(This was written in January 2021, during the second trimester of my pregnancy)
I hate being pregnant. I’m just going to say it because it’s true. It has not been sunshine and rainbows and whatever else maternity shoots aim for. It’s been pricking myself three times a day, stabbing myself once a day, taking one type of medication three times a day and having to carefully time that with taking another medication two times a day. It’s been a constant itch, itch, itch - sometimes it’s mild, sometimes it’s so severe I can barely sleep and wake up with blood on my sheets the next morning. Not to mention I can barely leave the house without the threat of getting COVID over my head or that I have a toddler to take care (stay at home mom here).
Yes, you may say, but aren’t you so blessed that you are pregnant, that you have an excellent medical team that takes your concerns seriously, that you have a husband who would sacrifice anything for your comfort?
Yes, I am indeed blessed.
But this does not negate my sufferings or how I feel about them.
Being pregnant sucks. For me. To be clear. I have heard of women who actually enjoy being pregnant. Women who are sailing through their fourth pregnancy. Women who can’t wait to conceive again. I am happy for those women. I am glad their experiences are so different from mine. Because I plan on NEVER getting pregnant again. Yes, the Lord may have different plans. But I’m pretty good at NFP and pretty stubborn to boot.
What are the joys of this pregnancy? I can actually feel my baby girl move. It’s so much fun! With my first pregnancy I had an anterior placenta so I couldn’t feel my baby boy move as much. But with this pregnancy I know when she’s active - mostly when I eat something delicious.
So why am I suffering so much during this pregnancy?
I have been diagnosed with two conditions - one is gestational diabetes, the other one is intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. The GD is not so bad. Manageable, even. From 1 in 50 to 1 in 20 women has gestational diabetes. If not controlled then I could have problems during delivery or have to deliver via c-section - which I will totally do if necessary. Baby herself would grow very large while in the womb and may have problems with obesity later in life. But I am controlling the GD through checking my blood sugars three times a day and giving myself an insulin shot every night. I also have maintained a low carb diet during this pregnancy and have perused more keto cookbooks than I ever have in my life. However, being Filipino-American and being expected to NOT eat mountains of rice at every meal is. really. hard. But I’m doing it for my baby’s health and well-being and I will continue doing it until she is out into the world.
My other condition, intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, is a whole other ballgame. This is what causes me to write “woe-is-me” fake blog posts at 3 AM in the morning. 1-2 pregnancies in 1,000 is affected by ICP in the U.S. ICP is a liver disorder of pregnancy that leads to elevated bile acids in the blood and poses lots of risks to my developing baby girl. Basically my liver is not functioning as it should due to pregnancy hormones. This causes the bile acids that I would normally pee out to swirl around in my blood which causes me to itch literally all the time everywhere in my body. The itch cannot be treated by lotions or whatnot because it is all internal. Other symptoms include dark urine no matter how much water I drink, white-colored poop (which thankfully I have encountered very little of), and exaggerated feelings of fatigue, malaise, and depression.
I have been on medicine (ursodiol) for this since the third trimester of my first pregnancy (and even had my gallbladder removed, hah!) but ICP came roaring back with a vengeance the second trimester of my current pregnancy. I am on additional medicine (cholestyramine) this time around, hence the juggling of the two different types of medications, and it’s so easy to forget when I took one medicine and has it been 2 hours yet and is it now 4 hours and thus okay to take another dose of which medicine? It’s a lot.
The scariest thing though is the risks ICP poses to my baby girl. If my excellent medical team (shout out to Ascension Via Christi!) ignored all of my concerns my baby girl would have a 15% chance of stillbirth, especially after 38 weeks. My team is planning on inducing me at 36-37 weeks, placing her birthday in mid- to late- March. She is also at risk for fetal distress and abnormal heart rhythm, meconium staining, and respiratory issues. I also have the risk of hemorrhaging (great...) during and after childbirth.
The only cure for ICP is delivery. All that can be done for me right now is biweekly checkups with blood tests to check my liver function levels, and then weekly biophysical profiles during my third trimester with the early induction plan in place. The risk of me getting ICP for subsequent pregnancies is anywhere from 60-90% so yeah...I do NOT want to get pregnant ever again.
Oh yes, the current pandemic that is still going on...a brief google search of pregnancy and COVID-19 does not bring me joy so I am doing my best to avoid catching this virus. We experienced a little scare but got a negative COVID test for our household! But the mask wearing, me judging everyone not wearing masks at the Dollar Tree (no, please not betrayal at my favorite store!), me judging everyone seemingly going about their daily lives not caring for the health and safety of their neighbors (my body, my choice, my constitutional rights, my personal liberties, am I right?)...once again, it’s a lot. It’s weighing on me so much. I have no right to judge anybody. All I can do is what I think is best for myself and for my unborn baby, which is to avoid human contact with dearly missed family and friends and friendly randos. And if I do go venture out into the outside world I wear a mask and stay well over 6 feet apart from anybody not in my bubble.
I have cried so much during this pregnancy already. Fears of stillbirth - all of this suffering amounting to not holding my precious baby girl alive in my arms - is what keeps me awake at night (along with the itch which intensifies a million times when I’m supposed to be sleeping). The itch itself causes me to be a terrible person, a terrible friend, a terrible wife, and a terrible mother, because I cannot focus on anything else. I feel so drained itching all day and not sleeping at night and dreaming of worst case scenarios. I have nothing. nothing. left to give to my loved ones. I can barely wake up at a human time and I go through the household chores like a zombie. I can’t give my son the active interaction he desires and deserves. I can’t give my daughter the healthy and stress-free pregnancy she deserves because my body has betrayed me. And I’m not even in the third trimester yet, in which ICP normally intensifies.
I cry while eating chili to the Lauren Daigle song, I Will Rescue You, because I feel those lyrics in my bones. I cry while sitting in Eucharistic Adoration with my Lord because I feel the weight of my sins and judgments on people who deserve better from me. I cry while reading the Bible about God the Father’s promises because I am in the middle of the chaos and cannot see or understand His plan for me or my daughter. I cry because I have so much and yet dare to complain about the sufferings I am facing. I am not starving. I am not lacking in anything material. I do not have cancer or suffered abuse when I was a child or have a loved one tragically taken away from this world. I have an advanced degree but have the privilege to stay at home in this season of life. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful parish and beautiful family and friends and a husband and son who love me desperately even when I am at my lowest. And yet I feel like I have nothing to show for it, not until I have my baby girl alive and well and COVID-free in my arms. And what if I never get that?
Offer it up, they say. Shove all your fears, worries, and concerns to the foot of the cross and let Jesus bear them. Unite my sufferings with His. Remember Mary and imagine her riding a donkey at 9 months pregnant. Remember Mary’s heart being pierced by the sword. Remember all the women who cannot conceive children or have had multiple miscarriages or tragic stillbirths. Remember those who have not yet found their place in the world, their calling, their home. Remember those who suffer macro- and micro-aggressions at the hands of others just because of their skin color. Remember those who are victims of physical and sexual violence and must endure mental health conditions. Remember those who have DIED and have gone to purgatory and then heaven.
I know that my baby girl is covered in prayers, from family and friends to godparents and friendly randos. I know that this specific suffering of mine has an end. I know that there will be sunshine and rainbows to come no matter the outcome of this pregnancy, that the world will still rotate and that life will go on. I know that MY life will go on.
Please pray for me. For my daughter. For us. To get through this. For my husband. For my son.
Thank you for making it this far. Please accept what little love I have to give. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Emma Hansen - Still: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Motherhood
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