I couldn’t stop vomiting. I couldn’t even hold water in my body. Sickness invaded everything. I thought this was simply the woes of the first trimester. What I thought was standard turned out to be a diagnosis of gastroparesis—a disease that affects the mobility of the muscles in your stomach. It keeps the stomach from getting rid of things normally.
The doctor gave me the option to abort my baby. This couldn’t be happening to me. I was hopeful that the medication would work, but it didn’t. I prayed and vomited. I vomited and prayed. I lived at the hospital between the emergency room and the OB ward. My medical crisis plunged our finances into the negative within a few weeks. Our insurance didn’t fully cover my ongoing care. My husband, Terrence, was the only one working at the time. We were having to decide between food, housing, and my medical care. We had gotten a month behind on our rent. There were no available resources for us to catch up on what we owed while keeping our monthly expenses current with our creditors. We packed up our stuff and we moved what we could into a storage unit. We were officially homeless.
We moved into a nearby one-room motel. There were two beds, a small closet, and a dorm-sized microwave and refrigerator. When I wasn’t in the hospital, I was mostly in the motel room alone until the late evening because my husband had to work. Our room became a very intimate place of pain and wonder.
I talked to God a lot in my head because I was too sick to have a verbal conversation with him. I believed in divine healing, and I waited day-after-day for this nightmare to end. I didn’t receive a response back from God, but I felt his presence over me. I cried a lot because of the physical pain I was in all the time. Days went by that I didn’t feel my baby move inside of me due to dehydration from the constant vomiting. At sixteen weeks gestation, I sat up in bed one day and begged my husband to “let me get rid of it.” I didn’t want to hurt my child, but I wanted to end my own suffering.
I remember my husband’s glazed eyes peering deep into mine while telling me that we were going to fight through this ordeal together. I screamed out in tears and anger at Terrence. All of a sudden, I felt strength and relief at the same time. I fell back on my pillow in exhaustion. Sleep overtook me within minutes.
Soon after that day, my husband and I spoke with my doctor about options to deliver our baby earlier than forty weeks. I went through two amniocentesis that revealed our baby boy’s lungs weren’t developed at all. The grueling journey of my pregnancy continued without any relief from the gastroparesis.
Our son, Joshua Owen Strawder, was delivered on November 24, 2010. He was perfect, and there were no signs that my sickness ever touched his little body. I had been told that my medical condition was caused by the pregnancy hormones. However, I continued to be afflicted by the symptoms of gastroparesis after the delivery of my son. Medical tests confirmed I still had the condition. I was bummed and out of answers. I was determined to hold onto my faith even when I didn’t understand when the dark cloud over my head would break into the dawn of a new day. A few months later, we moved out of the motel into our new apartment. It was hard to juggle the responsibilities of being a sick mother to a new baby. I laid on our living room floor, and I worshipped God through all the pain. I received many negative reports from my doctor that it would be months or even years before I would be normal again.
Two years after having Joshua, I enrolled into a master’s program at a nearby university. I was accepted immediately, and I started my classes. I defied the odds against me and finished my program in May 2014. I graduated at the top of my class. Three years after my initial medical prognosis, no trace of the gastroparesis could be found in my body.
Cover photo by Matthew Smith.