It is hard to put HG into words but this is the best explanation I have found. This week along with HG survivors world wide we all celebrated the first annual HG World Awareness Day. The date had sat on my calendar for weeks. I just keep staring at it knowing that I need to do something. I want to share my story. I want to get out there and help other women who are suffering but for now this is the best I can do. I am going to share my story with you. It has been 42 weeks and 1 day since my suffering with this debilitating disease came to an end with the amazing birth of my baby girl. Its been 295 days and I still have flashbacks. I still have nightmares. I still blame myself. I still would never wish this disease on my worst enemy.
Jeremy and I waited so long before we felt like we were ready to have another baby. My pregnancy with Jake was hard for many reasons which is a story for another day. I wanted to have another baby so bad. I bugged Jeremy for years…yes I’m serious…years to have another baby. I was only a couple of days late in December when I finally gave in and bought a pregnancy test. I told myself I wouldn’t take a test unless I was a significant number of days late because I knew it would take some time. After all my OB had just reminded me that I only had a 40% chance of getting pregnant in the first 6 months. I waited until after I put Jake to bed while Jeremy was at work to take it. I couldn’t believe it. It was positive. I took another one because I refused to think that we actually were able to get pregnant that fast. I told Jeremy that night and I cried. I was so excited but I was so scared. I wanted this time to be different. I had dreamed of how different this pregnancy would be. I wanted to be able to show off my growing belly and wear cute maternity clothes and be that “glowing” mommy-to-be. I knew this time would be different!
I could hardly wait but we decided to hold off until Christmas morning to tell our family. Within a couple days of taking the test I knew that it was real when the nausea started. Just a little bit here and there nothing big. The next week my parents took Jake to Disney World as part of his Christmas present and I was so excited to be able to have a quiet week to myself. A couple days before they left things started getting worse and I was getting sick quite a bit. I kept telling myself it is all part of being pregnant! Be happy! The night Jake left I could hardly keep it down when my parents came to pick him up. After they left I went to the drug store and picked up all the natural anti-nausea remedies I could find. I bought Sea Bands and ginger gum and ate crackers and ginger ale. It didn’t work. After a couple days of not being able to keep anything down I called my OB and they wanted me to come in to check me out. My best friend had stopped by the house and I knew there was no hiding anything from her anymore so I shared with her our amazing news and she took me to the doctor since I was already too weak to drive. That afternoon they gave me some drugs to calm down the nausea and some IV fluids to keep my hydrated. I felt so much better when we left, but that was short lived.
The next couple of days I didn’t move off of the couch. Jeremy left for work and came home and I never moved. I watched Law and Order and old seasons of Bones on Netflix. The only time I moved was to rush myself to the bathroom. I couldn’t eat or drink anything that I did came right back up. By the time Jake came home Jeremy and I told him that I had a bad stomach bug and I wasn’t feeling well. We tried to tell my family the same thing on Christmas Eve while I barely made it through church. I think the only reason they bought it was because my grandfather actually did have a stomach bug at the same time too. Christmas morning came around and I was excited to tell everyone but more excited that I didn’t have to hide being so sick anymore. Jake wore his new big brother shirt proudly as I proudly hugged the toilet most of the day. The days and weeks that followed became a blur. It was a fight to make it through each day. In January I had my first official appointment as a mommy-to-be but by that point I had already visited the doctors office 5 times for IV fluids. It became a joke what my pre pregnancy weight really was since by my first official appointment I had already lost 14 lbs. Yes 14 lbs in a month. I was 9 weeks pregnant at my first appointment.
That first ultrasound made me feel like a million bucks. There was my baby! I could do this! At this point I was getting sick over 25 times a day. We called a good day one where I only got sick between 16-18 times a day. That ultrasound gave me hope. The next couple weeks I basically made an appointment every three days to go back to the office for IV fluids. If I needed them sooner all I had to do was call. Somewhere between my 9 week and my 12 week appointment I was officially diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, I can’t even remember when because again most of these days to me were a blur. I’ve heard of many other women who have suffered also have a hard time remembering details of their pregnancy. I’ve been told it is our body’s way of trying to help us mentally heal.
I do remember one afternoon I ran into one of my neighbors at the store and she proclaimed that “I looked amazing!” I wanted to scream! After I kindly explained to her that I was almost three months pregnant and my weight loss was from a horrible condition I was suffering from her only words to me….”Have you tried saltines and ginger ale?” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Yes I tried that months ago and I’ve tried everything else in the mean time. My doctors are prescribing me heavy duty drugs and they can’t even help….so no, thank you but saltines do not work. Do you think I want to be starving myself? Do you think that I feel good about the fact I am passing on NO nutrition to my unborn child? My favorite was when people told me, “they knew what I was going through.” Again, have you lost your mind? Until you have been where I have you will never understand.
By my 12 week appointment I was down another 15 lbs bringing my weight loss to almost 30 lbs in a little over two months. The doctors were going back and forth and having me try new drugs to see if anything could help. Nothing. As I lay on the examining table my OB asked if I wanted to hear the heartbeat. I had heard it the last time I was in for IV’s but I craved that sound. I wanted to hear my baby. It was like a glimmer of hope to me. After what seemed like forever of her moving the wand across my belly there was still no sound. I felt my own heart stop beating. Tears began to roll down my cheeks because I knew what was wrong. She told me that the baby was just probably sitting farther back and we were going to do a quick ultrasound to double-check. That walk down the hallway seemed like forever. Every thought went through my head. My face was red and I couldn’t stop crying. All of the nurses looked at me with sad faces. It was like they knew what was happening. I laid down on the table and this time I heard it. I heard it over and over again. My doctor reached across the table to hold my hand and I will never forget her words, “Its okay Amber the baby is okay.” In that moment I felt the biggest relief. I was so relieved not only that my baby was okay but minutes earlier I thought if I had lost her I didn’t think I could bring myself to get pregnant again knowing that I would probably have HG again. HG only happens in 0.3-2% of women but usually if you have it once you will get it again.
