When Pregnancy is Downright Miserable
Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Its a word the world has recently become quite familiar with due to a certain British Princesses unfortunate experience with it. But for one in fifty of us, Hyperemesis Gravidarum is more than a fantastical news story, its simply a way of life when were pregnant.
I had my first child, a daughter, in 2009. In the months prior to getting pregnant, I had euphoric dreams of being this happy, glowing pregnant woman who just loved and adored carrying a blossoming life inside me. I planned on maintaining a healthy balance of diet and exercise, on preparing an amazing nursery for my daughter, on continuing to cook and clean for my husband, and on continuing to be the best possible Spanish teacher I could be. What I didn't bargain for was extreme morning all-day sickness, or feeling like I had the flu for nine months. It was bad with my daughter Bunny and I had every possible awful pregnancy symptom you can fathom, including regular vomiting a couple of times a week. It was horrible and I was so angry that I was sick. I spent most of my time pregnant just being bitter that I didn't get the euphoric pregnancy Id dreamed of. I have always wanted lots of kids, being the oldest of seven siblings myself, but that dream seemed to be ebbing away as I carried my first and started entertaining dreams of adoption instead. When twelve weeks of pregnancy came and went and the magic of the second trimester did nothing to alleviate my symptoms, my frustrations just increased as I felt a great injustice was being done to me. What was worse was that absolutely everyone I knew who'd ever been pregnant had not only never experienced this, but also some nifty, easy solution to my problem and not a single one of them did anything to help. Not a single one. It was so irritating that no one really understood what I was going through. To make matters worse, all I did when I came home was sleep and ask my husband to run to the store for whatever food item I felt would make me feel better. Anytime he'd try to touch me or comfort me, my nausea would increase and Id ask him to please not do so as it was making me sick. I was in survival mode and keeping my marriage strong when I simply wanted to survive 9 months of flu-like symptoms wasn't something I could focus on. My poor hubby's love tank was getting super low and I knew it but there was nothing I could do to help it. That, and the house was a wreck, the dishes were never done, and I never ever put food on the table. Somehow around his busy youth pastors schedule, he had to find some way to take care of himself and me. It was awful. Somewhere around the fifth month, my symptoms of nausea did finally lessen, though I never did fully get through the morning sickness. The nausea was replaced with a ridiculous acid reflux that we finally got under control with a hefty dose of Zantac twice a day. My discomfort lasted all nine months, but became more bearable until the very end when I was back to vomiting every day, more because I had no more room in my stomach for food than anything else. In fact, I threw up right until those last two hours of pushing my little darling out into the world. Overall, those nine months were some of the worst (and best, ironically) of my life. I hated being pregnant with a passion, and anyone around me knew it because I wasn't even a good sport about it.
Then Bunny was born, and in that moment, all my discomfort was over and was replaced with an immense love that told me that every awful moment had been worth it. Every one. I remember kissing her over and over, relishing the feel of her baby soft skin and the scent of her hair and telling her Id do it all over again if she needed me to. She was extremely healthy, weighing a hefty 9 pounds and 5 ounces and I was sure that her ability to gain weight in the womb had been part of the reason Id been so sick.
Two years full of infant to toddler love and enjoyment passed until the baby bug bit me again and my husband and I finally decided to try to conceive for the second time. My first pregnancy had been so traumatic for him that he was harder to convince than I was, but eventually, we were both in. We realized that another pregnancy might bring the same symptoms, but so many women encouraged me that each pregnancy was different that we held onto hope that maybe this one would be the easy, glowing 40 weeks Id always envisioned. What followed this decision was sixteen frustrating months where we tried in vain to conceive despite the fact that we were doing everything right and that I forced my daughter to wean at twenty-five months, which was much earlier than either of us wanted. We prayed and we hoped and we tried and nothing happened. Every month when I got a negative pregnancy test followed by an unwanted period I fell to my knees in angry or heartbroken tears begging God to give me the baby I so desired. I watched my extremely social daughter as she played by herself and gave God my best arguments as to why she needed a sibling to love and to play with. Finally, I surrendered and told God that I was willing to wait for His timing, even if His timing was never. I wanted more kids, but if He chose to give us only Bunny, then Bunny was enough. She was more than enough. Then came month seventeen and a positive pregnancy test that left me incredulous.
At that early stage of four weeks pregnant I had so few symptoms of nausea that I was wondered if the baby was even alive, but by week six, my nausea and heartburn symptoms were in full force, and doubly as uncomfortable as anything I experienced with Bunny. I was throwing up multiple times a day, and I called my midwife day and night seeking relief. She put me on Zofran for the nausea and Zantac for the acid reflux and even with both of those meds in me, I was still vomiting so much I wondered how I was getting any nutrition down. My weight dropped four pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight in less than two weeks and the whole thing culminated with me on the floor with terrible stomach cramps caused by constipation followed by diarrhea that left me unable to move or care for my little girl who was in the other room watching one of her favorite princess movies. By this point, I had lost count of how many times Id thrown up and yet I was still at the toilet dry heaving. I was unable to keep even a sip of water down and the pain drove me to call a babysitter and an ambulance because I just had no idea what was going on. At the hospital they refused to let me put anything in my mouth, and pumped my veins full of fluids and medicine. It seems that my dehydration (and possibly a combination of my meds) had lead me to an extreme case of constipation that still persists to this day, but not at such an unbearable level. They checked my cervix which was closed and quite healthy looking and assured me that the baby seemed fine. The ER doctor prescribed a different kind of acid reducer, Protonix, and once I was able to pee in a cup for him, he allowed me to go home.
