I am currently living under a big dark cloud. I am easily frustrated, mostly disengaged and always tired. I’m nauseous from the moment I lift my head in the morning until after I fall asleep each night. I have spent much of the past four weeks in my pajamas, canceling everything on my calendar and apologizing to my family for being a drag. And this is great news-
I am pregnant.
I am no stranger to nausea. With my first child I was sick all day everyday from 6 weeks pregnant until the day he was born (1% of women get that short end of the stick). With my second, the nausea was even more severe, but thankfully subsided around 16 weeks. I have tried every remedy. Yes, I am even using essential oils this time and although they take the edge off a little, they have not changed my life. I wish they had.
I don’t like food when I’m pregnant and I especially hate dinner. I don’t want to plan for it, shop for it, cook it, eat it or clean it up. If there are dirty dishes in the sink, I can’t even go in the kitchen. The only reason anyone is eating around here is because my husband is taking care of it. I am barely functional in any of my daily tasks so we dig through mountains of laundry to find things to wear and the “to-do” list keeps growing. Princess Kate and I have so much in common, except I’m pretty sure she has a housekeeper.
And so why are we doing this again? Because after the nausea lifts and I can think straight, we decide that 4-9 months of misery is so worth the life that comes forth. So here we are again.
We are so thankful for this pregnancy. This past year we had two miscarriages and the fear of losing another baby can be consuming. The sickness I’m feeling now is a daily reminder that our little pumpkin is doing well in there. It’s been healing in a strange way. And while the nausea is hard, there are very obvious golden threads in this situation.
It’s temporary. We have friends who battle chronic pain and terminal illness. It’s for a great reason. It’s often really hard to find purpose in suffering. It’s what we wanted. We hoped and prayed for this child.
And yet, I am still miserable. I am living on the verge of tears and vomit and I’m trying to maintain perspective. I remind myself that it could be worse. I remember those who cannot conceive, who have lost children, who are suffering in real and hard ways. I get frustrated at myself when I complain and feel like a baby who has no idea what real suffering is like.
But just because others are suffering worse, doesn’t mean my pain is invalid. We tend to either wallow in our hardships or put on a strong face and pretend we’re fine. Neither extreme is going to be much help for the journey.
We handled the first couple weeks on our own; my husband took days off work, he dropped his seminary class, the kids watched too much TV. But as time went by when friends and family checked in on me, I responded with more reality. More truth. Probably sounding more desperate. And then the question, “Is there anything I can do to help?” starts coming and it’s easiest to say “not that I can think of.” Mostly because when you’re going through something, it’s hard to know what you need.
I remember that when my mom was nearing the end of her fight with cancer, lots of people asked that question and I never knew what to say. I couldn’t see past my grief long enough to think through what we needed or how people could help. But even though I said, “I don’t know,” people payed attention and figured it out. The church I worked at let me work from home and then asked if they could hire a weekly housecleaner for us. I could write pages about what that did for us. My mom’s friend kept showing up with (the best) groceries and another worry was taken care of.
I learned that when someone doesn’t give you ways you can help, if you just try some things you will inevitably meet a need. Maybe even a need they didn’t know they had. Send a note, call to check in, bring some flowers. Rather than say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” be the one to suggest and ask “would this specific thing be helpful?”
“Can I bring dinner this week and help with the kids?” “Can I come over Friday and help you with a project around the house?” “Can I set up a schedule for people to bring meals?” “Can I run some errands for you, or pick up the kids for a while?” These are the messages I’ve been getting and the help has been cold water for my thirsty soul.
If I weren’t honest that this was hard, I would miss these golden threads. Being needy is uncomfortable. It hurts a little to have people show up to this mess, but I get over it real quick when I see the beauty of people helping carry each other’s burdens. It inspires me to be that for others when I am well.