Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now if they'd just invent a magic pill for the exhaustion . . .

It's been three and a half days since I felt it . . . the overpowering nausea that has been the bane of my existence for about seven weeks. I'd like to say it's because I've moved past that stage of pregnancy or that it's because I've discovered some new form of hypnosis that solved the problem, but it's not. For the first time ever, I'm taking Zofran, the anti-nausea miracle pill originally intended for cancer patients. So far, it appears to be working. I haven't had to stop several times during dinner to rush to the bathroom and gag, and it's been strange to change diapers and be around lots of smells without that debilitating sensation of nausea.

Last Friday was my first appointment for this pregnancy. The doctor, after exclaiming, "Oh, you're back!" asked me how I was feeling. I told her the truth: "Awful. I hate pregnancy." She looked surprised, "You? You can't hate pregnancy!"

I get that reaction a lot, and it seems like the more children I have, the more I hear, "Oh, you must have easy pregnancies." or "But you don't get sick, do you." And in some ways, I do have it easy. I've never been hospitalized for dehydration, I've never been anemic, I've never been on bedrest, and I've never delivered a pre-term infant.

But like most women, pregnancy for me is hardly a walk in the park. It's hard to battle morning-sickness at all hours of the day for months at a time. It's hard to put aside a lot of the extras in order to focus on just getting through a challenging time. It's hard to depend more on my husband to do things I'd rather be doing for our family, such as a larger share of the cooking. And that's just the first few months -- those last few aren't exactly my favorite, either.

Recently, MSNBC reported on a story about growing epidemic -- women addicted to pregnancy. The Today show jumped on the trend with a mostly-fluffy and offensive discussion of the subject -- "What would drive women to do something like this?" they asked. The reason psychologists were called in to explain the trend? "More than a quarter of [births in 2007] were to women having their third or fourth child" -- shocking, I know. Practically unbelievable. There must be something wrong with women like that, right?

There is, according to the article. It's called being a "Bumpaholic," and it's an addiction, at least according to the "professionals" they interviewed -- "Having babies isn't addictive in the way that alcohol and narcotics can be. But bumpaholics feel compelled to procreate for many of the same reasons that substance abusers turn to booze or drugs." Women do it, they say, to fill some void in their life or to compensate for a bad childhood. "Women who are obsessed with being pregnant are literally filling an emptiness inside of them, just as alcoholics and drug addicts use substances to fill a psychological void" says one expert, ironically practicing in Beverly Hills, where I'm sure she sees many women who have large families. These women supposedly crave the wonderful, euphoric feeling they get when they are pregnant. And let's not forget all that positive attention from strangers! "The belly-rubbing high hits the pregnant woman as well as the people who surround her. The expectant mother gets an oxytocin blast and rubs her belly as a way of bonding."

Not to worry, the article notes, most couples stop at one or two children. "This is because we can use our higher brain functions to keep those instincts in check, reminding ourselves that children cost money — about $950 a month until they're 18 — and require an extraordinary amount of time and energy."

Reading an article like this, besides making me rather angry, makes me wonder, "Have any of the psuedo-professionals they quote ever BEEN pregnant?" Because there is no way, short of amnesia, that someone would do this just to get a psychological "high." There are plenty of much easier ways to seek attention.

But according to these "experts," I must have some sort of psychological addiction to pregnancy. So I did a quick inventory of all the ways my body and life has changed over the last few months, hoping to figure out which one might be filling up the emptiness inside me:

* My hair has become lifeless and brittle and is coming out by the handful.
* I've been throwing up three or four times a week this month.
* I've spent many hours on the couch, willing myself not to throw up.
* I wake at odd times of the night and have weird, obnoxious dreams.
* I'm exhausted all the time.
* I was finally losing the extra weight from some of those previous baby bumps -- I lost 12 lbs this summer -- but I've had to put that on hold.
* I was improving rapidly with my running, but I've had to cut back to just maintaining what I've gained.
* I know that having more children puts off some of my own educational goals.
* With the twins in kindergarten, I finally felt like I was catching up on many long-awaited projects, but once the morning sickness took hold, I'm back to being hopelessly behind.
* I've had to cut back on a writing project I loved.
* My house, while still acceptable, is not kept as clean as it was a few months ago.
* I've dealt with some negative comments and criticism.

Pregnancy is hard. And being pregnant when you already have a couple of kids (or more) is even harder. The chances for much-needed rest get slimmer, and the demands on the mother are much greater. And as for craving attention, some of these professionals should go out in public with a mother and her five or six "addictions" and see for themselves how many positive comments come her way.

