It might have been after I threw up on my OB’s shoe…again. Or maybe it was when I found myself telling the cold tile floor that it was the only one who loved me. Possibly it was when I described my pee as “Coke…like Yankee Coke, not Sprite-is-Coke-Texas-talk.” Perhaps it was when I had to lift my head out of the toilet to read the positive sign.
Whenever it was, I realized early on that for every “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” special there was one like this in which I and everyone within earshot knew I was pregnant every single moment. It was not an auspicious start. After a miscarriage, I developed what I thought was the worst stomach bug ever. My assessment was close in that it was horrible, but the 9 month duration was unexpected.
With my daughter I ate for 2….villages, so when I found myself completely unable to eat this time, I was a bit perplexed. I am awesome at fluffy. I am the only person who could deliver a baby and leave the labor room weighing 10 pounds more. This time though, at six weeks along, I was in my OB’s office playing “name the shade of purple on the ketone stick”, watching the dial of the scale move backwards for the first time in my life and throwing up in his waiting room, scale area, sink, toilet, floor, and shoe in that order.
He prescribed me Zofran which tore at my hippie heart. All my crunchy friends had suggestions. I wore Seabands like Rolexes, drank enough ginger-peppermint tea to float a ship, and tried every trick in the book. It only intensified, and I was now throwing up 15-20 times a day. At eight weeks I went back and was given the diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). You might recognize this as the pregnancy illness that Kate Middleton had only without the clothing/make-up/spray tan/hair-holding-back team. My plans for a midwife birth were shot, and I continued to drop weight like a prize fighter. Finally, at 12 weeks, I began to get IV fluids and was receiving the highest dose possible of several meds.
Nonetheless, my HG was not impressed. I had lost over 15% of my body weight, was throwing up blood from bile burning my throat, my hair was falling out, my veins had collapsed, and I was separating ribs from the constant vomiting. My reaction was deflection via humor: “My bikini career is finally taking off. Pregnancy is an amazing diet. I love the smell of bile in the morning.” My OB’s reaction was a bit more pragmatic and he admitted my miserable ass to the hospital. I was expending too much energy vomiting so I was ordered not to eat or drink anything and was given all my nutrition via IV for several days. As I told my OB, “If you wanted to take me out for drinks, you should have chosen a nicer place.” He wasn’t amused and soon after discharge I was a mess again. This is when my angels arrived: home health. I was given a Zofran pump which meant I had to stab myself daily and have medication going under my skin where I couldn’t throw it up.
The tube going into my stomach left delightful bruises, and it actually looked like my baby was trying to kick his way out. Adorable little Alien. Once we got the medication dose right I was closer to “normal morning sickness” with chronic nausea and vomiting several times a day. I was not gaining weight but no longer losing it. I looked like Skeletor, felt like death, and smelled like wine (chronic ketosis). Home health continued until I was 26 weeks pregnant at which time I was able to wean off the pump and fluids.
I never got completely off the oral meds, but was able to function most days until the last 3 weeks of pregnancy when it returned with a vengeance. When my water broke I was still wearing pre-pregnancy jeans and weighed less than what I started at.
So, what did I learn from having a disease that only strikes 0.5-2% of all pregnancies?
First of all, some people are horrible. They’ll tell you the meds are killing your baby, that you’re lucky you’re so skinny, or that it’s just psychological. This includes some medical professionals, so arm yourself with information and be prepared for battle. There are some excellent support resources on the internet for pregnant women women who find themselves dealing with HG that include standard HG protocols and tips and tricks from other women whose babies are literally eating them alive. Help HER is an amazing organization that includes support forums, suggested treatment protocols and educates providers on how to most effectively help their patients who have HG. There are also many Facebook groups that act as support forums as well. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and Hyperemesis Gravidarum Sufferers and Survivors! are the two that I found most helpful.
Another thing I learned is that those experiencing pregnancy complications are often treated only for the physical symptoms and not the psychological ones that can occur. Pregnancy and postpartum depression are absolutely rampant in HG mommies along with anxiety and even PTSD. The disease is horrifically misunderstood and often mismanaged. However, if you’re looking for full neglect, ask what psychological support these mothers are given. Typically it is none. I am very lucky that I had an amazing support structure and natural coping mechanisms, but many are not that fortunate. Ultimately, if you are looking for an effective diet, I can’t recommend HG.
I wouldn’t sign up to do it again. In fact, we’ve decided that a permanent birth control situation is the best option for our family. My husband may have been forced undergo surgical intervention to prevent his swimmers from ever finding their way out of the isolation ward they’re now confined to, but we got our adorable little Minion out of the deal and we all made it through relatively intact. 😉
Lacking a hobby, Renae Rose has spent the last four years pregnant or nursing her daughter Emelyn and son Macallan. She is a full-time teacher at an online charter school. In her spare time, Renae enjoys laughing at her kids’ hijinks and alienating people on Facebook.