Today’s Life After…guest post is from the lovely Jenni, who blogs at Odd Socks and Lollipops. Jenni suffered hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) during her pregnancy. You may remember that Kate Middleton experienced it during her pregnancy with Prince George (although it was often described, wrongly, as ‘bad morning sickness’).
As Jenni describes in her emotive post, HG is much more than that. Jenni’s post is so very important because she describes how debilitating the condition is – and the devastating consequences of not receiving appropriate medical care or support.
Thank you, Jenni for sharing your story – I am sure it will help countless other women.
It was all very exciting and a bit scary seeing that positive test. We had 9 months to prepare for the biggest change in our lives. I dreamed of 9 months of buying all things baby related, spending hours browsing all those tiny clothes in the shops, planning and decorating the nursery. I envisioned, wandering (waddling) proudly around with an ever growing bump. These dreams lasted all of 2 weeks.
At 6 weeks my nausea started, creeping at first, a meal that I just didn’t fancy, feeling extra travel sick in the car, slowly it got worse. I was actually glad at first; didn’t sickness mean baby was healthy? And it would, of course, pass by 12 weeks, I could handle vague nausea for a few weeks. Piece of cake.
By week 10 I had been in bed for over a week throwing up most of what managed to pass my lips, which was rapidly becoming only sips of water. Everything smelt awful, the house, the outside, my husband. Any movement of the bed and the nausea got worse, most of the time I didn’t even have the strength to make it to the toilet. I gave up trying and lay there with a sick bowl next to me and my pockets filled with small plastic bags when I finally did start making the long journey down the stairs, sitting on each step and waiting, waiting until I know I wasn’t going to throw up – on this step at least, until I eventually reached the bottom and crawled on to the sofa.
I made the marathon trip to the Doctors a few times, sat in the waiting room swaying backwards and forwards, grey, praying I could last without throwing up in the middle of the waiting room. After two sets of medication which had done nothing to ease the nausea or the vomiting, I saw a different Dr who signed me off work for a month with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, told me the meds wouldn’t help so I should stop them and that all I needed was bedrest.
Most days I lost count of the amount of times I vomited. I couldn’t brush my teeth to get rid of the metallic taste which made the nausea worse because the thought of putting anything in my mouth made me sick. Some days I didn’t even go to the loo because there was no fluid – I realise now that I should have probably gone back to the Dr’s but I was too busy surviving each day.
I lay day after day, week after week staring blankly at a muted television not caring what was on an on my worse days hoping I would fall asleep and not wake up. I existed in a world where everything made me sicker – sounds, smells, bright colours, movement. Being awake was torture, only sleep offered brief, disturbed respite and I fell asleep knowing I would have to wake up and live through the hell again tomorrow.
One day I had made the effort to get up and have a shower, with my husband’s help, and I can remember vividly begging him hysterically to promise me that no matter what I would say in the future that we should never get pregnant again, ever. I remember most days wondering if I should carry on (was this a sign that I shouldn’t be a mum?). And most days I wondered if I could carry on – I know that some women feel they have to have terminations due to HG because they cannot cope, especially when they have children to look after and need to work. It was an awful thing to even consider in the darkest corners of your mind, terminating a healthy baby but it does cross your mind…
Finally, after what seemed like years, the vomiting started to happen less often and I could boast going X amount of hours without throwing up. Then I went 24 hours without vomiting, it felt like such a milestone. At around the 19 week mark my vomiting was only occasional and stayed that way for the rest of my 41 week pregnancy.
The nausea however did not fade, it did not get better, it stayed with me until my daughter, Boo, was born at 41 weeks. The only respite was when I was sleeping, and the second I woke it hit me instantly again. Food tasted wrong and although I wasn’t throwing up it was still an effort to eat, and I could only stomach very few foods. Being nauseous all of the time zapped my strength and I felt exhausted and had to start taking iron tablets, which in turn made my nausea worse.
I had to force myself to eat every two hours otherwise the nausea became overwhelming, and I found it very difficult to function, I had returned to work at this point. The weight I had lost, about 10kg, slowly returned as my pregnancy progressed and my daughter was born healthy – which I am immensely grateful for.
I feel the guilt of taking those tablets even though it was only for a short time (especially after the Dr told me I shouldn’t be taking them). I feel the guilt of failure – feeling like my body had failed me – like I wasn’t up to the task of becoming a mum, a warning that I was doomed to fail from before I really started. These feelings not helped by the constant stream of advice…You are just pregnant not ill … Have you tried ginger (have you tried throwing up ginger?) … It’s all in your head … Morning sickness goes at (insert arbitrary week here)… Go for a walk…
I was essentially left to suffer, and because I had neither the energy nor the presence of mind at the time I didn’t argue or research any other options… this makes me feel angry and upset. There are lots of treatment options for HG, safe treatment options. No woman should be left to suffer. There have been deaths due to HG related complications in the last ten years in the UK. No ginger biscuit is going to solve HG… proper medical treatment is needed not well-meaning, outdated advice.
It’s difficult for me to reconcile what should have been one of the happiest times of my life with the worse experience I have ever gone through. I cannot help but feel angry that I essentially ‘missed out’ on pregnancy, a lot of this anger is directed to Drs who should have given me the correct treatment and towards my own body for letting me down and failing me so miserably.
I have lost count of the amount of times I was told ‘It’s worth it’ whilst I was pregnant. And if I look at it like that, yes it was. Boo is worth it, worth every single second of the nausea and the vomiting. But I very firmly believe that it wasn’t necessary to pay that price. Boo and I didn’t have to go through this if I had been given the proper treatment.
Once I gave birth the nausea faded and it thankfully became just a memory, one easily forgotten in the whirlwind of newborn baby, sleepless nights, feeding and nappy changes. Sadly, HG has had some lasting effects: my newly developed obsession about hands being completely clean at all times; food if I even think it could be off has to go in the bin, even if there is no reason to think it would be out of date; certain foods I still cannot eat; and catching a sickness bug a couple of months ago was a horribly traumatic experience and caused major panic.
I live with the constant fear. Fear of feeling sick, of being sick and of feeling as helpless and worthless as I did when I was pregnant. There is also the guilt about what damage may have been done to Boo, the grieving for a pregnancy which I never ‘had’ (which sounds silly when I write it down), the jealousy when I hear other ladies are pregnant (which I have been assured is common by other HG survivors but I still feel ashamed to be listening to the green eyed monster). I am also grieving for a baby I will probably never have, a sibling for Boo. I am not sure I am strong enough to go through HG again, I am not sure I would be able to look after myself and Boo.
I try hard not to feel guilty that I am probably not going to give Boo a sibling (even though in my heart of hearts I think she should have a sibling). I quietly grieve for my pregnancy and the baby that never will be. At times I feel ridiculous for feeling like this, selfish even, because I have Boo, she is my world, she should be my focus and nothing else. And I do count my blessings, I have Boo, she is healthy and we have a happy life with my husband and as a stay at home mum which means Boo and I have all the time in the world together.
If you would like to share your Life After…story, please get in touch: