I began this post while still pregnant with my fourth child. It was difficult to recount some of what I share below and I gave up the effort. But President Nelson’s gratitude challenge has inspired me to finish the narrative and celebrate God’s goodness and mercy in my life this year.
While studying Alma 37 in August as I waited for my fourth daughter to make her appearance on earth, verse 17 made me reflect on the journey of this pregnancy and the truth of Alma’s words: God “will fulfil all his promises which he shall make unto you….”
I have had three healthy and successful pregnancies producing three spirited and healthy daughters. But those pregnancies were anything but comfortable or conforming to any sense of “normal.” All three pregnancies produced serious mental health challenges for me. I experienced a variety of non-threatening physical symptoms that only exacerbated my suddenly fragile mental and emotional health. Three miserable pregnancies in which I lost the motivation to do most things I typically enjoy, became too quick to anger and prone to scary thoughts and desires did not make me eager to ever get pregnant again.
When my husband and I started talking last spring about expanding our family you could say that I was more than reluctant. But while sitting in the temple with a friend, I discussed the issue with God and felt that we had come to an agreement: if I agreed to provide a body and home for another of His spirit children, He would make sure this pregnancy would be a different and better experience.
About eight months later I found myself pregnant and slipping into the depths of despair. I felt just as miserable as with my previous pregnancies, I got the flu on top of pregnancy symptoms and I began to feel like God had backed out on our agreement. By January of this year I was desperate and began praying, begging God to keep His promise to me. As I shifted my prayers from bitter accusations to earnest questioning about how God would help me have a better pregnancy, He gave me one word: “hydration.”
Since I was already caught in the cycle of nausea and depression, I accepted as given that I would never physically be able to drink enough water to get properly hydrated (I was choking down minuscule amounts of liquid by that point). I got it into my head that short of having someone come to my home and give me a daily IV, I was doomed to repeat the past miserable pregnancies. When I off-handedly mentioned this to a nurse at my OB/GYN’s office, I was surprised to learn that in-home IV was actually available! This idea became my one hope. I pursued it with my doctor, insisting that it was the key to my well-being.
Fast forward to two weeks later after I had first unsuccessfully started with a peripheral IV and gone back to have a midline put in. My first treatment on Friday went so well. I woke up Saturday with a spring in my step. I hooked up the IV every day with gratitude. It had become my lifeline, the one thing standing between me and seven months of torture. By the next Thursday, however, I had developed a blood clot. As I waited in the ER for a team of doctors to decide what to do with me, I feared the loss of my midline IV and the sure source of hydration for my suffering body.
Around 9:30 pm, the doctors removed my midline, pumped me full of fluids through the hospital IV and sent me home. I was glad to be out of the hospital but fearful for what the future held. God did not abandon me at this juncture. I kept remembering a friend who used to carry an enormous jug of water and ice around while pregnant, constantly sipping through the straw. This image kept impressing on my mind, I knew it was my solution. If I could keep enough ice water with me at all times that was as easy to drink as possible, I might be able to self-hydrate. I checked with an online retailer and found a 50 oz jug with straw and handle.
For the remainder of my pregnancy I carried that jug everywhere. As soon as I drained it I filled it back up, drinking upwards of 200 ounces each day. The balance was that fine too—anything less than 200 ounces and I could feel the beginnings of mental and emotional strain. With proper hydration my fourth pregnancy turned out to be all I hoped that day in the temple when God made His promise to me. I was able to be a good mom to my three older girls, taking care of their needs with equanimity and responding to tense situations with greater balance. I was able to participate in daily household tasks without spending the rest of the day miserable on the couch. I was even able to do high-energy projects like spreading mulch. The contrast between this pregnancy and my previous three was extreme. It seemed like every day I would catch myself feeling amazed at what I had accomplished or how well I had behaved in a difficult family situation, and remember that it was because God had helped me get healthy.
God kept His promise to me. After telling me that proper hydration was the solution to my problem, He helped me identify steps I could take to pursue the solution. Sometimes in the midst of despair I forget how God operates, that He answers questions and provides direction but expects me to think through options and act in faith. As I go forward it is crucial that I actively remember how He has fulfilled His promises to me. And for you dear readers, I hope you can draw strength from my experience that God will fulfill His promises to you.