If someone is the bearer of bad news you might say, Don't shoot the messenger. If you have something that seems unfortunate at first but ends out wonderful you might say it's a blessing in disguise.

I'm looking for a word or phrase that is a combination of the two - a bad experience that is actually bad, but ultimately heralds something good.

For example - if a couple is trying to get pregnant, and the wife gets morning sickness. There is nothing fun about vomiting and nausea, but it potentially heralds wonderful news for the soon-to-be-parents.

Is there an expression to describe the morning sickness?

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    To turn a phrase, "The storm before the calm." However, in your particular situation, that implies that babies are calm which I find to be untrue.
    – Patrick M
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 20:14
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    Vonnegut's Player Piano has the main character struggling to express something like this. He comes up with: "the most beautiful peonies I ever saw were grown in almost pure cat excrement". It's not delicate, isn't really useful in a conversation, but captures the idea really well.
    – SáT
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 20:20
  • "Purgatory" comes to mind. A temporary state of suffering for the sake of purification before entering paradise. But most people think purgatory is a waiting room.
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 21:40
  • @Wayne, Hmm, something close is "good medicine tastes bitter" or "no pain no gain".
    – Pacerier
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 13:16

11 Answers 11


If a couple is trying to get pregnant, and the wife gets morning sickness, which potentially heralds wonderful news for the soon-to-be-parents, the wife's morning sickness is what we French refer to as "Un mal pour un bien," lit. out of bad comes good.

So, what sounds to come the closest here is "There is no rose without a thorn" or "It's an ill wind that blows no good."

There is no rose without a thorn: Prov. to enjoy any beautiful or pleasant thing, you must endure something difficult or painful.

It's an ill wind (that blows no one any good): A misfortune usually benefits someone.

  • In the case of morning sickness, the term ill is quite apt. And as blowing chunks is another uh, less delicate term for morning sickness, there's probably some way to twist that into a highly (in)appropriate phrase ;) Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 20:34
  • I like "un mal pour un bien." The French have a way of putting delicate things simply and directly. :)
    – BobRodes
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 1:18
  • @BobRodes And "It's an ill wind that blows no one any good" would be rendered into French as "A quelque chose malheur est bon." :-)
    – Elian
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 1:35

The OP is asking for an expression, but also has a tag for a single-word request.

As far as the expression goes, there's a proverb: "It's always darkest before the dawn."

  • Also, "All's well that ends well," although neither sounds exactly like what the OP is looking for. You could also describe it as taking "the rough with the smooth," I guess.
    – chapka
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 15:34

"every cloud has a silver lining" - even though it's bad there is a good side to it

"a blessing in disguise" - looks bad but in reality is good

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    I might even flip the silver lining bit around, since it's a largely-good thing with a little bad (of course, that's just my opinion as someone who's never had morning sickness!). E.g. "the morning sickness is a dark lining on a silver cloud"
    – Tim S.
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 17:41
  • @TimS. also related if you want to look at it from that point of view: "every path has its puddle" (there are always obstacles), and from Elian's answer "there's no rose without a thorn"
    – msam
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 7:09

Here's an expression that might fit:

Take one step back to take two steps forward

This implies that something bad happened that made it seem like you were losing progress, but that it turned out that this was a necessary event that enabled real progress.


There are many more phrases like the ones already given; for example "When God closes a door He opens a window" and "After the darkness comes the dawn."

However, these generally are used when someone is unhappy over a present situation, and one wishes to give a reminder that "something good is just around the corner." This is close to the idea of putting up with morning sickness for the reward of a child, but there's the sense in all of them that the good result is an unknown one, that one takes it on faith that something good comes out of something bad.

To my mind, "every rose has a thorn" probably comes closest to the meaning that you are looking for. It has more of the flavor of something known and worthwhile having a bit of pain associated with it.

Nobody has mentioned (perhaps for good reason) "no pain, no gain." This is a phrase generally used by people who work out to improve their physique to encourage themselves to work harder, so it would be a bit of a joke. I can't say whether I would find it funny if I had the morning sickness, but I might!

  • I would think the rose one is the opposite to what the OP asked. Something good often comes with some kind of sacrifice - kids a prime example
    – mplungjan
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 4:37
  • Every rose has its thorn. Every kid has its pregnancy and childbirth. Sounds like an analog to me. Not to you?
    – BobRodes
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 21:17

Perhaps more colloquial than you are looking for, but semantically,

No pain, no gain.

fits the bill.


"You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette."  This is close to "no pain, no gain", indicating that it's necessary to go through an unpleasant process to arrive at a desired result.



  1. a sign or indication of a future event, esp a momentous or calamitous one; omen
  2. momentous or ominous significance: a cry of dire portent
  3. a miraculous occurrence; marvel

Alternatives: Many of the synonyms

omen, sign, indication, presage, warning, forewarning, harbinger, augury, signal, promise, forecast, prediction, prognostication, prophecy, straw in the wind, writing on the wall, hint, auspice;

  • 1
    Like "harbinger," you can have a "portent" of good or evil.
    – chapka
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 15:31
  • And is that an issue?
    – mplungjan
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 15:51
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    The question asks specifically for a word or phrase indicating a good result.
    – chapka
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 16:02
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    As I wrote, a portent can also be positive
    – mplungjan
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 16:09
  • Obviously the donwvoter did not think so... Very strange
    – mplungjan
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 4:34

May be a harbinger is the term that you are looking for:


a person or thing that announces or indicates the approach of something; forerunner

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    This is probably accurate, but I think I always think of it as "harbinger of DOOOOOOOOOM" ;) Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 14:21
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    I agree with Wayne; "harbinger" is almost always used today to show that something bad is coming, and it's certainly not exclusively used to show that something good is coming.
    – chapka
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 15:30
  • A portent of greater things...
    – BobRodes
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 1:37
  • @BobRodes - as posted by me :)
    – mplungjan
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 4:35

There are sayings like "a stitch in time saves nine," which means some effort invested now saves much more effort later. The effort here is actually "bad" in the sense that you'd probably rather do something more fun, but you'll probably get something disproportionately good in exchange. Another phrase I've heard is "creative destruction," which refers to destruction of an older structure to make way for something new (and presumably good/better). The destructive part is unpleasant for those who depend on the old structure, but hopefully you get a better outcome in the long run. (For example, the Internet might have hurt the Postal Service, but many people believe the benefit outweighs the loss.)


You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome prince.

Brothers Grimm

Implies distasteful but necessary precursors to achieving one's objective.

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