Pregnancy is filled with joy and anticipation. It can also be brimming with nausea, heartburn, and aching joints. My pregnancies fell mostly in the latter category. Aaaah, the memories. During my first pregnancy, I was nauseous for nine full months. People kept lying to me. They kept telling me the morning sickness would end, but it never did. The intensity of the morning sickness increased with each successive pregnancy to the point that I was bedridden for several months during my last two pregnancies. These two pregnancies, although very similar physically, proved to be strikingly different. Let me explain.
Shortly before I was expecting daughter #3, we had moved to a small condo in a new city. When I suddenly disappeared from church (due to the onset of morning sickness) no one really noticed because no one had really had a chance to get to know us yet. We were also building a new house with my husband serving as general contractor. This meant he worked all day at his regular job, and then spent most of the evenings working on the house. All in all, I was essentially on my own. My poor little girls (ages 2 and 4) survived primarily on sippy cups of milk, string cheese, and crackers. I had neither the strength nor the fortitude to cook anything, as the scent of food sent me running for the bathroom. I couldn’t bear to think about the time that stretched out in front of me. I literally had to take my day one hour at a time. I simply endured.
Finally, about 4 months later, the worst of the morning sickness subsided. From this experience I learned that I could survive difficult things. I learned endurance . . . but, that was about all I learned.
Two years later, I was very happy with my family of three daughters. I had made it through 3 full term pregnancies and two miscarriages. I felt that my procreating days had come to an end. I scheduled my husband for a vasectomy. As fate would have it, my husband’s grandfather suddenly died and the funeral was the same weekend as the would-be surgery. He cancelled it and we all went to the funeral. Fearful that a vasectomy might interfere with golf season that was just starting, he chose to wait just a few more months to reschedule. Oh yes, you know where this is going.
Pretty soon, daughter #4 was on her way. (And yes, daughters are the only kind of babies we know how to make.) I cried for three days straight—not because I was having another baby, which was actually great, but because I would have to endure another pregnancy. I couldn’t bear the thoughts of it, and neither could my husband. (He was sure the pregnancies were at least as hard on him as they were on me.) I didn’t think it was possible, but I was actually sicker than the last time. Neither medications nor IV’s helped, but something else did.
This time, we were well established in our neighborhood. We were surrounded by loving, caring people who happily came to my aid. For a couple of months, three meals per week were brought into our home. More than once I would be weak, nauseous, and in need of food, but could only think of one food that sounded remotely palatable. It was like my own little miracle when in through my front door a neighbor would come with just that food: mashed potatoes, rolls, and once a hoagie sandwich. One neighbor cleaned my bathrooms and folded my laundry. One woman brought by the entire alphabet made out of jello jigglers for my daughters to play with and eat. Another friend brought my little girls lunch for two weeks straight during a time when I was particularly weak (unbeknownst to her). Others just dropped by and asked how they could help. Oh yes, and I should mention my husband went in and had his vasectomy—a sure sign of true love in my book.
From this experience I learned so much more than simple endurance. I learned what it was to have misery and despair washed away by overwhelming gratitude and love. I learned that miracles come from God through the hands of his children on earth, especially his daughters. I learned that a hoagie sandwich can be a miracle. I learned that both giving and receiving service uniquely bonds people together. I learned that a powerful desire to serve other people grows out of having been served yourself. I learned that it is important to let people help. And I learned what Tehyi Hsieh meant when he said “Life is partly what we make it, and partly what is made by the friends whom we choose.”
QUESTION: How have you been changed by serving or receiving service?
CHALLENGE: Find a way to serve someone in need TODAY.
Originally published January 22, 2012.
Image from FreeDigitalPhotos/healingdream.