Allison & Ashley: Two of my Heroes after Pregnancy

If you’ve been following my pregnancy series, you know my pregnancy with Caleb was challenging. I was very sick and in a lot of pain, but through the experience, God really taught me a lot. I have always led a healthy, and for the most part, physically pain-free life. This is something I have always taken for granted because I never knew otherwise, until my pregnancy. I understand now how incredibly difficult physical disability can be, and how thankful I should be for the good health God has given me. God’s heart is that we would be joyful in every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and through my encounter with physical pain, he revealed it’s an area I have plenty of room to grow in.

An additional way the Lord grew me through my condition called pregnancy, was in granting me a deeper love and respect for people who have ongoing physical challenges. It was a theme I meditated on a great deal during my pregnancy, and am currently meditating on again as I re-live my pregnancy via this blog. Specifically, there are two people God has continually brought to mind who I want to tell you about. I love them both dearly, and after my comparatively short encounter with discomfort and pain, I appreciate them even more. I think most of us could probably learn a thing or two from them.


The above photo is of one of my best friends (who also happens to be my lil’ sis), Allison. At age 11, she was diagnosed with spondyloarthropathy, which is a rare form of juvenile arthritis that results in inflammation of the back, hips, knees, ankles, and eyes. It has no cure, and the pain cannot be completely relieved. She takes pain medication daily, has chronic pain in her knees and hips, and has had numerous stints with iritis which causes her to lose vision for a period of time.


This second photo is of another one of my best friends, Ashley Harman, who I recently had the honor of bridesmaid-ing for in her wedding. She was born with Spina bifida, which was caused by a benign tumor that pinched the end of her spinal cord and weakened the muscles to her leg and bladder. Although she has had this condition from birth, it was not diagnosed until she was 15-years-old.

As a result of spina bifida, Ashley has not only experienced a great deal of physical pain/limitation, she has also experienced significant emotional hurt. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of her story is that growing up, she would often urinate herself at school because a symptom of spina bifida is a loss of bladder control. This occurred for many years and resulted in ridicule from peers and fewer friends throughout her childhood. She has had countless surgeries to repair the damage, requires a catheter every time she uses the restroom, gets persistent infections, and experiences chronic pain in her foot. Like Allison, it is something she has dealt with her whole life, and will continue to deal with for the rest of her life (unless God chooses to intervene, which I pray passionately for!!)

I cried as I wrote these last three paragraphs because Ashley and Allison are two of my absolute favorite people. Despite immense physical challenges and obstacles throughout their lives, they are such joyous and loving people. I never hear them complain about their pains, and I oftentimes forget either of them even have any physical problems until a severe symptom pops up, or they periodically ask for prayers of healing. They both have a strength and perseverance that is truly inspirational. I have learned so much from them about being joyous and giving glory to God no matter what “thorns” you’ve been given in life. I know they have already touched many through their lives, and will continue to do so. Thanks A & A for your impact on my life, you guys are my heroes…I know life hasn’t been the easiest for you and yet you still trust God with all your hearts.

P.S. I wouldn’t be a good older sister if I didn’t put a plug in for my sis right now. If you are single, Godly, and good looking (lol!), I think you should consider asking Allison on a date*. She is all the cool things I mentioned above, plus smart, beautiful, kind, and funny! I don’t think you would regret it 😉 Hahahahaha! Sorry Allison, already published this post…can’t go back now!

*Applicants must be male. Some restrictions may apply. Please contact me for details. Offer expires 3/16/2012. Void where prohibited. 

10 Ways Pregnancy Crushed My Dignity: Part 4 – Mourning Sickness

If you haven’t yet read the intro to this series, you should do so before reading on for some context.

No, I did not misspell “morning” sickness – I just think the word mourning is a much more appropriate term after vomiting well over 50 times while pregnant. “Mourning” also fits much better because there is nothing exclusively “morning” about morning sickness. I was nauseous in the morning, afternoon, evening, wee hours of the night, and everything in between.

When we discovered I was pregnant, we wanted to announce the news in a creative way as most people like to do. As we generated ideas, Sean entertained the thought of telling people the following:

“Dear friends and family – As many of you know, Melissa has been feeling very sick lately. We went to the doctor last week and they ran some tests. A small growth was discovered in her abdomen and the Dr. believes it is rapidly increasing in size. It is probable that in the next several months, it will grow to be several pounds. It doesn’t need to be removed yet, but will need to be removed in the next 7.5 months or it could become very dangerous to her health. Please pray for us, because this growth is sapping her energy, stealing her best nutrients, making her vomit all the time, causing her to be emotionally unstable, and will completely drain our savings account as time goes on. In other words…we’re pregnant!”

We ultimately decided that kind of announcement was just mean, but throughout my pregnancy, Caleb truly had disturbing similarities to a parasite. After all, the definition of parasite is “an animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment. The host is often harmed by it.” Yep, sounds about right.

