The moment I saw those two pink lines appear on my pregnancy test I squealed to myself in the bathroom with pure excitement…and then I remembered what I went through with my first pregnancy and I fell to the ground crying in fear.
I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum - which is a fancy term for excessive puking in pregnancy! Most of you will recognize this Harry Potter sounding spell as ‘that morning sickness thing Princess Kate had’. Yes and no. Princess Kate did have HG, but it is in no way shape or form anything close to what we all understand as morning sickness.
Have you ever had food poisoning? I’m talking, like, REALLY BAD food poisoning! To the point where you cannot control your body – passing out from vomiting so hard, wetting the bed from being so violently ill, vision blurred, can’t stand up, can’t talk, and most of all can’t eat or drink? There’s nothing you can do but call in sick to work and sit in bed with a bucket all day, right? Now imagine you have this for 8 months straight. Every day, and every night. No breaks. No reprieve. Oh and try and build a new human in your body at the same time.
Sounds like a nightmare, huh. Well that’s exactly what 1- 2% of our pregnant population go through. Here’s a brief picture of my journey with HG (which is still only a moderate case of hyperemesis).
By the time I was 5 weeks pregnant I hadn’t keep food or water down for 3 days and, for this pregnancy, had my first trip to the local Hospital Emergency Room to get fluids. By the time I was 7 weeks pregnant I was in getting nutrition because I hadn’t kept food down for so long.
I would take one sip of water, and it would come straight back up. I was in hospital every second day getting 3L of fluids, and once a week I would get nutrition. I would need someone to supervise me in the shower, and I had family and friends on a very tight schedule to look after my toddler for me when my husband was working.
By the time I was 11 weeks pregnant I sat in the Emergency Room while a doctor explained some recent tests they ran. My kidneys were failing, I had a scarily low count of white blood cells and my esophagus was torn and bleeding. I was told to very seriously have to think about termination. If I didn’t terminate, and my health didn’t improve then my unborn child would certainly die, and maybe even me.
Is this for real? Aren’t women supposed to be glowing? My friends are doing pregnancy water aerobics and I’m being told I could die from being pregnant?
I was already on a heavy concoction of medications everyday. More than the average Chemotherapy patient. If that wasn’t working then what chance did I have to actually follow through with this pregnancy?
I was deeply depressed. I often thought of abortion, and sometimes even ending my own life. I wasn’t myself. My toddler missed me – and I missed him. My husband missed me, and secretly I think he resented me for being so unwell. We could barely talk before I’d have to end the conversation and stick my head in the toilet. We didn’t have sex. We didn’t cuddle. I wasn’t being a wife or a mum. I was barely surviving. All I wanted was a fresh sick bag and to be left alone in quiet. I’d rarely shower because standing up would make me so violently sick. My hair was matted. My eyes were bruised. To endure a car ride to the hospital I’d have to take all my days worth of drugs in the morning to hold myself together. Days were long and dark. Very dark.
By the time I was 12 weeks my body stopped producing bile. I started vomiting bile from my liver (which took 5 times longer and 1000 times harder to bring up!). I booked myself into an abortion clinic. My plan was to go while my husband was at work, and then just tell him that I lost the baby. Plausible with how sick I was. But I couldn’t drive. So I cancelled the appointment. I couldn’t face the turmoil around it all. I wanted this baby. I planned for this baby. I knew I would regret it. I made two more appointments at the clinic before I decided to follow through with the pregnancy no matter how sick I was.
At 16 weeks pregnant I spent a 24 hour period vomiting every 10-40 minutes. My husband was away working and I was home alone. I rang my brothers girlfriend at 11pm to come over. At first she though I was exaggerating on the phone, but when she arrived and saw all my vomit bags littering my bedroom with bright green bubbly substance – she took everything very seriously. It was probably the lowest point of my life.
Things started improving by 25 weeks. I could hold a conversation without vomiting. I could wash my own hair. I was only in hospital once a week for fluids and I could start to drive again. My vomits were down to 5-12 each day. I would occasionally have accidents on myself in public, but I became a master at the ‘run and barff’.
My last weekend pregnant my husband asked if I had any special requests. Ofcoarse I did! It was my last weekend being pregnant (hopefully ever!). Want to know what I requested? To be left alone in bed, curtains drawn (sunlight would often trigger vomiting episodes) and 20 fresh sick bags right next to me. No babymoon. No pregnancy yoga. No healthy meals. No footrubs. Just to be able to vomit in peace and quiet.
If someone EVER tells you that they have Hyperemesis please don’t recommend Ginger. Or dry crackers, or even a special tea that will cure sickness. Trust me, we’ve tried them all! I spent my first 8 weeks of pregnancy wearing those silly motion sickness wrist ba
nds with a side table of ginger tablets, ginger beer, ginger crackers and water. Nothing worked. There is nothing you can do but offer sympathy. Don’t compare your ‘morning sickness’ with our health condition. Just be there to hear us cry and help us through this depressing phase of our lives.
Fast forward to today. I have two amazingly healthy children. How? I have no idea. Both pregnancies I lived off of oranges, Vitamin B6, Ondansetron, Zofran, Maxalon and Restavit. Oh and can’t forget the IV fluids, IV nutrition, Iron transfusion and frozen coke.
Doctors don’t know what causes it. There is no cure. It is known to be hereditary, and for my daughters sake I hope they’re wrong.
Everyone has their own journey, with their own obstacles. But I hope more people become aware of HG and the immense effects it has on women and their families. Emotionally, physically and financially. If you know someone with HG and want to help – be sensible. Clean their house. Cook a meal for their family. Do their laundry. Do things that the poor vomit covered pregnant lady can’t do anymore. Because I can assure you, she is in a dark moment of her life. And she needs help.
If you want to know more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum and the toll it takes on women, click here.