“The beginning of my pregnancy felt like the end of my life”: God turned her anguish to joy

TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions suicidal ideation that some may find distressing.

Keren Mulia // January 19, 2024, 11:35 am


Keren's first pregnancy was excruciatingly traumatic, but God sustained her throughout that trial. Despite her medical condition, she would go on to deliver another child. All photos courtesy of Keren Mulia.

A month after we got married, my husband and I were both surprised to find out that I was pregnant.

As someone who had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and made aware that it might be more difficult to conceive, we had an unexpected surprise when we found out about my pregnancy on our honeymoon in New Zealand.

But this was also where my story truly began.

Just weeks after rejoicing over the pregnancy with our immediate families, I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).

HG is a medical condition that causes uncontrollable vomiting during pregnancy, leading to weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Honestly, the beginning of my first pregnancy felt like the end of my life.

Not the normal pregnancy nausea

I was vomiting seven to eight times every single day even when I had almost no food or drink. Once I even expelled green vomit (which was bile) because I had nothing left in me to throw up.

This went on for the first three months, before the vomiting reduced to three to four times a day for another month, and eventually two to three times a week for the rest of the pregnancy.

I was throwing up every three hours throughout the day and had lost almost 5kg in two months. 

I tried so many types of medicine that once I ended up getting Oculogyric Crisis.

It was not like the gynaecologist did not give me medicine. I still kept throwing up.

In fact, I tried so many types of medicine that once I ended up getting Oculogyric Crisis (OGC), where my eyes rolled upwards due to spasms, lasting for hours. 

I was crying because I could not see and control my eyes, and I was so worried for my body and baby.

The doctors had to rush over with an injection to reverse the effects of my anti-vomiting medicine, but also ensure that whatever they were giving me would not harm the baby.

Can you even imagine it? A husband looking at his first-time-pregnant wife whom he had just married and was now going through OGC on the hospital bed.

To say this phase of our life was an amalgamation of confusion, convolution and complexity would be an understatement.

Although Keren had to resign from her job in a start-up in her first trimester of pregnancy, she was headhunted for a technology conglomerate in her second trimester and subsequently joined the company in her third trimester.

To be accurate, HG is very uncommon. According to research, its prevalence varies from 0.5% to 1.5% of pregnancies. Furthermore, there were some online support groups, but most of them were overseas.

The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton had HG. But I always joked that, unlike her, I am not a multi-millionaire with servants at my disposal.

In other countries, some HG mothers also have access to highly subsidised healthcare, so they choose to stay in hospital for four months until they are more comfortable in their second trimester.

In our case, we did not have the financial means to stay in hospital for four months. But I did end up in the hospital four times throughout my pregnancy, which was not covered by insurance.

Although it was financially taxing, I would still say the worst of it all was the physical trial of excessive, non-stop vomiting.

I could not work in the first five months of my pregnancy, so I had to resign from my remote work for a digital Y Combinator start-up.

Just trying to stay alive

I remember when my Sunday School teacher came to visit me when I was hospitalised for the third time.

She comforted me and told me that though this was a trying period, I should be thankful that my baby was okay. I realised that she was right. 

The bane about HG is that you have an abnormally high level of hormones that cause you to vomit more than others, but the boon is that you have a lower chance of miscarriage.

In this season, I tried to get by by recalling three things to be thankful for every day.

Was I depressed? I would say so, but I tried to fight it. I prayed to God and asked Him to give me joy despite all the physical and mental pain I had to go through.

I just needed to survive the hour. 

During the darkest points in my life and fleeting moments when I contemplated suicide, I also thought of the people who might be deeply hurt if I was gone. I thought of my responsibility to stay alive. 

I tried to search for encouraging Bible verses and read faith-based articles that might strengthen me. I also watched several Netflix shows while laying down in bed to get through the day.

Time and time again, God revealed how His daily grace and mercy would be enough. I experienced how His steadfast love never ceases and His mercies never come to an end (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

I learnt that in times of suffering, I could take one day at a time and depend on God for each hour. I did not have to think too far or worry about the future. I just needed to survive the hour. 

Struggling with depression, Keren found comfort in dabbling with artwork during her pregnancy.

When my firstborn was finally out of my womb, I was filled with immense unconditional love for her. My heart felt relieved, and I rejoiced. 

I found that it is true that women will have pain in childbearing (Genesis 3:16), but it is also true that “when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21). It felt like the pain was all worth it.

I really thanked God that my daughter was born healthy. I was also grateful for a loving husband who stood by me throughout the whole pregnancy and delivery.

Should I have another child?

Experiencing pregnancy with HG was excruciatingly traumatic. I know some mums with HG choose not to conceive again, while other choose to delay their second pregnancy years after their first child was born.

But for me, I thought one of the best gifts I could give my firstborn was a sibling. She would have a playmate to grow up with, which would be good for her development.

When my husband and I are no longer around, it would also be great if my daughter still had a close family member whom she could depend on in adulthood.

