AnnouncementAfter my first pregnancy, which would now be considered mild HG, the announcement that I was pregnant didn't come with presents and balloons. It came with terror and fear. It came with prayers and pleading. Every day I lay there wondering if today would be my last day. Sometimes I begged for it to be. I have stood at the edge of a cliff and stared death in the face. My toes hung over the edge. Death came barrelling towards me like a train on the tracks, its single headlight cascading its circular light on my chest as I stood there paralyzed in fear. For me, the announcement that I was pregnant could just as easily have been the announcement that I was dying.
BathroomWithout the energy to walk, and because movement made the vomiting so much worse, I spent many a night sleeping on the bathroom floor. It became both my sanctuary and my prison.
Charlotte BronteCharlotte Bronte is the author of Jane Eyre, which I love. It is also believed that she died in her fourth month of her pregnancy from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never thought I would have something in common with an author I love. I would prefer it be something besides a life threatening pregnancy condition.
DrugsThere is a long list of things you should not do during pregnancy and I broke one of the biggies: I took drugs. Lots of them. Dr. prescribed, life saving drugs. I took the drugs that they give cancer patients to help fight nausea when they are undergoing chemo. I tried a variety of drugs and then a variety of combination of drugs. At their best, they simply knocked the edge off. Often they failed entirely.
EsophagusWith HG, you will vomit so much the acid will erode your esophagus. Every drop that comes back up burns all the more greatly as it comes back through your ravaged esophagus. The doctor will look down your throat and see places where the skin has been burned away. Your esophagus, like many parts of your body, will never be the same after HG. Pregnancy only lasts 9 months, but HG damages you forever.
FailureYour kidneys start to fail. Your liver starts to fail. Your baby's heartbeat starts to fail. And you know that you are a failure. Your body has failed you; it can not do the one thing the world says you were designed to do - make a baby.
Grow UpI will never forget the day I stood at the top of the stairs and began to pass out. It was the 3rd time this happened in my second pregnancy. I looked down at the bottom of the stairs to see my amazing 3 year old child and I feared for her. What would happen to her if I was home alone with her when I died? Would she get out of the house? Would she be safe? Would she be scared? I began to try and teach her to dial 911 at the age of 3. I wondered who she would grow up to be without a mother.
HungerIn our lives we will say to ourselves many times, "I am starving." But I have truly starved. I have vomited until there was nothing left to vomit but blood and bile and I have truly known what it means to be hungry. I have been so hungry that my body began to do the only thing it could to survive - eat itself.
IV HydrationYou become so dehydrated your lips crack, your skin cracks, and you thirst in ways you never knew you could thirst. In my third and final pregnancy, IVs were the only thing that kept me and my baby alive. My husband set his alarm to get up in the middle of the night to change my IV bags. I unhooked myself to go to work and then came home, parched and weary in both body and soul, to hook myself back up again. IVs delivered the sweet nectar I needed to survive.
Just . . .Just eat crackers. Just drink ginger ale. Just wear sea bands. Just suck on a pregnancy pop. Just shut up already! Just love and support me. Just trust me, I am doing everything I can. HG is a medical condition with serious health ramifications for both the mother and child. Each patient is different and responds to treatments differently. If you are lucky, you find a drug combination and hydration routine that works for you and keep it at bay . . . but just barely.
KetoacidosisKetoacidosis is a build of Ketones caused when your body chemistry goes wonky because you have HG. It has big fancy medical definitions that I don't really understand. I just know that it means that your body is shutting down. I know because it was happening to me. There are a lot of things that I don't understand in my medical records - "significant anion gap", numbers, abbreviations. It was all just medical jargon for a truth that could not be escaped - my body was shutting down. It could not support both of us so it was choosing to support neither of us.
LifeYou are trying to make a life, but it is taking yours. Not figuratively, literally. It is a race to the end to see who, if anyone, will make it through your pregnancy. In the end, if you survive, you will never take life for granted again. But in the process, you lose your life. Your friends, your family . . . you will spend your life in a place of such stark aloneness that you could never imagine.
