Warm rays of spring sunlight cast shadows on the wall, and the rising nausea reminded me I should eat. I called to my three-year-old daughter, playing in the dining room: “Babe, can you get Mommy some crackers?”

“Sure, Mom!” She leapt from her dollhouse and opened the squeaky cupboard, returning with my go-to snack of oyster crackers.

I put them in my mouth, one at a time, letting them dissolve, as not to shock my stomach. A ladybug crawled into the sunlight shining on the wall, and I wished I were that ladybug—free to wander and roam as I pleased. It had been three months since I’d wandered freely or enjoyed the liberty of walking across the room without a bout of nausea so debilitating that it sent me running to the bathroom. It seemed my life had been stripped away, and God was calling me to the simple ministry of lying motionlessly and allowing my preschool daughter to tend to me.

Pregnancy wasn’t at all what I expected. I expected monthly Facebook updates with photos of my growing abdomen, months spent painting murals on the walls of the nursery, long shopping days holding up adorable sleepers with bear paws on the feet, and Pilates for pregnant women every morning. Instead, I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, the medical term for severe pregnancy sickness. I was put on the same medication given to patients undergoing chemotherapy and forced to take a medical leave from my teaching job. After fighting all these things and trying to “push through,” I finally surrendered to my position on the couch and decided to wait it out for approximately thirty-two more weeks.

Most pregnancies don’t result in a medical diagnosis of severe sickness, but many do include at least a few months of ongoing nausea and exhaustion. Almost every pregnancy brings waves of exhaustion and requires adjustments to the pace of life. Some pregnancies call for months of motionless bed rest, forcing life to an abrupt halt. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, here are three pieces of encouragement from a mom who has endured two pregnancies with the most severe sickness imaginable:

Slowing down is an opportunity to focus on God.

While getting sick for any reason isn’t fun, it does slow us down. Slowing down reminds us of what is important in life: family, close friends, and an ever-deepening intimacy with God. When we’re racing from one event to the next, it’s easy to overlook the importance of growing closer to God. Lying motionless, drinking ginger ale and munching on crackers is a prime opportunity to draw close to God. He is waiting, and he promises that when we draw close to him, he will draw close to us (James 4:8).

Throughout the worst part of my pregnancies, I felt so sick that I struggled to utter more than two-word prayers. I was unable to read without being overcome by dizziness. Worship music hurt my head. However, I was able to lie motionlessly and rest in the affection of God. He is a tender Father. He poured his love upon me through the gentleness of my husband, the helpfulness of my daughter, the attentiveness of my mother, and the generosity of friends and family who delivered meals. He gently reminded me that he loves me simply for being me.

Your worth is not connected to your productivity.

Most of us enjoy checking items off of a to-do list. We thrive on feeling productive and accomplishing much. Whether we’re moms working through the chores that go with maintaining a home, or working women seeking to grow in our careers and balance parenting, it feels good to get things done.

The change of pace that comes with the exhaustion and effort of pregnancy reminds us that our worth is not tied to our productivity. We are infinitely valued because we are children of the Most High God. He loves us, and we love him. This love exchange is at the core of our identities. We are worthy simply because we belong to him. Even when productivity slows to almost nothing, we are of infinite value.

The gift is well worth the effort.

Many people asked if we’d have another child after my first pregnancy. I was sick for nine months, and I checked out of most parts of my life. The moment our firstborn entered the world, I knew the answer: It was all worth it. Our son was born three years later, and even now, I admit that I just might endure another nine months of staggering between the bathroom floor and the couch. The gift is well worth the effort. If you’re early in the journey of pregnancy, rest assured that the gift of a child is well worth the suffering of the pregnancy.

Forty weeks feels like a long time in the midst of the process, but in the larger scheme of thousands of weeks of life, it is simply a small window of opportunity. God is calling us to embrace the change of pace, slow to seek his face, and eagerly anticipate the joy of what is to come. It will be well worth the journey.

Stacey Pardoe

Stacey Pardoe lives with her husband Darrell and two children in western Pennsylvania. In addition to being a wife and mother, she is a writer, mentor, and teacher. She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue their passions and make an impact in the culture. She enjoys hiking, camping, running, and spending time outside with her family.