Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our History: Part 3

This post is long, and mainly about pregnancy-  my pregnancy with Son #2.  And it’s about expectations and judgments and grace.

So I was mostly home with Son #1 each day, and he was about 2 years old.  As I talked about in my previous post, he would’ve been labeled an “easy” baby.  As he was getting older, I was enjoying him more and more. I worked very part-time (about 10 hours a week), and when I was gone, one of my sisters watched him for almost no pay at our home.  Life was good.  We were very involved with our church, friends, and family.  We were back to almost feeling like we did “pre-baby.”

Then I got pregnant.

I got pregnant fast- we only tried for about 3 months. That blessing wasn't lost on me. And we were so happy to see the two lines appear on the test early one morning in April.  We planned a fun way to tell our families, and launched into plans for maternity clothes, a new nursery, and dreams of this baby.

Then a few weeks later, the morning sickness came.  The tiredness hit me like a truck.  The emotional out-of-whackness invaded my body.  No one told me about this part.

I had really only ever known one woman who had been sick during pregnancy.  All my other friends made it look so easy. Very little throwing up, if any, and they maintained their usual busy social lives, not to mention their cute pregnant bodies.  This was what I expected for myself.

I vomited so much and so violently every day that I broke blood vessels in my face, and my throat was raw.  I could hardly put food in my mouth without gagging.  I could hardly keep my eyes open from morning till afternoon naptime.

I felt nothing like my normal self. I felt alone. I felt physically beat up. Maybe this wouldn’t have been such shock if anyone else had told me this happened to them. But no one did, and I felt plunged into some sort of darkness.

In addition to the physical symptoms I was feeling came the beginnings of feelings of failure.  I couldn’t “perform” in my usual capacity.  I could barely get out of bed, let alone make dinner from scratch, design fun activities for Son1 , and be the best friend/wife/sister/daughter/employee/church-volunteer I could be.  And I beat myself up daily for it.  Sometimes hourly. Why could other women do it, but not me?

The choruses of “just hang in there until first trimester is over” and “it will all be worth it” started ringing out from everyone I knew.  I believed them.  But it didn’t make it easier when I had to pull over and barf on the side of the road. Let me also say, the “It could be worse” line also didn’t help.
This picture cracks me up because I thought I was smiling so big.   You can almost see in my eyes how terrible I feel.

I had a scare around week 11- and thought I was losing the baby.  It turned out to be ok, thankfully.  You’d think this would’ve been enough to get me into a better mindset. But I, in my selfishness, only said on the way to the hospital, “God, you  better work this out, because there is no way I’m doing this again.  If I lose this baby, we will not have any biological children.”  This was a dumb thing to say.  Ridiculous.  Thank goodness He has mercy on me in my stupidity.

So I waited and waited for it to get better.  Week 12…week 13….week 16….week 20. It only got worse.  And worse.  Even with medication, I threw up every day.  And I felt just awful.  Terrible.  I am not exaggerating.  I complained too much- this is true.  But I truly felt that bad all.the.time.  EVERY DAY.  And I felt like I was just a failure at life in general. I think the word I’d use for my emotional state would be “defeated.”

I had other small complications. I was put on a heart monitor mid-summer- I had to wear it day and night.  My heart had palpitations and raced constantly.  This just added insult to injury.  It was uncomfortable and annoying.  And all they found in the end was that I had “pregnancy-induced persistent tachychardia.” So that meant that, once again, my body wasn’t happy about being pregnant and was going to remind me in lots of ways- including by depriving me of sleep by the constant pounding in my head from my heart working so hard.
Me with two excited Aunts-To-Be, 26 weeks.

I wish someone would’ve told me I was doing a great job, and that growing my baby was the most important thing I could do.  This is not the message our American culture puts out.  Our culture says, “Keep going with your life as if it’s not changing at all. Work up until the moment your water breaks and do it with a smile. If you can’t, you’re a wuss or just not focusing on the positive. Also, look cute while doing it.”

We found out the baby was another boy.  I was happy about that. I was glad Son1 would have a brother. 
30 weeks

Finally- FINALLY- around week 30, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  At first, I cried about this.  I thought it was another curse put on me to deal with.  But less than a week after I started on the diabetic diet, I stopped puking every day.  I had some energy.  I could hang out with friends. I could stay awake long enough to talk to my husband at night.  I could make dinner.  As I was getting larger, people would say, “Oh, I bet you just feel terrible.” And I would say, “Nope! I feel great!!!” I started doing ZUMBA classes around 30 weeks.  I went to an out-of-town concert at 37 weeks.  It was like a miracle. 

