The Time My Surgical Sterilization Failed

Heather Monroe

When the Impossible Happened

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2TH1Qu_0Y2UedJD00 Public Domian, Courtesy of Zwager

I Was Done Having Children

“I want my tubes tied,” I said to my doctor with absolute certainty. As far as children go, I already did my part. I already gave birth to five children and helped raise my husband’s three. I was 37 and just gave birth to my one and only son. Most of my kids already left the nest. The only children left were the newborn, 12-year old daughter and my then 17-year old.

“We can tie your tubes if you like. It is major surgery, and the recovery time is long.” He cautioned. “Or, we can implant Essure.” He held in his hand a tiny little spring. He explained how he could place one in each fallopian tube, and in three months, scar tissue would form around the nickel coils. Theoretically, the scar tissue is the perfect sperm barricade. I was instantly suspicious of the coils.

“I’ll just get my tubes tied,” I told my doctor. Something in my gut told me to trust the tried and true.

“You won’t be able to hold your baby for a week!” He warned, a little too enthusiastically. “Let me place the Essure coils. It’s a small procedure. You’ll go to sleep and wake up sterilized. You’ll get to go home and hold your baby that day!” He made it sound like a day trip and a nap. I couldn’t stand the thought of not holding my little guy, so I gave in. I had my Essure placement in February of 2014. I had no real issues, initially, aside from some pretty severe cramping and heavy bleeding. Life went on as usual.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4PCQhc_0Y2UedJD00

Detail of Essure Diagram by Petr Kovář MUDr. Havířov Licensed under Creative Commons, Wikimedia

“We can tie your tubes if you like. It is major surgery, and the recovery time is long.” He cautioned. “Or, we can implant Essure.” He held in his hand a tiny little spring. He explained how he could place one in each fallopian tube, and in three months, scar tissue would form around the nickel coils. Theoretically, the scar tissue is the perfect sperm barricade.

“I’ll just get my tubes tied,” I told my doctor. I was instantly suspicious. Something in my gut told me to trust the tried and true.

“You won’t be able to hold your baby for a week!” He warned, a little too enthusiastically. “Let me place the Essure coils. It’s a small procedure. You’ll go to sleep and wake up sterilized. You’ll get to go home and hold your baby that day!” He made it sound like a day trip and a nap. I couldn’t stand the thought of not holding my little guy, so I gave in. I had my Essure placement in February of 2014. I had no real issues, initially, aside from some pretty severe cramping and heavy bleeding. Life went on as usual.

And Then It Happened

Three years after the Essure procedure, I found myself in the hospital over an unrelated heart issue. My heart was racing for no apparent reason. The nurse asked me if I could be pregnant. “Nope! Sterile as a cotton ball!” I assured her. She giggled and skipped the pregnancy test. Doctors had to give me a dose of this hell-drug called Adenosine to momentarily stop my heart so it would come back at a regular rate. It’s the medical equivalent of, “Did you try restarting it?”

The doctors sent me home, and my grown-up daughter, Cheyenne, came to check on me.

“I think I need to take a pregnancy test,” Cheyenne said as she plopped herself on the couch. She explained that she was one day late, and she just wanted to rule pregnancy in or out.

“So, go take a test, Cheyenne! You’re 20 now, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.” I told her as she fiddled with the strap on her sandal.

“I don’t want to take one by myself!” She said. “Take one with me. I’ll buy it. Please, mom!”

I protested at first. I was sterile. Barren as the desert we lived in. Still, I agreed to this colossal waist of time just to show support.I thought this was a colossal waste of time.

I envisioned myself as a grandma. I was 41 then and pretty young for grandma-hood. Would I be the cookie making type, or a wine consuming Glamma? Would the baby love me with the same reverence and awe that I had for my grandmother?

“Get the red dye tests, not the blue dye. I don’t care if they are cheaper. And get an extra one, in case you screw up the first time,” was the first piece of mom advice I ever gave Cheyenne. It was experience talking. The blue dye test had made me cry unnecessarily before.

Back at home, Cheyenne and I rushed to our separate bathrooms. It was the moment of truth. I peed on the stick like the old pro that I am and daydreamed about what a grandchild might call me. After about a minute, I looked at the test to make sure the pee was traveling across the window correctly and that the single control line showed up.

‘Funny how the control line is where the test line should be.’ No sooner did I think that then the actual test line started to develop in the test window. This test had two lines on it. It was positive.

“What are you trying to tell me?” I asked the test out loud as if it would answer me. The test just grew darker and more vivid. My hands trembled as I stood up from the toilet and tried to pull my pants up.

I ran across the house, holding up my unbuttoned pants with one hand and a pregnancy test in the other. Explatives flew out of my mouth. In the not so far distance, I heard Cheyenne yelling too.

