So...this is very long and covers about 18 different thoughts, so hopefully it's not too difficult to follow...
I am writing an update on pregnancy #2 tonight. It's been a doozy so far, and I'm only 12 weeks into it. If you don't know, I have severe hyperemesis gravidarum (hyperemesis for short). I had it with my first pregnancy, and it was brutal. This time has made the first round seem like a picnic by contrast. I spent 6 weeks unable to lift my head, open my eyes, speak, or in any way move without feeling the excruciating and uncontrollable need to vomit. In between times I would lie as still as I could, on my side, and try to control my breathing in an attempt to abate the overwhelming nausea. I could not sleep, I could not eat, I could not keep anything down. I craved water, which ironically, would cause me to instantly purge. That's the backstory. I don't want to sound dramatic or as if I'm exaggerating -- I wish I was. I'm not.
Anyway, today I want to focus on those who have been praying for me. I am so overwhelmingly thankful for each and every prayer, encouraging text, e-mail, phone call, and conveyed messages, most of which I did not reply to, though in my heart and mind I treasured each encouaragement.
I have been low. This is so hard. I have, for the better part of six weeks, wanted nothing to do with my own child, have not wanted to be pregnant with this tiny, innocent life, have been jealous over my husband's every commitment that took him away from me, including his duties as a father and sole care-giver to two high-maintenance girls. He has done this with no complaints -- literally none. He has lived his vows in the most humble, beautiful way -- this is the "for worse" that we committed to 3 1/2 years ago. I am so humbled as I think of the ways he has loved me and cared for me, cleaned me up, rallied me to carry on, dressed me, done everything for me. Y'all, it would take a lifetime for me to make up to him the service and love he has demonstrated to me through this. He's also worked to start our fledgling business and worked a second job at a hardware store to provide for us since I had to quit babysitting. Y'all, I am brought to tears of thankfulness for him. He is Jesus to me in tangible ways.
Today, for the first time, I got up and got ready to go to church with my family. I threw up as we were set to head out the door... We were late because I'd run out of one of my anti-nausea meds, so we had to go by the pharmacy on the way to church. These things, on an ordinary Sunday would have been enough to keep me home. By God's grace, they only made me want to be in sweet community and fellowship even more. I'd been hesitant that being around so many people would be enough to tip the scales to nausea-central. Again, by God's grace I made it to church and felt no nausea while there.
I came in as the first praise song was being sung. It was a simple song that I hadn't heard for years, praising Jesus for who He is. I started crying. I couldn't help it, I was so overjoyed to be in the presence of our most High. To be PRAISING Him in the midst of the storm. I have cried out to Him again and again for deliverance from this sickness. I have lived at my breaking point for weeks. Now, I was able to focus solely on Him and His greatness, His goodness, His sacrifice, His magnificence (I could go on). What joy is mine! What joy is OURS as believers -- not just believers, believers who can freely gather and praise and worship Him together and publicly without fear or restraint. I was so full of love for my church body, so filled with longing for the weeks I'd been away when I had been physically unable to be united with them. There is something powerful in gathering together.
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” - Matthew 18:20.
Jesus wasn't kidding, and he wasn't exaggerating when He told us this. The church body, corporate worship is powerful, a privilege, and so, so important to our dry and thirsty, and often weary souls.
I want to exhort you, if you are reading this, do not grow weary in meeting together. Do not let church and consistent community with other Christians fall by the wayside in your busy lives. God meant for us to join together, to worship together, to bear one another's burdens, to meet together, to speak His truth, to receive His word, and to be encouraged by all of this. I was moved to tears (yes, I am pregnant and hormonal) again as I sat and listened to the Word being spoken. My weary soul had grown dry and parched during this hiatus. I was reminded of how much I need Christ, and how I not only need Him, but I need (even to the point of a physical demand on myself as food and water) to worship Him. I need to hear and speak His truth. I felt so filled today. It wasn't that the message was so profound, though I will say a very timely and piercing truth was spoken, it was that it was FROM HIM. We need Him, all of Him, not just to petition Him, though there are seasons when that is all we are able to give Him and He will not turn us away, but we need the full spectrum of worship.
