I wrote this at nine weeks pregnant, but was far too sick to be on the computer, posting things to the blog. I’m currently at 26 weeks, and nostalgic for the sense of purpose I still had at nine weeks. Debilitating illness breaks down your spirit. It forever changes you. This is the first post in a series on my experience with hyperemesis gravidarum.
I can only drink apple juice, now. I went from a liquid consumption of water, every single day, no fruit juices, no sodas—to only being able to drink apple juice. Pregnancy is strange that way. Even ginger ale, that lauded bestie of nauseous pregnant women everywhere, won’t stay down. Just apple juice.
Water is one of the most repulsive things now. Even a sip of it, and I immediately want to retch. One time I was so thirsty I drank down TWO FULL MOUTHFULS of water. Dehydration will do that to you. Except it came right back up within five minutes.
I’m nine weeks along, and I’ve been to the ER twice already. The second time, they admitted me to the hospital and wouldn’t let me leave until I hadn’t thrown up for a full 24 hours. I was there four days.
I have hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a fancy way of saying she-pukes-a-lot-while-pregnant. Dehydration is a serious risk for both me and my little embryo. Starvation for the little one? Not so much. Our little one is taking all the nutrients they need, before mommy even gets a slice of them. So while it’s important that we keep hydrated so that we don’t run into problems with low amniotic fluid later on, it isn’t very high of a priority for mommy to eat actual food.
This condition is talked about a lot more than it used to be, ever since Princess Kate’s pregnancies. Unfortunately, there are a lot of mothers out there who could have been saved the awful decision of terminating their pregnancies if we had more knowledge, and better care practices, for this debilitating condition. Personally, the thought of getting pregnant again after I have this little one is terrifying. And I have a rather moderate case of hyperemesis*, compared to the women who need to be on total parenteral support because they are unable to keep a single ounce of fluid or food down.
Do I regret getting pregnant? No. We made a conscious decision that we wouldn’t take back under any circumstances. Did I expect to have to go on short-term disability from work, when my baby is still the size of a pecan? Of course not. But it will be worth it, seven months from now.
Pregnancy does strange things to your body. I have to pee way more often, but there isn’t always that much to expel. Just a whiff of my own, salt-of-the-earth normal scent is enough to have me groping for deodorant like the elixir of life. My husband has to brush his teeth during the day now, and his flossing habits have improved tenfold. Just the thought of a toothbrush coming near my own mouth makes me feel queasy, and actual toothpaste makes me gag.
I don’t take the little things for granted anymore. Every time I successfully bathe myself (washing my hair and everything!) my husband gets a text saying “I took a shower!” My friends have stopped inviting me out for game nights or dinners, and instead text me things like “I made soup, can I bring some over for you?” or “Do you want me to come cook for you tonight?” I once had to ask one of them to come feed my cat, because I was incapable of getting across the apartment to do so. That was the day we went to the ER for the second time.
Even on anti-nausea meds, I have a constant underlying sense of dis-ease, like my balance is off. 24/7 queasiness is the name of the game. If I go a full ten minutes without feeling totally nauseous, I start to worry that we might be losing the baby, that my hormone levels are plummeting and it won’t be a viable pregnancy. Such is life, with hyperemesis.
I don’t know how to tell our kid, someday, that I was debilitatingly sick when I was pregnant, and that’s the primary reason they won’t ever get siblings. Is there a safe way to tell them that, without blaming them for making me feel so awful for so long? Because the truth is I wouldn’t take it back, and I don’t regret it. Not a nauseous-minute of it. And it is zero percent my kid’s fault. That little embryo is just fighting away for its own survival, doing whatever it can to grow and flourish in this difficult process of creation. I cling to those unstable statistics that say women with hyperemesis might be less likely to miscarry.
The bottom line in all this is really: this kid is already my number one priority. Anything I am going through is completely secondary. I still need to take care of myself, of course, but as long as that kid is alright, I can weather any storm I have to. It doesn’t make it fun, and I sure wish I could be squealing with excitement with all the other, non-nauseous pregnant women, but I also wouldn’t change my experience for the world. This is what it means for me to be pregnant. This is what it means for me to bring a baby into the world. Bring it on. *Knocks on wood*
*I wish I hadn’t gotten worse, but I eventually did need TPN via a PICC line, and while my HG has mostly subsided to the point where I’m no longer throwing up and am able to gain some weight back, I’m still not able to work a full-time schedule, and my strength is fairly nonexistent. And there’s always the third trimester relapse to fear. Yippee.
You can find the other posts in my series on hyperemesis gravidarum here.