What It's Really Like to Be Pregnant When You Have Endometriosis
Endometriosis can cause complications during pregnancy. Bestselling author Taylor Jenkins shares her experience of ER visits and a c-section to give other women the courage it takes to reach delivery.
I am six months pregnant and I have started bleeding.
My husband is ten minutes away at a restaurant meeting a co-worker. I call him, trying to remain calm, trying to sound like I'm fully in control of everything.
"I think you need to come home."
He leaves his co-worker and comes to get me. I call my doctor. She calls me back as my husband and I are driving to the ER. I love my doctor. I trust her. I like her warm but reserved manner. I like the way she calls my baby, "Baby." I ask her if we should turn around. I say, "I think I'm overreacting."
"No," she says, with an even-tone. "I think it's important you go to the hospital."
I look at my husband. I say, "I'm not too worried. I bet everything's fine."
He says, "I bet so, too."
But we don't talk much the rest of the trip.
We pull into the ER and I'm escorted into the maternity ward via wheelchair. I can see people looking at me down the hallway. I want to tell them all that everything is fine.
We are wheeled into a room, and a monitor is placed on my stomach. I know what the monitor is supposed to sound like. I've heard the familiar thump thump of my baby's heartbeat in my previous ultrasounds. I know what to listen for.
And I can't hear it.
I look at my husband and my eyes start to water.
And then there it is. My baby's heart. Thump. Thump. Thump. She was hiding in the back. My husband grabs my hand and my tears recede back into my eyes like low tide.
"All looks good from here," the nurse says.
They keep me for four hours, hooked up to numerous machines, monitoring every movement. And then they say that everything is okay and I can go home.
"Do you know what caused the bleeding?" I ask.
"We can't be sure."
And so begins the last trimester of my pregnancy in which all I ever seem to hear is, "We can't be sure."
When I'm in the doctor's office the following Monday because I'm still bleeding, I ask, "What is going on?" We can't be sure.
When I'm prescribed bed rest and a course of steroid shots, all related to a concern the baby will be born early, I ask, "How likely is that?" We can't be sure.
When I'm thirty-four weeks pregnant and my baby hasn't turned yet, I ask, "Why is that?" We can't be sure.
And I blame myself, even though I know I shouldn't. Because my body never works right. My periods had been growing increasingly painful over the years, my digestive system doesn't function properly. And I don't really know why.
But when I'm wheeled into the OR for a c-section, answers start to become clear.
My baby girl is born and she is healthy and gorgeous and shrieking. She is fine. She is resilient and formidable and mighty. Will my baby be okay? Yes.
And then, as I have one hand on my baby girl, my little Lilah, the doctors are finishing the procedure. There is a "stickyness" with my uterus. There are extra blood vessels. There is extra tissue. I am loopy from an epidural and even I can piece together what's happening.
There's the answer to my endless questions.
When my daughter is five months old, I go in for a check up. I ask about the endometriosis. After all, I have my answer now.
I ask how severe it is. The doctor explains that she removed a lot of tissue but it's impossible to know if it's grown back. So... we can't be sure.
I say that I've heard, depending on the severity of endometriosis, it can be hard to get pregnant. "Is it surprising I could get pregnant in the first place?" We can't be sure.
"Will I have a hard time getting pregnant in the future?" We can't be sure.
Endometriosis is a gray scale of symptoms. It can be unpredictable pain with unknowable consequences. Some people have it worse than others, some of us get it in waves. And the answers to a lot of questions are "We can't be sure."
I do not know if my endometriosis is gone. I do not know how severe it has been in the past. I do not know how severe it will be in the future. I do not know if the pain is behind me or just beginning. And I do not know if I can have another baby.
All I know is that my womb was not the most comfortable place for my daughter, and she made it work anyway.
And that answer's good enough for me.
Taylor Jenkins Reid lives in Los Angeles and is the acclaimed author of One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her most recent novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, just published. Her novels have been named best books of summer by People, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, InStyle, PopSugar, BuzzFeed, Goodreads, and others.
In addition to her novels, Taylor's essays have appeared in places such as the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, and Money Magazine.