Celebrating Life as a Hyperemesis Gravidarum Survivor!

HG Awareness Day

Happy Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day!  Okay, if you are new here you may be scratching your head a bit so let me start at the beginning.  There are really no words to explain what HG is but here is the best way I have found courtesy of the HER Foundation

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

HG is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and/or vomiting with potential adverse consequences for the newborn(s).

HER FOUNDATION – Hyperemesis Education and Research

I was diagnosed with HG with my pregnancy with my daughter and the effects of this condition long outlast the 9 months of pregnancy.  HG is a horrible condition that takes away lives before they even have a chance to begin and before modern medicine many mothers lost their own lives because of it.  It tears families apart because of the emotional toll it takes on caregivers and causes thousands of babies to be born premature from serious complications.  Back in December most of the world learned about HG for the first time from the announcement that Duchess Kate Middleton’s was expecting but that she had already been hospitalized for HG and it was rumored that she was not even 12 weeks along.  In comparison with my daughter, by 9 weeks I had already been to the doctor 5 times to receive IV fluid treatments and had already lost 14 pounds.  By 12 weeks I had lost almost 30 pounds. Despite most of the media labeling her as having “severe morning sickness” let me make it VERY clear that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is NOT morning sickness!

It has been 654 days from the day I gave birth to my little girl and I still have bad days but I am so happy to say that I finally feel like over the past year there are actually days were I can go without thinking about it the horrible things I went through.  As an HG survivor I have learned to celebrate life from a different perspective.  I try to take advantage of the time I have with my kids and thank God every second that I can that I have two very healthy children.  I still have bad days like when stranger comes up to me and says “Aww she is so cute!  Don’t you just want another one??”  The answer is “HECK NO!”  Don’t worry I’m usually very polite and simply say “We are very happy as a family of four!” but how do you explain to a complete stranger that at 25 you were ready to tie your tubes for good and you still are?  Any time anyone mentions more children , I see a newborn baby or talk to other mommies who are currently suffering through an HG pregnancy,  I get torn up emotionally.  But here is the thing, as an HG survivor we are a very tight-knit community and we are there for each other no matter what.  There are dozens of women I have never met and will probably never meet but they are the other family that kept me going through my pregnancy and as hard as it is some days I know that I have to be there for the other girls going through the same thing.  So to celebrate HG Awareness Day I want to share with you my story.  I finally wrote it last year for the first annual HG Awareness Day and after reading it again I’m a mess and crying like crazy, but I’m looking at my daughter’s door to her room as she is quietly sleeping and I count my blessings that she is here with us and we both made it to the end.  Please take time to read my story and pass it along to anyone who is willing to listen.  We need to educate the world about what HG really is!

Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011

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 of days of taking the test I knew that it was real when the nausea started.  Just a bit here and there but 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 of 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 of 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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011 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 service.  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 doctor’s 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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011

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.

Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011

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.

Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.  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.

Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011

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.

Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011

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.

Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011

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 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!

Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns copyright 2011

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!

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Happy 1st Birthday Emma Grace!

It was a year ago today that I met my you for the first time.  The last nine months we had been through so much together with my HG  that I couldn’t wait to see those pretty blue eyes (I always knew you would have my eyes because I gave them to your big brother too!), those little fingers and tiny toes.  I had been dreaming of meeting you and I know that is the only way I made it that far.

EG Yawning

When Mommy was 36 weeks I started feeling a little light-headed sometimes and felt my heart go pitter patter too often.  After talking to our doctor he sent me to another doctor to check out my heart.  It seems as if you were running out of room and pushing up on my heart and twisting it backwards.  It was okay though because they gave me some medicine and made me better.  The next week my heart spells were coming back so they gave us some more medication!  By 38 weeks they had gotten much worse and Mommy, Daddy and our doctors decided it would be best if you came out to meet us.  So on Saturday night Jake went to Ahma and Papa’s for a sleepover and Daddy and I settled into our room at the hospital.

Emma Grace Birth Day with Mommy2

Once we were at the hospital they gave Mommy some medicine to get us ready for the next morning.  Daddy and I tried to sleep but I was too excited and anxious.  They woke us up at 6:30 so I could take a shower and brush my teeth (it was the first time in weeks Mommy didn’t get sick while I brushed my teeth…I knew it was a good sign!)  By 7:30 they gave me some medicine called Pitocin to wake you up and tell you it is time to come out.  The entire morning Daddy and I sat around in our room talking, watching tv and taking little cat naps to get ready.

