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!
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 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. 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 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!
- Today I’m in Tears… International Hyperemesis Awareness Day (amandaclairedesigns.typepad.com)
- May 15 -National Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day (momeefriendsli.wordpress.com)