Written by Ijeoma Mogo
I finally got to see my baby! Indescribable is the only word I can use to express how it felt as I caught the first glimpse. It was the 6th of July 2020 and even though ultrasounds seem cute in movies, in reality, they are far from it. My bladder was painfully full; it is criminal to ask a pregnant woman not to pee. But as soon as I saw my baby’s head, noticeably as big as my husband’s, the pain was forgotten.
My husband, Chike, and I smiled at each other thinking, “We did that.” That beautiful creature floating weightlessly on the screen was ours. We had crossed the first trimester mark, so it was time to share the news with extended family and close friends. Their reactions were epic! From full-on tears to excited dancing and a long series of emojis, our baby would be surrounded by so much love.
We were relieved because the ultrasound ruled out chromosome defects. However, the report that came with it included disturbing information. According to the report, I had a “very large” fibroid and since it was a medical report it was clear that there was no exaggeration.
The report detailed the fibroid as 12.7cm by 11.2 cm by 17.7cm with a volume of about 1.3 liters.
To put things into perspective, the A4 paper you print on is 8cm by 11 cm. Let that sink in! As the daughter of a medical doctor and cousin to an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Chicago Medicine, I circulated the information quickly for feedback. Apparently, because of the fibroid, my pregnancy was going to look like I was carrying multiple babies. Whatever symptoms I was having would align with what I should typically experience 10 weeks later.
On Thursday, July 9th, 2020, the pain started. It was a spasm that ripped through my body so intensely that it knocked the wind out of me, I had to scream. The spasms came often but with no specific time pattern, every 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 2 minutes. Sitting in the car was unbearable, each bump on the road was felt in my soul. At this point, it was clear something was wrong.
After a visit to my family doctor, I was rushed over to the emergency with possible appendicitis. Three hours later after two IV bags, two bags of hydromorphone, and an ultrasound, it was clear that this was not a ruptured appendix. And for this first time in my life, I was admitted to the hospital till they could figure out what was wrong. To help me sleep better, I was given Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) to self-manage the pain. But the spasms were coming in faster than the medication could relieve me. It did not work.
The next day, we were sent to get another ultrasound to see if there was something wrong with my ‘gall bladder’. Like really guys? Are we going to ignore the literal elephant in the room? The massive fibroid? Finally, it was confirmed my pain was from ‘Fibroid Degeneration.’ Coming face to face with the parasite that was literally knocking the wind out of me was extremely terrifying. It was three times the size of my baby, and the pain I was feeling was an indication that the baby and the fibroid could not co-exist. Apparently, the baby was competing with the fibroid and cutting off its blood supply. I was proud that my baby was showing it “pepper”.
Over the next four days, the pain got increasingly worse. Lying down was painful, walking was painful, talking was painful and I couldn’t make a complete sentence. I was hurting in multiple places and none of the medicine was working. The saddest part was that the assigned doctor did not believe I was in pain. It was almost like labor, because. It never even crossed my mind that my baby was in danger.
After four days of having my pain dismissed, on July 14th, I was finally given the medication I needed to treat the fibroid degeneration. It worked and I was feeling better but not for long. Later that morning I was on the phone with my twin when I stood up to pee and didn’t quite make it to the washroom. I had peed on myself and the pee did not stop, it kept pouring, rushing out like a tap.
This was the first indication that something was not right. Then I saw a sticky mucus discharge come out of me so I radioed for the nurse to come. She picked up the mucus and threw it in a specimen bag. I was set on the bed for the doctors to check my uterus to see what was going on. After taking a few samples, they left the room and Chike walked in. I explained everything that happened and we waited for news.
And then like you would see in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, two doctors walked in wearing blue scrubs with their hands clasped and head hanging low. Before they said a word, I knew it was bad news. The doctor explained that the mucus was membrane, and this was the only thing holding the baby in the amniotic sac. Once that is broken, it is unlikely that the baby would go to full term and if it did, it may not form fully. We needed to make the decision on whether to keep the baby. My ears were ringing and I could not process what I was hearing. I started to cry.
As soon as we were alone in the room, I wailed from the depths of my soul. I cried so hard and remember saying repeatedly “my baby?” I could not believe it. At every ultrasound, the baby had been fine. I had seen the big head and heard the strong heartbeat. So how did this make any sense? Chike tried to calm me down, but I was heartbroken.
We called our families who had all just watched the ultrasound video the week before. They were as shocked as we were but everyone’s words were the same, “We would have more babies.” I didn’t want the reassuring words, all I wanted was THIS baby, MY baby. However, my father pierced through my grief and offered the most profound words. He said in Igbo, “You can take a vessel to the stream to fetch water, if the water pours out, you can go back to the stream and get more water. But if the vessel breaks, you cannot get more water.” I’m not sure why or how, but I finally stopped crying.
I was still leaking, but the water had turned to blood. It stopped trickling and started pouring. Suddenly, I was standing in a pool of blood. My husband tried to clean it up with blankets and towels so I wouldn’t be traumatized but it was useless, my blood was everywhere.
A wheelchair was brought to move me to the delivery room and as I was getting cleaned up, I felt something strange coming out of my body. Almost instantly I knew it was the baby. It was all happening so fast that I almost felt like I was having an out of body experience.