Pregnancy: The Misery and The Mercy
I realize that this blog might be irrelevant for most of you who are not currently pregnant, but when I was going through the thick of my "morning sickness" (yeah, because we all know it only happens in the morning...), I felt very alone in those symptoms. I scoured the internet looking for honest, helpful blogs addressing this subject if only to find comfort in the fact that I'm not the only one whose ever tasted the unexpected misery of pregnancy.
I laugh to myself because I used to so carelessly cruise past blogs like "My Birth Story" or "Update from the Trenches of the 1st Trimester" finding them to be unnecessary. (Especially the birth stories. Wow. SCROLL FASTER, Kaysie! And now I read every sentence with unparalleled interest.) If I did read them, I felt like there wasn't room inside of me to process or store this information. But from the moment I saw those two pink lines appear, I felt the walls of my soul expand into a new and wild frontier that was hungry for connection, dreams, words, and exploration.
That is, until the nausea + fatigue showed up. Suddenly this new world became a savage wilderness that I couldn't escape from! I felt like I was losing my grip on life, community, and myself. I was completely unprepared. And it wasn't for lack of research. I've learned that every woman and every pregnancy is unique. Until I experienced it for myself, I couldn't really "prepare" for something like this.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is 2nd Corinthians 1. I was about four weeks into "the wilderness" of my pregnancy before I managed to open my Bible (even moving my eyes, and therefore reading, became a trigger for the nausea) and I found this well-worn passage again:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV)
I want to unpack the definition of "affliction" first. This Greek word means "a pressing, anguish, tribulation, distress, burdened, pressure." I don't think it's over-spiritualizing the matter to think that suffering during pregnancy is inside the lines of what Paul is talking about here. Some might assume that this is only referring to the type of sufferings associated with persecution, but Christ's sufferings included much more than the hostility He experienced on the cross. Granted, I highly doubt Jesus ever suffered from "morning sickness" but that's why I love that God made sure to include "all our affliction" in this message of hope. Jesus knows what living in a body of flesh feels like.
God is described here as the Father of comfort and mercy. It was soothing to realize that God wanted to pull me close during this suffering, not push me away because I was too weak to handle this pregnancy. I was terribly hard on myself in the beginning. I beat myself up almost every day because I couldn't compare with other women who were able to get out of the fetal position and be productive with their days. I judged myself harshly for not being able to stand up long enough to go grocery shopping without almost blacking-out on aisle 7. I was frustrated that I couldn't keep anything down sometimes, including food lovingly prepared or purchased by my sweet husband. I assumed that God (and others) were looking on with the same judgement and frustration.
But mercy? That was more than I expected! It helped ease my pain to realize that my Father had compassion on me, even when I felt like such a disappointing disaster.He wasn't critiquing my every hour spent on the couch, or the harvest of dust-bunnies scattered throughout my house, or the neglected laundry or dishes, or the fact that taking a shower was something I had to mentally prepare for most days (warm water + standing + getting overheated + dry-heaving = let's never bathe again). God met me in that moment with my Bible on my lap and said: "I give you mercy, Kaysie."
It was a truth I began to teach myself minute-by-minute. And now, as our passage in 2nd Corinthians continues, I am able to pull close and comfort any weary pregnant mamas with the comfort I was given. Experiencing suffering makes us aware of the suffering.
And for every misery I encountered, I was embraced by His mercy too.
The Perfect Storm: Seasickness, Mental Fog, Waves of Fatigue, and Feeling Lost At Sea
I'd heard of "mommy brain" but never much about "pregnancy brain." Well, we got introduced in my sixth week of pregnancy. I have always been a multi-tasker and keenly aware of my mental surroundings including deadlines, projects, and activities that are coming up. All of this was erased within three days of my nausea/fatigue cocktail. I didn't know what time or day it was. I couldn't tell you what was coming up. I would try to work but even thinking seemed like too much effort. If I got sidetracked, it was impossible to remember where I started. All I could focus on was staying above the next wave of sickness, which meant sleeping at all hours of the day. I felt like my old iPhone battery which would go from a 100% charge down to 6% in about 13 minutes (it soon began to actually smoke, so we laid it to rest shortly after).