The fact is,being a mother of a large family is largely a thankless task. Your children don't thank you because, well, they're children and they don't really understand the sacrifices entailed in bringing them up. Your husband doesn't usually thank you because he's too busy pulling his own full weight and more. The world doesn't thank you because sadly, raising good children just isn't valued anymore. Go out and make a lot of money, and you're praised to the skies. But stay home and raise thoughtful, compassionate children? There must be something wrong with you. News reporters and psychologists make up fake disorders to describe what fifty years ago would have been considered normal. Perfect strangers question your sanity, ask you about your birth control choices, and make unkind judgments.

So why DO I do this?

First, why is any explanation necessary or demanded? What happened to people having children because they like them and feel like it's a good thing to do? I love what Meagan Francis has to say about it -- "it's become suspicious even to admit that we like kids, much less that we could be reasonably happy raising them. If someone volunteers for a nonprofit or has a large circle of friends, no armchair psychologist would bother to question whether she was trying to "fill a void" with meaningful activity or companionship. It would instead be accepted that creating relationships with other human beings is a normal, natural and human desire. When did it become weird to like children, to want them . . . even more than two?" And I love this article by Rabbi Shmuley, father of nine, who says to his critics, "“As soon as I find something I enjoy as much as my kids I will have a lot of that as well.”

I do enjoy children and I believe that they are gifts from God. Each one is precious and unique, and I feel that I can do no greater work than to raise happy, smart, kind, and compassionate children. It is worth every sacrifice and every inconvenience and yes, even every stare and thinly-veiled attack in the media. It may be a cliche, worthy of a song or two ("I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way . . ."), but I believe that what the world needs now more than ever are good people. And how do people get to be good? By and large, by learning values in a caring environment in their homes.

I'm sure I can (and eventually I probably will) write a much longer, more detailed explanation about why I have a large family, but for now, I state it simply: I believe that children are a gift from God. I enjoy raising them, and I feel I am doing an important work. I believe that children raised in good homes have the power to change the world for the better. I believe that sacrificing on behalf of the next generation is one of the ways we become refined and better human beings. Our own rough, selfish, hedonistic tendencies are worn away as we serve and love our children.

Call me old-fashioned, if you will, but don't ever call me a bumpaholic.

17 comments:

Susanb said...

I love this post. I remember reading that same article. It made me so mad. I share a lot of your sentimens. I do not feel that I have children to fill a void. I am educated and have a full life. I do not judge women who chose to have only one child so I find it extremely difficult to accept the negative attitudes about choosing to have 7 children. The biggest problem I have is that people keep asking me how I can afford so many children. Other than always having a diaper budget my expenses are lower than most families of 3. Even our food budget is lower than my friend's with only one child. It is all about priorities. I feel that my children are well on their way to becoming good productive members of society. They are independent strong willed individuals that dare I say a lot more well behaved than a lot of only children I know. I have a feeling that the authors of that article may be parents but they probably don't enjoy that role.

Kim said...

I'm sorry that you're feeling so yucky, glad the nausea pills help. I just read & watched the bumpaholics article...I don't know what part made me more mad...and I only have 5 kids. One of the many questions I have is, "Who spends $950 per child per month?" Are they insane? I don't even put that much into my household budget (gas, groceries, entertainment, lessons, etc) for the month.
Even though the authors said that not all people who have more than a couple of kids have this "disease" they sure made it sound like we're all crazy. I love my kids (even though they drive me crazy sometimes) and if I were to do it all over again, I'd probably have more.

Joy For Your Journey said...

Hear! Hear! And don't worry about what those crazy people are saying. You are my hero!! Remember that!

Gary and Debbie Rex said...

Oh, my...thank goodness they have finally diagnosed this condition I have. :) I do feel sad that people feel the way they do, but if nothing else, no one will ever hear that one of my children was an "accident." "Was it planned?" has been a key phrase I've heard many times, and when we say "yes, we knew there was another" there's not much more that they can say but "good for you" (and whatever snide comments they make once they leave ;)). Each of my children is a wonderful gift of eternal friendship with a price tag I'm happily willing to pay!

Jacki said...

I'm glad Zofran is helping- I've never heard of it. Those first months are soo tough!
I love the things you've shared. I love my family- and every one of my boys. Other people are missing out.

Rachel said...

Christina-I actually do like pregnancy and birth, but my goodness, that along with motherhood that follows is hard work. I can't believe they even compared it to a drug addict who gains instant gratification from their actions, whereas you have to work hard to find satisfaction with birth and motherhood. Well, I suppose they have to have a disease for everything:) I love my kids and being a mother, not because they somehow make me feel better about myself, but rather because I work hard to love them (does that sound bad:)). All I can say is that my happiness with my family is WAY different than a drug addicts satisfaction with their next high! I'm glad your feeling better.

