Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We were going to have a brother but got a sister instead: HG from a tween's perspective

Today is World HG Awareness Day.  For the month of May I have spent some time sharing my story.  Today, a tween tells you hers.  No, not her story about having HG, but her story about what it is like to be a child and watch your mothers go through it.  What it is like to lose a sibling to HG.  What it is like to wonder if your mom is going to die.  HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) is a debilitating, life threatening pregnancy disease.  Approximately 1 in 1,000 pregnant women will experience HG - including teens.  If they don't experience it themselves in pregnancy, they are still greatly impacted by watching their mother's suffer from it.  Early and aggressive treatment can help make the symptoms more manageable; they can be the difference between life and death.  As a librarian, I believe that information is power.  That is why I am working so hard to raise awareness.  This is Caitlin's story.

Hello, My name is Caitlin Auger, I am 11 years old and this is the time I was supposed to have a baby brother but instead got a sister.

It all started when my mom told me she was going to have a baby. I was so exited! I was 8 years old and always wanted a baby brother or sister. I stayed up every night thinking about the baby. I remember going to a store at the mall to help shop for clothes for my mom. The store clerk asked me if I wanted a baby brother or sister. I told her I wanted a brother. She smiled and said most girls that came to that store wanted a little sister to care for and dress in pink and treat them like little baby dolls. I wanted to teach a little brother to play baseball.

After a few months my mom came home from an appointment and said the baby was a boy! My mom told me she already had a name picked out……………Brendan Christopher Auger. I loved it and was so happy!J

Then one day my mom went to the hospital and stayed for a long time. My dad and I visited her almost everyday.

After many visits on May 22nd 2009 my mom told me Brendan died. My dad was crying. My mom was crying. I refused to cry. I did not want people to feel sorry for me.

I got to hold Brendan and got pictures with him but it did not make me feel better. Later that day nurses asked me to sit at the help desk across the hall. They gave me a cookie and coloring books to keep me occupied. After maybe 30 minutes passed a nurse came out and asked me which baby clothes I liked best. One was knitted and green. The other one was linen and had blue edges. I choose the blue one.

We buried him in the outfit I choose. My mom wanted me to smile in all the pictures at the funeral. How could I? It was impossible for me to really smile for weeks after Brendan died.

2 years later my mom told me she was having another baby. This time I wanted a little sister.

I went to the appointment to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. It was a girl!

I gave suggestions for names like Colettte and Genevieve.(Which weirdly are 2 french names.)My mom admitted she liked Genevieve.

Mom never got VERY sick like she did with Brendan. Genevieve was safe all the way through the pregnancy.

Today, she is 8 months old and healthy. She has strawberry blond hair, blue eyes and a cute laugh.

I hope my mom will never get VERY sick again and I want Genevieve to live a long happy life. J

A word from Caitlin's mother:
My name is Bridget and I am the mother of this extraordinary young lady. Caitlin wrote that during my pregnancy with Brendan, I “went into the hospital for a long time”.  About seven weeks total to be exact. I suffered from a rare condition called “hyperemesis gravidarum” or “HG” a disease that strikes approximately 1  in 1,000  women during pregnancy.  HG causes unrelenting nausea and vomiting. It goes beyond any stomach flu, food poisoning, hangover, or migraine that one can ever imagine and it goes on for some women the entire pregnancy. Many women are put on anti-emetic medications that are often prescribed to cancer patients. They survive on IVs to get fluids and on a PICC line to receive vital nutrients.  Without IV’s and PICCs, some women will die.  There is no known cause; there is no known cure-except to come to the end of pregnancy. I was no stranger to HG when I got so sick with Brendan, as I had suffered with it during my pregnancy with Caitlin. In that pregnancy, I spent about 5 months hospitalized and lost total of 50 lbs. I was a slave tied to my IV pole and went three whole months without swallowing a bite of food. However that pregnancy was a picnic compared to my pregnancy with Brendan. I became very sick very quickly and within a month was on a feeding tube that went through my nose. Even that was not enough to keep me from vomiting out the nutrients the tube was putting in. My doctor gave me a choice- “abort the baby or leave your daughter without a mother”. Neither of these choices were a viable option and I told the doctor to save my life and Brendan’s life. Even though, I remained firm in my resolve to pull through with my baby boy, I was terrified that I would be leaving my daughter. I remember calling a girlfriend and asking her to take Caitlin shopping for school clothes because that was a job I knew my husband could not do as well as me. Although I knew leaving Caitlin without a mother would be unthinkable, I could not imagine telling her that she would not have her baby brother.

