A guide for people who are pregnant, may ever be pregnant, have or may ever have a pregnant partner, have a family at all, belong to a church congregation, belong to any social group, or are people.
“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.”Isaiah 58:7
Well, let me clarify that this is a truth about pregnancy. Pregnancy is wildly different for every woman.
When my husband and I found out I was pregnant, we were so happy. We were incredibly grateful for this miracle and very excited to meet our little one.
It seemed that no sooner had I found out I was pregnant that I found out what that meant for my body. I was instantly out of commission. My summer full of big plans and aspirations was depleted to a miserable many months of barf bags and bed. There were days at a time when I couldn’t leave my sweltering, non-air-conditioned apartment. (The delayed launch of this blog is just one case of things not going according to plan.)
Pregnancy became hell.
I suddenly felt abandoned by God and weak in all areas of my life:
Physically, I felt like I was about to shrivel up; in addition to vomiting every day, I couldn’t exercise at all, sleep well, or eat or drink regularly. I was sweaty all day long, and on the days I felt well enough to shower, I usually only did so when my husband was available to help me when I thought I would pass out.
Mentally, I could barely think straight. It was so difficult to focus on anything except the nausea and the pain.
Socially, I felt utterly alone until Matt got home from work. Almost any other interaction I received was usually at best, shallow, and at worst, a slap in the face. Most people I interacted with told me to “let them know if I needed anything” or gave me “helpful” advice about the simple steps I needed to take to stop feeling sick. Or worse: they just told me to “enjoy being pregnant.”
Spiritually, I was sick and fragile; reading the scriptures was strenuous and difficult, I barely ever made it to church, temple attendance became impossible, and I felt forgotten by my ward and by God.
Finally, about halfway through pregnancy, it seems that the “first trimester” is mostly behind me. I know I’m still one of the blessed ones who doesn’t suffer from this kind of morning sickness (or worse) every single day during the entirety of pregnancy, and I’m grateful for that. I’m still nauseous in the morning and some days I do throw up, but most days, I can get on with my life. I finally feel like a person again, and my energy has in large part returned.
So why would I even share all this?
To explain to you 3 things I’ve learned and how I came to understand them. These are things I wish I had known years ago and hope for the sake of society that everyone else knew, too.
1) God will not leave you alone, at least not truly, and not for long. Reach out to Him and He will run to you.
My gratitude to the Lord has increased so much in the last few weeks. Even though it was hard for me to see it then, in retrospect, I can see that He was with me. And I can see increasing evidence that He is still taking care of me. He is slowly granting me more understanding of His plan for me and what He has been doing to bring it about. I have faith that I will come to understand this better in the months and even years to come.
I felt entirely alone, but heavenly glimmers of comfort have come to restore my hope that the Lord will allow me to feel His presence more and more fully in the hours, days, months, and years to come.
I would advise everyone to write down the moments or periods when they do feel blessed. You will need to remember those times when the trials come (or get worse).
I echo the words of Isaiah, when he declared that the Lord might leave us feeling alone for a moment, but that He has always been present and will soon allow us to feel His peace in full:
“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.Isaiah 58:7-8, 10
“In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.
“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”
Finally, the Lord has granted me eyes to see that my little one is real, precious, and valuable. I saw that my prayers were being answered when I saw my baby wriggle curiously during my last ultrasound.
2) Women should share when they get pregnant.
Women are often hesitant to share when they are pregnant. I was. Much of this is caused by anxiety regarding higher miscarriage rates in the first trimester.
But here is what I have decided: While you are certainly entitled to announce a pregnancy on your own terms, it is okay for people to know if you are pregnant and if you lose a child to miscarriage. In fact, for some people, it might even really help.
In the last year or so, I have spoken with several women who have confided in me about their own recent miscarriages, sometimes in the midst of their heartbreak and recovery. What is perhaps most heartbreaking is that nobody knows of their pain. Nobody knows they need help.
Women don’t need to inform Instagram the moment they get a positive at-home pregnancy test, and some women really might need some time before they are ready to let anyone else know. However, I think fear of miscarriage should not inherently be a universal reason for all women to wait until 12 weeks to announce their pregnancy.
If a woman does miscarry, it may truly be helpful for their ward, friends, family, and workplace to know and be ready to support them in any way they can. When anyone experiences the death of a loved one, it usually merits some loving response from all of these parties. All the more reason should the people in a woman’s life intervene to bless and assist her when she loses her child at her own personal physical trauma.
Cases of miscarriage aside, women should not suffer in silence in their moments of need. I know not all women are as affected by pregnancy as I have been, but I know I am not the only one.
3) People need to reach out to women during early pregnancy, not just late pregnancy and after baby comes.
I grew up understanding that pregnancy and childbirth was hard, but not really a thing that has to affect your life too much.
My whole life, I had heard and believed that any woman can be as professionally successful as men and achieve all of their dreams of motherhood and more at the same time. I thought pregnancy was hard, but because women were tough, it wasn’t really something that could get in the way of any of their goals. While I believe these claims are are rooted in encouraging intentions (and some successful case studies), these lofty expectations set me up for internal dissonance and severe disappointment.
My own mom had 5 kids with no complications. She has worked part-time as long as I can remember, including during pregnancy. She maintained her very active lifestyle with seemingly few abnormalities during pregnancy; she even went running the morning she went into labor with my youngest brother.
The ward I grew up in was very loving and supportive, but from them, I learned to perpetuate my misconceptions. To me, it seemed that the women there had similarly straightforward pregnancies. Pregnant women attended church and went about their lives. When they had their babies, the sisters promptly ensured that those families received dinners every night for at least a week, then everyone moved on. That was just how it was.
I’ve since learned that that wasn’t how it was for everyone there; at least one woman in my home ward spent her last pregnancy entirely crippled; she was so sick, she had to be treated in the hospital with an IV.
I don’t know how many women have masked and downplayed their pain and misery during pregnancy, or who have been simply ignored until cute little baby makes an appearance. I know that for myself, I walked through hell almost totally alone, and there must be women that feel the same way.
But I ask forgiveness from God and from society for my naivety and for turning a blind eye to those I could or should have reached out to. And I thank those blessed few who did come visit me when I was in such misery.
If there is a pregnant woman in your life, ward, family, whatever, reach out to her. God placed her in your life, and there is a good chance she needs something from you. Be willing to find out from her and from God what you can do.
Let’s zoom out for a second
As I “zoom out” to what I hope is a more Godlike perspective, the way I see it, how we treat a pregnant woman should not be all that different than how we treat anyone else.
I believe most people are suffering more than they admit. Each of us should take more personal responsibility to care for those around us. Those who have promised to serve Christ have a special call to bear others’ burdens.
God should not need to do more than place someone in the path of a Christian to say to them: “I have placed this precious soul in your stewardship. Take care of them.”
I pray that you and I can both step up to this stewardship a little better with every day.
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”Galatians 6:10
What do you think?
I would love to hear what you think. Do you agree? Is there a scripture or doctrine that would inform us better? What is your experience with pregnancy and/or helping others? Do you feel inspired to do something? Get chatting in the comments below.