For the third time in as many years, I am 30 weeks pregnant! So, hello week 31!
Each pregnancy is unique and full of new challenges and experiences. When I carried Ryan, my time, energy and focus was spent on building a beautiful home and environment for my precious one to be welcomed into. Each kick was met with feelings of awe, overwhelming love and gratitude. All of the new sensations, whether pleasent or not, were facinating and all part of bringing my baby into the world. You can read back in my early blog entries and see for yourself that despite suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum and receiving poor medical support or treatment, I retained a positive attitude. I certainly cried a lot and had times of despair and sadness. Yet I always managed to pick myself up, dust myself off and carry on.
My pregnancy with Alexander was a little different. I already had a beautiful baby to love and nurture. Suddenly my sickness was an enemy to my little one. As I lay in bed listening to the cries of my 9 month old baby, completely unable to get up and see to him. I promised myself I would not get into that situation again. Friends and relatives gathered round and provided a lot of help and support in looking after me and more importantly, my baby Ryan. The sickness subsided immensly by the time I was half way through the pregnancy. The sickness was not as severe, yet the nausea was dreadful. I worried about how I could possibly love the baby as much as I loved Ryan. Did I possess enough love for two babies? I carried so much resentment for missing Ryan's 9-12 months. I feared that my resentment would become a barrier between me and this new baby I was to birth. Despite all this, I will never forget the profound moment when I birthed my little 7lb Alexander and cradled him in my arms. My heart grew three sizes in one second and I felt my ability to love expand dramatically. Now I can not imagine my life without my cuddly squidgy Alex.
Ryan and Alexander are 17 month apart. They do almost everything together - including wrestling, laughing, building (and destroying) train tracks and watching TV. Their love for each other creates this unbreakable bond which makes them inseperable and when divided they are not as happy or complete.
This third pregnancy, another beautiful surprise, came with a whole new set of challenges. It is one thing for people to take a 9 month old baby for a few hours so I could sleep in the morning. And another thing entirely, to expect someone to take a 2 year old and a 1 year old. My illness (HG) was far more severe than my previous pregnancy with Alex. It was very reminicient of my early pregnancy with Ryan. The vomiting, the room spinning, fainting, trembling, dehydration, malnutrition and sudden and severe weight loss. I had two precious and treasured little boys to nurture and raise. I live in a three storey house, with the kitchen on the bottom floor and the bedrooms on the top. I had a toddler who was enjoying his newfound freedom of walking and scaling the stairs. Windows were a target - sofas, bookcases, tables and chairs were exciting climbing frames. This child needed constant supervision. My older toddler, was entering the inquisitive, eager to learn phase. He needed to be challenged and given activities to do. He was also aware of his surroundings and who his constants were. Being away from mummy - and Daddy - unsettled him.
I was 7 weeks pregnant on Christmas Day 2011. We woke up, opened presents, enjoyed watching the children play with their new toys and I nibbled on a bit of Christmas Dinner. Then I crawled into bed and stayed there. A violent sickness bug swept through the household during my Birthday, so celebrations were put on hold. I have no memory of New Year. I was unable to go up and down the stairs. At best, I staggered down to the middle floor and collapsed on the sofa and watched TV for a few hours before finding it too nauseating and crawling back upstairs to bed again.
We hired a family Au Pair. Kira. A lovely 19 year old Hungarian girl, who came to live in our spare room. She got up with the children, and cared for them until they went to bed. Then she cleaned the kitchen and tidied all the toys away making the house clean and tidy, ready for another day. I tried to at least make an appearance to my boys once a day. It was usually around tea time. Kira would make me food, sometimes I ate it, sometimes I couldn't. But soon, the energy and excitement of the boys would exhaust me to such an extent that I would have to kiss them both and crawl back up to bed to be sick and black out again.
