“…So, are you going to have another baby?”
I get asked this question almost daily.
(As I’m sure many mothers do.)
The cashier at Target swapping smiles with my boys will sweetly look up in-between scans and with a coy smile ask, “are you going to have any more?”
The server at the restaurant placing chocolate milk in front of my kids’ place setting turns to ask, “so are you going to go for a third?”
Friends gathered around at moms night out, turn to ask “so, when is baby #3!”
I always take a deep sigh whenever I’m asked. Not because the question annoys me, but because I want so badly to say yes – when I know, the answer truly is no.
And I’ll tell you why…
My pregnancies started off just like so many others… As a complete shock. HA! Getting pregnant with Parker was the most unexpected (but happy) surprise. We weren’t trying. We weren’t planning. We had only been married a year. But there it was, the + sign on the pregnancy test (all 7 of them). Were we ready to be parents? We didn’t know… But here we were.
For the first few weeks my pregnancy was just like any first time mom. Questioning EVERYTHING. Was that pain normal? That cramp? That tenderness? Those emotions? I camped out at Barnes & Noble in the expecting mother section and pulled book after book off the shelf. I was going to be a Mommy – I needed to be prepared!
…But then… At Week 5 everything changed.
The nausea covered me like a heavy blanket that seemed to come out of nowhere. After consulting my baby books (and Google) I did my best to release my worry that this was just the “morning sickness” everyone talked about and that it would pass if I simply nibbled on Saltines and sipped Ginger Ale.
Except… It didn’t subside. It got worse.
Around Week 6 the vomiting began. I was vomiting close to 30-40 times a day… And when there was nothing left to vomit, I would dry heave until my stomach was left aching in pain. I went to my OB and they were convinced I had caught a stomach virus on top of my morning sickness and that’s why things were so bad. They wanted me to wait it out a few days. And so I did. And it got worse. At 8 weeks I no longer could move my head without getting sick. I couldn’t keep down any liquids at all, much less food… I would wet my lips with ice to try to get some moisture… The nausea never let up, not even for a minute. Convinced it was still a stomach bug I confined myself to my bed… I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until my husband returned from a long business trip and found me lying there. I must have looked bad. Real bad. I knew I had lost weight (I hadn’t eaten much of anything in weeks) and I knew I must have looked a mess because I had barely showered, brushed my hair, or changed my clothes… But the look on his face was semi-horrified. Jeez. Did I look that bad? He called my OB almost immediately saying I needed to be seen. I hadn’t been able to eat or drink anything. My nausea and vomiting hadn’t lessened at all. My OB said to bring me to the emergency room immediately and he would meet us there. He hung up the phone and packed me a bag and carried me out to the car and drove me to the hospital.
I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarium (HG) that day.
I had no idea what that was. I had never heard of it before. In fact, my OB had never even had a patient that had had it. He’d only read about it in textbooks. It’s rare. I think it something like less than .5% of women will ever get it. Just my luck.
In a nutshell, it’s a condition where your body basically rejects the pregnancy hormone and it’s as if your body is fighting the fetus itself. Doctors don’t know why it happens, how (if anything) to prevent it, or really, how to treat it. You aren’t able to eat or drink on your own – your body rejects it. The nausea is strong, so strong. And you’re constantly vomiting. Upwards of 50 times a day. And it’s just bile. Stomach acid. Because there’s nothing in your body to even throw up. Besides the physical, there’s the mental to deal with. Day in and day out of constant sickness… It takes a toll on your sanity.
My OB admitted me into the hospital the day I was diagnosed. I was severely dehydrated and malnourished (obviously) but my baby was fine. He was using up all my stored up reserves. And for that I was thankful. I wanted my little jelly bean to be ok, even if I wasn’t. Which is why, when I was asked if I wanted to consider terminating my pregnancy because they couldn’t guarantee the outcome based on how severe my HG was, I shook my head and said no. I was already so in love with this baby that I would do anything I could to make sure it continued to grow. No matter what happened to me. And he nodded and gave me a rundown of what things would look like for me in the coming months. He gave me some hope that my condition could subside at 20 weeks. That there were two different kinds of HG and one lasted until delivery… But one subsided around 20 weeks. I prayed that was the kind I had… It wasn’t.
The next weeks and months I was in and out of the hospital getting fed through an IV. I wasn’t able to consume anything on my own so they needed to ensure I was staying hydrated and “fed” intravenously. They kept pumping me full of different anti-nausea meds hoping one would offer relief (it didn’t). My life became that movie “Groundhog’s Day.” You know, the one where Bill Murray wakes up day after day doing the same thing? That’s what my life felt like. The only time I felt normal was when I would sleep and dream. I remember dreaming about food every night. Mounds and mounds of food I would shove into my mouth as fast as I could. And then I would wake up. And for just a second I thought I was ok. Until I realized I wasn’t. And then I would cry. It was hard. Dan was transferred out of state for work and I moved in with my mom. She became my primary care giver. Bless her heart. I don’t know how she did it.
I entered a real dark place around week 11. You start to become a little delirious, ya know? Your body fighting itself. Your mind fighting your body. A mess. As I lay on the table in my OB’s office getting checked, not really speaking, my mom turned to him and said “Can we hear the heart beat?” He responded that it was still early, we may not be able to hear anything… She shot him a look that spoke a million words and he quickly responded “But you know what, let’s try!” I think my mom knew I needed something to give me hope. To give me a reason to keep fighting. And she was right. As I lay there with my belly topped with cold jelly he moved the doppler wand across me, searching for the heartbeat. And after about 15 seconds… There it was. I still get chills to this day thinking about it. There was my baby’s heartbeat. It sounded so strong. So clear. SO BEAUTIFUL. It was in that moment I really realized I was growing another life inside of me. How incredible! It was also in that moment that I knew I was really going to fight. Fight for my baby. Fight for us.
