I know this is a departure from my usual posts, but this has been on my mind a lot this weekend. I pray that my story will be a source of hope and comfort to others out there suffering. You are not alone, and it’s not just all in your head. This is my story of survival.
7 weeks into my last pregnancy (I had had a stillbirth, and two healthy boys at that point.) I woke up feeling terrible. Something was just not right. Up to that point I had been having very typical pregnancy discomforts. But on the morning of February 21st, something was different.
I felt like my stomach had turned into concrete. At first I hoped it was just my first experience with true “morning” sickness. Usually with all my other pregnancies I would be ok in the morning and worse at night. I hoped that this was just what other women have in the morning and that then I would be better. This was what was going through my mind before I even got out of bed that morning.
I got up, and I threw up. And I didn’t feel any better. Knowing that I had survived morning sickness before, and that eating a little something should help, I let Matt sleep in and took the boys downstairs to get some breakfast. I don’t remember what I tried to eat, but it was something plain. It didn’t help. Almost immediately I was back in the bathroom on a porcelain cruise. After Matt got up, I went back to bed.
I slept a good deal, off and on. I could’t really get comfortable. The concrete that was my stomach was miserable. I tried a couple of times to eat a little something. I kept hoping that it would help or that at the very least the nausea would let up as the day went on. It didn’t.
By early afternoon, I remember thinking that I wasn’t keeping anything down. My pregnancy impaired brain latched hold of that phrase, “can’t keep anything down.” It was triggering something I had been told in previous pregnancies. If I hadn’t been so sick, it would have occurred to me earlier in the day. “If you can’t keep anything down all day, call your doctor.” So I did call my doctor. We went over what was happening to me. He asked if anyone in the house was sick. Hope sprung forth in my mind! Maybe I just had a stomach bug! Maybe I would be better in a few days! Maybe this was NOT a foretaste of the months to come! No one else was sick, but maybe I was patient zero for this bug. The doctor called out a prescription for phenegren. It helped. But I didn’t get better. It wasn’t a bug. It was Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
Rapid weight loss, dehydration, the inability to keep much, if any, food or liquid down, malnutrition, depression, the list goes on. By God’s grace, I wasn’t the first one in my family or friend circle to have HG. My Aunt had survived two HG pregnancies. My good friend, Jennie, had too. Thanks to them, I had a clue about what was going on. Thanks to them, I knew I wasn’t alone.
Eventually the oral medications stopped working for me. I ended up with a home health nurse, IV fluids, and a pump that gave me a constant drip of a wonder drug called, Zofran. For 18 weeks, I could hardly eat or drink. At 25 weeks it got a good deal better. I was able to get off all medications. But I still didn’t feel well. It wasn’t until Nathanael was born at 36 weeks that I FINALLY felt good again.
It was a really long year for me. Much of it feels like a nausea infused blur. I missed so many things. I missed Easter. I missed church for months. I missed my grandfather’s funeral (although I was able to say goodbye.) I couldn’t go to the grocery store. I couldn’t drive myself anywhere. I couldn’t sit at the table during meal times. I could barely take care of my children. But by God’s grace, Nathanael and I survived. How thankful I am that we made it safe and sound. I love my sweet little boy. Lord willing, I will never have to go through that again.
My story is not unusual for a woman with HG. They don’t know what causes it. Thankfully the medical community doesn’t treat it like a mental illness anymore. My experience was mild to moderate compared to many women. There are much more intensive treatments including PICC lines and TPN (meaning all your nutrition goes into your body through a tube, but not into your stomach.)
The hardest part, besides the unrelenting nausea, is the feeling of being alone. It’s easy to be isolated. The dehydration and malnutrition bring depression and anxiety. It’s a very, very dark place. Some women terminate the pregnancy out of desperation, only to regret it immediately.
If you have anyone in your life who is suffering from HG, please visit the Help Her website. There is so much good information for friends, family, and doctors. Consider helping with meals for her family, childcare for her kids, house cleaning, shopping for her, and just being a friend when she needs it.
I pray that they eventual figure out how to stop this terrible illness. Until that day, I pray for the women and their families for the grace and support they will need to get through it all.