I intentionally chose the title “Pregnant and Devastated” because that was the cold, hard truth. I’m not sugar-coating this. I don’t need to hear that children are a blessing from God. Or that everything happens for a reason. I don’t need to hear that it’s bad juju to be upset while pregnant. I don’t need to hear that the baby feels all the feelings of the mama while in the womb. I think versions of all of those things are probably true. But feelings are just feelings. Emotions are a part of life. And one of the worst and unhealthy things you can say to someone while they’re suffering is that they should not be feeling their feelings. Why do we shame people for being human? The brilliant Brene Brown says “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgment.” I lived in all three. So this is why I’m now sharing. I had a friend that was aching to get pregnant every single time I got pregnant – all four times. It was painful to have to tell her. She cried. I cried. People held her and were very concerned for her heart and how she would react to the news. Someone even interrupted me telling her I was pregnant to say “oh no, your poor friend”. I understood this. But… was anyone concerned for how I was reacting to the news? Do people stop and think about what an unwanted pregnancy does to a married woman who already has 3 kids, is fighting unsuccessfully for her marriage, is in a terrible financial situation, specifically took every step possible to stop the pregnancy, and is now hospitalized from the process of bringing life into the world? Yes. I went there. There’s nothing like the cold hard truth. I’ve become quite fond of it, actually. 3 years ago I sat with the news I was pregnant again. Pregnant. Say what? Huh? Not possible. Can’t be. Check again please. Yep. Still pregnant. All I could think about was the number four. Four. FOUR. FOUR BABIES. WTF.
Kamakura-shi Beach, Japan My previous pregnancies landed me in and out of the hospital, getting IV-infusions for dehydration and taking anti-nausea meds that never actually worked for me. I threw up any foods I ate. I threw up water even. I took prenatal gummy vitamins only to throw those up. I was miserable. The throwing up wasn’t even the worst part, it was the constant nausea and not ever feeling comfortable or calm in my own skin. I had terrible anxiety. I didn’t want to move. Eating was a terrible chore but a necessity. I didn’t want to get out of bed or walk or drive, it only made the nausea worse. Imagine having a terrible stomach flu for 6 months. Now imagine having that terrible stomach flu and having everyone telling you that you should be excited about having the flu and being hospitalized. My third pregnancy was twins and we lost one early on. All of the extra hormones and stress added to the complications and I essentially wanted to just go into a coma. I cried constantly. And then I just became numb. My doctor pleaded with me to go on medication. She also offered me an abortion. I already had 2 healthy, beautiful kids and she wasn’t sure I’d make it through another pregnancy. I just sat and cried in her office. I couldn’t. I did contemplate it. And anyone who has been in a desperate situation like that knows what I’m referring to. After battling through it, I have a lot of empathy and understanding for any mother who has to make the choice to have an abortion (for whatever reason). But I couldn’t. I knew that I’d get through it – one miserable day at a time – and eventually have a third little baby to bring home and a little baby sibling for the older two. I thought about the fact that I was the third born. It felt weird to me to choose to end a tiny life. It didn’t feel like a brave choice. It still doesn’t. It just felt like what I had to do. That third baby came and life moved along. When she was almost a year old, as I was training and working out to get ready to hike Mt. Fuji in Japan (eek so exciting! And a dream!)… I got the news. Baby. Another baby. Number four. My marriage was on its last leg. My husband had gotten a snip-snip to ensure we wouldn’t be bringing any more babes into a relationship we were trying to save. But there I was pregnant. Against all odds. And traveling abroad with a baby in my belly. A fourth child was a radical-enough pill to swallow. I couldn’t yet digest the idea. For now all I could feel was inevitably being ill again and having hyperemesis again, like I did with the previous pregnancies. I was devastated. Here I was becoming active and healthy again. Sleeping all night. Working my photography business again. Getting my “life” back. Planning to finally go on a long-awaited adventure with my world-traveling cousin for a week of the summer. Would my body survive? Would this baby survive? Would my marriage survive? Would I survive? How could this be happening? Well so far I was surviving. But barely. I was offered another abortion due to my health conditions. I declined again. Now I was finally here in Japan. My doctors okayed the trip, but not the hike up Mt. Fuji. I probably would have just thrown up the whole time anyway. My cousin and I planned this trip months ago. All of the memories of last pregnancies and lost dreams swirled around in my brain as I sat quietly on the beach in Japan listening to far away surfers and children play. I had no joy in my body. I felt like that piece of mangled driftwood lying there on the sand.