Around Week 16 we found out the little jelly bean in my belly was a BOY. I was going to have a son! The sickness had not subsided but as he continued to grow and I could feel him moving around I kept fighting. Every day. To be strong enough for my baby boy. To help my son to grow and thrive! I still was holding out hope that when Week 20 rolled around that the sickness would subside.
20 weeks came and went.
Sickness was still there.
Every week thereafter I kept thinking – well… maybe… But no.
Around 25 weeks I pretty much had accepted this was how it was going to be until I delivered. I had to wrap my head around that. And THAT is when I started blogging. It became kind of therapeutic to me. An outlet to share what I was feeling. The good, the bad. All of it. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I started blogging again here.
Time dragged on in a way I can’t even begin to explain to you. I suppose anyone with a debilitating illness may feel this way. I couldn’t go anywhere – and I didn’t want to. People around me continued to live their lives and I was just kind of… stuck. From bed to couch, couch to bed. Sometimes we’d venture outside to the patio (my mom said I needed some sun from time to time) and the highlight of my day became leaving the house to get my IV and suck on ice chips.
As I entered into the 30-week stage the nausea and vomiting subsided a bit. I started to be able to eat and drink some things (although, there was never any rhyme or reason as to what I could or couldn’t keep down so it was also a super fun surprise….) But at 35 weeks I got some good news! My OB said they wanted to do an induction at 39 weeks. They didn’t think it would benefit me or my baby to go past that. I was overjoyed. I was so ready for this to be over and so ready to meet my baby boy!
39 weeks arrived. I had nausea meds pumping through my IV throughout labor and after 18 hours of non-medicated (read: excruciating) labor Parker Noah Richardson was born. All 8lb 10oz and 22in of him! He was perfect. I was so in love. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT. And would you believe just 15 minutes after delivery I WAS FINE. It was as if someone pulled off the nausea blanket and I was ok again. It was like a miracle. A true miracle. I did it. I MADE IT.
Ok so you’re reading this and you’re like… But wait. She has two kids, right?
HA! Yeah. Am I a total psycho for doing that AGAIN?
But in my defense… My OB told me I had a 50/50 chance and after a year of being over the moon in love with my baby (and my brain blocking out some of the trauma) I thought I would give it another shot.
Feel free to gasp in horror. I won’t be offended.
Parker was such an amazing baby. I mean, I truly believe God was like “look, we gave her a hard time with the pregnancy, let’s give her an easy kid.” He was an angel. I loved being a mom and was truly over the moon. Why wouldn’t I want to have another? To double up this feeling? I mean… right?
So the month before Parker’s birthday… Armed with my 50/50 chance of having HG again, Dan and I decided to try for Baby #2. And would you believe, we were blessed with a baby our first month trying? I thought to myself, well I’m definitely not going to be sick this time! God wanted us to have this baby, look how easily we got pregnant!
We plan, God laughs. Right?
I felt totally fine until… You guessed it. Week number 5!
It was like deja vu.
And I have to admit to y’all. It was like a crushing blow.
I was going to do this again. For the next 8 months.
In some ways pregnancy #2 was easier. I wasn’t completely blindsided. I knew what I had, I knew what to expect, I knew what to do. But in other ways, it was harder. I had a 1 year old. I had a baby I couldn’t take care of because I couldn’t take care of myself. When he wanted mama I couldn’t be there. It was hard just to lift my head. My mom took over. She became caregiver again… But not just for me this time, for Parker too. The overwhelming crushing guilt of not being able to take care of my baby on top of the sickness I felt every minute of every day sometimes felt like too much to bear… But I did it. I persisted. I pushed through. The sickness wasn’t as bad as it was with Parker. Sure wasn’t good – but it wasn’t as bad. I started feeling marginally better around the 6-7 month mark. I think I was just better prepared this time, ya know? I was induced at 39 weeks again and my Mason Chase Richardson entered the world kicking and screaming and just as perfect as his big brother. My heart felt full. I was so in love. It was, of course, worth it.
“Most of the time the gifts in our lives don’t feel like gifts in the moment.” That quote rings so very true. How could this overwhelming sickness be a gift? But it was a gift. From God. I really believe it allowed me to love my children more fiercely than I ever could otherwise. To appreciate them on such an incredibly deep level. My love for them has fueled me to do and accomplish things I never thought possible. God knew this and prepared me for it. Motherhood has been incredible.
So here I am, almost 8 years into doing this “mommin’ thing” and every year since Mason was born I’ve contemplated “doing it again.” As you can imagine both my husband and my mother are deeply against it. They probably remember things in a way I don’t – as I mentioned before – the brain blocks out trauma, and in addition to that, I’m blinded by the love I feel for my kids. The logic always wins over, though. I remind myself why the answer has to be no. And I remind myself to be thankful for the two beautiful children God has blessed me with.
We’ve debated surrogacy. We’ve prayed over it. And we believe that isn’t what we’re being called to do.
We’ve debated adoption. We’ve prayed over it… And while my heart believes I would love to adopt, Dan doesn’t feel the Lord has called him in that direction and I respect that…
But I would be lying to you if I said with every pregnancy announcement I see as I scroll past my newsfeed on social media that there aren’t pangs of jealousy in my stomach. And with every friend that I watch as their belly grows and they feel the tiny kicks of baby feet, that my heart doesn’t ache. I’m only human, right? Does the longing go away? I don’t know. I’m not there yet.
When someone says:
“…Are you going to have another baby?”
You see how it’s such a loaded question, right?
But… Over time I’ve learned to reply, “No, we’re complete just the four of us.”
And we are.