It's hard when something unwelcome takes center-stage in your life, especially something as glorious as pregnancy sickness. Brian and my life changed from being centered around conversation and laughter and subjects that ignite our passion for Christ, to oh-my-gosh-I-can't-move-or-think-or-talk-or-I-will-throw-up ... which lasted until I was five months pregnant. On top of feeling sick and tired, I began to feel removed and distant from the things I loved the most. I hated that every conversation we had consisted of him asking me how I was feeling, responding with something like "about the same" (which was always miserable), and then describing in length every possible symptom I could think of. That's not really the kind of topics an exciting and passionate marriage is made of! At some points, even looking at my phone and computer made me sick. So communication with the outside world only happened in spurts.
Yet Even The Wind and Seas Obey Him
Despite the endless days where my world felt seasick, I practiced crying out to Him because I knew He had the power to calm the seas in my body.
"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and He brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men!" (Psalms 107:28-31, ESV)
It didn't always look like I wanted, but He would answer my cries. I prayed for all sickness to be gone by at least week 13, but it lasted until 20 weeks. Yet, He gave me strength to endure it. He gave me moments of calm in the storm, moments to have a good conversation with Brian or eat something other than instant mashed potatoes or feel strong enough to sit outside on my front porch and enjoy the breeze.
And even when I couldn't read my Bible much, I would listen to worship songs that spoke the truth over my soul and calmed me down. I spent many hours praying for new mamas and soon-to-be-mamas and women who want to be mamas. I found ways to get small tasks done that limited the amount of time I spent standing. But most of all, I learned to accept whatever my day produced, no matter how small. I don't measure myself by the same expectations as I used to or expect the same level of productivity for each day. I wake up, give myself over to Jesus, and walk in peace.
This is something I needed to learn before my little boy gets here, don't you think?
Practically speaking, here are some simple suggestions for any weary pregnant mamas out there:
- REST. Seriously. I was not the napping type before pregnancy, but boy did that change. Getting rest was the difference between a "good" day and a "please just take me out back and shoot me" day. So go to bed early. Sleep in late, if you can. I know this can be a challenge if you are working or already have young children, but when the people around you ask how they can help you, tell them to let you go to bed. If I stayed up even an hour past my (early) bedtime, I would get even sicker. Plus if you are taking any kind of nausea medicine, they all make you sleepy. Give in to the urge and sleeeeeeep.
- Don't expect a "cure all." When I would read other pregnancy blogs, almost everyone would boast, "Ginger eliminated all my sickness!" Yeah... I threw it up every time. In giving you food suggestions, some of them will absolutely not work for you. And others will help you feel about 15% better. But sadly, not much will completely eliminate your sickness -- not even medicines will take it all away. But it can help make days a little more bearable. I few things that I survived on: toast, instant mashed potatoes, sips of cold water, Chick-fil-a french fries, cinnamon gum, and Phenergan. :)
- Find someone else to share your misery. For me, I would lean on my husband for a lot of my complaining. But after eight or nine weeks of this, I could tell it was wearing on him. He wanted to help me, but nothing seemed to. He grew defeated along with me. If you can, find another pregnant mama who understands the valleys of nausea and ask her to pray for you. And if you can, try to have a heart-to-heart with your hubby and let him know you miss him, you appreciate all his support (or give him practical ways he can support you better), and ask him to please continue to show you patience during this temporary season. Brian is extremely loyal and felt like he had to sit with me every day while I was sick. It actually made me feel better to see him go out with guy friends and enjoy a nice dinner out. I was perfectly content laying on the couch watching Gilmore Girls and chewing my cinnamon gum. If you can't find someone to commiserate with, just comment below and you can count on my prayers!
- Give yourself GRACE. This was super hard for me. I felt like such a loser for months. But the Lord finally began to break me down and soak my heart with His unconditional love. And honestly, it was worth it all to experience more of this sustaining, comforting, and transforming grace.