Sunday February 4th, I woke with a feeling. A feeling I have had before, familiar and mixed with nervousness and excitement. In the bathroom, my long lost friend Clearblue confirmed what I thought, and I trotted back up the stairs beaming. It was 6.50 a.m., population of said bed was now three. Two little men watching a movie and their father vaguely supervising them whilst trying to catch the last couple of minutes of shut eye. He looked at me bleary eyed, I gave him the nod and a wink. He smirked back at me and then we laughed. One for the road we said….third time’s a charm.
When you get pregnant for the first time you really haven’t a clue what you’re getting yourself into. Ignorance is bliss and all that. You just have to take it as it come. On number two you are braced and a little prepared and by number three, you’re almost a veteran. On my first pregnancy, I knew to expect the unexpected. That said when hyperemesis (Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)) reared it’s unpleasant and unwelcome head at 6 weeks, I came to understand the meaning of misery. Hours, days, weeks and months of relentless nausea and sickness with no end in sight. Not being able to get out of the bed. Struggling with seeing, smelling or being near food, not to mention eating it. Weakness, tiredness and struggling with every day tasks that should be a breeze. I had heard of morning sickness, but this? This was at another level.
I couldn’t make it to work, I was losing weight rapidly, I was grey in colour all day long. I wasn’t prepared for this and everything it entailed. Hours passed and then days and somehow I made it through 6 gruelling weeks. I had try all the usual morning sickness remedies with no relief. I trialled a drug called Cariban for sickness with no success. By 12 weeks the symptoms started to ease, and I gradually made my way back to an everyday existence that resembled my previous life. I could tolerate food and eat and drink again. I was able to get up and dressed and care for myself. It was glorious and I never had such an appreciation for all the things I had come to take for granted.
Hyperemesis – My Second Pregnancy
In all honesty, I had no real awareness of hyperemesis until I was in the middle of it. It’s often misunderstood and perceived as dramatised morning sickness. It is so much more than this and although feeling rough, nauseous and sick is a feature of many women’s pregnancies, hyperemesis is a relentless, debilitating condition which significantly impacts on a woman’s well being during pregnancy and often requires medication and or IV fluids for rehydration.
When I became pregnant on my second son Olly, like clockwork at 6 weeks, I once again entered the now familiar haze of hyperemesis. Somehow in the short time that had passed since my pregnancy with Luke, I had forgotten just how difficult it was. The difference this time was I had an 11 month old to attempt to care for at the same time. Without family and friends, I can hand over heart say I am not sure I would have been able to do it.
The guilt of not being able to care for your baby, and not have the energy to play and interact with Luke, haunted me. I cried, and cried and then cried some more. On your first pregnancy you can leave work, come home and lie in the foetal position on the couch in misery. When you have another little person to care for, that’s a lot more difficult. Juggling that with breastfeeding a near one year old, whilst being able to eat and drink very little, naturally my weight plummeted again. 12 weeks came and went and the haze didn’t lift – I was panicked. Would I be one of the unfortunate women to be afflicted with this horrendous condition until the 40 week mark? Luckily, at 16 weeks, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and I got a new lease of life.
Hyperemesis – Third Time Around
This time around I explicitly asked my mother for permission to have a third baby. I’m half joking, but in all seriousness unless she was in a position to commit to 6-10 weeks of helping me out I knew there was no way I could care for the boys safely, whilst caring for myself. When I visited my GP to confirm this pregnancy, she commended me like a valiant soldier headed back out on my third tour. She commented on my ‘bravery’ and the difficult time we both knew lay ahead for me.
Alas tough times met me was sooner than expected, and by 5 weeks I was flattened. Loss of appetite, complete inability to be near food and utter fatigue. By week 9 I was struggling to get out of bed, struggling to shower. Difficulty standing up, not managing food. My GP recommended trialling the Cariban drug again when the sickness started which I did – but unfortunately again it gave me no relief.
I could tell Luke (who has just turned 3) was becoming anxious and asking about me being sick all the time and wondering why I was in bed. He was insistent on ‘minding me’ on making me ‘better’. Every ounce of my being wanted to hop out of the bed to reassure him I was grand. But like lead, I lay there helpless and incapable of giving him the reassurance I knew he needed.
Both of the boys struggled to understand why I couldn’t ‘play a little game’ and wasn’t getting stuck in to all the usual fun around the house. I couldn’t prepare dinners or be around for meal times. At times I would go to bed and try to sleep because it was when I was least miserable. The only time I wasn’t experiencing intense nausea or dry retching was when I was sleeping.
Faces of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
I took these photos for myself as a deterrent for attempting baby number 4! But they are an honest and accurate reflection of how terrible I was feeling at different points in time during my most recent spell of hyperemesis.
The Honest Truth
Weeks 5-13 of this pregnancy are a blur and I was doing nothing more than existing. Hyperemesis takes away everything enjoyable in day to day life. Life becomes a chore in which you count down hours, days and weeks, hoping for a reprieve. A break from the sickness. The loneliness is intense and the guilt fierce. Feelings of guilt for not being able to be a mother to the little ones downstairs at dinner wondering where you are. The feeling of being a rubbish wife, who looks like death for weeks on end. The guilt of permanently existing in a miserable state. The guilt of not getting anything done and feeling lazy and useless about the house. This is hyperemesis – and I can report from the front line, it is not fun.
So here I am, week 15 in my sights and feeling human once again. Reconnecting with everyone I haven’t seen in the past 9 weeks and appreciating all the little things. Getting back to writing, spending quality time with the boys and eating all around me again. I am now in a position to be excited about this pregnancy and what it will bring knowing that the worst is behind me.
Hyperemesis Ireland is an incredible resource for anyone experiencing Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The site is also a great resource to suggest to family and partners of anyone going through hyperemesis, to give an insight into how difficult the experience can be during pregnancy. As I mentioned, there are medications available, though they may not be effective for everyone. I trialled Cariban on 2 of my 3 pregnancies with little or no relief. That said I have heard many positive reports. It is important to discuss any symptoms you feel may be indicative of Hyperemesis Graidarum with your GP, midwife or consultant – it is important not to suffer in silence and seek advice and medical intervention when needed.