Since then, the new combination of medicine has kept the vomiting down to a bearable level it's not even every day. I'm still nauseated or queasy most of the day, but Zofran keeps my stomach acid medicine down and the stomach acid medicine keeps most of my food in my stomach. Ive also discovered the foods and I can and cannot eat. Basically, Ive limited my diet to meat and eggs, fruits, veggies, popsicles, and almond milk. Once in awhile Ill try something else to see if it will stay down. Sometimes it does, sometimes not. Ive gained back three of the pounds Ive lost and I'm feeling much closer to human. I feel badly because when people ask me how I'm doing, I'm pretty much always doing horribly and I tell them so. I'm sure I'm a downer for everyone, but its the truth and I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I'm doing my best to keep a positive attitude, but honestly its hard for me to even fathom that I'm pregnant. I don't feel pregnant, I just feel gravely ill. This constant illness I'm undergoing comes with its own set of symptoms. I struggle with Mommy guilt, jealousy, frustration, and I have a hard time setting my sights on the joy that awaits me. I also feel so guilty that my hard-working, barely home husband is saddled with the task of being the caretaker of two girls and the house. Granted, this is emotionally easier for both of us in some ways than it was the first time because we know that there is an end in sight and what it will be like to reach it, but at the same time, I'm not the Mommy to my needy three year old that I wish I could be and my husband is stretched much more thinly than he should be. At bedtime, rather than brushing her teeth, singing her a song, and praying with her as we snuggle in her bed, I pop a movie on in my room and let her sit on the bed next to me while I sleep. Also, this experience severely dampens my desire to be pregnant again even though I still desperately want a house full of children. I heard one mom on a forum somewhere say that her HG robbed her of the joy of more children because she cant bear to go through it again. I fully understand that. I'm not saying I wont do this again because I have faith that God wont give me more than I can handle and that He uses difficult times to make us stronger, but the idea of never having to deal with this again is more than tempting.
If you are or have been in my shoes, then I empathize with you. If you don't know what I'm talking about and you've had wonderful or manageable pregnancies, then I'm truly happy for you (though I'm not sure I want you gloating about it in front of me ;-) However, if you have never had Hyperemesis Gravidarum or severe morning sickness, I would ask that you kindly refrain from helpful this worked like a charm for me suggestions as to ways your friend or love one can alleviate the morning sickness. Sadly for us, most things don't make us feel normal and they wont. We've tried the ginger and the sea bands and the B12 and eating saltine crackers first thing in the morning and it didn't help. Not at all. Some of us are able to find ways of bringing things down to a manageable level but for us that means something completely different for us than for the other 49 women out of 50. In my case, without medicine, I honestly don't know how Id survive. No really. I don't know how my body would be able to handle this on its own and I am NOT a pill-popping type of person at all! In the first three weeks after discovering I was pregnant, I rapidly lost weight until the point where I was rushed to the hospital, pumped with fluids, and was given new medicine. Only then did the weight loss stop, and eventually start rising upwards again.
Now maybe I'm frustrating you here because you know someone in my shoes and you wish you could help them. I'm not saying you cant make suggestions, I'm just asking that you be sensitive to the fact that what works like a charm for most women doesn't work for those with hyperemesis gravidarum. There do seem to be ways to make the symptoms more bearable, but that only comes with trial and error, and only the expecting mom will be able to figure out the balance that is best for her. Instead, maybe you can come over and offer to clean her house, watch her children, or cook dinner for her family. Maybe she just needs someone to sit and pray with her, or to listen without judgment as she rants and raves. She may hate being pregnant. She may not have connected at all with the miracle inside of her. Sometimes she may even feel that miscarriage would be a relief and then feel guilt because of that. HG is awful to go through and it robs you of all the glowing joy normally associated with pregnancy. The last time we had the flu in my house I told my weak and vomiting husband that this is exactly what pregnancy had felt like for me. Maybe it would help if all of us realized that. Just think about the last time you had the flu and you couldn't rip yourself off the couch or away from the toilet bowl because of how miserable you were and multiply that by weeks and months. Yeah, its awful to think about.
Now, at twelve weeks pregnant, I'm finally starting to feel some relief. I am by no means better, but my level of miserable-ness is slowly lessening to a degree I feel I can live with. I was actually able to clean my house a couple of days ago, start back up with some of my knitting projects, and even make a real dinner for my health-food starved family two days in a row. I know that seems small, but its the little things these days that give me joy and purpose. Ive also found that I don't need a constant string of popsicles to get me through my part-time job teaching in the morning, and that Ive started smiling and joking again with my coworkers. Now I'm still needing to go to bed early and usually my daughter and I watch one or two movies every evening so I can lay down and try to cope with the waves of nausea and queasiness, but I'm also finding the energy to actually play with her again, and work on educating her with games like memory or a project like painting pictures. I have to say, an improvement this early is a delightful surprise for me since my morning sickness didn't even start to improve with her until much later. In any case, things are still difficult, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm also finally starting to connect with the idea that I'm doing this for a child who I will love and cherish and that going through a miserable existence for nine months will be totally worth it when I get to hold that little one in my arms for the first time and promise to love and cherish him or her for the rest of my life. If you are also experiencing this with me, know that my love and prayers are with you. If I could wrap my arms around you and tell you everything will be okay, I would. But know that it will. It will get better. Some of you will get over this at 12 weeks, some of you might have to wait until about 20, and for some it will be the moment that baby is placed in your arms, but having gone through it before I can say: Take heart, Its worth it in the end. And yes, one day it will end and you will feel normal again. You will. So be encouraged.
Do you know or have you any experience with HG?