Pregnant with Hyperemesis Gravidarum
My name is Sarah and I have vomited in more places that you could imagine...
Let’s back up a bit, though, to before the barfing began...
I was blessed to be raised in a family of strong, kind, caring women. Growing up I imagined what it would be like to be pregnant. I knew I was going to love every moment of it. I could picture myself smiling and glowing, radiating with gratitude! I was so naive....
I found out I was pregnant with my first baby around four weeks. Two weeks later I was hit by a train. Not LITERALLY, but in the months to come I would sometimes wish that I had been. When the morning sickness began I thought “Well, this is how it goes....” but then it never stopped. From six weeks on I vomited ALL. DAY. LONG.
That first day I vomited six times before my mother and (now) husband decided to call the doctor. They thought it was a little excessive and they wanted to be sure that everything was ok. I was given the usual advice of taking ginger and kind of brushed off. But ginger didn’t help. The weird sweat band things you wear on your wrist for carsickness didn’t help. Warm lemon water didn’t help. Nothing helped. Nothing! And so I just continued to puke my brains out.
I threw up as soon as I woke up every morning and it continued all day long. The only relief I got when when I was sleeping, which I did often because I had no energy. I was losing weight. When I saw the doctors they said weight loss in the beginning of pregnancy is normal. That the nausea would subside at twelve weeks and it would be smooth sailing from then on. Liars.
I made my first trip to the ER around fifteen weeks because I was so weak that I could barely walk up the stairs. I was given IV fluids and told I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It basically means that pregnancy hormones make you feel nauseous and vomit constantly. It was here that someone explained to me that being dehydrated can cause vomiting, and vomiting obviously causes dehydration. Getting caught in the cycle is hard to get out of without IV fluids. Every sip of water would just come right back up, so drinking water alone just doesn’t always work.
At a regular OBGYN appointment I was told that there was no cause for concern until I lost ten percent of my pre-pregnancy body weight. When I hit that mark, the doctor still didn’t seem worried. I tried explaining how awful it was, but it was like talking to a brick wall.
I was too weak to even stand in the shower. Too dizzy to drive most days. I wretched with such force that I regularly peed my pants. My eyes watered. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Finally I was given some medication, which helped some, but it didn’t stop it completely.
I had four or five more trips to the hospital after my first IV treatment. Between those trips, life was HARD. I was excited for this baby, but pregnancy was nothing like I had dreamed. I was so hungry but I couldn’t keep anything down. Smells of my neighbors cooking made me nauseous. Commercials about food made me gag. It was torture. I continued to lose weight and my baby was measuring small but the doctors didn’t seem concerned...
My husband was working hard to provide for us and I was living 30-45 minutes away from everyone I knew at the time. My family would come take care of me when they could, and my in-laws allowed me to stay at their house when I needed to. But I was lonely, depressed and constantly anxious. I felt my doctor didn’t believe me about how many times I threw up each day or about how debilitating it was to live life in a constant state of nausea.
At around 35 weeks our baby still only measured in the 10th percentile. The doctor said that if she was anything less than 25th percentile at 38 weeks that they would induce, with hopes that being nourished outside my womb would help her grow. I counted on it, and counted down the days until my 38 week ultrasound. And that little stinker measured at 25th percentile. I ended up being pregnant for THREE MORE TORTUROUS WEEKS!
Leah was born late, but had reached 7lbs 2oz. She was perfect in every way and worth absolutely all of the hell I went through. Overall I had lost 30lbs, but she was healthy!
l decided even before she was born that one baby was going to be it for me. I couldn’t imagine going through that again. I didn’t want to ask my husband to have to physically care for me the way he did. I didn’t think it would be fair to Leah to voluntarily allow myself to be out of commission for nine months.
The whole experience of pregnancy was overshadowed by this illness that not many people know about and that my doctor didn’t seem to care about. It was awful and life changing and made me so, so grateful for my daughter. Eventually that feeling of gratitude grew bigger than the fear and along came baby number two....
(Leah helping me with this pregnancy!)
It was my husbands idea to try for another baby. I was afraid of having HG again, but there was a small chance that I wouldn’t develop it. I gave him a three day window to ‘get the job done’ while we were on an anniversary trip. The deal was either a baby, or a new puppy.