Most women’s nausea/morning sickness wears off by the second trimester (fortunately), but mine lasted throughout the entire pregnancy…I was still vomiting the week Caleb was born. By the tenth week of my pregnancy, I had thrown up so many times I lost count. Early on, I was quite familiar with “vomiting marathons” as I liked to call them, in which I found myself barfing with almost no breaks in between. These marathons would typically leave my body extremely sore, because apparently upchucking uses every…last…muscle in your body – who knew?? During one such marathon, I actually threw my back out and could barely move because I had heaved so violently and so many times in one night. In fact, at the peak of the marathon insanity, I vomited eight times, yes – eight times, in less than four hours. I had had enough. At this point I was so dehydrated and weak that Sean considered taking me to the hospital. I called my Dr., and she immediately prescribed medication which I then took multiple times a day for the rest of my pregnancy (it was mind-blowingly helpful in ending the vomiting marathons, but still didn’t completely take away the nausea/end the vomiting). I really would have preferred to avoid medication like that, but reasoned it would have most likely been more harmful to Caleb if I had died of starvation/dehydration, ha!

I am trying to keep these blogs funny and light, but here’s where I’ll just be blunt – it was an exceptionally challenging season of life for me. I was scared to go out anywhere, for fear that I would just lose it and barf all over myself, other people, store floors, the car, etc. This fear led me to a life of severe isolation for nine months and made for an incredibly awful experience (there were times I didn’t even leave our apartment for five days straight). Even as I write and reflect back on this season of life now, tears come to my eyes because it was so miserable and depressing.

Fortunately, Cru allowed me to do a lot of work from home and my bosses were super flexible with me and my situation (though I was saddened I couldn’t do more hands-on ministry with the students). However, other normal, basic activities became a daily struggle. I couldn’t get through a shower without nearly losing my latest meal (for whatever reason, taking a shower always brought me to the point of incessant dry heaving…luckily I was always able to get out before it was too late). I couldn’t drive without getting queasy. I couldn’t be around people who wore perfume or used strong laundry detergent (I even had to switch out my own shampoo/conditioner for ones that had a less potent smell). It was difficult to go to other people’s homes/go to the store because I couldn’t handle new, different, and/or powerful smells. The few times I went shopping, I had to hold my breath as much as possible – every time I went to Target I was so embarrassed because I couldn’t keep myself from dry heaving every few minutes (garnering plenty of amused stares!) I couldn’t exercise or clean because both required more movement than my stomach could handle. I couldn’t cook because of the smell. I couldn’t even take “normal” medicine – I had to take a dissolving kind because I would immediately throw up anything needing to be swallowed with water. It was truly an ironic situation; in the course of growing a baby, I felt as useless and helpless as a baby myself. I was forced to rely on Sean (and others) in more ways than I ever had before – it was quite the humbling experience.

Ok, enough of the depressing talk…back to a story we can laugh about now. As you can imagine, the toilet was my best friend throughout my pregnancy. Between blowing chunks, constipation, and peeing constantly, I swear I saw more of the toilet than I saw of Sean. Unfortunately, I wasn’t always so lucky to have my good buddy by my side. Earlier on in my pregnancy (before I knew that driving more than 10 minutes in the car was a high-risk endeavor), Sean and I decided to visit my mom who lived 45 minutes south of us. The entire visit I felt nauseous and terrible, but that had become the norm for me. I became thirsty while there, and helped myself to a lemonade. Mistake #1. It came time to drive home, and as soon as we got on the freeway, that all-too-familiar feeling came over me, but I thought to myself: “I am tired and just want to get home…I can hold it back.” Mistake #2. Cognizant of how often I was vomiting, I had intended to grab some barf bags from my mom’s house before we left. However, as I was desperately holding the barf back, it dawned on me that I had left them on the kitchen table. Mistake #3.

As that horrifying realization swept over me, so did an ample amount of puke…all over the center console, myself, the seat, and the floor. Here’s where mistake #1 comes in – citrus drinks are simply not as good on the way out as they are on the way in…just so you know. My nose was on fire, my throat was on fire, and Sean could barely drive because the sounds and smells were causing him to retch himself. We rolled down the windows and for the next 40 minutes until we got home, Sean and I held our breath hoping neither would lose it and vomit again due to the putrid smell. I was hoping to remain somewhat attractive to my husband during pregnancy, but after marinating in my own throw up for 40 minutes with Sean by my side, I just let that hope die. By the time we pulled up to our apartment, I had the all-too-familiar urge again, and Sean didn’t even have time to park. I jumped out of the car, ran up the stairs to our apartment, and was never more relieved to see my best friend Loo waiting there for me 🙂

The other 9 ways pregnancy crushed my dignity:

Part 1 – Constipation
Parts 2 & 3 – Appetite and Weight Gain
Part 5 – Incontinence
Part 6 – Crazy Hormones
Parts 7, 8, & 9 – Pain, Pain, Pain
Part 10, the Pinnacle – Diarrhomit

Also, read about Caleb’s birth:

Caleb’s Birth Story: Rated PG-13 for Language, Nudity, and Drugs 🙂

And here’s the adventures we had after Caleb’s birth:

Caleb’s Afterbirth – the Hospital (Part 1)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – the Neighbs (Part 2)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – Breastfeeding Blues (Part 3)

Caleb’s Afterbirth – Body Slammed (Part 4)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – Am I an Incompetent Parent (Part 5)