Emma Grace Birth Day Toes3

By lunch time they decided that it was time to break my water so that we could get things moving along.  I asked if I could have some medicine called an epidural to help with the pain of the contractions.  I knew that right after they broke my water with Jake he was ready to come out and I wanted to be ready for those crazy contractions.  So after they broke my water a nice man came up to see me who struggled to get Mommy’s medicine right.  After 5 times of poking me he thought he had finally got it right and told me it should start working soon.  Since everyone figured it would be awhile Daddy decided to go get something to eat in the cafeteria and Ahma stayed with us in the room.

Emma Grace Birth Day First Look4Within a couple of minutes I felt my body starting to push…but the nurses said that couldn’t be right because they had just checked me and I was only at 8cm and I needed to get to 10 before you could come.  After telling them all very loudly I wasn’t trying to push but my body was doing it anyways they checked me and believe it or not we were already to 10cm!  It was time to push!  All of the nurses and our doctor came running in and they started breaking down the bed to get ready for you.  When Dr. Rush asked who was going to cut the cord I told him Daddy was.  Then she says “Where is Jeremy?”  Well after I became a little panicked Ahma said “It’s okay he just went to the bathroom let me go get him.”  Ahma was gone for a little bit longer than it takes to go to the potty so I knew Daddy was on his way to get a snack but no worries they both came running in right in time to start pushing.  I was so ready to meet you that it only took Mommy three big pushes until you came into the world!  It wasn’t until after our doctor went to give Mommy a couple of stitches that we realized that the medicine never started working and I had you without any pain medication!  Whew that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been!

Emma Grace Birth Day Weigh In5

The second I heard your little voice cry out I was so overwhelmed!  Of course I first asked to make sure you were still a girl because I had had several dreams that you were a boy after you didn’t want to cooperate at your ultrasound.  After they assured me you were a sweet, beautiful little girl they wiped you off checked you out real quick and then placed you on my chest.  It all felt like a dream.  I dream that I never wanted to wake up from. You were here.  My baby girl you were here and you had those beautiful blue eyes, ten little fingers and ten tiny toes.  After being so sick for so long I was worried that something was going to be wrong, but you were perfect.  You were perfect in every way.  They even gave you a healthy score of 9 out of 10 right after you were born.

Emma Grace Birth Day Check Up6

You were a little cold so they let you snuggle up on Mommy’s chest so I could warm you up.  It was the most amazing feeling in the entire world.  We even got to nurse a little bit too.  Soon the rest of your family came in to see you.  As soon as your Papa, Auntie and Uncle Kevin came in to see you Daddy left to get Mommy some lunch.  I proudly told him that I was STARVING and I wanted some lunch.  Because he is the best Daddy in the entire world he came back to my room with a Supreme Dinner from Bojangles and I ate EVERY LAST BITE…without getting sick!

Emma Grace Birth Day with Mommy and Jake7

Once your brother was able to come in to see you, well I can’t even put into words how it felt to see you two together.  It was so amazing to have both of my babies next to me at the same time.  He was so excited to meet you.  Jakie loves you so much and is always going to protect you and love you no matter what.  He couldn’t stop smiling when he held you for the first time, although he did think that the smell of the hospital laundry detergent was stinky.  It was at that moment that I finally felt like our family was complete.  You, Jake, Daddy and I are the perfect little family and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Emma Grace Birth Day with Mommy and Daddy8

This last year has been interesting to say the least.  You are a little sassy replica of your Momma although none of us doubted for a minute that you would probably have my personality.  You have brought so many smiles and so many tears of joy over the past year that I can hardly wait to watch you grow up.  Emma Grace, Mommy loves you and I always will.  So remember even when you are a teenager and can’t stand me…remember that I loved you first.  Remember that Daddy, Jake and I will always be here for you.  You have the most amazing family and I can’t wait to see the woman you will become.  Remember that nothing is ever as life ending as you think it is, whether it is being out of Cheerios or some looser guy who isn’t good enough for you anyways.  Remember that you are always beautiful no matter what you wear or how you fix your hair.  Remember that the only boys you will ever need are your Daddy, Jakie, Papa, Kevin and Kyson.  I can’t wait to see you walk, to see you go to Kindergarden, learn how to drive a car (manual of course that is how all the Foster girls do it), go on your first date (Daddy has his shotgun ready), go to prom and then graduate from high school and college.  I’m going to stop there because you are too young for me to be thinking past that and I’ve already got enough tears right now. I love you baby girl!

Happy 1st Birthday Emma Grace!

Love you,

Momma

Hyperemesis Gravidarum – When is it more than just morning sickness?


When is it more than just morning sickness?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

HG is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and/or vomiting with potential adverse consequences for the newborn(s).

HER FOUNDATION – Hyperemesis Education and Research

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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.  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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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.
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns Photography copyright 2011
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!
Newborn Photography by jRoxDesigns copyright 2011
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!