“I have never felt better in my life!”
“You are simply glowing!”
“You’re eating for two now…enjoy!”
“You look so cute!”
These are words said and heard by the majority of pregnant women during their season of childbirth. And so they should. After all pregnancy is a normal & natural condition that women’s bodies are built for….right? Right! But not so much for me. (I felt worse than ever, I never glowed, I could barely eat a thing and I looked more like “death warmed over”)
When I first became pregnant back in 1989, I fully expected to breeze right through pregnancy with energy and enthusiasm, never “missing a beat”. After all, I was a high energy, “type A”, driven young woman who could run circles around many including the teenagers I taught in my job as a PE teacher and student council advisor…why would something as simple as a pregnancy slow me down? Despite my own mother sharing stories about her difficult pregnancies, I never anticipated being anything like her. Was I ever in for the shock of my life!
Just a few weeks after announcing our good news to the world, I woke up one morning and found myself feeling very nauseous and immediately began heaving over the toilet. Still I thought…”Oh just a little morning sickness, I can handle that”. Wrong! From that moment on I was nauseated 24/7, feeling like I was on a very bad roller coaster ride with no option of getting off. I got sick morning, noon and night (why do they call it morning sickness anyway?) I tried every cure known to man and implemented advice from everyone I knew – eating small meals, crackers before rising, sucking on ginger, sea bands, lemons, Vitamin B6 shots and more…nothing worked. To top it off I also had a rare and unpleasant symptom of pregnancy called Ptyalism – producing an incredible amount of excess saliva – and I had to carry around a cup or napkin that I spit into every few minutes (I know my Brookside students from that era are thinking…”ewwww, I remember that!). It was simply….awful! As the weeks turned into months I sunk deeper and deeper into sickness and despair. I was weak and tired, losing over 20 pounds before finally being admitted into the hospital where I was on IV’s for five days and then being released to go home with my IV pole in tow and have home health care for another week.
The doctor kept saying that most women begin to feel better after 12 to 16 weeks so just — “hang in there” and it would soon be over. I had high hopes but after the 16th week came and went he simply said to me…”Well, a very few number of women continue to experience sickness until half way through their pregnancy.” When I continued to be sick all day long after my appointment during my 22nd week he sighed and said with compassion…”Beth, unfortunately a very small rare group of women continue to be sick the entire 9 months of pregnancy” (less than 1%…lucky me). At that point I quite expected to be sick the rest of my life and could even picture him saying after I gave birth..”Oh I am sorry, did I not tell you? Some women never get better until they die”.
Questions and depressing thoughts screamed in my head:
- What had I gotten myself into?
- Was this really worth it?
- I do not know if I can actually do this for several more months?
- I can’t do this another minute!
- Why me God?
- I would like to curl up and just die.
I was truly suffering everyday and every night for the entire pregnancy. Despite serious doubts to the contrary, I did survive and gave birth to my precious first-born daughter, Michelle Jennae (a day before her due date….and was I ever thankful for God’s grace in that circumstance as I was sure I would deliver a month late and have to suffer even longer). When I held that beautiful baby girl in my arms and looked into her pure loving blue eyes the horror of the past nine months melted away and I whispered in her ear…”You are so00000 worth it!”
In fact she was so worth it that I have endured the same suffering six more times since that day (although I did experience some mild relief during my 7th pregnancy…thanks to newly approved pharmaceuticals for pregnancy sickness or maybe it was because I was pregnant with a boy that time, I will never know). Besides being a great self-esteem builder in my children (who would not believe that they were deeply desired, loved and “soooo worth it” when they know the great suffering their momma endured to give them life), these awful pregnancies have truly molded and shaped me into who I am today. I have learned great life lessons through those 63 months including:
- Perseverance “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character and character produces hope and hope DOES NOT disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3 I have truly learned patience and to persevere despite hardships, trials and tribulations. This has given me the strength and fortitude to persevere in my personal life, family trials, ministry and business hardships. I have in a sense developed very strong perseverance muscles. 🙂
- Dependance on God The apostle Paul was inflicted with a “thorn in his flesh” that he asked the Lord to take from him multiple times and He did not. We too prayed and prayed and asked others to pray but the Lord did not choose to remove this sickness. Paul’s response was “God’s grace is sufficient for you for His power is perfected in weakness” 1 Corinthians 12:7-9. I have always been an independent strong-willed person – relying greatly on my own strengths and talents. God used my pregnancies to bring me to my knees and become more dependant on Him alone to be my strength. I shudder to think who I may have become without being forced to rely on the sufficiency of Christ.
- Compassion for others Unless you have experienced a long-term illness, treatment, pain or disability that consumes your every waking moment you cannot truly relate to those who have suffered through it. Having walked that road for a total of over 5 years of my life (nine months at a time) has given me a true compassion for those who are going through health and physical hardships as well as for their loved ones. I pray for them with deep conviction. I offer them practical help and service. I simply let them know…I truly understand (and sometimes that is really what someone needs to hear from someone else who has “been there, done that” and lived to see another day). 2 Corinthians 1:4-6 says “God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”
- Life is…Hard! <get over it> Somehow I thought I deserved a “pass” on the hardships of life, that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. Wrong! “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:44 If I am going to ask “Why me?” during the hardships of life…I need to ask “Why me?” in the midst of my many amazing blessings. Hmmmmmm…there’s a thought. Life at times is just plan hard….end of story.
- Children are sooooo worth it! While I am confident that we all have our moments and sometimes even seasons when we would seriously question this statement and yet…..it is truth. Our children are the single greatest blessing in Dan and my life. The love that I have for them is like none other…the closest thing that I can experience to God’s unconditional love. I would sacrifice my own life for my children. Yes, they are worth every hardship, every pain, every disappointment, every challenge…they are my precious children.
- Suffering will come to an end No matter what I am going through, no matter how hard it is or how much I do not think I can take another minute…the fact is that it will come to an end. With pregnancy sickness I knew more accurately when that end would arrive but in many other situations we do not have that comforting knowledge. And in the midst of suffering we often can not imagine that there will ever be an end to it all. But rest assured, it will end. We will wake up one day whether here or on the other side with no more pain, no more tears, no more disability, no more depression….no more suffering!
“But after you have suffered for a while, the God of all grace who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” 1 Peter 5:10
And so in hindsight it is easier to be thankful for my years of sickness. It is easier to see the fabulous end results. It is easier to look back and appreciate all the good things in my life because of the suffering. I wish I could say that in the midst of the suffering I was thankful, appreciative and could see “the big picture” or that I was filled with faith and hope. While with each pregnancy I did a little better at being thankful, seeing the purpose in it all and being filled with faith…I still limped along trying my best to be a godly example and mostly failing and falling into the loving arms of the Lord who indeed carried me through.
If you are suffering today…fall into those same loving arms and let Him carry you!