Originally published on the JellyTelly blog...
I need help.” Three small words so difficult to utter, yet oh so necessary. This, I discovered the hard way.
About 9 weeks ago, my husband and I learned the joyful news that we were adding a new little one to our family. We had been hoping and praying for another baby and could not be more excited. One week later, the rug was pulled from underneath us as a horrific case of “all day” pregnancy sickness kicked in, leaving me reeling and utterly helpless.
This was nothing like what I had experienced in my first pregnancy. Literally overnight, I could barely take care of myself, much less my husband and 3-year-old daughter. I had never felt nausea this debilitating – all I could do was lay in bed in the fetal position and moan. My sweet husband not only handled his more-than-full-time job for our small business and his restaurant consulting gig on the side, but he also took on the burden of grocery shopping, cleaning, and laundry, none of which are his forte, bless him.
During the day though, it was just me and my little girl who wanted her mommy to play with her and take her places just like always, but I couldn’t even go outside for five minutes or open the refrigerator without dry-heaving. There was no rhyme or reason to what would send me running to the bathroom. The best I could do was put on another episode of her favorite show and head back to bed or park myself on the living room chair under a blanket and pray that the minutes would pass quickly.
This behavior was against everything I wanted to be as a woman, mother, and wife. I didn’t want the minutes to go too quickly; I wanted to savor them. I didn’t want others to serve me; I wanted to serve them. I didn’t want my child to have to stay in the house all day; I wanted her to be free to play and run. Everything was topsy turvy. And I felt completely out of control.
In my slightly stronger moments, I was able to remind myself that I was sick for a good reason – because of new life – not because of cancer or a degenerative disease. The powerful anti-nausea medicine I was prescribed was the same medicine taken by people – yes, even young mothers – suffering from the ravaging side effects of chemotherapy. I often prayed for them as I took out the next pill. I tried to keep things in perspective, and I knew the situation could be so much worse.
But we are human, and it’s hard when you’re suffering, for whatever reason. At just the right time, I remembered a book my sister-in-law had recommended and began reading it: Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy by Sarah Jobe. The premise is that “God shows up in pregnancy when and where we least expect it.” The book’s funny anecdotes and scriptural truths spoke to me in such a personal way.
“Pregnant women learn throughout pregnancy to trust others for their basic needs. They learn their own limits. They learn to ask for and receive help. They learn to surround themselves with communities of support, knowing that when they most need to, they might not be able to lift their own legs. They learn to trust that God will meet their needs through the people around them. In short, pregnant women learn to live by faith….
Until we are willing to step out on faith and let others support us in our weakness, we will never know the miraculous strength of God within us.”
In my pride and desire to take care of other people all the time, I didn’t immediately ask for help. I’m much more comfortable being the helper, you see. But that was no longer an option. Finally my husband firmly yet lovingly suggested, “It’s time to ask for some help. We can’t do this on our own.”
There are friends who had already offered to take our daughter for the afternoon, and we were so grateful. But sometimes there are people in our lives who are more than willing to help for an hour or two but just need to be asked. The first challenge is asking. The second challenge is receiving and letting go of control. As desperately as I needed the help, it wasn’t easy to watch my daughter walk away from me to be taken care of by another mother, one who was feeling perfectly fine. Ahhh, another great lesson in humility.
Here are a few other important lessons our family learned…
I learned to submit my fears to the Lord. Yes, I feared it would never end. After months of nausea and vomiting becoming my “new normal,” it was hard to remember what it was like to not feel pain, to live a regular day of running errands and taking my daughter to the park. My fears became more and more irrational the longer I sat with them. When I submitted them right away, they lost their power.
Our daughter learned a greater sense of compassion. At the beginning of my sickness, she didn’t understand and got frustrated when I was in the bathroom bent over the toilet again. She would bang on the door, or if I left the door open, she would come in and try to pull me away. But my husband and I used these situations as teaching opportunities on how to be kind and compassionate, especially to those who are suffering. One day shortly after, she came into the bathroom and patted my back saying, “Don’t give up, Mommy. It’s going to be okay.” Another time, she stood there quietly balling up pieces of toilet paper and then gently dabbed my tears away.
We learned to give each other grace. Nothing was going to be neat or perfect in our house for a long time, and that was going to have to be okay. My husband didn’t do the laundry or the dishes like I do. But you know what? He did his best, and he did it out of love. And that’s enough. In the same way, I needed grace from him to love and accept me in my weakest moments and to remember that my most important job was taking care of the baby inside of me.
One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, says that the two best prayers she knows are “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I have to say I’ve experienced both of these extremes so deeply in the last few months. After finally crossing the threshold into the second trimester, I do still have some nausea and sickness, but it’s improving everyday. This week, I was able to take my daughter swimming again, and with the sun on my face I must have whispered “thank you” a hundred times for such a simple joy.
I can now look back with greater clarity on how God has used and is using this trial for His glory and my family’s refinement. In my helplessness, I was humbled and completely dependent upon Him and others.
What’s your struggle? It may be completely different than mine. But in our faltering, feeble places of weakness, I assure you we can find holy ground. Even on the bathroom floor.