I winced as the doctor examined my stomach. The pain was excruciating. As he prodded, he said “feel here…see?” I felt my own stomach where he indicated – it was hard, not squishy like normal. I continued to wince as he poked around my tummy. “This is your poo. You are constipated. We will get you some laxatives and you should be better in a few……”. The piercing alarm sounded. We both looked at each other and quickly dived on to the floor. My body armour and helmet were in the waiting room, no chance of me grabbing hold of it in time. I leopard crawled under the table, it probably wouldn’t offer me much protection. The doctor grabbed his own body armour and helmet just as there was a loud thud and the ground shaked. As he put his body armour on and quickly threw on his helmet, he mumbled “Here we go again!” I wasn’t sure if he was trying to make conversation or if he had genuine grievance by the incoming rockets. The way I was feeling about these rockets I felt it was probably the latter. After a few minutes of what was probably the last rocket (usually 2-3 at a time), the doctor quickly stood up and said, “I’ve got to go, I’m on call for the crash emergency team. Wait here until the all clear, someone will be with you soon.” And he ran out of his office.
As I lay there on the dusty floor waiting for the all clear siren to sound, I felt stupid. I felt stupid and embarrassed that all I had was constipation. I wondered how it had happened. For the last 8 days I had hardly eaten a thing, I felt nauseous and I had horrific stomach pains. These pains were sharp and short, sort of like my IBS pains, but twice as painful as usual. But this didn’t seem like IBS. I promised myself I would go to the doctor after 7 days of feeling like this.
The all clear siren sounded. I got up and left the office to speak to the corporal at the reception desk. I explained what had happened, she told me to take a seat in the waiting room and another Doctor would see me shortly. I waited for half an hour. All I could think about was that someone must have been injured by the rocket attack, otherwise my doctor would be back by now. This made me very sad.
I was called into the very same office I had been in just 30 minutes ago, but this doctor was different. I explained that the previous doctor was just about to prescribe me something for constipation. He asked me to tell him from the beginning what the problem was and the symptoms I was suffering. He wasn’t going to sign anything until he made his own diagnosis.
He asked me all sorts of questions about my IBS, what I had been eating, how often etc…it all made sense to me. New environment, crappy food, stress from rockets. Usually my IBS presents with horrific diarrhea, but now my IBS was giving me constipation. Not uncommon, right? But this doctor asked me (like the other doctor) “Is there a chance you could be pregnant?” I laughed and said “No, very unlikely!”, he said, “Well let’s be sure, I want you to take a pregnancy test before I prescribe you anything”. “Sure….” I said, but muttered to myself “…if you want to waste our time”. The doctor called in the nurse and explained I was to take a pregnancy test. I dutifully peed in the cup and together we sat down and waited for the results. The nurse tried to make small talk about the recent rocket attack. She proceeded to tell me that a lot of girls try to get pregnant on purpose to avoid deploying or wanting to be sent home. But then her words slowly slurred to a halt, she paused and exclaimed with a look of unexpected shock “errrr you are………pregnant! Ummm, congratulations?!?”.
I could feel the blood drain from my face in disbelief. I haven’t had a period in years after my depo provera issues, how was this possible? What is going to happen now? I’m not ready for this. I’m not one of these girls who purposefully gets pregnant just to be sent home. I volunteered to deploy to Iraq! I volunteered to be with the rest of my unit. Despite the shit getting real with the rockets, I wanted to be there, to do my job, to serve my country.
I could hear in the distant background, the nurse asking me all sorts of questions about if this is what I wanted? Was I excited? Did I need anything? But I was in too much shock to answer her questions other than mumble a no.
The doctor who made me take the test called me back into his office and said “Well, now we can explain the constipation and nausea. But this doesn’t explain your pain. We need to make sure you are not having an ectopic pregnancy. Let’s get you to the Emergency Hospital for a checkup by the specialist. I was hurried out of the doctor’s office, into the back of an ambulance to drive the half mile to the emergency hospital. This was the most embarrassing thing of it all. Being driven into the ER entrance. Pregnant. Not shot, wounded or even sick. Just pregnant.
I had no idea what an ectopic pregnancy really meant. I was prodded and poked all over again by several nurses and doctors. They even checked my constipation and try to help it along, but there was nothing in there. There was no poo. After all, I had barely eaten for the last 7 days. I hadn’t pooed in 4 days.
Finally, my boyfriend arrived at the hospital (yes we were deployed together, we got it together during pre-deployment training). He had no idea why I was in the hospital, he had left me at the doctors only 2 hours ago! He looked panicked. I looked at him and tried to get the words out, but I just started crying. It was the first time I cried since finding out my news. Eventually he got it out of me, and we both cried. We cried conspicuously together as we were not really sure how else to do it, this crying thing.
The hospital facilities on our camp did not have a vaginal ultrasound machine. The closest one was in another country – Kuwait at a US Airforce base. They wanted to check if the pregnancy was ectopic as the symptoms matched. I was put on the medevac waiting list and told to go back to my room and rest until I was called to fly.
I went back to my room, cried a lot, read up on ectopic pregnancy, and asked myself a lot of questions. How will I explain this to my unit, to my boss? Will my boss know already? What are the rules on medical confidentiality? Will they send me home? Will I be discharged from the Army? What if I have an ectopic pregnancy? Should I tell my family? When will I be able to eat again? When will this pain go away? So many questions as I lay in my room, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the floor under my bed as the rockets kept coming throughout the day and night. Get some rest? Ha. No rest for me….