Later, I was able to go to my sister's house so she could run after my active crazy girl and I could just chat and nibble on food and feel normal. I left her house and started sobbing again (yes, I am a VERY emotional pregnant lady) with joy. I had missed the sweet fellowship of a sister and immersing myself in her family, my family living around me. We chatted about a million things, finished maybe half of the conversations we started, solved no problems, but renewed our bonds of sisterly camaraderie.
Quite aside from sobbing from happiness, it was a great relief to finally release some emotion. I tend to be a very emotional person at the best of times. When I am pregnant, my emotions are that much heightened by all those fun hormones. One of the cruelties of hyperemesis is that I am physically too spent and it is too painful to cry. I can cry out with my voice, a few tears will leak down my cheeks with each purge, but I cannot cry. My emotions build, but remain pent up. There is no crying of sad tears, no mourning the experience. I must wait until I am "better" to really cry, and then I don't want to cry sad tears, and so they stay unshed and bursting. Finally God provided a joyful release of tears and I feel the weight of a thousand anguished tears lifted and healed through the tears of joy that coursed down my cheeks. Is that weird?
I feel like so much of this experience can only be understood by those who have walked this path before me. Perhaps that's the added sweetness of fellowship with my sister -- she's been there, she get's it, and when I'm good, we can be "good", and when I'm so low in the depths of my sickness, she can stroke my forehead and tell me it's okay to be in the depths of despair because joy WILL come. And she knows. She lived it. Twice. Oh, I am thankful for her, and blessed that God saw fit for us to be so close as adults.
I know that I will have relapses of hyperemesis, days when I can't leave my bed except to stagger to the bathroom. Days when my toddler's activity and need for interaction are overwhelming to me. But today, just today, I was able to bask in the normal and even the "mundane", but it didn't feel mundane. It felt like a blessing directly from God to me: a new perspective on so many things I have often taken for granted. A glimpse into how loved and blessed I really am.
I set out to write this post to thank the many, many people who have been praying for me. It was going to be two paragraphs. Apparently I had other things I needed to say, but I would be sadly remiss if I did not offer the most sincere "THANK YOU" I can give in writing to those of you who have hit your knees before the throne room of heaven on my behalf. I have been so, so, so blessed to be so richly covered in prayer. I have felt the encouragement in my darkest hours knowing that God was hearing and would answer those many prayers. He listens to His people. He chose to work partly in His own Providence and partly through modern medicine to bring me to the point I am at today, and I am thankful for both.
It always feels like such a small thing to pray for someone. Many people asked me what they could do for me -- could they take Lucy, could they bring food, could they visit? Often the only answer I could give was PRAY. And I meant it, and they did. Being a part of the body of Christ is such a humbling experience that brings such joy and such deep, deep love. I cannot in honesty say I felt the intensity of my suffering ease through these prayers, but I did feel encouraged to persevere, even as I proclaimed that I could not, I knew I could. That knowledge only ONLY came from knowing that God was there with me, leading me through this, and by His providence yoking me so perfectly equally with my husband, and providing a sister who lived close, who could take on a third child for days at a time. I am blessed.
I had times I must admit I did not want to be pregnant. I wanted to be done. But I know God is good ALL THE TIME, and I know His plans are perfect, even when they are not comfortable. I prayed and cried out for some inkling of joy and anticipation over this little, innocent, sweet life, so tiny, so dependent. This life I will have the privilege, Lord willing, to shepherd, nurture, guide, and be sanctified through, for many, many years to come. And now, on a good day, I can feel and embrace the joy of expectant motherhood. Maybe that sounds like a no-brainer, or something small to you, but when you've experienced physical misery for days that stretch into weeks, it's hard not to feel jaded and bitter. After all, it's not about the feeling, and I would be wrong to base my life on something so fleeting and fickle as my emotions, but it really does help to feel it, and God knows that. He gets me, and today He gave me the precious gift of JOY and health so that I could bask in the anticipation of this little life He has gifted us. I also got to snuggle my firstborn and pray over her as she went to sleep tonight. I felt JOY that only HE can give, and in abundance. Amen and GLORY BE TO GOD.