So, when Hannah was around 18 months, I deeply pondered and meditated whether I would be ready to have another child. Again, I read a lot of articles on Christian websites.

One of my favourites would be this article. In it, John Piper described children as precious gifts, a heritage from the Lord. He also mentioned that “the goal of life is not to avoid hardship”.

In essence, despite all the ups and downs, and all the difficulties that childbearing and child nurturing would bring, I believed it would be a worthwhile and fulfilling journey.

Keren’s second pregnancy with her son was smoother, but she still had the same medical condition. This photo was taken during her second trimester.

I also felt that as a Christian couple, there was some sort of responsibility to bear children to be salt and light of this earth.

When we die, we cannot take our wealth with us to heaven. But we can leave a legacy on earth through our children.

I sincerely hoped that God would enable my husband and I to raise kids who would be used by Him, that they would make a positive impact on this world and glorify God.

After processing and accepting that I might get HG again throughout my second pregnancy, but also feeling that God had reassured me that things will be fine, I told my husband that I was ready to try and get pregnant again.

As my period had been regular after giving birth and nursing Hannah, we conceived just a month after trying. This time, I was 27 years old when I was pregnant with my second child.

Keren with her husband and firstborn during her third trimester.

My second pregnancy was pretty similar. I had HG and vomited every day. Thankfully, pregnancies with male babies seem to be less hormonal and intense as pregnancies with female babies.

I still had to be dependent on a specific medicine to reduce my vomiting until eight-and-a-half months though. I was also hospitalised at least three times before delivery: two for HG and one for bleeding.

I only stopped feeling nauseous just three weeks before I gave birth (which is pretty long). I was still vomiting at seven and eight months of my pregnancy if I did not take my medication.

When Jonathan was born, he also vomited quite a fair bit and had to be hospitalised for three days. Thankfully he was much better after that and we could bring him home.

The couple with their second child who was then less than a month old.

Why am I sharing all this? I really hope this article increases societal awareness of this rare medical condition.

Furthermore, I want to encourage other mums who are going through HG to tell them that they are not alone. I have been there and done that.

God can sustain you in this excruciatingly painful journey.

When Moses had to cross the Red Sea, God did not make the obstacle disappear. He opened a way and created a path, so that the Israelites could go through it.

Sometimes, God does not remove our challenges, but He will provide a way for us to overcome and endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

I would also like to share these verses from Psalm 121 (ESV) that have encouraged me a lot.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Our help comes from the Lord

Remember, the Almighty God who took care of Israel, will take care of you too.

Please remember that there are pastors, counsellors and leaders in your church who might be able to listen to your problems and provide the encouragement and prayer you need.

I also highly recommend that you seek help if you need it. Although I did not go for counselling when I had HG, I did so when I was facing other issues years after.

One of the channels you can consider is Care Corner, which I find has very reasonable rates. If you are unemployed, you can also ask for financial assistance.

Finally, if you need someone to talk to, please feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram.

Both of Keren’s children were born healthy. Hannah and Jonathan are now 5 and 2 respectively.

My journey has been arduous, but ultimately I am still thankful to God. I am thankful that:

  1. God sustained my husband and I throughout the journey of pregnancy and parenthood. His grace was sufficient for me and His power was made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  2. This has made me a stronger person and given me experiential faith. Now that I know God has taken care of me, I have faith that He will be there with me through other hardships in life.
  3. I have the privilege to be a mother. Through motherhood, I have learnt how selfish I was, and how much I lacked maturity and needed to grow to better serve and minister to others.
  4. My children are well and healthy. I believe that gratitude is the key to fighting depression and anxiety, so do focus on your blessings instead of your challenges.
  5. I had a support system. God can use your family members, friends, pastors, leaders and other individuals to be a blessing. As the adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child.

Everyone has baggage they keep, and their own struggles and stories. Yours might be different, but we have the same God.

Only God could truly understand my pain.

During the most demanding times of your life, please look to God. Pray to Him and seek His help, and He will give you strength (Isaiah 41:10) and peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

At the lowest points of my life, I chose to look to God because I felt that only He could truly understand my pain.

To all my dear sisters in Christ:

  • If you are a mother experiencing HG, please know that you are not alone. God is with you.
  • If you are an expectant mother going through other unique challenges in your pregnancy, know that the sacrifices you make today are not in vain. I pray that your delivery and parenting journey would be smooth and fulfilling.

If you are none of those listed above, thank you for reading to the end. I urge you to support women or couples who might be experiencing difficulties throughout their pregnancy and/or parenting journey.

Offer a listening ear, share this article with them and pray for them. May we all witness God’s provision, protection and power in our lives.


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About the author

Keren Mulia

Keren is a freelance digital project manager who also recently published a children's book titled Women of Faith: Inspiring Stories from the Bible. She and her husband, David, are parents to Hannah, 5, and Jonathan, 2.