Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Coping with a Blessing
*This is a personal account of my experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and why I have taken some time off from blogging over the past few months. Regular recipe posts are scheduled to return next week.
Hi everyone, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’ve missed interacting with all of you and sharing my love of food with you over the past few months. Food is my passion, and creating in the kitchen brings me so much joy. That joy is the reason I began this blog over three years ago, and since then it has grown into a huge blessing for myself and my family, since it has also become my career. Being able to do something that I love while being home with my children is a true gift, and I’m very very thankful that God has foraged this path for me. But five months ago, my life changed in a very big way (an ultimately VERY happy one) but with it came some unforseen side effects that quickly turned me into a person I didn’t even recognize.
At the time of taking a step back from my blog back in September, my desperate focus turned to basic instincts, most of which we all take for granted in the daily grind of day to day life. My children, my husband, my home; all things that are more important to me than anything in the world, suddenly began to blur into the background. I became depressed, withdrawn, almost like a shell of myself. And it all started with what was incredibly joyful news. Something we had been praying for, trying for, and wanting so very much. I was pregnant!
When I got that positive test, it was like a breath of relief, joy, and maybe a bit of fear all rolled into one. The fear came from the fact that I would now be a mother to three children, and wondering how I would balance it all. But even that fear was minimal compared to the excitement we felt.
I was prepared to face morning sickness like I had experienced with my other two children. I felt nauseous and had periods of vomiting with my first child through out my entire pregnancy, but it was mostly managed with medication and I was still able to work all nine months of my pregnancy. I had no issues functioning, eating, or caring for myself, though as I was going through it, I really felt that it was a tough pregnancy. Looking back now, I realize I had it relatively easy.
A few years later I got pregnant with my daughter, and the vomiting and nausea hit me harder than my first. I lived off of Ginger Ale and saltines, and couldn’t stomach much of anything else. I spent a lot of time on the couch, but I still managed to care for my two year old, do laundry, and make dinner most nights. When 14 weeks rolled around, I started to feel more like my normal self, and that continued for most of my pregnancy. I had a relapse of sickness in the third trimester, but it was managed with medication, and I functioned normally until the day I delivered her.
We waited a few more years, trying to decide if we wanted one more child. I had always wanted three kids but was unsure if I wanted to face another pregnancy. I had hope that the “third time would be the charm” and that maybe I would finally have an easy pregnancy like so many of my friends had experienced.
When we found out this time, we were so excited, but I also knew that sickness would more than likely set in soon, so I tried to prepare myself for that. It hit me right on schedule at six weeks, just like my previous pregnancies. I started vomiting multiple times a day at first, probably 4-5 times, and suddenly the smell of everything began to set me off; seriously, y’all, the smell of my upper lip or the scent of soap on my hands made me run to the toilet. This however, was no different from what I had experienced in the past, so I calmly called my doctor and asked for the same anti-emetic I had success with in my other pregnancies.
It quickly became apparent to me that the medication was not going to do the trick this time around, and that my situation was becoming much more dire than what I had experienced before. As the days went by, my vomiting episodes began to increase. At their peak, I was vomiting up to 20-25 times a day. I would lay on my bathroom floor crying and begging for relief that never seemed to come. I could keep nothing down. Crackers, toast, ginger ale… nothing. Within minutes of consuming anything, it came right back up. I became a slave to my bed or the couch, only getting up to make trips to the bathroom. I started quickly losing weight and began to fall into a pit of hopelessness that I would never feel like myself again. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me; this was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t even recognize the person I saw. I started to develop tiny red dots on the skin all around my eyes from vomiting so much. I tore my esophagus and the lining of my stomach and began to throw up blood and clots. It was like living a nightmare waking up each day. My only respite from the horrible nausea and vomiting was sleep.