Many dark days and weeks followed and things didn’t get better for a long time. I was so tired and so weak walking up and down the stairs was too much for me. I could barely take care of Jake. He came home from school each day and picked out his own snack and I basically lay lifeless on the couch. He would cuddle up next to me and tell me he loved me and wishes I would get better soon. I thank God that he was as old as he was and that he could do a lot of things on his own. I couldn’t imagine having HG with a younger child. I remember the day I looked at myself in the mirror and it was almost like I didn’t recognize myself. I looked pale, weak and sick. My arms and hands had painful bruises from the IV’s and I was so sick and tired of getting IV’s that I tried to skip them for a couple extra days but I soon had searing pain in my back. The next morning I was kindly told by the nurse putting in my IV line that the pain was from my kidneys struggling to work. Between that and various test results my doctor confirmed I was showing early signs of kidney failure. There were days where Jeremy and I fought because he couldn’t stand to see me so weak. He would insist that I would eat something and I would refuse. He would tell me over and over to get up and at least walk around. I would pull the blanket up over my head because I couldn’t and I didn’t want to move. If I stood upright I would get sick. But if I stayed still there was a chance I could keep something down. Those months were the hardest. There were more hospital and office visits for IV’s then I could ever count. I still have a hard time remembering most of those days and that is fine with me because I wish I never had to remember them.
My about six months I felt like things were starting to get better. I was actually able to keep down food on occasions and I learned my triggers. Between 7 and 8 months I was actually able to gain some of my weight back. Everything was going fine until I went for my 36 week check up. I mentioned casually that sometimes when I was sitting down it felt like my heart racing but I had become concerned when in the last 24 hours I had started to lose my vision during these spells. I figured my elevated heart rate was just part of the later stages of pregnancy, I mean it had been 7 years since I was pregnant so I did forget a lot of things. My doctor didn’t take my spells very casually though and sent me to a cardiologist. So after a whole bunch of tests I found out that my uterus had become so large that it was pushing up on my heart and twisting it backwards. Again its very rare in pregnancy but it looks like lucky me had one more thing to worry about! They put me on beta blockers and I had to constantly monitor my heart rate. I felt like an old person but it worked! My heart calmed down and I thought I was in the clear. Until a week later the spells were back and I was told that we needed to up my dosage. Again my spells disappeared but within a couple of days they were back again. I was in the final weeks of pregnancy where you grow fairly quickly. The only cure for my spells was to deliver. So after my cardiologist and my OB agreed I was scheduled for induction. The idea scared me but I was 38 weeks. I didn’t want to take any more drugs that could hurt my baby. I couldn’t do it. I was so physically and emotionally drained I just couldn’t take it anymore. The idea of being able to deliver and get rid of my HG, my tachycardia and being able to hold my baby all at once still felt so far away.
At 38 weeks Miss Emma Grace was born weighing 6lbs 8oz receiving a 1 minute APGAR score of 9 out of 10 I couldn’t be prouder. After suffering for so long I had convinced myself that when she was born there was going to be something wrong. Something that the doctors didn’t see before. I had nightmares constantly that the toll HG took on my body would affect her. But it didn’t. She came out perfect. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Two dimples and a set of beautiful blue eyes like her big brother. As soon as she was born Jeremy asked if I was hungry and I screamed yes! I felt like I could eat a house. So before I was even moved out of the labor and delivery room he was back at my side with a Bojangles Supreme Dinner (it is a southern thing!) and I ate every last piece of it. It was like everyone said. Within no time at all the nausea was gone. I was eating again. I was drinking again. I felt like a person again. It was the most amazing feeling. Don’t get me wrong it was the most amazing day of my life because my daughter was born but it also marked the day that I overcame what I thought was impossible.
So, like I said its been 42 weeks since I became a HG survivor and I still have trouble coming to terms with the long-term effects it has had on me. I know some women who never made it very far and ended their suffering by their own choice. I am thankful that I never went to that dark of a place during my suffering but I know many women who did. I know women who were diagnosed with PTSD because they couldn’t overcome the disease even after delivery. I know many women who had a such a severe case of HG in their first pregnancy and didn’t have the courage to try again. But I also know women who have suffered through this horrible disease several times because once it is over you really do realize it is all worth it. It was the most horrible darkest days of my life but looking at my beautiful baby, it does make it all worth it. Would I do it again? God blessed me with two children and I think that our family is complete, so I am thankful that I never really had to consider it. Do I still get flashbacks when I see someone get sick (thank you producers of House and Grey’s Anatomy the past two weeks!) OH YEAH! Do I still get feelings of jealousy and hate when I see a happy pregnant woman? You bet! They are things that I’m not proud of but I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I’m proud that I am a survivor. I am proud that I am MOMMY STRONG!
If you know someone who is showing symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum let them know they are not alone. The best thing to do is educate yourself on the disease, be supportive and find a health care provider who is familiar with as well as supportive of patients with HG. Visit the HER FOUNDATION for Hyperemesis Education and Research where there are links for mothers as well as family and friends. If you are an expectant mother and think you may have HG be proactive! There are other women out there who have been in your shoes and we are a strong community who reach out to everyone we can. BabyCenter.com has a wonderful community forum for you to meet and interact with other women who are suffering or are survivors of HG. My journey was long and difficult but the one thing that kept me going was knowing that there would joy at the end. The joy of being a mom again. The joy of knowing I can get though anything. If you are suffering or know someone who is drop me an email. I’m here to help and there are hundreds of other women who are out there to help too!