and we waited. They require you to stay for 30 minute for observation. When Sean and I were sitting in the room, I remember the pressure got worse and I finally mentioned it to the nurse. At that point I was getting shooting pain up by back and when I shared that, she immediately advised us to go to the emergency room. I brushed it off and said we weren’t doing that. I was exhausted, Sean was heading into work and I just wanted to go home and take a nap. I know now that my nurse left the room and frantically paged my doctor multiple times and pulled him out of a consultation 30 miles away because she knew my fallopian had most likely ruptured.  Was six weeks and two days pregnant and she was right. My doctor approved an ultrasound and although I reluctantly agreed to it, I remember thinking “let’s get this over with so she’ll let me leave and I can go home and forget this nightmare”. Once the ultrasound started, I was screaming out in pain. The pain was unbearable. The ultrasound tech took as many pictures as she could and confirmed my entire abdomen was filled with blood. Our nurse ran out and called 911. I was rushed in an ambulance to a local hospital and had emergency surgery to remove what was left of my left fallopian tube and my baby. 

Looking back now, it was amazing how many of the health care professionals I interacted with were so thoughtful. I remember the paramedic reassuring me in the ambulance that I would get a baby. The ER nurse told me that she just had her miracle baby through IVF 6 months prior. In all that pain and the craziness, there were all these very unique positive perspectives from complete strangers. It was really a beautiful thing. I was vulnerable, I was broken but also grateful to be getting the care I needed and oddly hopeful. Unlike Sean, this was the worst day for me so far. I remember after the ER surgeon came in to describe the surgery and review the risks, we had a few minutes before they wheeled me into surgery. I remember thinking all the worst things that could happen, all the things I wanted to tell Sean, my family, friends. It was overwhelming. I remember turning to Sean and with all the strength I had left I said “I know I’m going to be OK. But if I’m not, you’re going to be OK”. We both cried and he reassured me that I would be fine and he would see me after surgery. I never thought that I would be saying goodbye to him like that. We were just trying to have a baby. How is this happening? 

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

The surgery went well, I had a great surgeon who was on call and she gave us a lot of hope that the rest of my reproductive organs looked good in there ☺ We spent the next few months healing and my doctor encouraged us that due to my lost tube – it might be best to jump into IVF. We tried another IUI in June and when that didn’t work, we decided it was time to start IVF in July of 2019. The stimulation and retrieval is hard – the shots, the hormones, and the surgery – it’s not easy but I felt stronger after the ectopic. I felt like I could do anything so we got through it and were lucky to have 7 great looking embryos. We transferred one as a fresh transfer and had 6 to freeze. On August 8th, I got my first positive pregnancy test after our transfer 6dp5dt. We were ecstatic – this would be our rainbow baby! When we went in for our beta, they called and shared that it was on the low side and they were “cautiously optimistic”. Why couldn’t we just get good news? Why couldn’t this just be the real thing? It was devastating. I spent two long weeks in what I call “beta hell”. The numbers weren’t doubling but they were rising. We knew it wasn’t going to be viable but after several ultrasounds of not being able to find the pregnancy, it started getting concerning. 

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

Finally on August 27th, I went in for bloodwork and my beta doubled and it was right around 2,500. My nurse (the same one who essentially saved my life in March) called me with that same concerned voice and demanded that I go downtown to their Chicago office for an ultrasound. I complied and called Sean on my way down to the clinic. He was traveling in a different state for work, when I shared that they were asking me to drive downtown in the middle of the day – he knew it wasn’t good. He insisted on calling my parents to meet me and he was getting on the first flight home he could. When I arrived at the clinic, it was lunchtime and pretty empty. The ultrasound tech met me in the lobby and she walked me back. I had never met her before since I normally go to the suburban location. We jumped right in and she warned me that it wasn’t going to be comfortable. She said, I have to find this pregnancy today so if you need to take a break – just let me know. I was alone, I was scared but I agreed. I needed this hell to be over. Sure enough, maybe a minute in she found the pregnancy. This time it wasn’t in my tube or in my uterus. It was in my cervix. A cervical ectopic pregnancy, only the rarest of the rare ectopic pregnancy. I was relieved. I remember her saying how sorry she was and then she turned to me and said “you have very strong embryos”. I immediately was startled and I remember saying “its just a sac right?” and then she turned the screen and showed me my almost 8 week embryo with a heartbeat and I lost it. I wasn’t prepared for that. This whole time I just kept thinking it was an unhealthy pregnancy and that’s why it wasn’t showing up on the ultrasounds. I met my baby that day on the screen and was completely alone. It was heartbreaking. The next few hours were a blur. My parents came shortly after that and they were my support as I was consulted by several doctors and nurses over the next few hours.  