“Oh my God!” she cried.

We nearly collided in the middle of the living room. Each of us holding a positive pregnancy test.

“Are you kidding me!” I yelled. “We’re both pregnant? How? No, this can’t be right.”

“I need to go to the ER!” Cheyenne’s voice shook as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Oh my gosh, Cheyenne! You’re pregnant! The hospital can’t really help you!” We laughed at the absurdity of the entire situation.

“Clearly, these are faulty tests. Probably a bad batch from the factory.” I consoled myself. I had an idea. We made Brennah, the 17-year-old celibacy enthusiast, take the other test. Negative.

As women do, we returned to the store and purchased two of every red-dye pregnancy test they had and a couple of digital ones, for good measure. We guzzled water maniacally to produce enough urine for the task ahead.

Every single test came back positive. The digital even told us that we were 1–2 weeks past conception. There was no denying it; we were positively pregnant.

A Tale of Two Pregnancies

Cheyenne quickly grew excited at the prospect of being a mother. She started planning a cutesy way to tell the father.

I didn’t ever plan to become a mom again at 41. I was satisfied with little Soren and my girls. I snapped a picture of my test next to Cheyenne’s and sent it to my husband. I captioned it “Would you look at this! Me and Cheyenne!”

“Is this a joke?” he asked in disbelief. "You are sterile!"

Turns out, being pregnant with Essure on board is dangerous. These pregnancies are often ectopic, which can be a life or death situation. I trotted off to the doctor where my husband was waiting, looking none too happy.

“I thought we couldn’t get pregnant!” He said. It was more of an accusation than a statement.

“Yet, here we are..” I said as I donned the paper gown of dread.

The doctor came in and explained that Essure does have a tiny failure rate. Of all the women who get the procedure, about 99.8 percent of them don’t get pregnant.

“You should buy a lottery ticket!” The doctor joked as he rooted around my vagina with an ultrasound probe. I was not amused.

The pregnancy was in my uterus, thankfully. I appeared to be right around four weeks along with a tentative due date of February 16. But we were not out of the woods.

The tail ends of coils protrude from the fallopian tubes into the uterus. They may have even migrated farther in, for all we knew. As time progressed, the coils could stretch and move, and potentially rupture my membranes. I would need to see a Fetal Medicine Doctor twice a week.

“Besides, this is a geriatric pregnancy. You would need a specialist anyway.” the doctor told me. He stretched the word “geriatric” dramatically.

“Excuse me, what?” Did this man call me old? He explained that every woman who conceives after 35 is a geriatric mom. A more polite term is Advanced Maternal Age (AMA), and it’s not risk-free. My dusty old eggs might not have the right combination of chromosomes.

“There is no shame,” the doctor assured me, “In terminating this pregnancy.”

I pondered the idea of having an abortion. I was older, and I was tired. My body was tired. I didn’t know if I could mother a baby at this stage in my life, no matter how much I loved it. But, I decided that a sperm who swam through metal coils and scar tissue to get to my egg and become a whole human being would produce a person that I want to meet. This person would be my child. And I would love that child the best way I could, and any combination of chromosomes it had.

My husband was supportive, but from a distance. He didn’t want to bond with an embryo we had such a high risk of losing

“Please. Let’s not talk about it until the 2nd trimester. Not unless we have to.” I realized I would be alone in my emotions for 12 weeks.

It didn’t take long for the early pregnancy symptoms to kick in. I couldn’t hold anything down, and I was dizzy every time I stood up. Every round-ligament pain convinced me I was losing the pregnancy. But I didn’t.

Fetal DNA Test

At my six-week check-up, my doctor offered me a fetal DNA test. The whole test is so sci-fi. A nurse took some blood from my arm and separated my DNA from the baby’s. In a few short weeks, this test would tell me if my baby was chromosomally healthy. The whole process was so sci-fi, but the wait was agonizing. I got the call when I was nine weeks along, and feeling particularly nauseated.

“Hello, Ms. Monroe? I have the results of your baby’s DNA test. Can I read them to you over the phone?” asked my Fetal Medicine Doctor. My heart sank into my stomach. I sat on the floor in case I fainted.

“Your baby appears to have all of the correct chromosomes in all of the correct places.” I burst into tears of relief. “Would you like to know the gender?” I did. “Let’s see. No Y chromosome detected. It looks like you have a female child. Are you OK with that?”

Suddenly, I didn’t have a parasitic embryo feeding off of my elderly body. Nope. I had a fifth daughter to add to my collection, and I loved her fiercely. I texted my husband. He was going to hear this if he liked it or not.

“Our baby is healthy. She is a girl. We are going to name her Charlotte, but we will call her Lottie.”

“Cool,” he texted back.

Suddenly I wasn’t only picturing grand-motherhood, but embracing motherhood under the unlikeliest of circumstances.

