No one talks about PUL
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Perhaps you lose your job or your holiday gets cancelled. May be your wedding venue has double booked. All things that would impact your life in some way, negatively I would imagine. Luckily for me none of these things have happened. My wedding, in particular, was unbelievable. I got married at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton. Everything was so perfect, I wouldn’t do a thing differently. It wasn’t long after the wedding that it became obvious that I wanted children.
When I first knew I wanted a baby I knew little about the complications of trying to conceive. You meet, fall in love, have a baby, right? It soon became apparent that more planning was required than just stopping the fags and the pill. In fact, month after month went by and each test was negative. I can’t describe the pressure I felt to get it right. It wasn’t only me that expected a baby but my family and extended friendship circle were eagerly awaiting the news. A bit of advice, NEVER ask a newly wed when they’re starting a family – it’s fuck all to do with you.
5 months after the wedding I saw a positive on the test. Driving to Boots in a retail park on Bank Holiday was a nightmare but as soon as I saw the line I didn’t care. Finally, I was going to be a mother. I was overwhelmed with excitement. Deciding to keep it as a secret until the scan I carefully watched what I ate. We avoided situations where people would question why I wasn’t drinking – it would most definiately have aroused suspicions, I was rather partial to a Pinot G.
My heart rose to my throat
On a yearly visit to Chatsworth show I was sat with my Mum. I wanted to tell her so badly but thankfully I kept my mouth shut. Returning to her house before the car journey home I nipped to pee. To my horror I was bleeding. The tears welled up in my eyes. My heart rose to my throat. I began to sweat. The panic is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’d read about bleeding and although they said it was sometimes nothing I knew that more likely than not this baby would not be staying.
I didn’t say a word. I don’t know why, not even to my husband. Then a day later at work I snapped at my boss and broke down in tears. She told me to see the doctor. The doctor was lovely, a huge pregnant belly herself, she could tell how frightened I was. I got in for an early scan and came clean to my husband. On the night before the scan it got worse. No longer spotting, I was bleeding. My body ached and I knew I was losing our baby. I spent the afternoon and evening between the bed and the bathroom. At one point I swear I saw a tiny tiny shape, like the image you might see on an app. Of course now I no it couldn’t possibly have been. There would be nothing to see so early on. I felt like cancelling the scan because I knew there would be nothing there, it would save us both further pain.
No one wants to be told that they’ve had a miscarriage. I can hear the voice of the lady now, ‘it looks like you’ve had a very early miscarriage’. I distinctly remember being told it was ‘very early’ because I instantly felt stupid for being so upset. Of course it’s early. It’s not as bad as it being later on is it? I mean, some women barely know they’re pregnant at this stage do they? And we left. Hearts in hands, baby in heaven.
The following week I was on residential at school. Fuck it, I had to go. I’d told my boss what happened and I swear she thought I’d lied. ‘Did they do anything else?’ She asked as I stuck my head through the door to say I was in. I told her what they’d said and how I’d have to do another pregnancy test to make sure in a weeks time. She relayed how ‘unusual’ it was that they’d just told me to go without any further ‘procedure’. I should have taken the week off thinking about it but any other member of staff in a school will know that you feel committed like no other profession. They needed me for the residential so off I went. Yes, while I was miscarrying my baby I went on a Year 5 residential.
The residential came and went. I started smoking again and took solace in my breaks. On my return I took the pregnancy test the hospital gave me. It was positive. How? As it was the weekend I waited to phone the EPAU. When the I told the midwife it was still positive she said I had to go in and have some blood taken. They needed the samples a few days apart, if my hcg level went up I could still be having a baby. If it stayed the same I might have an ectopic pregnancy. My boss, ever sympathetic, made me clarify on my return to work form for health and safety reasons, that I was still pregnant. I hated her for making me feel like such a mess. I was having bits of time off for appointments all over the place, mentally I couldn’t focus on anything other that myself.
When the bloods came back it wasn’t good news, the level had stayed the same. I remember trying to get her to let me go later that day because I knew my boss would be pissed that I was leaving in the middle of the morning. Why did I care? There was a medical professional on the phone telling me that my body could start bleeding internally if I didn’t go in and I was worried about my sick record! There was the tiny bit of me that thought perhaps it would all be ok, that it was a big misunderstanding. I was wrong. A second scan showed nothing, nothing at all.
I was pregnant with no baby inside. The doctor referred to it as a PUL, a Pregnancy of Unknown Location. I was so confused. There was a baby in there somewhere, just not growing, and not where it should be. I felt like my body was faulty. Like I was broken somehow. There was no way there was anything in there, I felt sure I’d seen it with my own eyes a almost two weeks earlier.
I had to have a methotrexate injection. In my head it was medicine. In my heart I was killing my baby to save myself. I knew that there would be no way that the baby could be saved but it didn’t stop me feeling that way. The thing I wanted most in the world was hanging over my head, and could kill me.
In the following weeks I told family that I’d had an ectopic pregnancy. It felt easier than going through everything step by step. People had at least heard of ectopics. My blood was tested regularly at the hospital to make sure the methotrexate had worked. Eventually it had, my hcg was low enough for me to be considered not pregnant and I could start moving on. I never have heard anyone talk about PUL since that time. I still wonder about the one that got away. Would he or she have been a good older brother or sister? Would they be like me? Their hair, eyes, voice. But there comes a time when we have to move on. I’ve never talked about this in depth with anyone. It was too hard.
Chose your words wisely
I think that hardest thing was keeping a lid on how felt around people who didn’t know. My sister announced her pregnancy within weeks of my blood being ‘clear’. It crushed me. People would say ‘well, we thought it would be you’ or ‘you’re going to have to catch up’ or ‘better get a move on’. Not once did I tell them what I’d been through. I’d just sit and mentally pick them apart. My envy and hurt made me bitter. I couldn’t look at my sister for months, let alone talk to her. Not long after that my half sister announced her pregnancy. In turn I got to announce mine.
He’s happy and he’s healthy. The worry I had in the first trimester was overwhelming. Luckily I was offered an early scan which put my mind at ease a little. My experience certainly took some of the joy out of finding out I was pregnant again. Instead of being exciting and looking at prams I was scared and trying not to think the worst.
If it’s you
If you’re going through this right now. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It hurts but you will heal. Don’t be so hard on yourself. There’s a line in a favourite song of mine that helped me, just remember.
‘And if you were with me tonight,
Id’ sing to you just one more time,
a song for a heart so big,
God wouldn’t let it live’.
*PUL is defined as:
A pregnancy of unknown location (PUL) is when, in a woman with a positive pregnancy test, an empty uterus is visualised on transvaginal ultrasound scan (TVS), with no signs of an intrauterine pregnancy (IUP) or an extrauterine (ectopic) pregnancy.