When Morning Sickness is not just Morning Sickness

Dear Reader,

I am so tired. I am here to talk to you about something that not many know about, and those who do know about it know it all too well. Morning sickness is an often joked about part of pregnancy. Women on television daintily vomit into a trash can and go on about their day. Then, second trimester they are fine. There are women for whom this is a reality, and I am so happy for them, but there are others who laugh at the term ‘morning sickness’ for its inept description of their 9 month personal hell. These women suffer from something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which means severe morning sickness, and I am one of these women.

I am lucky as far as HG sufferers go. Many spend multiple days in the ER getting fluids to keep hydrated enough to survive, let alone nourish their growing baby. I have only one HG related scare that I may have to go into the ER, but I experience enough of the symptoms to tell you that HG is no joke.

Imagine the first day of the flu, you are weak and nothing seems to sit well. You gag at every smell and food is the worst thing you have ever heard of. What if told you that was your life 24/7 for 9 months? I am on medicine for my HG and I still have at least one day a week when every inch of my body is in pain and I can’t even imagine eating. Part of the curse of HG, though, is that this is not just a couple days. You can’t let yourself not eat because you and your baby will starve. So I force down whatever seems like it might not make me nauseous, and not just nauseous like a tummy-ache, but I literally have to sit in a certain position all day and chew ice chips to keep myself from vomiting.(Though I recognize I am lucky that I don’t experience uncontrollable all day vomiting like so many women do.)

What’s worse is stress makes my HG worse. This means that the struggle of trying to figure out what food won’t make me nauseous, just makes me sicker, and feeling the nausea makes me sicker, and having an uncomfortable conversation makes me sicker. I hate myself sometimes for the loss of patience this causes in me with the daughter I already have. She is precious and so well-behaved, but her cry releases cortisol in me which makes me feel like vomiting. So instead of selflessly worrying about what she needs, sometimes I just want to scream at her to stop because it just hurts so much when she cries, and it won’t stop hurting for hours after. I have less patience with other members of my family too, people who normally mildly irritate me, make me furious because my short stressful conversations with them result in a whole day of mindful breathing and panic attack management from how exhausted I am, and again trying not to vomit.

People often say to HG sufferers, “Oh just get someone to help you.” Well, unfortunately our culture has created the do-it-all woman, so now we are expected to do it all. While this may be great for women’s advances in business and careers, family members and friends no longer crowd around any pregnant woman to help her with anything she needs. There are lucky women, and I am lucky in many ways, but there are moments when I hide in the bathroom sobbing that I can’t go on, only to do it again the next day.

I feel so much guilt because I should feel grateful for the help that I have, for not working during this pregnancy(HG at a new job is a nightmare) for family who helps when they can. I am grateful for all of these things. Incredibly grateful. It is impossible to have enough help though, when one spends every day in so much stress and discomfort. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, but just, be there for your pregnant friends and family. Be kind to them, you don’t know what they might be going through silently.

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