Gastroparesis And Pregnancy – “I was 19 when I got the news that changed my life. ‘Your test results are back. You have gastroparesis. It’s an incurable disease… there is no cure.’
Just a month before I work full time and I go to the gym every night. I was young and loving, happy and healthy, when I came down with what I thought was the stomach flu. A week passed, then a month, and I was still sick. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t expect it to be this.
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A few years earlier, I saw my mother fight and beat breast cancer with such grace and courage, so I was determined to follow in her footsteps and fight this with everything I had.
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I found out that there was only one doctor in town who treated gastroparesis, so I made an appointment and promised that I would try to continue my life as normal for now.
But even though I didn’t want to admit it, I was sick. I can’t even finish a day’s work. The ER became my second home, as the daily vomiting and constant nausea caused dehydration and required frequent IV fluids. When I finally went to see a new doctor, the truth was painful.
He recommended three things: surgery to insert a gastric stimulator, which will hopefully reduce the disability and reduce the amount of vomiting and nausea, a PICC line, so I can give IV fluids and medications at home, and finally, quit my job so I can focus on managing my life. I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t want to do anything.
With the encouragement of my mother and friend, I swallowed my pride and scheduled an appointment to have a PICC line placed and set a date for surgery.
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Over the next few months, I adjusted to my new life. I had a great support system and the PICC line improved my quality of life tremendously.
And then, without warning at all, I came home one night to the house I shared with my boyfriend and found that everything that belonged to him was gone. He had terminated our lease and drained our entire joint bank account. All my calls and texts trying to understand what was going on went unanswered. He had just left.
I was less than a month away from finding a new place to live, had no savings, and had surgery in a week. I didn’t think I could go without it.
The next month was a blur. My mother was my absolute rock at that time. He put his life on the line to be there for me. She was there for the excruciating heartache, the painful surgery and hospital stay, the process of finding a new place to live without realizing it, and everything in between.
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The operation was incredibly difficult. What was supposed to be a one night stay turned into almost a week. As soon as I recovered, my mother helped me move to a new house. With his support, and that of a few friends, I began to pick up the pieces of my life and put them together.
Weeks passed and months followed. In the midst of all the pain and destruction, I found a strength within me that I didn’t know was possible. Slowly, mentally, he was recovering.
Physically, it was not. I was overweight and malnourished. After exhausting all other options, I got a NJ (nasal jejunal) feeding tube.
Then I met Jonathan. Falling in love with him was the last thing on my mind, and yet, when I least expected it, it happened.
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The night we met I spent hours telling him the whole story of my life while he listened. Any normal person would probably turn and run right away. But it wasn’t like that. None of my problems bothered him. Nothing in the past made him uncomfortable. Even with the central line on my arm and the tube stuck in my face, he looked at me like I was the most beautiful woman in the world.
When I asked him why nothing bothers him, he said, “I don’t even see these things. I only see you.
We spent every day together after that. Circumstances were not good, but we loved each other, for better or for worse; even when I was sicker than ever and I was back to spending half of my life in the hospital. The stomach stimulator was not working properly and I needed surgery to have it removed.
My PICC line stopped working and had to be removed. I had surgery to insert a mediport (similar to a PICC but more invasive) and the tube in my nose was replaced with a G/J (gastric/jejunal) tube surgically placed in my abdomen.
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Jonathan and I spent more time together in hospitals than we did on dates. I continued to lose weight and my labs got worse. My mother and I researched all the treatments we hadn’t tried, and as a last ditch effort, we traveled across the country to see a panel of the best gastroparesis specialists in the United States. Although they were kind and caring, much of what they said was very similar. I had tried all the medicines, procedures, natural remedies. There was nothing else they could do.
I came home completely overwhelmed. I was at my lowest weight ever, on more medications than I could count, and extremely depressed. There were problems with my new feeding tube and I needed three more surgeries. I feel the burden on my mother and Jonathan. I knew they loved me, but after everything that had happened before, I was so afraid of losing them. I had almost completely given up hope.
But a few weeks later, I woke up one morning feeling “different.” I can’t really explain it, because it doesn’t make sense. But something in me, the counterintuitive part, knew.
Hours later, she found me shivering with a pregnancy test. I haven’t had my period in over a year. My body was not working properly. But against all odds, they looked like two pink lines.
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The doctor was extremely harsh. “Your body is not in a condition to be able to sustain a pregnancy. If you are not suffering alone, you need to end it. You will not survive this, not even the fetus.” Yes, I knew the odds were against us, but I didn’t care.
I made an appointment with a new doctor, a wonderful woman for whom I will always be grateful. He supported my decision to continue with the pregnancy and promised to do everything in his power to give us both a fighting chance.
I look at the screen as I move the ultrasound wand. I always wanted to be a mother, but is it really possible? After all these years of such a hard and often unsuccessful struggle for my life, can my body really give another life?
Tears streamed down my face as I printed the black and white photo and placed it in my hands, giving me real, tangible hope.
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8 months, subchorionic bleeding, polyhydramnios diagnosis, 20+ weekly ultrasounds and NST monitoring, several early labors, and 15 hours of hard labor later, I was in the operating room, getting ready to meet my son . Despite all the problems, my body recovered. Gastroparesis and all, I carried this baby to the end.
My mother kissed my forehead as she pushed me down the hall. “I’m proud of you,” he said.
As I sat on the operating table with Jonathan holding my hand, I heard my doctor say, “It’s almost here.” He had kept his promise.
Then I heard. Her sweet birthday cry. It was the most beautiful sound I could ever imagine; the sound of my son. I looked at Jonathan and we both cried tears of indescribable emotions. I told him again: “I love you. I love you so much.” I had sacrificed his life, but he had saved mine.
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Today, Bentley is a happy and healthy 3-year-old boy. It is truly a miracle in every sense of the word. I’m still fighting my battle with gastroparesis, as always, but my life is better than I ever imagined it could be. Now I am a mother of two children, not a day goes by that I am not surprised. This month, Jonathan and I will celebrate 5 years, on the same day our daughter turns 1.
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Courtney Spear from San Antonio, Texas. You can follow his journey here.
‘After millions of dollars, we are finally home. I get to spend every day with the best 14 pound baby imaginable.
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