Ectopic pregnancy and Shonda Rhimes

This is a little late, but thanks to Netflix, I can finally say thank you to Shonda Rhimes for writing about ectopic pregnancy. Thank you, Shonda. You’re fierce and I love your shows. But… I have some feedback.


For years, Thursday nights on Facebook has been a litany of exclamations about Shonda, Shonda and more Shonda. And for years, it was as if I was from some strange planet. I felt like I was the only one that had never seen her shows. I am referring, of course, to Shonda Rhimes: creator and executive producer Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice (2007–2013), Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, all on ABC.

In the fall of 2013, after an IVF cycle that went from bad to worse and that ultimately didn’t work, I needed a distraction so I wouldn’t go crazy. A Netflix binge seemed like a good idea even though we now know this is connected to depressive behaviors. I decided to start with her first show, Grey’s Anatomy. It seemed like a good bet and I quickly understood why everyone had been making such a fuss about it for so many years. The show has great actors, affecting story lines and lots of juicy sexiness. The characters were so refreshing because they were real and flawed, ugly and beautiful at the same time. I saw myself in some of them and was quickly hooked. The thing that made me wish I’d seen it from the beginning was Christina Yang’s ectopic pregnancy in season 2. I keep thinking that if I’d seen it when it aired in 2006, I might have had an inkling of what the hell was happening to me when my own pregnancy story went awry.

Like Christina, I got pregnant by surprise. The hubster and I were married almost three years and had not been ready to start trying to conceive, but at the same time we were not trying very hard to prevent conception either. We were very laissez-faire about the whole thing. The interesting thing about how it happened was that we started having more money troubles than usual and got rid of cable to save money. Without cable and being too broke to go out, one thing led to another and… I was knocked up within a couple of weeks.

This wasn’t when we were pregnant, but it gives you a good idea of how we felt about it.

I was super surprised but at the same time, super happy about the thought of having a child with the hubster, even though we were kinda broke. We had romantic “love will find a way” notions about the whole idea and I’ll be honest, it was so, so lovely to be so, so blissfully happy.

Christina, on the other hand, is not very happy to find herself pregnant on Grey’s Anatomy.

Sandra Oh as Christina Yang. She’s not happy.

She makes plans to terminate the pregnancy and on the day of the appointment, she’s tired. Meredith makes her go jogging, though, and she soldiers on through rounds and surgeries until finally she ends up feeling foggy and faints in the OR. Everyone is trying to figure out what’s wrong and she comes to just in time to tell Izzy that she’s 7 weeks pregnant. They get Addison Shepard’s help, who quickly does a sonogram and sees that the pregnancy was in her left tube, which is now bleeding. She’s rushed into surgery and ends up having a left side salpingectomy (surgical removal of fallopian tube).

I was floored.

Finally, a miscarriage on TV that looked like something I experienced! Validation! The only thing, though, is that except for fainting it didn’t cover any of the other acute symptoms that accompany this type of miscarriage… and that’s where my feedback comes in. I kind of wish they’d covered more because an ectopic pregnancy is a crazy-making event. So many of the symptoms feel like regular pregnancy symptoms (gassiness, vomiting, exhaustion), until they just don’t — until you faint and weird pains begin to pop up that only get worse as your blood counts get lower and lower and you have no inkling that this might be a fatal situation.

I wish that Shonda would have gotten the point across better that this is extremely dangerous and life-threatening. One way she could have done this was in the sonogram scene: by having Christina scanned transvaginally instead of abdominally (I’ve never made it past the first trimester and all my scans have been transvaginal because it’s way too early to see anything except from the inside -but you would never know that from TV), we could then see her react appropriately to pressure on her ruptured tube. It’s hard to describe in words, but here goes: from the slightest pressure on the right side of my vagina, toward my right tube, came a shocking and breathtaking pain that felt like I was being electrified to the point that I shot straight up from a lying down position — while in stirrups — and screamed like I was being killed while trying to jump off the table. I was so crazed and confused from the pain that the doctors had to ask my husband to hold me and calm me down so they could finish their examination. That was it — the tube, the spot, the moment that woke me from the quiet dream state I’d been in since I’d fainted, stopped breathing and my husband called 911.

To be continued…

Originally published at on June 1, 2015.