From the AnthologyBeauty for Ashes: Stories of Maternal Hope
By Chasity Strawder
It all started with a miscarriage in early 2010, about six weeks into the pregnancy of my first child with my husband, Terrence. There we were surprised, but overjoyed at the news of a coming baby, only to be devastated from a sonogram that showed no signs of a heartbeat. We held onto our faith until the end, believing that my hormone levels would regulate, and the pregnancy would proceed as planned. To our surprise, I continued to bleed, and before we knew it, the end had come.
I was pretty numb throughout that period, not really knowing how to grieve or sort out my feelings. As far as I had known, I had always been healthy. My first pregnancy had been complication-free, and I had delivered my son, Donovan, at full term. I just didn’t understand why this had happened. I only found myself really feeling the pain during worship or if someone pointed out to me that I looked sad or lost.
I thought the bleeding would never stop. It was like a lingering reminder that was desperately hanging on to ruin my life. After three or four weeks, I was starting to feel normal again.
I found myself being taken to the emergency room for persistent nausea and vomiting. It started out like a choking sensation, and then I heaved until I had been spent. After numerous questions and tests, “You are pregnant” was uttered to Terrence and me. I was five weeks along to be exact. We were expecting again just a few weeks shy of suffering a miscarriage.
To our utter dismay, the nausea and vomiting did not go away; it only grew worse. I didn’t believe it was just “morning sickness.” The pain I was experiencing went way beyond what morning sickness felt like on any given day. I was referred to a gastroenterologist for further testing. I underwent an endoscopy of my esophagus and stomach at about eight weeks pregnant.
The risks involved were greater because I was still very delicate and not quite out of my first trimester. I was very scared but agreed to the procedure because desperation had started setting in at that point. The trips to the emergency room were becoming more frequent because of the severe dehydration.
There were no real answers following the endoscopy. The concerns were that the hormonal changes were beating up my gut severely and slowing down digestion. While staying overnight in the observation unit of a hospital, I was very calmly advised by one of the attending physicians that I could consider the option to abort the fetus. He said that I was still within the time perimeters to “safely” abort my child. He then told me that it was my body and my decision. I was devastated.
Another doctor thought I was simply depressed about the news of being pregnant again so soon. This was all very far from the truth. Something was wrong with me. I just couldn’t articulate what it was or how it could be fixed. Every antacid known to mankind was suggested to provide some sort of relief, but they didn’t work. Terrence and I found ourselves so frustrated that we sought out another gastrointestinal doctor.
We found a new gastrointestinal doctor, and he suspected that the issue was “gastroparesis” in the pregnancy. Of course, we didn't understand how I could have gastro paresis considering I did not have a history of diabetes. The new diagnosis was strange and scary. I had so much further to go in my pregnancy, yet I felt that I was not going to get through another day. The weakness, pain, nausea, and vomiting were becoming unbearable. I was prescribed a regiment of Protonix, and in between my prescription, the doctor recommended that I take over-the-counter antacids to help me keep my food down. The Gastroenterologist also tested some other drugs out on me that simply didn’t work. Lying in bed was becoming the norm, and when things got too bad, I went to the emergency room where I had to explain everything all over again and get re-hydrated.
On one particular occasion, I'd spent a couple of days in the hospital and several more days in the emergency room. I was not gaining weight, so I was being monitored by a calorie counter. My Obstetrician would annoy me by repeatedly telling me to get down what I could. The hardest part was the lack of real concern with the doctors and specialists. No one really knew how to treat my condition, and the emotional pain was beyond their human comprehension. Besides my ongoing health issue, the medical bills (mostly co-pays) and other expenses were mounting. Terrence was working full-time as a manager in a cancer research lab, but I couldn’t help him with our bills. I was just too sick.