In addition to physical recovery, the emotional impact of baby loss from an ectopic pregnancy is immense. Different women react in different ways to the experience of an ectopic pregnancy. Some feel the loss of a baby very strongly. Other women find it hard to think of what they have lost as a baby; rather they see it as an embryo in the very early stages of development. Whether your response is very emotional or more clinical, there is no right or wrong way to reflect upon what has happened to you.
The grief that accompanies the loss of a potential little life during early pregnancy is very frustrating. Prenatal loss is a most private loss; your little one was not known, not yet introduced to the world. For many of you, your close friends may even be unaware. There is nothing visible to mourn, no funeral for public support. You may choose your own type of ceremony to mark your loss. To many this can be in the shape of planting a tree, releasing a balloon etc. This is an individual need and can bring some form of closure to the grieving parent. Who you told about your pregnancy is different for all of you. This will also indicate what level of support you may have available to you following your ectopic.
Initial feelings of shock and denial, followed by anger and bargaining, sadness and depression eventually followed by acceptance and hope (Kubler – Ross, E, 1969) are all normal feelings following the loss of a baby in pregnancy. There is no prescribed structure these stages will go through. One could take longer than the others. Shock usually comes first, followed by denial. Bargaining is a key stage for sufferers of an ectopic pregnancy; what could I have done, could they take me instead, survivor’s guilt along with the frustration of having the baby surgically or medicinally removed.
Post trauma leads to a need to re-visit your experience. You may experience strong flashbacks of the days and weeks that went before, remembering symptoms and diagnosis. You may have a strong urge to talk about it to many; this is a normal part of post trauma and this method of healing is also encouraged as it builds a support network and allows people to understand what you are going through. We can only give out that people don’t understand if we never tell them and this is especially true of our partners.
Recovering from an ectopic pregnancy can often lead to a re-evaluation of your life. This is common following an incident in which your life was at risk. It is not uncommon to reassess your situation and try to exert control.
The control we associate with our bodies and our fertility has been thrown into disarray and this can lead us to change our outlook and refocus our energies.
(These timelines are not concrete – everyone will experience different feelings at different times.)
In the first week following your ectopic, crying every day is okay and to be expected.
1 – 6 weeks
Partners’ feelings and priorities are more often on you as their partner instead of on what you have lost, which can be very difficult and confusing. You need your partner to understand and empathise with your loss, but, especially if your ectopic was treated with emergency surgery, their sole perspective is on you as their loved one. They may even feel angry at the unborn baby for the position they put you in.
Their intentions to be useful and offer distractions are all because they love you, not because they don’t care. Partners often like to be able to fix the situation – let them know that all they need do is support and listen; they can’t fix this one.
It is important to realise that grieving is a process, not an event – it will get easier and hope and acceptance will override.