Are you familiar with that feeling you get the day after a good workout? Your muscles are sore, and every time they hurt or restrict your movement you just have to laugh, because that kind of pain feels like progress?
I miss that feeling.
I’ve described HG before as a sort of wall that you keep running into. You might recover just this much and no more, and when you try to push it because you feel like you should be making incremental progress, and getting better, you just run into that wall again. Or you can think of it like a predator playing with its prey. The cat that will only let the mouse get so far before snatching it back into the playing field. That mouse isn’t getting away, it’s just getting more and more run down.
When we were kids (well, let’s be honest, as an adult she does this too) my sister used to take in every injured or abandoned little animal she could. We nursed a little finch back to health who had fallen out of her nest into a pond at our church. We got her crickets and mealworms and somehow taught her how to fly. She had this one mealworm for a while that was clearly dead. It was a toy to her, something she could throw around without actually eating. By the time we removed it from her cage, it was entirely black with bruising.
I feel kind of like that mealworm, some days. HG is the predator who lets me run around in circles feeling tiny shards of hope, like maybe now that the vomiting has stopped I can go back to work! NOPE. Maybe now that we’re trying to aggressively stay on top of the gestational diabetes I’ll feel a lot better! NOPE. I keep getting dragged back into that playing field, entirely at the mercy of this horrible, debilitating predator that is HG. And I feel sore and bruised and abused.
I went to a breastfeeding basics class at the hospital last night. It was tough for me, sitting in those uncomfortable chairs and listening to people talk about the miracle and majesty of pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding. I haven’t felt like much of a magical creature, these past months. Chances are, every single other woman there, including the two instructors who had five children between them, had fairly normal pregnancies. They probably don’t have to go in for non-stress tests on the baby until they’re past their due dates. They probably have continued going to work this entire time, shoring up funds for their maternity leave, where depending on their employer they could actually choose to take more time than the standard offered, because they aren’t broke from medical expenses and being on disability. They probably don’t make jokes about almost dying, and how little we “care” about the baby’s health because we’re just so glad that I’M not at death’s door anymore (to be fair, we’re getting more excited, and would obviously be devastated if anything was wrong with the baby. It’s as much a survivor as I am, though, and we tend not to worry about it because it’s proven its strength).
Driving home, I complained into the speakerphone the entire way. My husband is super patient, and supportive, and wonderful. And he understands how difficult all this is, and it pains him to watch me go through it all and not have much he can do to actually alleviate the difficulties. We’re both damn excited for when I’m not pregnant anymore because, wow, I’ll be a real person again.
And today, feeling sorry for myself because I need a full day of recovery after the simple exertions of yesterday’s class, I complained about how other women with HG handle the whole thing with more grace. Some of them let faith get them through it. It comforts them to think that this is God’s plan, and they are earning the wonderful blessing that will be their child. But others? Like the woman posting in an HG group last night who lost her baby at 20 weeks, is completely devastated, but still managed to close her post by saying good luck to the rest of us who are still in the middle of it? That level of grace just leaves me in awe.
I am bitter, and resentful, and so very tired and bruised. My husband says I am a warrior surviving a battle pregnancy. He says I have “warrior’s grace.” I like the thought of it, especially considering that my patron goddess is such a warrior herself. And some days, I believe him. Some days, I think that I’ll be a totally awesome mom, because I had my priorities all sorted out by this stupid illness, and I’ll actually appreciate my kid without using them as some vicarious life-surrogate (because fuck that, I’m going to go out and live my own damn life after the HG is done with me). But other days, like today, I stay in bed all day. I think about how much the HG has robbed from me, and how much it will continue to rob from me when I am forced to go back to work after having my kid, because we just can’t afford for me not to. I think about how tiny my fitness goals will be, and how long it will take me to work back up to being able to walk a simple mile, or even deadlift five pound dumbbells. I think about the novel in my head, for once not being written because of illness and health restrictions instead of writerly procrastination.
Some days, like I said, are better than others. Today is a defeated kind of day, though. Today is a day when I give in to the HG and feel sorry for myself. Tomorrow I have to get back up again, take myself to the endocrinologist appointment and the non-stress test at the hospital. This weekend, I have to rally my strength and help my husband set up the baby furniture, so that we aren’t caught unawares if this little one makes an early appearance. I have to keep trying to work, because I’ve reached my personal limit on being on disability, and I just can’t accept the hand-out anymore.
Maybe when all this is said and done, years from now, I’ll be able to think on it with grace. For today, though? Today I’m letting the HG win. It isn’t a strategic defeat that I’m taking to shore up my strength for another battle. I’m just tired. Tired and bruised and defeated.
You can find the other posts in my series on hyperemesis gravidarum here.