I also had someone tell me to really consider whether God wanted me to give my child up for adoption because maybe I couldn’t handle another baby. Yes. That happened. This person ASKED ME to give my child to someone else because I was “already so overwhelmed”. I was shocked and offended. How could she say that to me? Wasn’t the goal here to rally me through this dark road and help me realize my potential while passing along any helpful strategies for managing a large household? People say some weird shit in the middle of crisis. But the truth was: I really wasn’t certain I had it within me to love another human. My marriage and business and three children felt like they were taking everything from me even though I loved giving myself to all of them. I felt like I had barely survived the last pregnancy and the last year as a family of five. I couldn’t even fathom what a family of six would do to me. I just sat there watching the waves. Thinking. Feeling. And hating all of the things I was feeling. Nausea. Hunger. Longing for a different set of circumstances. Guilt for growing another child when I felt like I already was stretched paper-thin loving three little humans under 6 years old. Guilt for what my other children wouldn’t get from me because of this. Guilt for not being happy about a baby I had made. Shame for bringing another kid into a less-than-ideal home life. Worry about all of the financial burdens. Sadness about not being able to work my photography business the way I wanted. Anger for feeling like people didn’t understand. I also had to pee.
I wished it would all wash away from me with the waves. I felt stuck. There was no way out of this. These are my circumstances and this is my life. It felt remarkably hopeless. The longer I sat there, the more I noticed little tiny bits of pretty things near me. My eyes kept moving back to the driftwood. It was mangled and dried out and rough and jagged. Yet it looked… interesting. Textured. Weathered. I grabbed my camera and knelt down close.
Then I noticed the way it contrasted with the dark seaweed. And how bits of coral had washed ashore. There’s a whole big ocean out there and little pieces of the beauty from it were washing up along the sand for me to photograph.
When I first sat down my view was at the macro – out at the surfers, the horizon and sun moving low in the sky. The longer I sat there I became more and more aware of the things closest to me. It felt like some kind of life lesson. The macro view was too much for me right now: This life. This marriage. These kids. The loss of dreams. New roads I wasn’t ready to embrace. It was all too big and too much for me.
But the things close, the things within my reach and that I could hold and touch- those were the things bringing me comfort. The salty seaweed that was dark and curled. The tattered and rustic wooden pieces. The tiny shells moving in the waterline. The beautiful jade-colored rock. I could grasp these things. Literally and figuratively. The nearby things and the things happening now: it’s all I can handle. I took pictures of each element that moved me. I had only enough hope in that moment to know that these small pieces of nature’s beauty were allowing me to believe that I’d be enough. I’m still not sure why they all spoke to me with so much inspiration. But I’m thankful that they did. In that moment I was able to believe that if I could handle today, I could handle the future. I could take each day as it came. I’d be strong enough. After all, I’ve come this far.
I think it’s important that we have conversations about subjects that are hard to talk about. No one wants to admit that they don’t want their baby. I certainly didn’t want to admit it. And here and now – 2 years later – I adore my little surprise. I affectionately call her my “bonus baby”. But my love for her and feeling like she completes the family and the sibling set is all in hindsight. My love has developed and grown for that tiny little human but I didn’t yet know her as I grieved on the shores of Japan. I learned to slowly and deliberately embrace each stage of this journey and take my time feeling it. If I wouldn’t have been raw and honest about the grief I was enduring, I don’t know that I could have been as raw and honest in my love for her. I think it goes hand in hand. I don’t think we can rush the process. Feelings come as they come.