Friday, February 3, 2012

Gratitude, Opposition, & Perspective

The truth is, I've been terribly sick this pregnancy. At least four times sicker than my other two pregnancies combined. I have no idea why. Pregnancy is weird that way—you'd think it'd be the same each time but it's just not. I don't know if it's that I'm four years older, if it's because I started at a much lighter weight, if it has something to do with my anxiety issues, if it's all of the above or none.

All I know is that I've been sick. I was so sick this fall that I was barely functioning, barely capable of giving my children the very basics of nurturing, and entirely unable to work or give attention to anything that wasn't immediately in my face begging for it. Of course I've tried to put on a brave face, but for a person who has never been ill for longer than a cold lasts, I can tell you I was a little scared, and a lot frustrated, with my inability to just DO things. The smallest things—the things you never think of as being hard—became these huge obstacles.

Living in the very basic sense of living has been difficult for me, but it's been an interesting time. It's taught me a lot about what life is and what's important. It's been a HUGE reminder that having your health is truly a gift, one we often forget to treasure.

As January rolled around, I finally started to feel like a human being again. I could, like, stand without the urge to vomit, which was awesome, and I started to get back some energy. I could finally get out of bed and DO things. I could play with my kids instead of just being in the house with them. I could interact with my husband past, "How was your day? Okay, I'm going back to bed now." I could cook and clean and think clearly. I could finally write and edit again.

And all those things? Suddenly I saw the joy in them that much more. Being unable to do anything but survive for four months, now even the mundane parts of my life seem great to me. It's funny, how the hard times put stuff in perspective like that.

I'm just grateful for everything right now, even this stupid cold I have because at least I know it won't last four months.

I mean, I hate going through crap as much as the next person, but there's no denying that it has some kind of role to play in our lives. Yeah, it sucks that it took me five years to sell a book, and it'll be a whopping seven before I see it published. But at the same time I have to acknowledge that I don't think I'd appreciate or value my accomplishment as much if it weren't so difficult to attain. Being so utterly sick this fall reminded me just how great my life is, even the "boring" parts. It's like, the more pain you experience, the more capacity you have to experience and treasure happiness.

It's not an easy thing to accept, I suppose, especially when you're really going through crap. I've lost hope. There've been days when I just wanted to be done. But I've found that gratitude has an amazing power to get us through the rough patches. Not that it makes stuff go away, but it always improves my attitude (I have lots of attitude problems.). I know it can be hard sometimes, but being positive and having hope makes the road easier. It might not always feel like that. It might feel like hope is the enemy, but as someone who almost lost all hope a couple years back, I promise you hope is a good, good thing. Life never gets easier, I don't think, but our capacity for joy increases when we let the opposition improve us rather than embitter us.

I don't really know how to finish this. As I've been sick again this week, I've just been thinking a lot about this stuff, about the times I beat opposition and the times I let it beat me. So yeah, rambling.


  1. "Life never gets easier, I don't think, but our capacity for joy increases when we let the opposition improve us rather than embitter us."

    So much awesome.

  2. Rambling is sometimes just what we need. I'm glad you are feeling a little more better, but even more that you had some insight through the whole thing.

  3. We've talked about this, but being pregnant was one of the worst things I've ever been through. I was sick, like you, to the point where I could hardly stand, but yet had to go to work every single day. I just wanted to die. So, I totally get that. And I discovered as I went through that, that I couldn't just give up. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't see any other alternative to just powering through and making the best of it. Am I better for it? Sure. But that doesn't mean I still don't think twice about getting pregnant again.

  4. This is so true. About 8 years ago I had to have surgery to correct a progressive, potentially fatal condition involving my airway. It was a lot of time spent in hospitals, a lot of time in recovery, and a consequence of the surgery was that I lost my voice. It's mostly better now, 8 years later, but it will never be normal. I can't shout, you can't hear me in noisy restaurants, and it's got a burr to it. But you know what? I'm just grateful to be alive and breathing, two things I totally took for granted before all this happened. Going through all that really helped to put things in perspective for me. So I totally get where this post comes from.

    Glad you're feeling (mostly) better now, though! For all the perspective and gratitude and all that, it still sucks being sick.

  5. You are a very strong person. A pregnancy like this is incredibly hard (I know, because I had two like this), more so when you already have kids that need you. It's true - you develop a new appreciation for things that you couldn't do while you were sick. For me, it was reading. For 5 months I didn't pick up a book because I didn't have the brain power to concentrate. It was only after that I realized how much I'd missed.

