hyperemesis gravidarum, perhaps you have heard of it with the famous Kate Middleton, or perhaps you’ve not heard of it at all. It’s basically extreme morning/all day sickness that is WAY worse than the typical morning sickness. With both boys, I woke up in the middle night at around 3 weeks pregnant (before the test showed positive) thinking I had food poisoning. This time, I took the test first and was surprised to see that it was positive! (Let’s be honest, all of our babies have been planned, but my experience has just been SO different.) At 5 weeks pregnant, other than being so sleepy and very hungry, I felt amazing! I had all kinds of healthy meals planned, was drinking Shakeology daily, and getting lots done around the house. Maybe this time will be different, I thought. And by week 6, I realized that I was wrong….very wrong.
Living with Hyperemesis Gravidarium (HG):
HG basically crashes into your life like a car accident. One day you are fine, the next, you’re a complete wreck and hanging on just to survive. It is far worse than what people think of morning sickness, which is why there’s a name for it. Research shows only 1% of pregnant women suffer from this condition (aren’t I lucky?). With Andrew (our oldest), it lasted for 6 months. With Aidan, it lasted for 4.5 months. Some women suffer with HG the entire duration of the pregnancy. The good thing is that you have a beautiful reward at the end of your journey and once your precious baby arrives, you no longer have to suffer. The bad news is that it creates very debilitating circumstances and in some cases can even threaten the life of the mother and baby. In my experience, my babies have always been healthy. It was only me who suffered. My doctors explained to me that whatever nutrients the mother has already stored in her body will feed the baby while you are sick. So even though I couldn’t keep down anything, my baby was ok. But I was severely depleted. Having two healthy HG babies was certainly helpful because it can be very, very scary to be sick for days, weeks, and months without a break at all. I am so thankful to have had excellent health care through all my pregnancies and a very supportive husband. Without him, I would not be able to make it through this. Not only is it physically exhausting but it’s also mentally difficult. I had worked so hard to be self-employed and had so many commitments that were, unfortunately, put on hold unexpectedly as this illness came crashing into my life. So on top of just trying to survive, I’ve carried the guilt that came with missing deadlines, delayed projects, and trying to explain my situation to people who likely just didn’t understand the severity. HG is nothing like the “morning sickness” typical pregnant women have off and on or like what you see in movies. It’s very, very serious and while you’re in the thick of it, it’s impossible to really do anything other than hold on to your will to survive. It sounds dramatic, but other HG mamas will know exactly what I’m talking about. You guys. I’ve been completely bedridden for almost 5 months. Other than going to the bathroom or showering, I rarely leave my bed. Even walking to the living room is a challenge and sometimes I can’t even handle that and have to return to my bed after just 15 minutes. Before this, I spent the past 4 years being exhausted, working long hours from home while trying to balance family life. I was always busy and always tired, but I was productive. I longed for sleep but I got things done. I’ve now had more sleep than I ever know what to do with and I miss the busy days. I miss doing things with my family. I miss checking off my to-do list. I miss that feeling of being able to get things done all on my own. And I know it will all come back. So right now I just have to embrace the way things are as a season in life that will pass. My sweet Nana passed away in September and I was too sick to attend her memorial service. I felt horrible and wanted to be there more than anything. In fact, when my mom called that morning to deliver the sad news, I was throwing up while she called. My family understood how sick I was but it didn’t make any of it any easier. I was hoping and praying that Nana would have made it long enough to meet this baby, but God had other plans and while I miss her so so much, I’m thankful she will not suffer any longer. We had some medical scares. There were several days when I had abdominal pain so extreme that I was certain I was going to miscarry. It was scary and painful. There was a night when I was throwing up blood. That scared my husband and me. It turns out that a vessel had burst from throwing up so much and I guess this is common for HG patients. My blood pressure is usually quite low. I get very dizzy and have come close to fainting on a regular basis. I get very winded from walking, talking, and even just sitting sometimes. There has been stress: the housework, the unfinished projects, the missed appointments, the cancelled plans, the difficulty in trying to hide my sickness from two sweet boys who want their mommy to be okay, and having to fully and completely rely on someone else for almost everything! I know this struggle has been so difficult for me, but also for my husband. It’s a lot of work to take care of a sick person 24/7, two little ones, the house, the bills, and everything else. It has certainly not been easy for either of us, but we know that God has, and will, provide a way for things to work out and once this short journey is over, we will have another sweet baby to love forever. It’s the most difficult thing to go through, but it’s worth it. The boys are SO excited about the baby and I’m enjoying sharing this experience with them.
