Two years ago, I spent the afternoon on Valentine’s weekend watching sitcoms with Ben – from a hospital bed. I was pregnant and so sick I couldn’t keep water down. That was my first of a few ER trips for hyperemesis gravidarum. I continue to get sick until 30 weeks, and I was nauseous every single day. I would say that marked the start of a really tough journey for me. Yes, there was the initial celebration and joy – we were elated to be expecting! But I really started to struggle. And then when our daughter was born, I experienced struggles in every area: my health, her health, depression, anxiety, anger, paranoia, strained marriage, spiritual struggles – it’s been a couple of tough years.
I’m working on writing about everything God has taught me the last couple years. As I was reflecting, I read through old blog posts drafts – ones that never got around to being published. And I found this gem – composed at 23 weeks pregnant, reflecting on what I was learning. They were good lessons then, and are good lessons now. So here’s my post about pregnancy – better late than never!
Ben and I are expecting our first child, a little girl, in September! We are so excited to be parents and enter a new phase of life. We are really ready for her to get here, and I am really ready not to be pregnant anymore! In between the fun Facebook posts and cute baby clothes, real life is not glamorous. In fact right before I sat down at my computer, I just lost my lunch – staining my shirt and peeing my pants at the same time. Awesome.
So here’s our story of real pregnant life so far. I hope to share in a way to help prepare other for what might happen as they start a family. But I also understand pregnancy is a wonderful gift, and I hope to share honestly but graciously. I know that we’re fortunate to be able to conceive, and we thank God for his blessing. I’m not sharing to complain, but rather to prepare and encourage others.
So first of all, if you plan to have children to bring your marriage closer together, it won’t do that. Pregnancy itself has done everything it can to bring us apart. Ben and I have grown closer over the last few months, but in spite of the pregnancy and with great determination to overcome every obstacle. It’s been hard. There are lots of reasons to have children, but fixing a marriage is not one of them. So hopefully reading about our experience can help your marriage and encourage you.
One night in January…
Ben and I set a timer and waited in excitement for the results. We had the biggest smiles as we paced around our little apartment waiting for the news. It was positive – pregnant! I was screaming, Ben couldn’t stop hugging me, and we cried tears of joy for the tiny life that was started. It’s a memory that I know will always be one of our favorites .
That memory is followed by some of the worst weeks of my life. I knew life would be different – forever changed – but I didn’t expect pregnancy to be what it has been.
Morning (AKA ALL DAY) sickness began. At first it was just at night, and fairly mild. Within a couple weeks, I was sick all day, keeping nothing down. It wasn’t uncommon for me to nap on the bathroom floor, in between getting sick. And no, it’s not like the flu. It’s like everything currently inside your body wants to be squeezed out into the toilet. At about 7 weeks pregnant, it finally got to the point I couldn’t keep down even water. I couldn’t function, and I wanted to die! Then everything went black and I collapsed to the ground.
That afternoon, we made our first trip to the ER for IV fluids and prescriptions. Now I know that if you can’t keep water down for 24 hours, go to the ER. You’re dehydrated and it’s dangerous! We spent the afternoon in a hospital room, watching King of Queens and feeling sorry for ourselves. But it felt good to finally get some help. I continued throwing up almost everyday, often multiple times a day (I think my record is 7), and feeling nauseous around the clock.
For the first few months, I was so sick – barely able to have any kind of a life. Any time I had to leave the house, I was so nervous for the next time and place I would get sick. I felt so dull and emotionless. I couldn’t carry on meaningful conversations with Ben, and had the hardest time trying to be interested when I was talking with people. I just felt flat. And I didn’t want to be touched or hugged – which is tough for a couple who loves physical touch! I stopped sleeping though the night since month two – between going to the bathroom, getting sick, and general discomfort. And my sense of smell – I never knew everything could smell so strong.
I’m Calling It
One night, when I was about three months pregnant, I remember sitting on the bathroom floor with Ben in between getting sick. And I just started sobbing. And it felt so relieving to cry! We could finally have a conversation about something of value for the first time in weeks. We just sat and cried about how hard it was. And how angry we felt. For me, because my whole life was on hold and I felt like I had nothing to offer anyone. For Ben, feeling like pregnancy took his wife from him and feeling helpless to do anything. No one had ever prepared us for this! Everyone just kept saying that it would be worth it. What we really needed was someone to just admit that it sucked and could be really difficult.
All that to say, we definitely weren’t prepared. But through these last months, we’ve learned new lessons about ourselves and our marriage. Here’s what we’ve learned:
1. It’s okay to admit your struggle.
A wonderful lesson that has come to life for me this year came from a dear woman, the late Kristen Sauder. In her struggle with cancer, she said God told her she wouldn’t be fighting cancer, but rather fear. In the midst of the physical, there is a deeper lesson to learn. I think it’s easy to get distracted by the physical circumstances in our life, but we have to look beyond them. What will our physical struggles uncover in our life to teach us something greater?
For me, this struggle has been one of pride. I feel the need to have it all together, to be the one taking care of others, and to turn down favors from others because I can do it. But that’s because of my selfish need to appear put together and do it on my own.
One of my dear friends reminded me I couldn’t do everything on my own. She told me that even though I may want to be superwomen, I can’t do it all. And I shouldn’t be expected to. I need to ask for help and get my pride out of the way. I’ve had to accept far more from others than my pride would like. But that’s okay!
2. It’s okay to be angry.
Ben and I had both been really upset at several times. It’s been really hard, and we’ve felt like we just had to hang on tight to get through it. Just because everyone seems to give glowing reports of pregnancy, doesn’t mean it will be true for you.
3. Continue to bond with your spouse.
Over the last few months, my husband has done some of the most sacrificial things possible for me. I don’t think I could ever repay him. But i’m not the only one who needs help getting through this time. We have to find ways to share with each other how we’re feeling and what we need from the other. I think it’s easy for expectant moms to neglect or resent their husbands, because they are experiencing something their husband never will. But that doesn’t make you better than him. Or allowed to act worse than him. Or the boss of him.
When life gets real, we have the choice how to respond. Will it be a time of learning and growth? I hope so. And I hope what I’ve learned can encourage you in your marriage.