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Chocolate Chip Cookies and Turkey Sandwiches: World HG Awareness Day, May 15

As a librarian, when you hear HG you probably think about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  But for me, HG is a different type of hunger games, a very real one.  HG stands for Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  It is literally translated as excessive vomiting during pregnancy.  Before IVs and PICC lines, women died from HG.  Truthfully, women still die from HG, but it is more rare. 

Recent research sponsored in part by the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (HER Foundation) indicates that there is a genetic component to HG.  As the mom to two little girls, this breaks my heart.  The fact that if they choose to have children they may have to suffer the way I did is inconceivable – and this time I am pretty sure it means what I think it means.  With better awareness and more research we can find better treatments and make sure that women can get early and aggressive care.  It’s easier to treat more successfully if intervention happens before a woman spirals out of control, before her body systems are already starting to shut down.

During my first pregnancy, with the lovely Miss Kicky, we had no idea what was happening.  For 9 long months I slept on the bathroom floor and dreamt of one day being able to eat food again.  Remarkably, after giving birth to Kicky – almost immediately – I felt completely fine and developed a ravenous hunger.  The nurse asked me if I wanted to eat and I ordered a cheese burger, fries and chocolate chip cookies.  When they got ready to move me into my room I asked The Mr. to watch my cookies, he said he would keep an eye on them.  I yelled at him, “No – pick the cookies up in your hands and make sure nothing happens to them.”  And then, after a very brief pause I added, “and make sure nothing happens to the baby.”

I swore after having Kicky that there would be no more pregnancies, but I loved my daughter and loved being a mom and, you know, each pregnancy is different they say.  What that means is that each pregnancy is WORSE.  For unknown reasons my second pregnancy was so much worse than the first.  Between my 6th and 7th week of pregnancy I lost almost 30 pounds from the excessive vomiting.  The only thing that would stop the vomiting was for me to lay in a hospital bed hooked up to an IV.  But every time I stopped vomiting, they sent me home and the cycle started all over again.  I began passing out.  I developed tachycardia.  My blood pressure became dangerously low.  My body began shutting down.  I begged to terminate my pregnancy.  I begged to die.  And then, my baby – Casey Lee – did die.  Actually, she/he had been dead for 3 weeks – around the time the HG had gotten extremely bad.

I found out I was pregnant with my third pregnancy just days after my grandfather’s funeral.  My grandma and grandpa had a baby that had died just months after being born in the 1940s, their first, and they had helped me deal with my pregnancy loss so much.  I knew that they had prayed for me to be able to have another child.  It was bittersweet that I found out at my grandpa’s funeral; he had carried a picture of his dead baby boy in his wallet every day of his life and was buried with it.

We knew more now in this third pregnancy, but that didn’t necessarily make it any easier.  We found a new doctor and got early, aggressive treatment in the form of home health care.  I sat at home attached to an IV pole to keep me hydrated and medicated.  The Mr. set his alarm clock and woke up every morning at 3 a.m. to change my IV bags.  Yep, he’s a keeper.  But I still vomited – a lot.  In fact, I vomited so much and with such force that my placenta was slowly separating from my uterine wall.  We went to the ER on the 4th of July weekend because of bleeding and the doctors came and gathered around my bed and told me that they were sorry, my placenta was completely detached and our baby wouldn’t make it through the weekend.  They were, thank you God, wrong about that.

After 9 long, torturous months, Scout was born.  6 weeks before my grandmother passed away.  I was not able to go to her funeral because of the HG, but I named my baby after her.  Like before, birth resulted in a ravenous hunger.  This time it was turkey sandwiches.  I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for weeks, happy to finally be able to eat solid food again.

HG was the most horrific experience of my life.  It caused me some lifelong health complications.  It took one of my children.  I lost 3 years of my life – of my children’s life – as I fought to survive, barely.  I threw up over 1,000 times over the course of those 3 years and I cried more than a million tears; although my tears were often dry due to the dehydration.  After giving birth to Scout I knew that I could never be pregnant again.  The chances that I would survive were slim, and I didn’t want to miss any more of my life, of my children’s lives.  Plus, Scout had some health complications that may or may not be related to my HG.  They say that HG doesn’t harm the babies, but recent research indicates that there is a higher incident of neurological problems and, although there has been no research done to prove this, 95% of the women I have met with HG babies report that those babies have some type of gi and food issues.  I hope that one day that will be something that they study as well.

I am blessed to be a mom to Kicky and Scout, they are amazing little girls.  I love them more than I could every imagine loving.  They were worth every horrific moment of HG, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing my pregnancy story could have been different.  Because I want the story to be different for others, I share mine.  Please take a moment to make yourself familiar with the signs and symptoms of HG.  You may just be able to tell some woman in your life how she can get help.  Also, please visit the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (HER Foundation) to find out how you can donate and participate in ongoing research.   www.helpher.org

Please take a moment to view all of our posts on HG here at TLT

The ABCs of HG: an unconventional picture book (Karen’s story)

Teen Issues: Teen Pregnancy and Complications

Teen Pregnancy and Complications, HG and pregnancy termination (An anonymous story)

Life’s Bilest Moments, HG poetry

There’s No Sister Like an HG Sister

We were going to have a brother but got a sister instead, a tween’s story

World HG Awareness Day, just the facts


  1. Thank you so much for your open and thoughtful post. I hadn't heard about HG before and, as someone who is probably closer to childbearing years than not, I'm really glad to have heard about it now. Thanks again for all the info, and best wishes to you and your family!

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