Of course, like endometriosis-which I also suffer from, there is no cure for HG. You simply find ways to treat it. It requires actual medication but well meaning friends and family will suggest all types of typical morning sickness “cures” seabands (they don’t work for HG); peppermint, ginger, etc. I’ve been crackered. I’ve been gingered. And I know they meant well but I almost had to laugh because of course any mama suffering with HG has tried EVERYTHING. No one would go through this level of sickness and think, “Gee, I really enjoy throwing up everything I eat or drink. I never thought to try crackers with ginger ale.” I know people mean well, but I wish they really understood the difference. It’s like, I’m sorry that you got a teensy bit nauseated at the buffet last week. NO, you don’t know what it feels like. Have you been hospitalized for severe dehydration? Didn’t think so. Keep munching your crackers. An illness this serious can only be treated with medication. There are several out there and each carries its own risks and side effects. If you are suffering from HG, please consult your physician for your own situation. I am just going to share some of mine. Zofran is most common. It did absolutely nothing for me with the boys, so I’ve never taken it more than 1-2 times. I learned there were some class action lawsuits regarding Zofran and birth defects so I was very thankful that this did not affect my children. However, I know many mamas who still take Zofran and I know that them, along with their doctors, are making the best medical decisions possible for the health of both mama and baby so it’s not my place to have an opinion on that. For me, it simply didn’t work. I found luck with Phenergann during my boys’ pregnancies. It helped keep the vomiting to a minimum but it knocks you out cold for 8-9 hours each time you take it. Not a problem for your first baby. A bit of a problem when you’re pregnant with Baby #2 and have to rely on others for help to care for a toddler. When you are pregnant with Baby #3 and you live thousands of miles away from family and have a 2 and 4 year old, it’s very difficult. My husband is amazing and I can’t say that enough. He worked long days and took care of the boys while I would try to do whatever I could to avoid throwing up all day. I did try a new medication called Diclegis at 6 weeks when the HG symptoms started. It worked for about a 2 weeks but then it just wasn’t strong enough. So I switched to Phenergann. I tried different doses: 12.5 MG so I was a bit less tired and 25 MG because there were days I literally could not even function at all and it was the only thing I could do. With HG comes other issues, most commonly severe dehydration which is dangerous for both mama and baby. I’ve ended up in the ER several times for IVs and anti-nausea meds only to come right back a few days or a week later in the same situation. One of the problems is that while the Phenergann worked for me, it was VERY difficult to keep it down. Throwing up your anti-nausea meds only 3 minutes after taking them is not only counter-productive but it leaves you feeling completely hopeless. Those are the days that my husband’s kind words and loving care meant everything to me. Not all HG mamas are lucky enough to have a supportive partner. But my husband has seen all of the struggles and although it meant he’d have to basically carry the weight of being both dad and mom and my caretaker, he did it without a single complaint. He knew I was struggling and had no choice.
Transitioning to Home Health Care:
I had connected with a group of other mamas suffering with HG. Many of them were on home health care so that they could get their IVs at home rather than go to the ER over and over. I called around to see how I could do this because there were many times I NEEDED to go to the ER was simply too sick to even move, not to mention we have two little ones at home and no family here so that means waking them up and dragging them out into the middle of the night. Once time, I even took a taxi so as not to disrupt them and my husband came with the boys to pick me up in the morning. You do what you have to do to get through it. Anyways, after calling about 20 agencies, I was hitting a wall. Everyone said that I was not old enough to qualify for home health care as they only serviced the elderly. I explained my situation and they’d give me another number to call….only to hear the same story. At my 4 month doctor visit, the nurses and my doctor were very concerned about the fact that I had not gained any weight and was still BELOW the weight I was when I found out I was pregnant. They immediately suggested home health care before I even had a chance to ask. Within an hour, they had me scheduled for someone to come out to the house the following morning. I was so happy I could cry. The next morning, the medical service company delivered all of my supplies: needles, saline flush syringes, vitamins, IV bags, my very own IV pole (because who else gets one of those at home?!) and other stuff. An hour later, a nurse came by to start the IV. I was laying in the comfort of my own bed and I was able to get treatment without having to drag my kids to the ER. I was one happy mama. The nurse showed my husband how to handle the IV, flush the lines, and start fluids. Things most people never need to know how to do, but of course, my amazing husband was willing to do for me. My doctor ordered vitamins for the IV to help replenish the missing nutrients I had lost-as I certainly couldn’t keep any prenatal vitamins down- and two bags of fluids each day. I was also ordered to check keytones daily. And wow, I was in really bad shape. It was kind of surreal to have all of these things in my home reminding me of just how sick I really was. With my previous pregnancies, it was very bad, but not this severe. I am thankful for my doctor recognizing the signs and helping me transition to home health care because had I continued on without it, I just don’t even know and I don’t want to think about that…..