I never had to make that decision. My body decided for me. After an ultrasound to check on my failing kidneys, a nurse told me that Brendan no longer had a heartbeat. I felt my whole world collapse and cursed my body for not succumbing to my illness. The days following were a blur. I remember Caitlin being at the hospital and the doctors and nurses telling me that they had never met a better behaved, well-mannered child and I should be proud. All I could think was, “I should have two well behaved children”.

The next year and a half were difficult. I grieved for my son and for Caitlin’s brother. I tried to get her to talk about her loss, and most of the time ended up crying while she comforted me. Caitlin gave me one of her baby dolls, which she named,  “Brendan baby” and lovingly wrapped the doll in the real Brendan’s blankets.  One terrible afternoon, when I discovered to my horror that items had been removed off of Brendan’s grave, I froze in the car at the grocery store because I couldn’t go on and shop for food. I was done. Caitlin took me by the hand and led me into the store and picked out dinner.

My pregnancy with Genevieve was, as Caitlin said, much easier. I found a great team of doctors and by some stroke of luck or a miracle, managed to stay out of the hospital until I delivered. Caitlin was with me every step of the way. On the day we found out the gender of the baby, Caitlin brought along Brendan’s’ baby blanket and squeezed my hand for dear life during the ultrasound. She said she was praying for a sister, I said I was praying for a boy…I think we were both praying for the same thing…a healthy baby. Genevieve is an enchanting baby, the answer to out prayers and I thank God every day for my two special girls. I ache for my son, but I know he is watching his two sisters with love and pride.

I hate that my illness and Brendan’s death has caused her to age faster. I hate that she had to take care of me when it was the other way around. I hate that she saw me weak and sick and helpless. I hate that she thought that she could lose her mother. I hate that she lost her brother. But, this experience has taught me so much about my daughter. She is generous, kind, brave, smart, and she is truly the most exceptional child I have ever met. She has grown up very fast, but she is still my baby.

A lot of people asked me why I tried again after being so ill with Caitlin, why would I put my body through that again? The answer is always the same: I would go through it all over again in a heartbeat to have another like her.

Find out more at the Hypermesis Education and Research Foundation (HER Foundation) at www.helpher.org


  1. I have no words for the plethora of emotions that this post evoked. What a brave, beautiful, amazing girl...and what a wonderful, brave mother. Wow.

  2. Caitlin you did an awesome job writing this! Your mom has alot to be proud of....I understand why she would go thorough HG for more awesome kids like you!
    Bridget- I have cried many tears for you and yours...sorrow and joy. You have amazing kiddos....every. single. one. of. them. Your last sentence "The answer is always the same: I would go through it all over again in a heartbeat to have another like her." sums up everything I have gone through in all my pregnancies. Nobody understands this to the full extent unless they have had HG! <3<3<3

  3. I have no words either. I just need to cry. God Bless your beautiful family!

  4. Anonymous5/15/2012

    Caitlin, you wrote a fabulous essay! I'm so proud.

    Bridget, Karen, no words, just love.

    Love, Suzanne

  5. Anonymous5/15/2012

    Karen, thank you so much for letting Caitlin guest blog! You and Suzanne define what HG sisters are. We are so grateful for all you have done for us!!!
    Love, Bridget

  6. This was beautiful. I've often written about my experience with HG on a blog that I have. However, one of the most powerful posts was written by my husband while he watched me go through this. One thing I don't think people understand is that HG doesn't just affect a mother, but an entire family, no one wants to watch a loved one hurt so much...I was never hospitalized, but I have a few trips to the ER for fluids and constant need of Zofran...and loosing an abnormal amount of weight, but I love love love the end of this post. Because people ask my husband and I if we would have more after our little girl is born, and we both answer, whole heartedly, YES.