I was desperate to function. All I wanted, was to be able to do the bare minimum; get up with the kids, lay on the sofa while the kids watch TV, feed them snacks and change their nappies. Keep them alive. Unfortunately, I was not keeping myself alive very well. Let alone my children. I made several visits to the Silver Star Unit in Oxford Hospital. They specialise in High Risk pregnancies and have an extended amount of experience in treating patients suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Dr Lucy Mackillop became my medical confidant, companion and beacon of hope. She took my illness with great seriousness. She understood and appreciated the condition of which I suffered. So much so, that she would move her cup of coffee away from me when I walked into her office, knowing that even the hintest of coffee smell would cause me to gag and my stomach contract. She was quick to try me on medication - a combination of 3 different types of tablets, to be taken multipal times a day. Even under the massive amount of medication, I was still unbareably nauseated and unable to eat. When I did eat, it rarely stayed down. I became dehydrated too easily. There were many ocassions I knew I should have gone into hospital and put on an IV for fluids. Yet I couldn't bare to leave my children. So I used a water bottle to sip tiny amounts of cold water. After trying many different forms of treatment, I was put on Ondansetron. Tablets which were routinely given to patients undergoing Chemotherepy to combat the nausea and sickness. These tablets stopped the vomiting, but did nothing for the dizziness and insane nausea. Yet I was able to drink and eat a tiny amount of food - and keep it all down. The Ondansetron kept me alive, but little more.
Dr Lucy wanted me to contact my local GP and request a repeat prescription for Ondansetron so that I did not have to make the hour long trip into Oxford to pick up the tablets from the Hospital. Unfortunately, the telephone call to my GP was not as helpful as I hoped. "Ondansetron? No, I don't believe you, that's a cancer drug" a gruff, old man barked down the phone to me. Dr Lucy had faxed a letter on my behalf requesting that they prescribe me the tablets I forementioned. "No, I'm not doing it. Do you want your baby to be deformed? Or it could die. I'm telling you, that this selfishness is going to screw up your life and you'll sue me for it" I said I was more than willing to sign a declaration that I would not sue him or the surgery should anything go wrong with the Ondansetron. Dr Lucy said there was more than 15 years history of Ondansetron use during pregnancy with no ill side effects to the fetus. This man knew nothing of the drug. It is NOT a cancer drug! Yet his hurtful words continued to attack me "My wife took tablets during one of her pregnancies, and the baby died. Do you want that? You're not even that ill! Just get on with it. My wife had Hyperemesis 6 times and just got on with things." My throat clammed up and my eyes stung with tears. I responded curtly and promptly hung up. Then I threw up.
From then on, Dr Lucy proceeded to prescribe me the Ondansetron herself and my Mother in Law picked them up every month for me. She and my sister in Law came over weekly to clean the house, provide some friendly company and see the children. They contributed to saving my sanity during a very dark time.
Kira stayed with us for January and February. She became a surrogate mother to Alex - who would reach for her and snuggle into her arms when he was sad. He loved Kira immensly. I remember one day he called her "Mama". It pierced my heart a thousand times. I learnt a little Hungarian to communicate with Kira - who knew little English. As I improved enough to get up for an hour or two in the day, and slowly build myself up to being up for an afternoon. We did a lot of charades and laughing. She was perfect company and took great care of the children, the house and of me. She did more than her job. She became part of our family, and for a time, she was doing my job. She was mum. Admitting that and allowing it hurt my pride greatly and I struggled to know what my purpose was during those months. Who was I? What was I doing? Will I always be this useless? How could I be so easily replaced? I felt that my children no longer needed me. They had Kira. And she did a better job at keeping the house clean and the laundry done than I ever did.
Depression is a curious thing. It appears that it is not simply mental. In fact, it is a very real and physical condition. It felt like I was surrounded in a very black cloud - everyone seemed so far from me. I was isolated, sick, weak, I had no purpose or use and I felt humiliated, beaten-down, and completely and utterly worthless. I also felt hurt and anger at being so ill. I felt pain in all my body. I was tense and short-tempered. I had little attention span and seemed unable to think about anything positive. I just wanted to be able to look after my family and serve the people around me. I wanted to help people going through trials, had I not gone through enough already? Did I not deserve one pregnancy that was not so full of sickness and hardship? How could my role as a mother and housewive be so easily filled by a 19 year old girl working 7am - 7pm? I dwelled on the "injustice" of my situation making myself blind to the miracles I was blessed with at that time. I had help. Medical support, understanding friends, a loving family and daily help. All I had to do was focus on enduring to the end and getting better.
