Hyperemesis Gravidarum: My Story
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is described as: “Hyperemesis is considered a rare complication of pregnancy, but because nausea and vomiting during pregnancy exist on a spectrum, it is often difficult to distinguish this condition from the more common form of nausea and vomiting experienced during pregnancy known as morning sickness.”
What it doesn't say is how life changing it is. I had never heard of Hyperemesis during my first pregnancy in 2011. As a result, I tried to deal with the sickness as best as I could. I tried all the home remedies – ginger ale, ginger biscuits, eating before getting out of bed, eating often, anti-sickness bands, peppermint, meditation, acupressure.
Nothing worked! I threw up about 20 times most days, over 30 times some days at the peak of it. I was tired, drained and cut off from everyone as I couldn’t leave the proximity of my bathroom for fear of throwing up. Worst of all was the guilt. Guilt that my baby could be suffering as a result of my inability to maintain a ‘normal’ pregnancy. Guilt that I almost blamed my unborn child for making me feel this miserable. Guilt for even thinking those thoughts when so many women struggled with infertility and after all wasn’t this what I had wanted? One of the hardest parts was seeing the reactions when I told friends and family I was really ill with the pregnancy. That look that said they thought I was being dramatic or making the entire thing up – it just made things harder.
At my wits end at 9 weeks pregnant, I made an emergency appointment in my doctors surgery. I explained that I was there for advice on what to do as I couldn’t even function. The GP said that morning sickness was a normal part of pregnancy, then he laughed and said “Is that all you wanted?“. He sent me home with my tail between my legs.
A week later I saw a different GP and crossed my fingers she would take me seriously. Before I even stepped into her office she said I needed to go to hospital, just by looking at my skin tone and hunched posture. I was severely dehydrated and kept in hospital for 3 nights on an IV drip. Although I felt better going home after receiving the fluids I was still throwing up though it was more manageable. Within a week the sickness was back and by week 14 I was back in hospital, needing another 3 night stay.
It was after this stint that things began to look up – finally! I had started out at 140lbs when I got pregnant but a mere 20 weeks into my pregnancy I was down over 20lbs. And as a result of this weight loss, I found it next to impossible to gain weight healthily. I was questioned at ante-natal appointments "Are you smoking?", "Do you drink alcohol?", "Have you ever had an eating disorder?". As if the guilt wasn’t weighing on me enough. I was sent for growth scans every 2-3 weeks to ensure that baby was growing and they told me he was very small for my dates. At 38 weeks I had my final growth scan. They estimated his birth weight would be around 5lbs – if I was lucky! But the saying is true: Your baby will take what it needs even if your body is suffering.
When Will was born on his due date he was 6lbs 13oz and 21 inches long. He was perfect! My second son Jamie was a healthy 7lbs 9oz and 20 inches long despite 7 hospital admissions for IV fluids. But despite the sickness, I coped a lot better the second time. While I was pregnant the first time, I felt like a recluse. I was alienated from friends and family and those I did see were, I felt, sceptical of the validity of my illness which in turn made me feel most of it was in my head! I felt very alone.
Having been a social person prior to the pregnancy it was a tough transition and feeling like I was going through it with no support did not help. My husband and I were overwhelmed by the entire thing. We had had a vision of pregnancy and this was NOT it.
The best way to get through it is to try to remember this too shall pass. And before you know it this whole episode will become a distant memory. You won’t remember waking up at night to throw up, or the embarrassment of fainting in public, or the soul crushing feeling of loneliness, or even the guilt of feeling you are unable to do the best for your baby or your body.
None of it will matter when you meet your baby. Everything else will fade into nothingness and you would go through it all over again just for your beautiful, perfect little bundle.