This was more complicated than my last ectopic. Cervical ectopic pregnancies are rare, resulting in less than .01% of ectopic pregnancies. And as I sat with several doctors at my fertility clinic, none had ever seen one and they certainly were not prepared to operate on one. The cervix is filled with blood vessels, so not only did this baby implant where they shouldn’t have – they embedded themselves within blood vessel filled tissue. Great. Just my luck! These are dangerous surgeries because of the risk of blood loss. In fact, most cervical ectopic pregnancies at 8-10 weeks result in a hysterectomy. I spoke to two surgeons in some of the best hospitals in Chicago and decided on the doctor that was thoughtful and empathetic to how I was feeling that night. I was adamant that I didn’t want to take the methotrexate shot again (severe PTSD from last time, can’t blame me right?) and the other surgeon insisted that I take it. I went to dinner that night at my favorite restaurant in Chicago, I drank a very expensive glass of wine and enjoyed a nice dinner with my parents and husband knowing the next day I would be having surgery AGAIN to remove my baby. When I drove home that night, I called both of my sister’s and I remember very calmly asking them to have my babies for me if I couldn’t. Of course, they reassured me that we wouldn’t have to worry about that and that I would be fine but I can honestly say that I wasn’t confident. I’m still not confident. The next morning we drove to Chicago and I had the surgery. My surgeon was successful in removing the pregnancy, controlling the blood loss and keeping my fertility intact. 

I spent the next few months healing physically. Sean and I took a long-awaited trip to Mexico and reflected on our fertility journey. It was nice to be together, away from the appointments, from work and all of life’s distractions. It was such a needed trip, it was impromptu and it was perfect. When we returned, we started gearing up for our first frozen transfer in December. We transferred two of our non-PGS tested embryos and a few weeks later got the news that it didn’t stick. My doctor called me to tell me how sorry I was and I remember saying “honestly, what did we expect? 2019 was a shitty year and it will end just as shitty as it began”. So here we are… in 2020. Two and half years later and no growing family to show for it. But 2019 did bring me a few things – it brought me a stronger partnership with my husband, it brought me trust in health care professionals that selflessly care for others and it brought me acceptance. Accepting that I might not know what the future holds for me and our family but I have to take each roadblock with grace and strength. I’m not perfect and I’ve had my moments, believe me, but as I reflect back on this and when I’m sharing with my future children about how we finally got to meet them – I want them to know how strong I was.

- Erin Barnes

Instagram - @e.barnes1

Facebook - Erin Barnes

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

Erin Barnes' Ectopic Pregnancy Story featured on top Infertility Online Community, The Slice of Sun.

☀️ CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BEST SOCKS ON THE PLANET TO HELP WOMEN WITH INFERTILITY! A portion of every single sale will go to an incredible woman experiencing infertility. They make the BEST gifts for women experiencing infertility to remind them they are loved OR to wear to your own appointments while working hard to grow your family to remind you that you have this community of women linking arms with you. You are incredible, sister!

CLICK HERE to join our safe, private Facebook group to meet other incredible women who are walking your path. ☀️ 

To read Pauline Ann's AVM story, click HERE

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