Recently, a reader whom I have met in real life left the following comment on my blog:
How do you handle your family and your home while dealing with repeat hyperemesis? I would love another child, but my fear of HG and the knowledge that I can't take care of my others, makes me so fearful of embracing being open to children. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.
It is such a good question, I thought I'd answer it in a blog post of its own.
For starters, I would like to explain (for those who have never been unfortunate enough to experience it firsthand) how bad hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is. It is morning sickness, multiplied a thousand times. It is a lot like food poisoning, except that it lasts months instead of one day, and never lets up. It means throwing up a dozen times or more, every day - sometimes up until the baby is born. It means getting sick from the mention of any food, or driving past a restaurant, or even just getting an ad for one in the mail. It means that any stimulation to the senses is a trigger for more nausea (smells, tastes, loud noise or repetitive sounds, busy patterns, heat/cold, being touched, etc.). It means having a sore and often bleeding throat from all the bile that is traveling the wrong direction. It means wanting to lie alone in a cool, dark, quiet room all day, and not being able to. It means time dragging on excruciatingly slowly, and forgetting that you ever used to feel "normal".
Hyperemesis is terrible in every way imaginable. Some moms have it much worse than that yet, and require aggressive medical care and supervision. At its best, moms suffering from hyperemesis are horribly miserable and depressed. At its worst, they would rather die than have to live another day in such utter misery. On the hyperemesis spectrum, I am happy that I never have it as bad as some moms I have read/heard about. I throw up 10-20 times per day between weeks 5 and 16, at which point I usually have a very enjoyable and carefree rest of my pregnancy. The nausea takes its toll on my throat and teeth (i.e. very expensive dental bills), but much more than that, on my emotional well being. When it's all over, I suffer from what could probably be categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder: disbelief at what I've just been through, relief that it's over, and fear that it might ever happen again. It takes a good while to get over it - I still feel somewhat shook up from my most recent bout of HG with Anna's pregnancy.
So why in the world would any sane person knowingly go through something so unpleasant? At the risk of sounding cliche - because it's all worth it. As I sit and hold my baby, smell her little head, brush across her downy hair with my lips, I slowly heal and forget about the misery that being pregnant caused. I would be willing to pay a much higher price than that to have her. Like most any parent, if I had to, I would gladly give my life for her.
The first aspect I would like to address is faith. Faith is seeing the invisible, and knowing that something is true even though we have no physical evidence of it. When you are first pregnant, there is not much physical evidence of that child, other than the nausea. Especially with a first child, we may not realize how happy we will be when we eventually get to meet our child. It takes faith to put up with months and months of misery and physical illness in hopes of getting something wonderful in return almost a year later.
Secondly is a conviction that regardless of whether something is easy or not, if we are commanded to do it in the Bible, we must obey God. Now, long before I was a Christian I always dreamed of having a large family because I love babies, children, and everything to do with homemaking. I am not having babies because I have to, but because I want to. But even if I didn't feel that way, I would still have to obey the Bible on this matter, or else be in sin. This post is not to prove that birth control is unscriptural. Suffice is to say that such is my conviction based on the Bible, so it really doesn't matter if that is something I feel like obeying or not, or how hard it will be to obey. If the Bible commands us to leave family size in God's hands, then that is what we have to do. It is no longer a question of preference.
Ironically, having what may seem to some such a "restrictive" or "oppressive" viewpoint is actually extremely liberating. It takes all responsibility of this decision making off us parents and places it squarely on God.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. (Proverbs 14:26)
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
I do not have to worry about whether I am short-changing my husband and the other children because for 5 months out of every two years I am too sick to cook all their favorite foods, take them out of the house much, play a lot with them, or even read out loud. I have complete faith that if I obey God to the best of my ability, He will take my imperfections and fill in the gaps as needed. Many Christians understand this concept when it comes to parenting, providing for our families financially, and other areas of our Christian life. Trusting God with our fertility is no different: we do our best, and leave God the rest. If He is putting us through a trial, we can rest assured that He will help us through it, and that we will be better of because of it.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
So to answer the original question (some of this post has branched into other aspects), how I handle the home and the family: I don't, at least not to my usual standards. But I realize that there are seasons in life, and while I may be serving my family a different hot cooked meal thrice daily right now, they might have to live off oatmeal for a while next year this time. In the end, God will see to it that it all evens up.