NobodyNobody understand HG unless they have lived through it. My husband, my daughter, my friends - they have seen it, but they will never understand it. Like any other life changing event, only those who have stood in your shoes can truly understand what it is like.
ParasiteNoun. 1. An organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host's expense. It is a struggle every day with HG to remember that there is a baby inside of you trying to live. Not just any baby, but YOUR baby. This is the one thing you must keep reminding yourself. In my 3rd pregnancy, I bought a baby blanket and laid with it every day to help remind me that I was fighting for the life of my baby, not simply feeding a parasite. Many days it was too easy to forget. I had learned a horrible truth: Even in the 21st century, woman can still die from pregnancy.
QuestionsEvery time I see a pregnant woman walking around the mall, I am flabbergasted: She can walk? She looks so . . . healthy? When people tell me they are pregnant I don't think congratulations. No, I think, I hope you don't die. There are so many questions that come with HG: Why me? Will it be like this every time? Does it happen to everyone? Am I going to die? Is my baby? Will it happen again? And now, as the mother of two little girls, will it happen to them?
TachycardiaBEATBEATBEATBEATBEATBEATBEAT "Your heart is beating too fast. It is working too hard to keep you alive". At one point I was hospitalized and my resting heart rate was over 200. Yet my blood pressure was down to around 60 over 40. No one thought I would make it through that night in the hospital. When that pregnancy ended, without a baby, I spent the next 7 months or so taking medication to help regulate my heartbeat. Beat, beat, beat . . . . beat
VomitingIn the midst of my second pregnancy, by far my worst, I vomited sometimes more than 30 or 40 times a day. I vomited so much there was nothing left to vomit except bile and blood. There ought to be a law, once you have survived HG you never have to throw up again. Except I find that now I am more prone to it. My stomach will never be the same. HG changes you forever - physically, emotionally and spiritually. It rocks you to the core.
X Marks the SpotThere is a before and an after. There is who you were before HG; before you stared death in the face and learned what it means to lose a child. The you before who faced the world head on. And then there is the after. The you that stood at the edge of that cliff. The you that has seen a darkness so dark you worried there would never be a ray of light again in your world. The you that knows that women still die in pregnancy and that far too often, no baby comes. X marks the spot where you change - where HG changes you forever.
YellowAs your liver begins to fail, your skin turns yellow. Yellow looks good on mustard, but not so much on the face of a pregnant woman. Jaundice is what it is called. It doesn't matter what name they give it, all you will remember is the yellow pallor of your skin and that slow, stark realization that your body is failing.
ZealHyperemesis Gravidarum. The term sits there, heavy but unspoken, in my medical records from my first pregnancy. They were whispered lightly in my second pregnancy; a pamphlet sent in the mail from the hospital after a night spent being rehydrated, mutterings under the breath of a doctor in the ER. Finally, in my third pregnancy, a doctor stood up and spoke them loudly and clearly. With that knowledge came the realization that I could have had help. It could have gone so differently for me if I only had known what questions to ask. So today, I stand here with a zealous desire to shout at the top of my lungs: Hyperemesis Gravidarum! Know what it is and what it looks like. Sharing the truth of it may just help someone else. I want my suffering to have meaning, my baby's lost life to touch a heart besides my own, so I say it with zeal: Hyperemsis Gravidarum is real. Know the signs. Get help.
For more information and support, contact the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (HER) at http://www.helpher.org/. They have a wide variety of information to help pregnant women and their families understand what is happening, what questions to help, find doctors, and more. Current research indicates that because I have had HG, my two daughters are also likely to have HG. You can help fund research, participate in research yourself and help spread the word so that my daughters - so that all daughters - can have the medical help they need in the future should they find themselves suffering from HG in their pregnancies. HG World Awareness Day: May 15, 2013. Please share this information with everyone. Thank you.