In our last installment, we saw Merril being a horrible, abusive ass. But we’ve not yet seen the depths to which he’ll descend. This chapter will make you rage so hard.
Content Note: Life-threatening pregnancy complications, medical neglect, spousal abuse, child abuse and neglect, spiritual abuse.
Carolyn is pregnant with her fifth child. She experiences what seems to be menstrual bleeding, which Shirley, the nurse practitioner at the clinic, says isn’t that abnormal. The baby’s heartbeat is fine, so they don’t start truly worrying until Carolyn wakes up in a pool of blood two nights later. Most people would have gone straight to the hospital, but this is the FLDS, where pregnant women are taught to suck it up and deal with whatever God hands out. Carolyn takes a shower, the bleeding stops, and she basically shrugs it off, figuring she’s miscarried. She doesn’t even take the following day off work. The only reason she goes back to the clinic a week later is because she’s still experiencing her horrible morning sickness.
Shirley does an ultrasound, and discovers Carolyn has a placental abruption. This is one of those complications you absolutely do not fuck around with. It can easily kill your fetus, and could also kill you. You could go into shock from blood loss. You could end up with clotting problems. Your kidneys and even other organs could fail. You don’t leave this shit untreated. The standard of care is to be hospitalized. Fluids need to be replaced. There might be a need for a blood transfusion. The fetus needs to be closely monitored, and the uterus watched for contractions. Prenatal vitamins, iron supplements, and possibly stool softeners (only to be used under close supervision!) are needed. And the patient may end up needing heparin to prevent blood clots. The only time a patient should be sent home on bed rest is if the abruption is minimal, and if they have been stabilized in the hospital.
Carolyn has a 50% abruption at week 13, and all they do is send her home, telling her to stay in bed for the rest of her pregnancy.
That, people, is not adequate health care.
But, you think, at least with a house full of sister wives and older children to help shoulder the load, at least Carolyn and her four youngsters will have plenty of people ensuring they’re fed, bathed, and supported.
Carolyn’s relatives don’t give a single shit about her or her children. Her youngest won’t get more than one diaper change per day, if that. Her kids won’t be fed, and the wives sure as hell won’t bring Carolyn any meals. She can’t count on them for anything. And Merril isn’t any help. When she expresses her fears and also says she doesn’t want to have to quit her job, he
accused me of trying to make this into something it wasn’t and said to stop pitying myself. “What mother wouldn’t give her life for her baby?” He told me to quit my job and go to bed. In his view, this pregnancy was a test required by God.
So, Carolyn spends the next several months slowly bleeding to death, so weak she can barely stand, much less care for herself or her children. She hemorrhages so badly at one point that she thinks she won’t survive another day. She wants to spend her last hours with her children. So she drags herself out of bed and bathes the two youngest (who haven’t been given baths in weeks). She’s so weak she has to lie on the bathroom floor for most of it. Then she rallies enough strength to take all four kids to the park.
I sat on a bench and wept as I watched my children swing and play. I wanted to be their mother. I wanted to watch them grow up. I was angry thinking how much of their lives I would miss by dying. Leaving them alone and motherless stabbed me with sorrow. But I ached in sorrow for myself. My unborn baby and I were dying and no one really cared. My husband wouldn’t miss me. My sister wives would be glad I was gone. My death would be seen as God’s will and there would be no questioning, no mourning.
So. Much. Rage. No one should ever have to feel this way. No one should be dying of a treatable complication of pregnancy. Ever.
If you’re wondering why Carolyn doesn’t just go to the hospital herself, you’re about to find out. Prepare to explode. And remind yourself not to blame victims.
Carolyn’s sister wife Tammy gripes to Shirley, apparently about what a lazy unbelieving drama queen Carolyn is. Remember that illness is seen as a personal failing by this cult, especially if you’re a pregnant woman. But Shirley is rather more enlightened. She knows this is a medical emergency, not a religious problem. She loses her shit, calls Merril, and lets him have it. She tells him to get Carolyn to the hospital.
He laughs it off.
This fuckwad won’t take the fact that his wife and unborn child are dying seriously at all. He literally does not care.
The only reason Carolyn and her son are alive today is because Shirley is a clever and tenacious person who knows how Merril’s fucked-up mind operates, probably from having dealt with a thousand other abusive assholes just like him. She collars Merril at a community gathering, makes sure they’re with people he’s “trying to impress,” and lets them know that if he doesn’t get his wife to the hospital right now, he’ll “have a dead wife and a dead baby.”
Shamed publicly like that, he finally acts. He authorizes Carolyn to go. And here’s why she didn’t just call an ambulance for herself:
I could not go to the hospital on my own. My husband had to authorize it. The volunteer ambulance drivers in Colorado City and Hildale were all members of the FLDS. Because of this they were under enormous pressure not to interfere with another man’s family. And so they would not take a woman (or her child) to the hospital unless her husband had given his approval.
This is what life under fundamentalist patriarchal religious authority looks like. It’s shit.
Carolyn bounces back once she’s being properly cared for in the hospital. Food and hydration. That’s what she needed, and what her family refused to provide. She has a small but healthy son by C-section at 37 weeks, and they make it home alive, but only barely. Carolyn’s now terrified of getting pregnant again. She talks to Shirley, who tells her she doesn’t “meet any of the risk factors for another abruption.”
Hey, Mayo Clinic, what’s at the top of your Risk Factors list?
Shirley is a good person doing her best, but she’s not the kind of OB who should be handing out advice to people who just went through high-risk pregnancies. She’s not actually an OB at all. And of course, Carolyn will have three more pregnancies that nearly kill her. She didn’t want those pregnancies. She wanted birth control. But it’s against FLDS beliefs, so she can’t get it. And even if she could, she’s been taught that God punishes any woman who uses birth control by making her spend her afterlife as “a childless servant to her husband’s other wives throughout eternity.” Death by pregnancy is preferable to that fate.
This is why we need to get religion the fuck away from people’s reproductive choices. Even if a person capable of becoming pregnant is ostensibly “choosing” their religion, they still need the option to manage their reproductive health in ways their faith forbids.
Next, we’ll see how Warren’s making everything so much worse.