Christensen Kids said...

Amen to what you and Rachel as well as the other women that commented! I think we has women feel like we need to defend our selfs all the time. We defend our selfs if we "just" have 1 or 2 because "that's not enough" or if we have 5-15 because "that's too many" and "we are addicted" I LOVE being a mother! I do it because like Rachel said, I am fulfilled because I serve them.
You are a good woman Christina and I am glad for this post!! Thanks

harmonie said...

Thanks for this post. That article drives me crazy. I am currently pregnant with our 3rd and am still sick at 21 weeks. (Zofran worked last time but not this time.) The "joys" of pregnancy will probably keep my family size fairly small. (Like 5) :)

Rockin` Mama said...

Wow i too love children and do believe they are a gift from god!!! I have eight and tied my tubes very sad dont know why we did that needless to say we are now saving for a reversal!!!! I can not wait until we hold another baby... all the kids want more babies also I dont pay no mind to small minded people with bad thoughts!!!!!

swedemom said...

I'm clearly a bumpaholic because I just love every minute of laboring and childbirth. It's just sooooo much fun.

alligood said...

Well said, Christina!
I haven't seen that article. I think maybe that's a good thing!

3in3mom said...

we are blessed as a world for people who love there children and care for them well. . . how ever many they have. Thanks for your comments.

mom23athome said...

I CANNOT believe this! Bumpaholic???? What are they going to invent next?
"luckily we have our higher brain to keep those instincts in check"??????? wow! I'm speechless. Totally and utterly speechless.

Just found your blog, love it. Cheers from Mette, in Denmark.

Cherie said...

I SO needed this post! I'll be frank... pregnancy and I aren't good friends, especially right now! All my boy pregnancies (this being the 3rd) have gone the same... I'm sick and tired, and get more sick and tired as time progresses! And you're right it is a thankless job, and just seems to put a strain on everyone. I too had a much cleaner house a few months ago, I had way more energy, and really felt like I was doing good things with my kids. I feel like now I've lost control of everything, and no one is there to help me out least of all myself! I'm happy to hear of someone going through the same thing as me... the whole bumpaholic thing is just grotesque, I don't even know what else can be said about that. Anyway, I just know that my conviction to have more children because these spirits need a good home and I do enjoy having them (outside of my body that is!), has been waning. It's encouraging though to feel like I'm on the road with a friend :-). I wish we still lived in Utah! In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to keep stalking your blog and share giggles about all the lovely stares and comments that come. Oh, and by the way, I'm THRILLED that you're having your 8th child and again, wish that I was in UT, because I would have thrown a dinner for you... I'm sorry you haven't gotten much enthusiasm from others (I read your post on lotsofkids)... each child is so different, and it never gets old to hear the baby's heart beat for the first time or see them in an ultrasound, in fact, our 3rd baby's birth was the most emotional for my husband. People just don't get it! Each child is so amazing! I'm glad you see it and hope you know that there are people (even if we aren't the majority), who feel similarly.

Ambrosia said...

Bravo!! And AMEN!! I think those psychologists need a serious checkup. Bumpaholic? Fill a void? Wow, Satan is obviously working really hard against the family. I never thought people would start criticizing women in the general public who choose to have more than a couple kids and do it because they know they are gifts from God and because they find joy in having children and raising a good, productive, morally strong family. Why would the world want more of that? *roll eyes*

Thanks for that post. I needed to hear it tonight.

Meradith and Jason said...

This is such a great post Christina. I can't believe that article, bumpaholic?? Oh my gosh, it is pathetic. I enjoy pregnancy after the first trimester but really you are so right. Who could ever be addicted to it? And they imply it is some self serving manipulative thing to get attention. If there is one thing that is NOT self serving that I have ever done in my life, it is being pregnant and having a child. Of course I get "benefits" like feeling love I never had known I could. But nothing about it is about me, one of the things that makes it so hard and so rewarding at the same time. Any mother would second that. Thank you for always writing inspiring posts and for standing up for what is right. You know you are doing exactly what Father in heaven wants for you right now in life and you are doing a wonderful job raising those children!

Montana Blakes said...

Amen to all you said. I also hate being pregnant. I've learned that for me exercise tends to mitigate the morning sickness but there are still the aches and pains, lack of energy, and weight gain to deal with. I REALLY do not like being pregnant. And I have begun to dread other people's opinions. So yeah, to do this b/c it's some kind of addiction, well, that's just some "expert" spouting off about what they have no knowledge about.

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