This post isn’t my usual inspiration for motherhood and making, but I’m headed in for an unusual surgery today and wanted to share a little about it. My Mirena IUD got lost in my abdomen, which apparently happens to less than 1% of the estimated 2 million women in the United States using it right now. But, it happened to me.I first had the Mirena inserted about a month before Dave and I were married. I have never been very consistent with regular medication and knew that taking a pill would be hit and miss for me. Also, I had heard such varied symptoms with the many different birth control pills available, I decided that the low-dose hormone in the Mirena would be a good fit for me. After the initial day of spotting and cramping I never had another issue with it, and as an added bonus, I didn’t have a period. At all. Not even the symptoms or the moodiness or anything. I felt amazing and totally converted. When we wanted to have our first baby, I had it removed and we conceived before my first cycle. So, any worry I had about long-term affects were gone.
Between Milo and Eliot, the time-frame was too tight to have another inserted. I had a miscarriage, then became pregnant and had baby #2. After Eliot, I was ready for a longer break, and had my second Mirena inserted when he was around 2 months old. Again, no symptoms, no period, no daily remembering. I had a great experience with the IUD and was happy to recommend it to whoever asked. And again, once we were ready to grow the family again, I had no problem getting pregnant.
So naturally, once Plum was born I was ready to go for round three with the Mirena. No reason to fix something that wasn’t broken. Since she’s our last baby, I planned to have it in place for the full 5 years, then at that point decide if we wanted to to something more permanent. I had it inserted at about 8 weeks postpartum. Then two weeks later went back in to have it checked and everything was great, so that was that! Or so I thought.
Two weeks ago, I started to have symptoms of a UTI, which I hadn’t had in years, and gosh it’s uncomfortable. It was the perfect motivation I needed to get back into the OBGYN for an annual–I hadn’t been seen since my IUD check over 2 years ago. The appointment went easily, quick PAP, prescription for an antibiotic, and then my midwife asked, as she always does, “So, what else?” I thought for a minute and asked if she had a referral for a physical therapist for my separated abs, which she did. Then again, “So, what else?” And I really couldn’t think of anything. Then I mentioned sort of off handedly that I had begun having a period about a year ago. When it started I figured that after three times my body had gotten used to the Mirena, and I my lucky no-period streak had run out. They were regular, normal, and nothing I would have considered noteworthy.
She mentioned not having noticed the strings of my IUD during the exam, and checked again. She couldn’t find the strings, and commented that they could have gotten up into my cervix, so we’d do a quick Ultra Sound in the morning to make sure everything was in place. Easy Peasy. I planned to run down in the morning before getting on with my day. During the Ultra Sound, I assumed everything was fine when I asked the radiologist if it was there in the right place and she said she thought so. It was hard to see. Then she insisted that I come back that afternoon to meet with a provider. I hadn’t made a follow-up appointment, assuming everything would be normal in the U/S, so I was a little concerned to have to come back down, again.
In that follow-up appointment, the OB confirmed that my IUD was “not present” in my uterus.
What? Well, where could it be I asked? Then she explained how in very rare cases, the Mirena IUD can perforate–or travel through– the wall of the uterus and end up lost in the abdominal cavity. WHAT?
She sent me over for an x-ray, saying that best case scenario, it doesn’t show up and somehow I had mistakenly pulled it out. (Um, that did not happen. How would someone mistakenly pull out their IUD?) I called the radiologists and asked if they could please squeeze me into the schedule (it was 4:30pm on a Thursday) and luckily, they made space. I ran in, lay down, and really pretty much knew what I would see on the x-ray:
Yep, there it was, floating near my left hip. No where near my uterus, where it should be. The radiologist actually mentioned that she had seen this once before–on her own x-ray a few years before. She said the surgery to remove it wasn’t too bad, and wished me luck, which was weirdly serendipitous and reassuring.
The next morning the OB called. I’m sure she had just gotten the x-rays, which she didn’t know I had seen (and taken pictures of that I had already sent to most of my friends and family!) She was a little panicked and asked on a scale of 1-10 how much pain I was in. None! The antibiotic had already kicked the UTI symtoms (blessing in disguise that was to finally get me into the office!) She seemed to forget that I had NO IDEA something like this could happen, much less to me. I’m not in any pain, or any hurry to go under the laparoscopic knife, though I understand the longer this little hobo IUD hangs out, the higher the chance it could do some real damage.
Seeing as how I feel just fine, we went ahead and took our week-long road-trip to Arizona, Marfa, and Big Bend (posts forthcoming). And I scheduled my surgery for today, knowing I had to get it over with before the hustle of the end of the school year, some upcoming workshops, and while my mom was free to come help with the kids for a couple days.
The surgery is laparoscopic, meaning it will be done with small incisions (I’m told one in my belly button, which really weirds me out) and some thin, lighted tools that will film the inside of my abdomen as the OB goes on a hunt for the missing IUD. This x-ray is the only map that we have so far telling us where to look. I have no idea what to expect, since the only surgery I’ve ever had was my wisdom teeth removal which barely counts.
I’m an RN, and even though I never worked in a hospital (I specialized in Diabetes Education) I remember my rotation in the OR. Truth be told, I hated everything about it. I don’t like the cold room, the clanking instruments, or the obvious blood and sharp instruments. What I disliked most of all was the way when a body was sedated, it was so very much a body and not a person anymore. The surgeons, techs, and nurses can talk over and about the patient, because he or she is asleep. The positioning of the body accommodates the surgeon, not the patient, who ends up dealing with the soreness at home. It really gives me the creeps to know I’ll be the one on that table, unable to advocate for myself.
Dave will be at the hospital with me, I’m told the surgery is short, and I should be on my way for home soon after.
I’ll update this post with the outcomes (and hopefully a link to the actual surgery video, if I can get my hands on it! I’ve watched a few on YouTube to mentally prepare, which I actually wouldn’t suggest unless you’re medically inclined.)
Friends, keep me in your prayers today!
Well, I survived! I checked in for surgery around 2 pm, changed into a hospital gown with a sweet pouch where the nurse hooked up a warm-air hose to keep me comfortable. After vital signs, meeting with and talking to everyone involved, including the anesthetist, surgeon, and nurses, I was ready to get it over with. Because I had (accidentally) swallowed half a piece of gum during my hours and hours without eating, I was given Raglan to reduce stomach acid. Who knew not eating included not chewing gum?
I remember being administered some IV meds, being rolled into the OR, then the next thing I remember is waking up and having a nurse tell me I was out! For all of my anxiety about the general anesthesia, it really does work wonders. I didn’t have any pain, and was pretty woozy for a bit. And starving. Some water, apple, juice, and saltines later I was ready to go home.
The surgeon came in and said the IUD retrieval had been uncomplicated. It was hanging out near my intestine, but had not attached to or embedded in any other tissue or organs. It broke into two pieces on removal, but they were able to remove both pieces without complication. I have one incision in by belly button and one centered above my pubic bone.
It has been amazing to have my mom in town helping with the kids, because it would be difficult to try to care for them alone before I feel a little stronger. I’ve been a little sore at the incision sites and had some referred pain in my shoulder as a result of the CO2 inflation of my abdomen during the procedure. But for the most part I feel great. I’m relieved to have the issue resolved, and I’m excited to recover and get back to my normal, crazy life.