Suffering Rewarded

Suffering Rewarded

Persevering through pregnancy earns something far better: God's gift of new life.

by Lauren Barrett

Pulling up to our Airbnb, I affixed sea bands to my wrists and did my best to ward off any further nausea and anxiety. We were here, in San Francisco, at the start of our California road trip, intending to capture the major league stadiums in our quest to see them all.

Instead of jumping for joy at finally arriving at the destination of a much-planned trip, I suffered in the throes of morning sickness and food aversion, thanks to a much-unplanned pregnancy.

Rough start

My husband, on the other hand, was annoyingly elated over the start of our vacation and the pregnancy. 

“I need bread,” I murmured. 

He didn’t seem to register the urgency. 

“I need bread. Now. It’s the only thing that will make me feel better.” 

And that’s how we began the first night of our long-awaited trip. Me stuffing my face with bread and my husband quietly turning on the TV, trying not to disturb the woman who so clearly looked like his wife, yet who acted not a bit like her. 

Persevering

Dragging my tired self from the warm comforts of the bed the next morning, I lacklusterly prepared myself for the day’s events: bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Day 1’s schedule of events hadn’t even happened, and I was already looking forward to the evening spent in bed, binge watching more of Netflix. 

The sea bands once again strapped to my wrists, a permanent fixture in nearly all of our photos, I mustered up the little strength I had and hauled my bag out the door. 

“Let’s do this,” I feebly pronounced. 

Contemplations

There I was in Fisherman’s Wharf on the Fourth of July, surrounded by hordes of people darting here and there. And I on my bike, weaving in and out of the crowd, up and down the hills, passed the Presidio and then finally stood face-to-face with the great Golden Gate Bridge. Its majestic rustic color spanned out across the bay. So big, so grand, and so significant. And I so small. 

Standing in front of this magnificent bridge, with the sea below and the hills in the distance, I was reminded of a Bible verse: “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18).

How true, I thought as I recalled the hills I had strenuously pedaled up to get here. Maybe this was a metaphor of my pregnancy. 

Processing news

A month or so ago, I had been in shambles. Having found out I was pregnant, I sobbed. What is wrong with me? I wondered at the time. I am in my late twenties, have been married a few years now, and have a stable job. I’ve always loved and wanted kids. I am a teacher; I babysat and worked as a preschool day camp counselor throughout high school and college.

Why am I feeling such worry about having a kid of my own? I couldn’t answer that question, but the self-doubt and worry lingered throughout the next couple of weeks. 

I shamefully admit praying that the pregnancy was a mistake. The test had to be wrong. I took multiple tests and, naturally, all came back positive.

Consuming thoughts

Accepting my fate, I trudged along with my husband to a closing sale for Kids R Us. As we walked among the aisles filled with rows baby gear, my eyes grew wide with fear. I didn’t begin to know what a newborn needed and what brands were best. How much does a baby need? How many different kinds of monitors are there?

I left the store in a panic and flopped down on my bed, exhausted and overwhelmed. I can’t be a mother. I don’t even know how to hold a baby. The nurses will surely take my baby from me as soon as they see that. They will say I am unfit. They have never seen anyone as bad a mom as I am. These thoughts consumed me day in and day out.

Emotional workout

So there I was, a month later, on top of the great Golden Gate Bridge. I heaved a deep sigh and pedaled.

With each pedal, my anxieties melted away. With each breeze of the most perfect weather hitting my face, my worries about whether I would be a good parent drifted away.

With each uphill climb, I grunted out my anger with being so sick. With each downhill, coasting into the beautiful town of Sausalito, I opened my mouth in exhilaration. I let out every fear of the unknown and told myself to enjoy the here and now. 

Renewed

The next few days in San Francisco passed by in similar fashion. My previous fears would sometimes find their way back into my thoughts, but otherwise, I felt renewed and upbeat and ready to begin the second leg of our journey. 

Bags all packed and loaded in the car, I passed by the mirror for the umpteenth time since we arrived. This time I stopped, smiled, and rested my hand on my belly. 

“Let’s do this, Little One.” 

Gift of nature

Yosemite was a place like no other I have ever seen. 

“Wow,” my husband and I both said in unison, slack jawed. We were looking out over Yosemite Valley at Tunnel View. El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, and Yosemite Falls loomed in the distance.

When we had snapped enough pictures to semi-capture the beauty of what we were seeing, I hurried my husband along. I wanted to do it all. 

Invigorating climbs

And do it all we did, or at least tried to, considering I was pregnant and always on the brink of lying down and drifting off to sleep. We climbed the rocks of Bridalveil Fall, hiked out to Lower Yosemite Falls, climbed up the path of the Mist Trail, and trekked out to Mirror Lake as the sky was dimming.

I loved every minute of it. Our climbs were always greeted with the most amazing sights. I felt energetic, strong, and capable while experiencing the wonders of nature and all that God had created. I felt that I could do anything. 

Setback

But the next day proved I couldn’t. I was beat. So sick. I curled up into a ball and closed my eyes as we made our way toward the coast in what was going to be a descent down the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles. My mood soured. 

“I feel so sick,” I groaned.

Upon entering the traffic-ridden city limits of Los Angeles, I missed the atmosphere of San Francisco, the backcountry of Yosemite, and the freeness of riding down the road with the sea so close. I also missed home

The next two days were miserable, with brutal pregnancy symptoms and my anxieties peaking again. 

Homeward bound

The final day, I lugged my carry-on through the airport and tried not to get sick from the smells wafting from the food court. The upcoming flight from California to North Carolina loomed ahead of me. I dreaded the thought of being stuck in a window seat and having to visit the restroom every ten minutes.

To make matters worse, my husband giddily strolled over me. He had a little boy’s grin on his face from securing an authentic Asian dish from somewhere deep in the airport. As he prepared to dive in, the pungent odor from his dish smacked me in the face.

I gave him a murderous glare. How dare he order Asian? It’s the one prominent cuisine that has given me nothing but nausea since the beginning. My husband made a sheepish face, pretending he didn’t know. I skulked off to be alone.  

Low point

I was at an all-time low in the pregnancy. Morning sickness had reached its peak. My stomach hurt. My head ached. I was beyond tired. I had gotten sick multiple times. I felt what I thought was heartburn or something brewing in my lower chest. My appetite was pretty nonexistent.

Feeling sorry for myself, I entertained thoughts like If I can’t even deal with being sick, how am I going to be a mom? There is so much worse happening in the world, and I am complaining about this. I feel so weak. How do other women do this? I can barely cope, and I don’t even have to work. What’s wrong with me?

Power of prayer

While those thoughts milled around in the back of my head, something happened that began to change my perspective.

I have always been a big believer in the positive power of prayer. No, I do not think praying will stop bad things from happening. I do, however, believe prayer will change the way we view bad things. The more we pray, the more we can gain positive control of a situation, rather than slipping into despair.

So at the airport, throwing the ultimate pity party for myself and silently weeping over how I could possibly endure any more weeks of feeling this way, I recalled Romans 8:18 — the verse that came to me on the Golden Gate Bridge. I began to pray and pray and pray to God until my mind started slowly shifting.

Clarity

I would love to say that the sickness miraculously disappeared, but it didn’t. In fact, it got slightly worse after I arrived home after the flight. 

Instead, I received something better: the clarity that suffering is a part of life and that there is something meaningful at the end of it. It took seeing the beauty of God’s earth to reveal that to me.

And now, as I hold my precious little boy in my arms two years later, I confirm that what I had suffered back then during my pregnancy is nothing compared to the glory He revealed to me later with my son. 

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Living Translation.