on the sickness of pregnancy

Bernadette’s new favorite thing is to force her brother to play house with her.  Gus is usually lost in his own make-believe world (pirates, auror, random Star Wars guy) but she persists in her game just the same, declaring that she is the mom, he is the dad and Dominic is their baby.  And then she starts ordering people around and scolding and guilting Gus to pay attention to her–“come home from work or our baby gonna get dead!”–and it’s pretty humbling to watch.

She started up the game this afternoon.  As I prepped dinner I overheard her tell Gus, “Dominic is our baby and I have a baby girl in my tummy!” and then immediately, “ah, baby in my tummy making me sick.  I’m gonna puke!” at which point she and Gus started to pretend to vomit.

The game went downhill from there.

It is a humbling thing to see your life reflected back to you through a child’s game.  Yes, I probably should give fewer orders and cool it on the scolding and guilting, but it was interesting to see what they think pregnancy is–barfing.

It makes sense, I suppose.  My pregnancies are nothing to compare to some that really suffer, but I do spend my far share of time sick.  The past few months have been brutal, even though at 28 weeks I am supposed to be in that “sweet spot” as far as pregnancy goes.  A couple of persistent stomach bugs, living out of a suitcase, and the fact that baby girls are always rough on me have added up to lots of time bent over the toilet, often with an audience of wide-eyed toddlers.

My husband and I will be celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary at the end of this summer, and with baby number four arriving three months before that, it is a fact that for the past few years I have spent a lot of time pregnant and therefore sick.  It is one thing to suffer through the flu or food poisoning.  A few days later the illness is behind you as you recount the hours of horror as nothing more than a memory.

It is completely different, as many women know, to live in a constant state of nausea, which is what pregnancy is for me. 

Months after months of discomfort and daily vomiting.  It just goes on and on.  And just when you think it might let up, the heartburn sets in, which also leads to vomiting for me.  And soon I get tired of talking about it, thinking about it, sure that those around me are just plain sick of my complaining.  I mean, after all, I’m not sick, I can eat, I don’t puke every day…I’m just existing at in a mild state of miserable all the time.

A couple of pregnancies ago I set out to try and find meaning in all this illness–ideas, thoughts that I could cling to during this long and often lonely months of sickness.  I’m not sure these will comfort those that are seriously ill with their pregnancies, but they have helped me.

1.  Producing Live is Profound, Earth-Shaking Work.

Even with 3 growing children, even sitting here in the middle of my 5th pregnancy, I still marvel at what is going on inside of me.  There is PERSON inside of me.  A LIFE, another HUMAN BEING is growing and coming into being within my very body.  That is insane.  Completely beyond what I can comprehend.  I guess it makes sense that this radical work should make me a little queasy.  In fact, the thought that God can preform such a miracle inside of me, and the only consequences I see is that I’m getting rounder, I feel nauseous and even the sight of pizza gives me heartburn, well, that’s amazing.

on sickness preg

2.  I am Quite Certain that I Won’t Remember These Months of Sickness.

And this is why I continue to get pregnant–I never can seem to quite remember how sick and miserable I was.  In fact, at the end of my second pregnancy I remember very clearly remarking to my husband, “you know, this pregnancy really wasn’t that bad.”  He looked at me blankly and then reminded me of the months of vomiting, the swollen veins, the heartburn.  Oh, yeah.  That’s right.  It’s amazing how a sweet little baby in your arms can make all of those memories just slide right out of your mind.

3.  I’d Rather Have My Baby Safely Inside Than Out.

Besides the annoyances of illness and heartburn and swollen veins, I have been very lucky–all of my pregnancies have been event-free and all of my babies have been born perfectly healthy.  Praise God.

Yes, pregnancy gets progressively more miserable and no, men will never be able to understand what we endure, but I would much rather be home puking in my toilet than perched over an incubator at the NICU.  I don’t care what sort of toll it takes on my body or my mind, I want my baby safely inside of me, getting nice and chubby, until she is good and ready to come out.

This last point was brought into sharp perceptive by the experiences of some of my friends.  We’ve all known moms with complicated pregnancies, that are forced to have their babies early.  All of these situations are scary.  Many end well after many exhausted weeks in the NICU, others end in horrible heartache.  I will never understand why these things happen, why some pregnancies are easy and others not.  All I know is that my baby still belongs in my womb.

I am 28 weeks along.  I am mostly miserable and yet the thought of my body no longer holding onto the little girl inside of me is insane.  I can feel with every fiber of my being that she is where she needs to be and that she needs to stay there.

You mothers that have delivered babies early, that have dealt with complications before and after birth–you are the ones that know what misery is.  Misery is not being unable to sleep on my stomach or throwing up breakfast.  Misery is not having swollen feet and big ugly veins.

Misery is having your baby taken from your womb too soon.  Misery is waiting and hoping and feeling utterly unable to nurture, feed and protect your tiny baby the way you want to–they way we are able to so easily when they are safely in our wombs.

And so maybe to my kids pregnancy is just one long barf session.  And maybe that’s what I make it seem like to my husband too, with my constant complaining.  But I know it is so much more.  Through the miracle of pregnancy God allows me to grow and protect a beautiful little girl while I tend to the matters of this life and this moment.  It happens in secret, in the dark.  And if being sick for a few months is the small and very modest part I have to play in this miracle, than I guess that’s okay.

Pray with me today, please, for all parents walking the road of high-risk pregnancies, walking like zombies through the NICU or grieving the loss of a child taken to God much too soon.

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