I felt magically cured.  This was probably my issue the whole time- or at least why 2nd trimester held no relief for me like it does for most women.  I finally had a reason why I had felt so awful compared to others I knew.  I had validation that something wasn’t right.  I wasn’t crazy or just weak.  This helped me a lot. 

And at 39 weeks, my water broke in the morning, we zipped off to the hospital, and 8 hours (plus one epidural) later, I had my sweet baby boy in my arms.  People do not believe me, but for me, labor and delivery was the easiest thing about being pregnant. 
In labor, post-epidural.  Happy.

So here are my points:

1     1.  Just like with children all being different, women all deal with pregnancy differently.  I read recently that the medical/scientific community had done this ground-breaking study that said people experience pain differently.  It somehow proved that if I break my arm, my actual feelings of pain and suffering are different than if you break your arm.  No duh.  But it’s taken this long for even the doctors to say “pain is relative to each person and our bodies all react differently.” It isn’t just a state of mind. My body did NOT like being pregnant, and it revolted against this intruder into its system.  So just because that lady down the street was mowing her lawn, doing aerobics, and heading up the neighborhood bake sale when she was pregnant doesn’t mean you’ll feel like doing that. And also- if you do have problems during pregnancy, please share them. I am not asking everyone to focus on the negative or complain- just be honest, so that women like me aren’t shocked when it isn’t all glowing and blissful joy all 9 months.
38 weeks- notice how I am almost the same size I was at 26 weeks.  The diabetes had caused me to puff up and gain lots of weight in my body. Through the diet, my own body slimmed down while the baby grew. 

      2. GIVE SOME GRACE.  Everyone has pregnancy issues- small or large- but if a friend tells you they feel awful, BELIEVE THEM.  Believe they aren’t being hysterical or over dramatic, and don’t think that they just aren’t as tough as you.  Just because you handled it a certain way doesn’t mean the other pregnant woman is dealing with exactly what you had.  It’s all different.  I was not only experiencing “normal” uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, I had undiagnosed diabetes. I didn’t know this- I just knew I felt awful.  No one else knew either- and man, did I feel judged by people for being so sick and miserable.  I needed someone to encourage me, not chastise me for not being positive enough. Give pregnant friends some grace and mercy and encouragement.  And I don’t mean saying, “It will get better at such-and-such time”, because you don’t know that.  I mean tell her, “You are doing something so important and amazing for your family, and you just growing a person is a miracle.  Way to go.” Ask her, “What can I do to help?” Even just listening helps.

      3.  Let your pregnant-self off the hook somewhat.  It was my husband who finally said, “If I come home from work, and you, Son1 and the baby are alive, that’s ALL I expect of you.”  He didn’t care that we had to eat out more than usual, or that the house was slowly becoming a pit.  He didn’t care that Son1 watched more than his allotted ½ hour of TV that day.  He got it.  And you know what? Those days when all I could fix was a peanut butter sandwich and Son1 got to eat it while watching TV- from his perspective- best days of his life!!! So let it go.  You’ll get back to organic, fresh-baked wholesome foods and arts/crafts time soon enough.

      4. Get your heart right.  My heart was so messed up in this time, mainly from me putting my worth in what I could “produce” for my family and friends, and constantly falling short.  And honestly, from not having people in my life validate how hard it was.  All I got were shallow pep talks. This made me not a nice person to be around.  I did complain too much, and I did fail at times to recognize the miracle and amazing gift of Son2 growing inside me.  I can’t say I could’ve done anything differently- except this part.  I can’t say I could’ve “bucked up” or “put on a happy face” or “focused on the positive.”  But I could’ve gone to God and said, “Lord, I feel miserable. Please help me to see my life and my role the way you do, and to appreciate and treasure what you want me to.”  Instead of doing this, I felt like I was letting God down, along with everyone else in my life.  I am now confident He did not feel this way about me.
First meeting. Man, I love this kid. 

These things have taken me years- YEARS- to process and realize.  And while I wish the next chapter of our story went differently, I can tell you that’s not what happened.  Some of these themes continued.  I did have an amazingly cute baby to snuggle.  But this part of our story was far from over.  Stay tuned.