By this time, Cheyenne also had her first doctor appointment. Her due date was the same as mine!

A few weeks later, I bought Cheyenne a 3d ultrasound, and we learned that I had a granddaughter! And she was lovely! Undoubtedly, the universe sent these babies for a reason.

Cheyenne and I scheduled our prenatal visits together. We daily belly comparisons and commiserated about the condition that is human pregnancy at any age. She suggested we have a joint baby shower.

“No, sweety. You have your moment.” I told her. I was too old for such a thing. Five baby showers thrown on my behalf was enough. After all, my friends were embracing life beyond motherhood. Surely, they didn’t want to interrupt their vacations and vow renewals because my sterilization failed.

Instead, I selected three of the most inspiring women in my life and treated them to a boozy brunch at an upscale restaurant. I had juice, of course. “No gifts!” I insisted. The upside of being a middle-aged pregnant lady is that you can afford all of the gadgets and clothing a baby requires. I watched them sip 10 AM mimosas while they opened a gift from me; a gift bag with a letter and a small piece of jewelry inside. We didn’t play any silly games, and there was no talk about babies. It was a fantastic escape from a reality that I had not fully reconciled myself with.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4EB53E_0Y2UedJD00 Photo of Cheyenne and me, Gestating away, by Heather Monroe

When Cheyenne’s baby shower rolled around, I threw on my big girl pants, stretched a “World’s Best Grandma” tee-shirt over my impossibly round belly and enjoyed watching her have her moment.

…And Two Labors

On February 9, I went to the doctor. I was dilated five centimeters and needed to go to the hospital. It was go-time! Cheyenne called on the way to tell me she was admitted to a different hospital a town over. We were going to labor at the same time because apparently, we did everything at the same time.

I spent the prior nine months fretting about this labor. The others were so easy, and I convinced myself my luck would end with this one. I was wrong. I slept through majority of my labor. I woke up when it was time to push an hour after admission.

My newest daughter rushed into the world, screaming. And she was beautiful. Every warm and tender feeling I had for any of my children, I had once again. Charlotte Anne, Lottie, was 6lbs, 14oz and bald as a cucumber.

I looked up at my husband. There was that look I had been searching for. The look that said, “I will love this child with all that I have.” It was waiting for this moment to reveal itself. My heart was full, and I could not imagine it being any fuller.

I pressed Charlotte’s skin to mine and held her over my heart. She looked up at me, helplessly. I apologized to her profusely. I was sorry she would have me as a mom. I knew strangers think she was my grandkid. I hated that she would have the oldest mom in the kindergarten drop-off line. Mostly, I was sorry that by the time she reached age 41, I probably wouldn’t be around to share it with her.

“I have to go!” I told my doctor as he was repairing the tear caused by my forcefully quick labor. “My daughter is having a baby!” My doctor, aware of the situation, chuckled.

“Don’t worry, grandma. She’s got a while to go. You’ve got some recovering to do.”

The doctor conditionally released baby and me after a few setbacks with blood sugars and bilirubin levels. The condition was that I would bring the baby the next day for a blood test. We rushed over to Cheyenne’s side.

Unlike me, Cheyenne had an epidural. I can’t say I blame her. It was, at that point, 24 hours since her labor started. I leaned over her and fixed her hair and makeup. I went home to attempt sleep before bringing my new baby back for a heal prick. I called to check on Cheyenne.

“I’m OK. Just bored.” She assured me. “But I really have to go to the bathroom!”

“Get your nurse in there and I mean quick! You don’t have to go, Cheyenne. You have to push!”

She hung up with me to call her nurse. I guess I wasn’t wrong, because 10 minutes later, I got the most beautiful text; it was a photo of my granddaughter. Aubreylynn was tiny like her mom at 5lbs 7oz and looked like a lovely little alien.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2gm0PF_0Y2UedJD00 Aubrey and Lottie, Besties from the start/Heather Monroe

A Few Years Later

I am not sure what strange form of synergism was at work in our lives, or why my sterilization failed. But my daughter and I shared a journey, unlike any other. Sure, sometimes I’m accused of being my daughter’s grandma. But that’s OK. I am a grandma, after all. And people assume the babies are twins. They are the best of friends. Where Lottie is shy, Aubrey is ambitious. Where Aubrey is wild, Lottie is reserved. I can’t imagine one girl without the other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The girls are three now. I would change nothing.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1WzN9v_0Y2UedJD00
https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3f280F_0Y2UedJD00
https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0qiKFD_0Y2UedJD00 Lottie and Aubrey/Heather Monroe

Comments / 0

Published by

I am a freelance writer, mom, and genealogist from California. I adore rock hounding, and living my best RV life.

Los Angeles, CA
1025 followers

More from Heather Monroe

Comments / 0