I look back and realise that there were so many times, often during my darkest hours, where the Saviour had his arms tightly around me. He truly carried me personally through that trial. Yet at the time I had never felt more alone, more abandoned. My blessings were so perfectly designed to my needs, yet I did not see them for what they were. My pride, my ignorance and anger completely blindsighted me.
Now I understand what it means to be humble. What it means to be as a little child and trust the Lord, listen to His teachings, Follow his Counsil. I am learning to take His hand and trust that no matter how difficult the path is, I can get through it. My anguish was nothing compared to the anguish that my Saviour has endured. My trials were so small in comparison to others.
My close friend was 6 weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy. We were both expecting boys and talked about how excited we were to have them grow up and become friends. It was her first baby, and despite terrible nausea and sickness and suffering from undiagnosed Hyperemesis Gravidarum, she maintained a beautifully positive perspective. Each day brought her closer to her precious little boy.
Kira had left. I was improving enough to get around the house and we planned a holiday to Florida and New York to "get away from all the sickness and sadness". The day after we left, my close friend lost her baby. For reasons unknown, her much-loved son's spirit left his little body and she birthed him only to never hear him cry. As other mothers left the hospital carrying their newest addition in a carseat, my friend left the hospital with a little box. And instead of a new cot to dress and let her son rest, she buried her baby and decorates and maintains his tiny grave.
This is the true meaning of anguish. This is what Injustice really is.
I was immediately snapped out of my sorry, self-pitiful state. I needed to be a healer. I needed to comfort, to support, to cry with her. I needed to make everything better and protect her from going through such tragedy again.
Suddenly my Goliath shrunk to the size of a dwarf. A lot of my physical symptoms had diminished enough to leave me feeling something that represented a human. We did manage to enjoy our holiday, but I was deeply devastated and the nights were the worst. Sleep filled with nightmares and the horrible feeling in the morning that perhaps I had dreamt it all about my friend and her stillborn Seth. The realisation that it was real. It had happened. I had to keep going through the emotions - disbelief, hurt, confusion, anger, complete devastation. I could only imagine the mental, physical and spiritual torment my dear friend was experiencing each day.
Stunningly, my friend has done exactly what anyone should do in such circumstances. She is clinging onto her strong belief in her Saviour Jesus Christ and in Eternal Life. She is allowing the Atonement to heal her wounds and help her find her purpose, as an eternal mother. She and her new husband are hurting. It is apparent to anyone. Yet they are both griefing in such a poetic and beautiful way. It really testifies of the healing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I feel ashamed at my response to my personal trials with HG when I look at these two wonderful people and the tragedy they have endured. I just pray I can be better at holding onto faith in His great plan for me.
Because there is a plan. For each of us. The greatest healer is service. The more we think of others, the less we dwell on ourselves. Serving my dear friends in their time of darkness, has healed my wounds. Tragedy does bring people together. And it is through our sorrows and trials that we find our truest and closest friends.
If there are lessons to be learned from the last 6 months. It is that I have found my true purpose. My divine duty and deepest pleasure. It is simply to love my brothers and sisters. To serve them. To cry with them, laugh with them, care and strengthen them in times of need. Ross and I have a unified goal in our life, not to focus on career, holidays or Gucci bags...but serving our fellowmen. Loving and helping our family, building strong friendships and being there for others. It's not a duty, not a "I should do this", it is a real desire.
We have been on the receiving end of so much love and service. There are so many angels on this earth who constantly bless our lives and teach us the true meaning of happiness, it is only natural to want to give back and be more like our Saviour. It is through our darkest and most lonely days that we have learned what truly matters. So whilst it has been horrible and almost unbearable, I realise how important it is for us to suffer tribulations. We learn so much more from our bad experiences and our mistakes. I suppose the point I'm trying to put across is, it doesn't matter how many blessings we are given in life, we are defined by our hardships and how we overcome them.
So I'm still sick, still feeling horribly nauseous and I have many times In the week where I feel utterly overwhelmed and exhausted but Im trying to hold onto the hope that even in my compromised condition, I have worth. I have a purpose and it has eternal value. I will let this difficult time shape me into the person heavenly father wishes me to become.