From a HG Mama
I don't even know where to begin writing this.
I am torn between wanting to share my experience of trauma to help others, and not wanting to appear ungrateful to have been lucky enough to have had children.
I almost want to belittle my experience, because I know there are other women that have had it far worse.
I don't want to relive it, but sharing about my experience is also cathartic.
It's like I want to forget it forever, but I also never want to forget it because I am so incredibly grateful that it is all over.
This is my Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) pregnancy story.
My husband and I were shopping one day, and I started to feel a little nauseous. I had something to drink, but the nausea was escalating rapidly, and I needed to get home — quickly. I barely made it home before I was vomiting constantly. It lasted all afternoon and all night. Morning sickness wasn't the first thought that crossed my mind. Sure, we had been trying to fall pregnant, but this would have been far too early to be morning sickness. But, when the vomiting continued to the next morning, I couldn't escape the thought that I could be pregnant. So in the early hours of the morning, I took the test. I didn't even need to wait the full 'developing' time — that line literally glowed within seconds. I wouldn't even be 2-3 weeks pregnant yet?!
I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I was so happy to be pregnant — I had always wanted to be a Mum.
I was relieved I was pregnant, and I wasn't 'sick'.
I was terrified that this crippling nausea and vomiting was happening so early.
I crawled back into bed and told my husband the happy news, and he was ecstatic. But our happiness was quickly overrun with worry and sadness because all I wanted to do as sleep and cry — this nausea was relentless.
Fast forward a few weeks after having all of the standard pregnancy testings, I was still vomiting all the time, and I was unable to work. I tried desperately to continue working, but I would end up on the floor of the office curled up in a ball trying not to pass out. Or, I'd be trying to not vomit on the tram on my way to work. I was so incredibly lucky to have a boss and colleagues who were so supportive, and I had to take leave without pay for many months. To say I was stressed was an understatement. Our world literally changed overnight. There was no secret daydreaming about our growing family; rather, it was a case of survival.
Nonetheless, my baby was perfectly healthy and was growing wonderfully.
I, on the other hand, wasn't doing so well.
I was losing so much weight, I was unable to keep anything down for weeks, and I was ending up in the hospital every week for intravenous fluids.
I would try to drink anything I could to stay hydrated at home, but my body would just bring it back up ALL day.
The diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) was made at around eight weeks. I consider this such an incredibly lucky diagnosis because this can often go undiagnosed for some women. My GP and my local hospital were absolutely incredible at giving me the care I and support I desperately needed. I was on many different medications to help ease the nausea and vomiting. But, there were so many of them that if I did manage to get them all in, I would inevitably vomit them back up within seconds.
I ended up having numerous trips to Emergency for intravenous fluids, and I was also admitted into the antenatal wards a hand full of times for extended rehydration. My husband would take me to Emergency, work on his laptop, and sleep on the floor until my fluids and medications were finished. We did this together for months. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day as a patient in hospital was gut-wrenching. I was so sad.
After about 24 weeks the vomiting eased, but I needed the maximum doses of chemotherapy medications to keep the nausea at bay. There was not one day that went by that I didn't vomit or feel nauseated. Sure, some days were better than others, but I had to recalibrate what 'normal' felt like. I drank nothing but Coke for the first 12ish weeks and ate nothing but salt and vinegar chips and hot chips for months. Certainly NOTHING I had hoped to fuel my baby and body within my pregnancy. But, I was doing anything I could to survive.
But, the vomiting was so bad I would be vomiting blood and trying desperately to not pee with every vomit. Absolute hell.
Upsettingly, I was unable to have the midwife-led care that I had hoped for because I was deemed a high-risk pregnancy. I had HG, pregnancy induced thyroid complications and also developed a heart murmur (possibly due to the state of constant dehydration). But, nothing really ever goes to plan with pregnancy and labour does it?!
My first baby Rex was born at 38 weeks after I went into spontaneous labour. The delivery was uncomplicated, and Rex was perfectly healthy and beautiful. He was on the small side as you would expect after a horrible HG pregnancy, but the best part — the nausea disappeared as soon as my placenta was out.
I had no idea just how nauseated I was until I wasn't.
Those first few weeks of newborn life were absolute bliss.
The sleepless nights and troubles breastfeeding was lightyears better than pregnancy.
But remembering those awful months of hell never completely escaped me.
Also, I knew I would have to do it all again one day because I always wanted two children.
This lingered in my thoughts for months and months until I was brave enough to try again for baby number two.
Unsurprisingly, pregnancy number two was no different. Except I had a toddler to care for as well. Our little family battled through the second pregnancy together, and it was no different from the first.
Thankfully, my second boy Jack was born at 36+4 weeks after yet another spontaneous labour. My itty bitty boy was here, and the nausea was finally gone again.
I would do it again in a heartbeat to have my boys. But those dark, dark days have never truly disappeared. Understandably my husband and I started our journey as parents on the back foot, and our mental health really suffered as a result of these incredibly challenging pregnancies. I suffered from postpartum anxiety and depression after both pregnancies, and it's taken a lot of professional help to get us both functioning properly again. We had been in a constant state of fight or flight for so long that we struggled for a long time without realising. I used to be triggered over simple things, and I would be thrusted back into pregnancy-land all over again. It's been an emotional journey, to say the least.
I am so happy to say that our family is more content than ever, but HG never really leaves you. I can't have Zooper Doopers without remembering the vomiting. Red Rooster chips makes my heart race. Seeing the left over packs of Ondansetron in the medicine cabinet makes my heart skip a beat or two.
But we made it.
We survived through something truly traumatising — but it was oh so worth it.
For any parents out there suffering from HG, just remember it all eventually ends. Seek help early, and make sure you check in with your mental health regularly. You are fighting a battle every second of the day, and you enter parenthood depleted and exhausted.
Look after yourself, lower your expectations, and do whatever you need to do to survive x