You might be wondering what was going on with my husband and kiddos during all of this. Well, all I can say is that without the unwavering support of my amazing husband, I don’t know how I would’ve survived! He took on both of our roles, seemingly overnight and with minimal complaint. He made sure our kids were fed, bathed, made it to school, and were taken care of in every single way. He did his best to also help me in any way that he could. It was because of him and his urging that I finally went to the hospital for IV fluids, which my body desperately needed. During my first trip to the ER for fluids, we found that I had gone into ketosis, which literally means that your body is in starvation mode. It was also where I finally received a diagnosis for the plague that had taken control of me for weeks: Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
I had heard of HG before, but never truly understood what it was until that point. I think it’s hard to really grasp until you’ve experienced it yourself. That being said, I wouldn’t wish it on ANYONE! It is not morning sickness; I can tell you that for sure. I would classify what I have experienced with my other two children as morning sickness. This is an entirely different level of sickness, and it effects you not only physically, but emotionally as well. I became deeply depressed and there were many many moments where I didn’t want to live any longer. The thoughts and feelings that I experienced going through HG are haunting and something I haven’t shared with many people. HG makes you feel isolated and alone. I was too sick to leave my bed, let alone my house. The only time I left was for doctor’s visits or to fetch my kids on the days that my husband couldn’t pick them up from school. I didn’t go to the grocery store, a restaurant, my son’s soccer games, or even the mailbox for months.
An added problem was that I developed numerous non-food triggers. Sunlight was a huge one. I couldn’t stand to have the blinds open in our house, or to even sit on the back patio while the kids played outside. When my husband would get into bed at night and the mattress would move, I would vomit. The feel of warm or hot water on my body made me so sick that showering was nearly impossible. I was also too weak to even stand up in the shower, so on the rare occasion that I took one, I sat on the floor and leaned against the wall. My kids watched horrible amounts of TV while I was ill, and the sounds and colors on the screen would send me retching. My daughter is hereby never allowed to watch Goldie and Bear again; that song and show make me suffer from HG PTSD!
One of the few things that has helped me was finding and joining an HG support group on Facebook. It is an active group of women who have suffered with HG, and it has helped me immensely to read their stories and to share with others who have had similar experiences. It finally made me feel like I wasn’t alone and it helped give me the boost I needed to not give up. If you are reading this post and you are suffering from HG or know someone else that is, I highly recommend this group. They will give you or your loved one plenty of great support!
I have to say that all through this process, my number one thought was worry and fear for our baby. How in the world could everything that I was experiencing not have a negative impact on him? I agonized over being unable to eat, unable to drink, and feeling unable to cope, and how it would effect him. When we finally had our anatomy scan and heard those sweet words that everything was normal, I cried and cried and cried. We are so thankful, and yet I continue to pray for him. You never know what can happen in life, but I believe in the power of prayer. It’s what is helping me through each day after all.
As luck would have it, my symptoms finally started to ease after four months. I was finally able to eat and drink again. I was finally able to leave the house. I was finally able to prepare a meal for my family for the first time in months. I was able to live again, and it was a relief like I had never felt before.
I’m 25 weeks now, and everyday that I feel somewhat normal I am thankful. I wouldn’t say my HG is resolved, as I do still vomit at least once every day and I’m still taking medication to help me keep down food and fluids, but I am worlds better than I was before. In all reality things could be worse. I’ve met many women suffering from the same condition who require home health services where they receive round the clock IV fluids, medication, and even feeding tubes. Once I was on a regimen of medications to help me better control the vomiting, I was able to keep food and fluids down better and was able to avoid having to do the same. For that and many other reasons, I count my blessings everyday.
So, while this has been a very difficult and eventful journey so far, I’m happy to say that I am closer and closer everyday to claiming my sweet victory prize; our baby boy! Finally holding him in my arms will make every hardship of this pregnancy worth it, and I can’t wait for him to be here and join our family.
*If you are wondering if the symptoms you are experiencing could be Hyperemesis Gravidarum, go here for more info.
*For ways to support a loved one suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, go here.