When pregnancy makes you violently ill
“What, are you insane?” That seems to be the response I get most from friends and family members when I tell them that I’d like another child one day.
They are typically shocked not because I’m pregnant with my second child but because they’ve watched me suffer through hyperemesis gravidarum during both of my pregnancies. They know that pregnancy for me is never a glowing and magical journey.
Rather, it is weekly trips to the emergency room, in-home IVs and nursing care, up to 13 medications with their assorted side effects and, of course, frequent vomiting — sometimes as many as 20 times a day.
Although I normally choose to greet my acquaintances’ surprise with a simple smile and “We’ll see how I feel about it later,” I decided to speak out after learning that Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child. The palace says Catherine is again suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, as she did during her first pregnancy.
It might seem crazy to some that I would have wanted more kids after my first hyperemesis gravidarum battle, but I simply refuse to let it define my family planning.
Hyperemesis gravidarum manages to rob its victims of many of the joys of pregnancy. Because you can no longer keep up with your usual obligations, you often have to share with your community that you are pregnant before you’re out of the “danger zone” of the first trimester, making you vulnerable to having to tell people later if you’ve suffered a miscarriage.
Since you are so sick, what should be a happy time for you and your family becomes a nightmare, as you are unable to help around the house or spend time with other children or your partner, and are oftentimes unable to work and contribute financially.
Hyperemesis gravidarum even managed to take away the joy of feeling my daughter Hannah kick once I realized her movements were setting off the nausea.
But what hyperemesis gravidarum can’t take away is the last 10 years of joy I’ve gotten from being Hannah’s mom. The moment Hannah came out, I looked at her tiny face and knew that every second of sickness, every expensive doctor’s bill, every time I’d felt desperate and depressed and doubted myself as a mother, was worth it.
And as soon as Hannah was out, I felt this pang of hunger that I hadn’t felt in months. I turned to the nurse and asked when I could eat. About 30 minutes later, she brought me a plate of lasagna that I gobbled up and — more important — kept down. The hyperemesis gravidarum was finally gone, and the only thing left was my adorable baby, who has grown into one of the strongest little people I know and one of my closest friends.
I never once thought about the hyperemesis gravidarum when I watched her take her first steps, perform in her preschool play, sound out her first word, present her first science fair project, compete in her first gymnastics meet or any of the other incredible memories we’ve shared.
The nine months of sickness I had with her in utero were nothing in comparison to the 10 years I’ve enjoyed as her mom.
So even on my darkest days during this pregnancy, the ones where I am reduced to a smelly, tearful, nauseated lump on the couch, I’ve thought about those moments in Hannah’s life and smiled, knowing that I am going to get to experience all of those again with this daughter come February 1.
I belong to an online community of women who have survived or are currently suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, sort of a support group and resource community all in one.
From time to time, someone will write a post saying they are at their wit’s end, ready to give up, or feel like they are losing their mind. Within minutes, the responses will pour in: photos of recently born babies from hyperemesis gravidarum survivors, descriptions of a new milestone someone’s little one has achieved and even tales from women still suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum of how much better they are feeling that particular week.
I love when a few weeks later, the original poster comments on someone else’s post to tell them how they survived those desperate times and found the strength to keep going.
Although there were some moments where I wanted to give up, hyperemesis gravidarum has made me appreciate my life and my family so much more than I ever could have if I hadn’t been sick. Perhaps, next time someone asks me if I’ve lost my mind, I’ll simply hold up a picture of my daughter and tell them “absolutely not.”