Four weeks after that trip I got incredibly nauseated while swimming. I got out of the pool, sat on the edge and realized I wasn’t getting a puppy. I took a test the next morning. I came out of the bathroom and just SOBBED. What was I thinking?? I couldn’t do that again! I wasn’t mentally or emotionally strong enough! I had a 3 year old to care for. A job to report to. A house to maintain. I just couldn’t do it! But when panic faded, I embraced the news and prayed that I wouldn’t experience HG with this baby.
The first thing I did was find a new doctor. I can’t say enough good things about this man and his staff. Once he found out about my history with HG he assured me that I would be taken care of. And he kept his promise.
At eight weeks I called his office from the bathtub and cried to the receptionist that I was too sick to get myself out of the tub. That afternoon a nurse came to my house to hooked me up to an IV.
I had 24 hour IV fluids in my own home. I had all the medical supplies delivered to my door. I was able to get my prenatal vitamins through the IV. I was still nauseous and weak and EXHAUSTED but not living all day with my face in the toilet. Vomiting 3-6 times a day was way better than the 12-20 times a day with my first pregnancy. I wasn’t entirely depleted from it. I didn’t feel like I was ACTUALLY dying this time.
Eventually my IV was changed to a PICC Line in my upper arm. The nurse inserted it in my house while I lay on my couch. My three year old held my hand. She was the best caretaker I could have asked for!
Our family life had radically changed but Leah never complained. Instead she wheeled my IV pole to the bathroom when I needed to go. She helped me flush my lines with saline before I administered my medications. She brought me bags of lactated ringers and counted how many doses of medication I had left when the medical supply company called. She was THE BEST!
For the next nine weeks I had amazing nurses who came to check on me weekly or whenever I had trouble. One nurse even got Leah a drink and a snack before she left so that I wouldn’t have to! A friendly medical supply driver delivered supplies right to my door whenever I needed them. My doctor or his staff called me regularly to check in, sometimes on Sundays.
I continued to projectile vomit (while simultaneously peeing my pants). I also lost about 30lbs with this pregnancy. But this time the baby was growing at a normal rate and I wasn’t feeling half dead. My doctor listened to me, CARED about me and actually did something to HELP me! I eventually got my PICC removed and returned to work.
Since I was well enough to leave the house, I was able to experience vomiting in many new places! The most unique places were: in the giant flower pots next to the gas station pump, a fine dining establishment with sparking clean toilets, a filthy rest stop bathroom with god only knows how many people listening, a paper bag which immediately began to leak, behind a tree at my fathers cabin, and out the car door on numerous roads between work and home.
Baby number two also decided to take her sweet time and pushed me over her due date. When I was finally induced, I was laying on the hospital bed, my husband in the chair beside me. I was literally hours away from delivering this baby and I was still getting sick. I leaned over the edge of the bed to vomit into a bag and this time, as my body tensed with the force of my vomiting, my water broke. I literally puked until the very last moments of my pregnancy. But just like my previous pregnancy, as soon as she was born, the nausea immediately disappeared.
Sadie was born nice and squishy, weighing 8lbs 8oz. Another perfect, healthy baby girl worth every bit of trouble! This time, however, I made sure there was no chance of gratitude clouding my judgment. My husband was promptly snipped after her birth. (I also questioned my OB about a tubal ligation “just in case” but he assured me that the vasectomy would be effective enough. Please pray that he is correct!)
These days my life revolves around the two silly, smart, beautiful girls who once had run me over by a bus. Even on the hardest days, which there are many, I just feel so lucky to have been blessed with them. And I am forever grateful that I found a doctor who treated me the way I should have been treated the first time.
To the mamas with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, I’m sending you my love. I know you are fighting so hard! To the family and friends of HG mamas, they need you! I will be forever grateful to my my husband for doing ALL the parenting, while also caring for me! I’m so thankful for my family who regularly would come help me clean my house, do laundry and let me sob on her shoulder. And I can’t thank my in-laws enough, for caring for Leah when her daddy was working. My sister-in-law gets bonus points for the time she rubbed oils on my feet in an attempt to relieve the stress and nausea. “It takes a village” truly starts early for HG pregnancies!