“Any woman who knows she will have an HG pregnancy and chooses to get pregnant again is nothing but selfish. If she knows she can’t take care of herself and will burden others, she has no right to put her family and friends through that.”
I blinked at the words on the screen. Battling extreme morning sickness for the fourth time led me to online support groups for my condition, hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme and debilitating 24/7 morning sickness). While it’s often deeply helpful to share the challenges of this experience with other women online, it is sometimes heartbreaking to see negative attitudes toward expanding your family in spite of HG.
Selfish. Foolish. A burden. In addition to the truly torturous experience of relentless nausea and vomiting, with this attitude toward HG moms, it’s no wonder that more than 10% of HG pregnancies result in termination.
Having been through this condition three times before, I knew what I was signing up for with this new pregnancy. It is not easy to become helpless, childlike, in need of assistance even to eat and drink, incapable of caring for oneself and one’s family. It can be humiliating.
And in the eyes of our capitalistic culture that lauds individualism, self-reliance, and productivity I am merely a selfish burden during these months of nausea. But not when we try to view life through the eyes of the Gospel.
St Teresa of Calcutta says, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” I belong to my family and they belong to me. My husband and children care for me during these months of sickness because we belong to each other. But I also belong to a wider community. I have had friends eager to jump in and help in any way they could. Because they see this new pregnancy as a gift. A gift to our family, yes, but also a gift to the world–a new soul unrepeatable and worthy of love.
A dear friend’s mother who I do not know well, apart from seeing her at daily Mass, has brought us a meal weekly since she knew I could not prepare food due to my nausea. I was almost in tears with gratitude and stumbling over words of thanks when she arrived for the first time on my doorstep. She said, “No! Thank YOU for having another baby! We are all so excited.” I was stunned. Instead of seeing me as a burden or drain on her energy, she was thanking me.
Shouldn’t we take joy in the gift of life even when inconvenient and requiring us to sacrifice? Shouldn’t we revel in the opportunity to hold each other up and offer charity? And on the flipside, shouldn’t we have the humility to be willing to accept the help of others? We are gifts to each other, especially in our helplessness and brokenness.
I worry every pregnancy that by being out of commission for a few months, I will be depriving my children. But especially as my kids grow older, I see that their sibling is an unbelievable gift even in utero. I see my children grow in kindness and empathy. My willful 4yo has matured so much in the past few weeks. I see the wheels turning in her mind when my prone-to-tantruming strong-willed girl says, “Okay, mom. I’ll obey. Because I’m being a good big sister.” My 6yo draws family portraits featuring the baby and whispers sweet nothings to my belly. My 9yo has practiced preparing meals, running the dishwasher, and loading laundry. He now LOOKS for things to clean up and do to be helpful, because he knows I need help. They have the opportunity to practice loving even when it’s hard in loving two helpless people through this season, me and the baby, one of whom they’ve never even met!
When we accept an individualistic attitude that can only laud self-sufficiency and productivity we lose the sense of the value of each human person. How can we reconcile such an attitude with valuing the unborn, the elderly, those with medical conditions that require lifelong care, the refugee, the poor? If every life matters, we are called to care for each life. In fact, doing so should be our privilege and our joy. And it would change the world. I wish I could look every woman in an HG pregnancy in the eye and tell her, “you are not a burden. You are a gift. Your baby is a gift. You are valuable and deserving of support. There is no way to put a price on the work you are doing in carrying this life because it is of infinite worth.”
Every woman deserves to be honored for who she is, not merely what she can accomplish or produce. Every child deserves that. Every human being deserves that.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
Thank you for this. I am two weeks postpartum with my fourth child and have been feeling all kinds of guilty for “neglecting” my other children. Between reading this and my son telling me he hopes the next pregnancy is triplets, I hear God’s voice loud and clear telling me not to be ridiculous and hormonal. 🙂 Thanks for being a prophet!
I love this post Haley, such wise and valuable words and a great fit with the friendship podcast which I just listened to this week. So thankful for your new life, and that you are feeling well enough to attempt a little blogging again.
Much love xxxx
I needed this today! I’ve never experienced HG, but I’ve been having intense prodromal labor the past couple weeks, which is driving me crazy. Thank you for the encouragement while we wait for baby girl’s imminent arrival!
Candace Ellis says
Absolutely love this post. I have felt similarly while recovering from cancer as well as in the last days of my most recent pregnancy where I wasn’t able to “do” and has to rely on support from family. I also see this attitude so much in my work. Thank you for putting this out there!
Rae C says
This is beautiful, and so true. I am currently struggling through early pregnancy, and am so blessed and unbelievably grateful to have the support and help of my mom and mom-in-law. This is just what I needed today as I sit on the couch while my four kids work together to care for each other – the reminder that, while it feels like I’m doing nothing, I am in truth doing holy work ~ partnering with God to bring new life.
Katherine Grimm Bowers says
Thank you so much for writing this. Women who are really sick with pregnancy need to hear these words — and if they’re like me when I’m pregnant, they need to hear them over and over and over while someone buys them more cheese.
“When we accept an individualistic attitude that can only laud self-sufficiency and productivity we lose the sense of the value of each human person. How can we reconcile such an attitude with valuing the unborn, the elderly, those with medical conditions that require lifelong care, the refugee, the poor?”
Yes!! Thank you!
Tracy Davis says
Beautiful and oh so true. If we try to save our life, we will lose it. But when we lose it for the sake of another, we save it. And there is nothing better for children than to learn that the world does not revolve around them; to learn to give and sacrifice and not be selfish. It is more blessed to give than to receive. You are giving so many an opportunity to be blessed, and you are blessed also for giving up your comfort for the sake of your precious little one. Yes! Thank you.