My kids are the sweetest. They have been so helpful trying to take care of me. I’m such a lucky mama and wife to have such an amazing family throughout this entire ordeal. Look that that sweet face! (When the nurses come to start a new IV, they bring their little chairs into my room and sit at the foot of the bed and watch.) I’ve had more than 20 IVs placed throughout this pregnancy. In my hands, the sides of my wrists (ouch!), the crease of my arms, the middle of my arms. Pretty much everywhere. Having small veins to begin with and adding dehydration makes it difficult. Sometimes I’m lucky and the IV will last for 6-7 days. Other times it goes bad the first day and I have to get a new one. If you’ve ever had an IV flushed when it goes bad, it basically feels like FIRE and it burns sooo bad. My most recent IV went bad and the solution not only burned from the inside but it left a painful burn on the outside of my wrist as well. I’ve tried hydro-cortisone cream, lavender oil, etc. to try to treat it but it’s not getting any better. Ugh, the side effects of the treatments are always unavoidable. Just part of the process.
I didn’t want to post these photos at first but you know what? This is real life. Believe it or not, I felt way worse than I looked, which is saying a lot. But this too shall pass. Those cute faces are everything. I love my sweet boys!
What Keeps me Going:
I’ve always believed that every mother struggles differently. Some people struggle with infertility waiting years and years for their precious miracle, undergoing medications with harsh side effects and procedures with no guaranteed outcome. Some mamas, like me, struggle with extremely difficult pregnancies. We see the moms with their nice glows and all their energy while we struggle just to hang on. Some women struggle with a difficult labor for hours and hours only to be rushed in for an emergency C-section, or other complications. There is no need for moms to compare and judge each other. I feel that we all struggle differently but what keeps us going, and draws us together, is that we love our babies and whatever the struggle is, it’s worth it. This is mine. And while it’s difficult, scary, and miserable, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is just the way it’s going to be. I can get upset about it, or I can just go through it doing the best I can, knowing it is only temporary and what lies ahead is so worth it. I am so thankful from the bottom of my heart to those who have stuck by my side and offered prayers and kind words. I thank my clients who have been understanding during this time of basically a several month long family emergency. I am thankful for the patience and understanding and compassion. I can’t wait to be my normal self again! I am most thankful to my husband who has been more than I could ever ask for, to my sweet boys who bring me flowers from day care and draw me pictures or come lay in the bed with me to cuddle and watch Peppa Pig or Space Racers together, to my amazing neighbor who has helped care for the boys when I was unable to do so, for the family members who visited and played with the boys while I was stuck in bed, for the ability to have child care 5 days a week while my husband works and knowing that my babies are safe, happy, and having a great day playing with other kids while I’m unable to take care of them (which is really, really hard), for my amazing doctor and nurses who took things seriously and did what needed to be done to help me, and for this sweet baby who we can’t wait to meet in April!
We just hit the half-way mark yesterday: 20 weeks. I am still on home health care. I have a doctor’s appointment today to go over things and see where we are at. We also have the big 20 week anatomy scan ultrasound! I am happy to report for the past 2 weeks I’ve been able to eat! I’ve thrown up very little and I can also keep water down. For the first time in 5 months, I’ve gained weight! I now am 2 pounds more than the day I found out about Baby #3. I am hopeful that the worst is behind us and although I am still very sick (and unfortunately also trying to fight a sinus infection simultaneously), I am not as sick as I was. I am hopeful that throughout this month I will at least be able to start taking my life back and getting all those unfinished projects completed along the way. I will keep you all updated and hopefully the second half of this pregnancy will be lots more fun so I can focus on all the good stuff!
Learn more about HG:
Visit the HER Foundation’s website to read educational articles about HG symptoms, view research, advice, and resources: Read about Elise’s experience with HG on her blog Keeping Up With the Katwijks]]>