Seven years ago on Christmas Day I was about 9 weeks into my first pregnancy. It was our first Christmas season as a married couple, and I had high hopes of starting new and meaningful traditions of our own.
Instead, I found myself in a hospital bed, struggling through the early stages of a life threatening pregnancy. I hadn’t yet been diagnosed, but I would soon learn that I had a pregnancy condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG for short). HG affects a small percentage of women during pregnancy, and is a condition where the woman’s body is unable to cope with the HCG hormone. Instead of morning sickness ebbing away as the gestation progresses, HG patients become more and more violently ill as the hormone levels increase. Severe dehydration and other complications threaten both mother and baby’s life. Often the only pregnancy announcement HG moms get is the announcement of “So-and-So’s in the hospital”, and this usually happens when they are 5-7 weeks along.
It takes a powerful regimen of drugs (ones used for chemo patients) to keep us out of the hospital and functioning somewhat normally. This relief did not come for me until I was 20 weeks along, and had almost lost my life and the baby’s life several times.
To complicate matters, our assigned doctor repeatedly pushed us to terminate our pregnancy. My visits to his office and my stays in the hospital were constantly plagued with fears….Was he really fighting for my life and my baby’s? Would that medication that he just gave me really help me, or will something happen to my baby now?
That particular Christmas was a day of fears and tears for my husband and myself. As newly arrived missionaries to Maritime Canada, most of our surroundings, including the medical system, were confusing and unfamiliar. This was my second hospitalization in one month’s time. My human heart gave way to doubt, and my attitude was less than thankful. Often too sick to actually cry, my heart sobbed out its grief in silence.
What had happened to my girlhood dream of having a baby?
The holiday progressed like all other days during that time of our life. There were no festivities to speak of. We had God, each other, and a baby that rested on the edge of vitality from day to day. That was Christmas of 2005. Several days later, I was transferred by ambulance to the maternity/children’s hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We spent the New Year holiday in the same fashion as we had spent Christmas- just in a different hospital bed.
Three weeks and two hospitals later, I was allowed to go home (for awhile). We stepped into the parsonage and I walked over to our Christmas tree. It was completely browned over- dead.
I touched the tree with one finger. In the silence of our cold living room, a shower of needles hit the gifts below, and then scattered on the hardwood floor.
So symbolic. So heart-wrenching. Yet so reassuring…so hopeful. I still held in my heart the people who mattered the most.
Christmas wasn’t a place. It wasn’t a tradition. It wasn’t even the dream of what I wanted it to be.
It was our hearts. It was Christ. It was God’s will, which was bigger than my dreams of Christmas, and of a normal pregnancy.
We were rich
Perhaps this Christmas, you are struggling through a difficult pregnancy. Maybe it’s an unexpected one.
Maybe it’s a pregnancy that doesn’t promise to bring lasting life. Perhaps you have recently lost a little one. Or maybe you are still waiting for your arms to be filled.
Maybe it doesn’t feel like Christmas. It’s hard to celebrate- you’re not sure what to celebrate.
It is hard, in the midst of unrelenting nausea and other complications, to rejoice.
It is hard to see beyond the moment of how we feel, or to see beyond the way things are going, to a brighter day- to God’s perfect plan.
Sometimes our ‘dream glasses’ get broken and we can’t see.
We are not called to see. We are called to trust.
Looking back, I do see how God used that year of spending Christmas in the hospital to make me a stronger, more compassionate person. I needed to be emptied, helpless and hopeless from a human standpoint, in order for God to make me a more useful vessel for Him. But it took trusting through the hardest of moments, over and over again, to get to that place. It took not seeing. And even today, the fine-tuning continues in other areas of my life.
Today, on Christmas, rest in the knowledge that your difficulty is being tenderly controlled by a loving heavenly Father.
Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. Grace will be there.
“As for God, his way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30
Leah became a child of God at the age of 18. A United States transplant to Canada 7 years ago, she enjoys serving in full time ministry as a pastor’s wife and a mom to two HG miracles. She homeschools her 6 year old and teaches private piano lessons on the side. When she’s not involved with family or church, she can be found writing, blogging, or ice skating. She considers her life to be an ongoing story of God’s incredible grace! Leah has a passion to inspire and encourage women in their walk with God, and to support women who are suffering through difficult pregnancies. Her first ebook, Expecting Grace, is in the editing stages. Expecting Grace is the story of Leah’s experience and survival of a life-threatening pregnancy, and of many miracles along the way. Join her life journey at embracingrace.com where she shares her ‘heart-journal’ with women.
Twitter handle: @mbracingrace
Leah is the author of the book Expecting Grace which is her full testimony of God’s grace during this difficult season in her life.
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