Hyperemesis Gravidarum has been getting a little more publicity lately as Amy Schumer and Kate Middleton have been honest about some of their struggles with it. HG is really severe morning sickness that can end women up in the hospital, on IVs, and with many different pregnancy complications. Many don’t know though, that HG doesn’t always end completely when the pregnancy ends.
I didn’t know about HG during my first pregnancy. I thought that either it was just normal or I was making up in my head the constant nausea and stomachaches that came with pregnancy for me. Almost every day I was bowed over my desk at work(I was teaching full time) desperately holding on to keep myself from passing. Some days I would be almost in tears from the stabbing pain in my side. I couldn’t eat anything but yogurt and cheese and saltine crackers. Believe me, I tried. Whenever I would try to eat anything normal I would vomit with a violence I have never experienced outside of HG. I will never forget the spinach I ate one day when I got desperate for some vegetables. I could not move for the rest of the day without making myself sick again and again and again. My mom and I got in an argument because I didn’t want anyone to come visit for a baby shower because I was in so much pain I couldn’t fathom the idea of trying to keep up with people visiting. But I couldn’t express to people how awful it was because I thought this was just what pregnancy was like for everyone.
Thankfully, I found out about HG before my next pregnancy and I had a much easier time. It was still difficult, but there is medicine for HG and while it didn’t fix everything for me, it definitely helped. I was able to eat and drink a little more, and there were days where I felt good.
Since this last pregnancy, though, I have learned something about HG that makes me angry, and frustrated, and strikes fear and anxiety into me.
It doesn’t always end completely with pregnancy.
I am somewhat lucky in this regard because mine does mostly go away. However, recently my symptoms have been coming back around ovulation and PMS. That’s two weeks out of the month. It varies in how bad it gets, but there must be a huge hormonal shift at one year because lately it has been bad. Just last week, I couldn’t stop shaking, and I was lightheaded for several days, and everything I ate seemed to make me nauseous.
What sucks the most about this is the despair and anxiety that comes with it. I was just working on getting a job to get me out of the house when the week started. At the end of the week, I was shaking and in tears because it was taking everything I could do just to watch the girls during the day, and get enough to eat and drink. As the next week started, it didn’t go away like I thought it would and despair started to take over, I started to feel like it was never going to end, I started feeling consumed with my own inability to just “be better.”
What this means, is that in addition to any PPD or PPA that a woman has after pregnancy, a woman with HG must also deal with the paralyzing fear that, not only might it come back if she were to get pregnant, but it could come back whenever it darn well feels like it. It is terrifying to be at the mercy of a monster that could come back and take over your life with no warning at any given moment in time. My husband has repeatedly had to talk me down from panic attacks about death that I think are arising from feeling as helpless as I feel when this happens.
Also, having all of these issues while having a baby, or two toddlers in my case, is a special challenge, because falling behind in chores and consistency with the kids is BAD. One week of feeling sick lost us a full day of cleaning, a week of laundry, a whole bunch of organizing and adulting things that needed to get done. So now that I’m recovering from the anxiety of seeing how sick I could get at the drop of a hat, everything in me is screaming out that I need to do a major overhaul to fix everything, and I feel like a complete failure. Now the healing process has to start all over again.
The healing process for me is a variety of stages of working through paralyzing fear of getting pregnant, anxiety attacks about death, getting back into physical activity, trying to learn to be fun or have fun again when you were too sick to even think about having fun, and the hardest part, learning to fight again after you feel like giving up. The mountain of tasks before me seems absolutely impossible while I am attempting to repair my body and mind, but it’s time to take it all back and pick the fight back up.
Take a second to imagine the worst flu you have ever had in your life, the one that made you feel like you were going to die. Now imagine that you feel that for 9 months straight, and just when you thought you were free a year later, it came back for seemingly no reason. That’s what HG is, and that’s why it sucks that it comes back with a vengeance after being silent for a time, like a demon that pops its head out of random corners so you never feel safe. I share this, so that you may know a little more about what HG survivors fight, but also for those women who feel lonely and miserable and hopeless when their HG seems like it will never go away. You are not alone, I see you.