Wow what a powerful piece. I can’t even begin to imagine ever calling a pregnant woman selfish…especially one who is so sick. Isn’t that the most unselfish thing…to create life even though you know how awful you will feel?! Our society is so backwards. Much love to you and your family 🙂
Mom of six says
You are absolutely right about this. We should be kind to each other, especially the Christian community. No doubt the author of that horrible quote was trying to justify their own choice not to be open to more children as unselfish. There is something very wrong with the way our culture thinks about pregnancy. It’s hard not to be offended by the comments we get about our family. Are we trying for a baseball/basketball team? Or “cheaper by the dozen?” Questioners seem to want a pat answer, such as “No, we are DONE!” Or “We want more than the Duggars.” The truth is, we are open to more children if that is what God has for us, but are trying to NFP. Our last baby was an “accident,” but a very much loved one. 🙂 A Christian attitude is so counter-cultural these days.
Wow, thank you so so so much. I have been battling a bit of PPD lately (sleepless nights and a long winter) and feel like a burden to my husband. This post really reinforced what he keeps trying to convince me: that he is here for me just as much as I am here for him and our baby!
Your words are so refreshing. I’ve been struggling because I’ve been living in the NICU with my son (after being in the hospital for a month on bed rest when my water broke and then having him 2 weeks ago at 26 weeks gestation). My 7 kids at home- over an hour away- are being so well cared for by my mom and my husband, but I’ve been feeling so guilty that I’m missing out on months of caring for them myself. The idea that this season is a gift for them to give our family is beautiful.
From all eternity, God intended to create each of you that you might be a precious gift in each life that you touch, at this time in history. Sometimes that touch is direct and in person. Sometimes it is indirect as it is here in these articles and comments. Often we don’t recognize or appreciate the gifts we are being given. Thank you all for being here and touching our lives.
Melissa H-K says
My daughter Rosie ‘grammed about this a while back. She doesn’t get HG, but she certainly slows down a LOT, and she worried how it was affecting her family. Here’s what she said: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bcr7RLRlr59/
Margaret Sky says
I love this post. I agree that in our individualistic society, we tend to be rather helping-phobic, both in regards to giving and receiving help. There is this ideal of the lone cowboy, who doesn’t need anyone. All I can say is there is a season of life for some (not all) in which we get to believe in the myth our own independence. And this is sandwiched between a completely dependent beginning to life and (often) a rather dependent end to life, with other periods of dependency sprinkled in between – like the HG for you.
I love what Khalil Gibran says about giving and receiving,
“he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream….
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers… and you are all receivers… assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.”
This made me weep. I had HG with my first and it’s definitely made me hesitant to rush for #2. I already struggle so much with feeling like enough because I’m “just” a stay at home mom. But your words were a balm to my soul! My work is important because God called me to it, and another HG pregnancy will be worth it even if I’m not productive for nine months.
Anna Eastland says
If you’d like some encouragement about the value of motherhood, in a society which has forgotten it, you might enjoy anthology called “Love Rebel: Reclaming Mothehood” by Melanie Jean Juneau and 4 other Catholic mom bloggers oncudling myself.
Good luck with your family and I hope you have the courage, grace and support to keep up your amazing work in forming the future citizens of our world! Bless you!
I am always so surprised by this attitude. Pregnancy is nine months! What this person is saying is that sparing your family a difficult nine months is more important than a lifetimes worth of love with this new family member in it. And that’s just not true. I hope you start feeling better soon and know that no matter how much you have to let go of things during this pregnancy, you are offering your family a lifetime of love. God bless!!
This was so lovely. Prayers for you and your sweet fam!
This is so insightful! I’m an atheist and I think it’s so unhealthy how our society encourages us to all stay separate, to ask nothing and owe nothing – even in our own homes. It’s not realistic! We are dependent on each other and most people are hard-wired to feel good about helping others. In that way I think it’s so short-sighted to not admit you need help, or to ask for help – pure ego. Individualism literally breeds mental illness! What a good lesson for your kids to learn to help and look for the common good. It’s so much better and more fulfilling for everyone that way 🙂
May God bless you and your family – I’m praying for you!❤️
I’m not familiar with the background of this quote, but I read a French proverb that goes, “To be loved is the best way of being useful.” I love it because it shows that our value is in relationship… not by what we do or achieve. Your family is living it out by loving you every day. You are so blessed, Haley! Congratulations on this pregnancy!
I’ve never posted here before, but sometimes read your blog. I’m a mom of 8 children, and I was saddened (but not surprised) to hear about the comment on how ‘selfish’ it is to have another child knowing you’ll probably have HG. Poppycock! Being open to life, and carrying in one’s own body said life, and nurturing that life is sacrificial love! The rewards are eternal. Yes, it is hard to carry and raise children. I’ve never had an HG pregnancy, but I have had gestational diabetes for 2 pregnancies, tough labors, intense anxiety causing me to beg for a C-section (and I hate C-sections!), low milk supply after birth with my babies losing weight (so having to supplement), etc. I think of the words of Pope John Paul II, who said the greatest gift you could give your children is another sibling. I’ve seen the joy that my littlest children bring to my older children (as well as my husband and I). I’ve seen different ‘sides’ of my children come out as they interact with their younger siblings, and it’s a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Follow your convictions, and let the nay-sayers prattle on…
I’d like to see that naysayer repeat his or her quote to the Duchess of Cambridge. Harumph!
Anna Eastland says
Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing your beautiful view of life! Just had my 8th and boy did I rely on my friends, especially near the end when I had a bad late term liver condition. Happily baby girl is here sae and it was worth every minute!
God bless and give your little swimmer a pat!