There exists in California, and other parts of the world regularly inundated by wildfire, a variety of plants called fire followers. The growth and bloom of these species are triggered by different aspects of fire. Some bloom due to the choking smoke. Others, the unbearable heat, but all require the devastation of all consuming flame to bring forth life.
My marriage is one such fire follower. The seeds of which were always present, just dormant. A beauty we knew nothing about, sleeping just below the surface, waiting to be woken through baptism by conflagration (extensive fire).
Hyperemesis Gravidarum was our inferno.
I have always been fiercely proud of my self-reliance; in fact, I have always been fiercely proud, period. But when you suddenly cannot brush your own hair, cannot shower, cannot get dressed without vomiting, vanity and pride quickly disappear. That was the first tangled nest of brambles hyperemesis cremated for me. My “I’ll do it myself” attitude. The attitude that got upset when my husband didn’t do something the way I would. The attitude that knew I hadn’t explained myself well enough yet expected him to properly fill in the blanks anyway, expected him to read my mind. The attitude that wanted so badly to be loved but wouldn’t even tell him what I needed. Hyperemesis got rid of that. Hyperemesis got rid of that, quick.
Hyperemesis has also led me to believe that you don’t know what true love is till you’ve watched your spouse clean up your vomit from the sink. Till you’ve told your spouse that you accidentally vomited on the back of your cat’s head, and they offer to give said cat a bath. Luckily, no bath was needed, but it does put things into perspective. I loved my high school boyfriend (the same man I’m married to now) but he would have never done those things for me.
Hyperemesis also gave me a trust like none I’ve ever known. When I sat on the edge of my bed holding myself and feeling despicably evil for the thoughts I was having, he was there. I just wanted my suffering to end. “Just let it end please,” I would pray. Then, in my cachexia induced brain fog, I realized the only way my suffering would end is if my pregnancy ended. I did not want my baby’s life to end, but my brain named me “villain” nonetheless. My husband held me and did his best to chase those thoughts away. Logic, however, can only do so much against depression.
When I was hospitalized shortly after that night, I came to a different realization. I realized that if I died, then my suffering would stop forever. My prayers turned from “just let it end” to “just let me end.” In my delirium, I believed God was toying with me and I wanted him to stop. I felt disgusted with myself for this thought as well, but I also didn’t care. “It will all be over soon anyways” I thought, “so it doesn’t matter.” I didn’t want to kill myself, but I did want to die. At night, I waited for death.
It wasn’t until I was out of the hospital and feeling slightly better and braver that I told my husband these thoughts. I felt the need to tell him because I felt guilty. I have always striven to be loved exactly as I am in our marriage, no secrets, so I needed to let him know. I needed to let him know that he was married to a person who, when she was very sick, felt no qualms about leaving him alone in this world. Someone who just wanted to slip away with his baby still inside her. I asked him if he was mad at me as we lay cuddled together that night. I asked him if he was angry at me for feeling all of those things. In my heart, I asked if he thought I was as deplorable I thought I was. Two seconds passed in silence before he roughly pulled me tight to him, closing any space there was between us. “So you’re not mad at me?” I asked. He pulled me even tighter.
I sobbed into his arms.
Wildfire doesn’t reveal anything that’s not already there. It doesn’t create anything new. It simply burns away all the undergrowth, all the bramble, all the little things we keep getting hung up on and snagged by. It simply clears it away till all that’s left is dirt and seed. Just the essentials needed to survive, and just the potential for beauty. That’s what it did to my marriage. It destroyed everything. Everything except one necessity. Love.