    Perspective is a wonderful thing and even a bad experience can teach us to value something.

  6. This isn't rambling! This is fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing, Natalie. I'm sick for all nine months of pregnancy, so I totally know what you're talking about. Your post also reminded me of my brother, who was super ill three years ago with kidney failure, cancer AND West Nile Virus. He said he'd often sit in his front room looking out the window and watching people walk from their homes to their mailboxes. He'd wish so badly he could do that too. He wanted to tell the people to be grateful to be able to do something like that: just getting their mail from their mailboxes. You're right. Gratitude is powerful. It is one of my resolutions this year.

  7. So sorry you haven't been feeling well. But this all so true. My husband has chronic lung problems and has been on steroids for about 40 years and in the hospital many times. You learn that health is relative and are grateful for all the good in life.

  8. Pregnancy in general is weird. Awesome too, but also horrible, miserable, memorable and magically forgettable when you're ready to do it again. I guess it has a lot in common with writing. :-)

  9. I'm glad you're feeling better again! January put me over the prego-sicko hump, too, and you're is so much more glorious when you are healthy. It really made me think about people who are chronically ill. How do they function? How do they stay optimistic? How do they not just sit around and moan on the couch all day, which is what I did my first trimester? I find out if it's a boy or girl on Tuesday. Your sono must be coming up soon, too:)

  10. I so know how you feel! This pregnancy for me has been utterly terrible. First the nausea for three months and now I've got an out of place pelvic bone, sciatica, and can hardly walk. Luckily I only have five weeks left but not being able to go to the grocery store, or clean the house, or you know, lie down horizontally for the last month and a half has really made me grateful for those simple, every day tasks. I hope you continue to feel better and that we can both keep that grateful attitude after labor. I've been known to have attitude problems as well... :) thanks for sharing!

  11. Wow I feel so sorry for you! But I understand what you mean. The good things in our lives lose meaning if there isn't something bad to set it off.

    I think about it as a tapestry. The dark bits give depth and meaning to the brightness and color...

    Hope you feel better again soon. :-)

  12. I hope you continue feeling better Natalie :)

  13. Wow...what a good post. I'm not pregnant and so can't relate to what you feel, but sincerely hope you do feel better.

    I have to admit that I'm ashamed of my lack of productivity. My health is kind of not the best now and my anxiety (and proneness to depression) are rearing up. But these things are like full-time jobs. They absolutely take over me and I go through each and every day the same: no productivity, no accomplishment, no writing, even reading is something I can do for only 20 minutes at a time. I'm ashamed at my flocking to the TV and the computer for distraction. It leads me nowhere, it doesn't take me closer to my dreams. I'm not working hard and without learning or working hard than how on earth will I achieve and gain and earn the dreams and life I want.

    I try to think that "when my health is better, this will be different"...then I wonder if it is an excuse. I'm hoping it is not. I'm hoping that with time my mind and health will become clearer and suddenly a flood of focus and concentration will come over me and put me back on track again.

    The problem is that I'm over 30 years old and time has been wasted and time continues to be wasted. Time, it seems, seems to take its own sweet time. And my feeling of guilt, doubt and impatience rise. So difficult to stay level headed and be positive.

  14. At least now you're getting better, which is good!

  15. Wow, so you are pregnant! Congratulations! I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter, the first four months, I would literally, any time I stood up, I would throw up. It didn't matter if I'd just eaten, hadn't eaten all day, whatever was in my stomach was coming up and right then.

    My OB tried everything she could think of - bed rest, change in diet, work restrictions, change in prenatal vitamins, blood tests, anti-nausea pills (which helped a little). I lost almost 15 pounds the first trimester.

    Finally, after trying every prenatal vitamin on the market, she told me to take Flintstones vitamins and prepared a diet program for me. That did the trick. Turns out I have a severe reaction to prenatal vitamins. (I found out a year ago it's not just prenatal vitamins, it's all vitamins. Apparently my system can't handle massive doses of vitamins all at once - makes me terribly ill).

    After that I started to gain weight (gained 25 lbs in the remaining 5 months). I was eating more in a day than I did in a week but it turned out just fine. Thankfully my beautiful daughter was 7 lbs 11 oz and 19 1/2 inches long. It was worth every minute!

    Soon you'll have the same joy and look back on it as having been an admittedly miserable time but worth it to see that beautiful new person grow up. Big hugs to you!