The night before I moved over two thousand miles away from my hometown in Chattanooga, I found out I was pregnant. I broke the news to Caleb the next morning, before we loaded our last things in the U-Haul and set off from Tennessee to Oregon. It was early August. Since that January Caleb and I had worked towards moving out west—the land of wide-open beauty and wilderness untouched. We had quit our jobs in April and embarked on a three-week road trip in my gunmetal-gray Scion, scoping out various cities along the way—Fort Collins, Missoula, Bozeman, Boise—the hope being one would call out to us, in a whisper or a shout, telling us we’d reached our home.
After fourteen days on the road, however, I was exhausted from sleeping uncomfortably in our compact car at highway rest stops; I was dirty from bathing every few days in the hot springs and rivers we passed; and I was discouraged from not yet finding the place where we believed, perhaps too romantically, we’d belong. Then we approached Bend, a town in Central Oregon surrounded by the coniferous Cascade Range and Three Sisters Wilderness. The sun was setting over the mountains as we cruised down Highway 20, the only car out with a show of violet light and glowing peaks before us, a gentle answer to our burning question of where we should live.
Back in Chattanooga, we got to work, strategically planning our move to Bend in a way that wouldn’t leave us penniless or on the streets. Everyone we contacted who knew anything about Bend told us the same thing: the job market was impossible to crack into, and housing was limited and overpriced.
Several weeks went by of unanswered job applications and of us being added to waitlist after waitlist for apartments in our dream town. I began to lose hope that Bend would work out. However, Caleb, who is a master networker and one who, when he puts his mind to a thing, never backs down, didn’t doubt we’d get to our chosen home. As a result, in June he scored a job as a production engineer at Nosler, a major ammunition manufacturer located in none other than Bend, Oregon.
It seemed like everything was falling into place. I was days away from releasing my memoir, Mile 445, which chronicles my epic solo adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail where I met and married Caleb. Caleb had been offered a great job, a sweet victory amidst our many Bend naysayers. And now we were going to have a baby—a sort-of surprise, but one we welcomed with joy.
We even landed an affordable apartment the day we arrived in Bend, our few belongings and Siamese cat in tow.
“I told you everything would work out, Claire,” Caleb sweetly said as we lay our heads to rest that night on our blow-up camping pads.
“You were right,” I said, full of excitement and eagerness for all that was to come.
Little did I know that what was to come would make me daily question why on God’s green earth we made this move at all.
Be careful what you wish for. This thought started jabbing into me like a splinter too deep to remove two weeks after we moved to Bend. Caleb had started his job, and my morning sickness had kicked in. Of course, morning sickness is a misnomer. A more accurate name should be all-day sickness, or, how about, twenty-four hours of hell, seven days a week sickness.
I hate to be dramatic, but for eight straight weeks from sunup to sunup, that was my life: a hell of nausea and weakness and vomit, where the devil himself appeared before my sense of taste and smell in the form of poultry, pork, and beef—raw or cooked, unseasoned or pan-seared with spice.
For eight straight weeks, all I could stomach were bananas, bagels, eggs, and saltines. I tried ginger chews, peppermint tea, sea bands, lemon water, and more to try and reduce my extreme nausea. But nothing worked. I lost six pounds as well as my desire to do anything. I spent my days in bed, pitiful and sick. I became lonely and depressed, dwelling on the fact that I had moved all the way across the country to a place where I had no family or friends, and a husband who was away at work all day. I felt sorry for myself, and I felt like a colossal loser. Never in my life had I been so debilitated by the way I physically felt, and never in my life had I been so unmotivated to work or play or write.
I’m a producer by nature, a go-getter, an athlete, one who loves to explore and work hard, sink my teeth into a thing. As such, I felt punished by my pregnancy, paralyzed by it, at a loss. Then I felt ashamed of myself: sleeping during the day instead of applying for jobs and promoting my new book; watching Netflix or reading nasty campaign gossip instead of going for a walk outside; letting the dirty dishes pile up (as the sight of caked-on, soggy food fired up my queasiness and sent me sprinting for the toilet). Caleb never once made me feel bad about any of this. He told me to rest and take it easy. He asked me what he could do to help. He reassured me over and over again that I wasn’t worthless, that I was growing a life inside of me—something he could never do—and that for me to be doing that right now was enough.
I didn’t listen to Caleb. Instead, I clung to my own damaging wisdom, comparing myself to all the women in my life who, I assumed, never let their pregnancies drag them down. I dug a hole for myself in my sorrow, then filled it in with my thoughts of self-pity. Why did we move here? I miss my family. I want to go home.
I cried on the sunniest of days. I distanced myself from my loving husband. I prayed to God to please let me feel better. I shook my fist at Him when He didn’t.
I knew I was reacting terribly to this whole thing. And yet, I reacted terribly anyway. I wish I could say I had this profound epiphany in which I decided to change my attitude and simply be thankful for all I’d recently been given instead of bitter and sad about it. But the truth is it wasn’t until I was fourteen weeks pregnant, when the nausea finally began to abate, that I began to perk up. Not before then, unfortunately—except for the brief moment two weeks earlier when I was at my doctor’s appointment and saw my baby for the first time. My doctor had turned off the lights in the room for the ultrasound. Caleb leaned forward in his seat. Then the doctor had me recline in the hospital chair. She wiped the cold, clear gel on my stomach and then rolled the transducer probe over it. And like magic, a black and white figure of a tiny being—head, body, and a little bent leg—popped onto the computer screen next to me.
“So there’s really a baby in there,” I said, mostly to myself, in awe. I didn’t want the doctor to make the image of this real, live child go dark.
The doctor gave Caleb and me the ultrasound photo. We tacked it to the middle of our fridge. Now, when I see this photo, I see it is a picture of hope—a picture of a purpose far greater than the pain I have and will endure on this nine-month journey. It’s a picture of life. The life I now carry. And this is my profound epiphany. That it’s not about me anymore. It was never supposed to be anyway. And I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I spent so much time sulking about as if it was.
I’m sixteen weeks pregnant now, and I hope for a clean slate. I hope for a healthy and happy baby. I hope I do a good job at keeping my baby safe and comfortable as he or she grows. No deli meat. No wine. No hot baths. No taking out the kitty litter (sorry, Caleb). Yoga and water aerobics (even if it means I stick out in a class of all old ladies). A strong and positive mind. A thankful heart. A peaceful soul. An unshakable love for this gift of life inside.