HG and Me

Ding, ding, round 2! It’s been a while since my last blog – a couple of years in fact. The ‘Confessions of a first time mum’ were somewhat stunted by ‘doing life’ with a baby who is now a beautiful, chatty, highly amusing 3 year old. We’ve survived the teething (we now have shares in Anbesol), tantrums (think broken eggs on a supermarket floor) and testing (square or triangle sandwiches #thestruggleisreal) of those years and as is natural for a lot of families, Gareth and I decided to try for another bundle of joy – I mean now that the first one eats, sleeps and poos pretty much independently, who wouldn’t want to commit another few years of their lives to engauged breasts, sleep deprivation and changing nappies, right?

So as I sit here, 11 weeks pregnant eating dry crackers at 3am whilst Gareth and not-so-baby R sleep peacefully, I wonder, quite literally why I’m letting my body go through this again. By ‘this again’ I don’t mean the joy and wonder of watching my body change and experiencing a new life growing inside me, which in itself is an amazing, God-given miracle, I mean the horrendous and mind-altering sickness.

The dreaded Hyperemesis Gravidarum – HG to those of us who are closely acquainted.

It’s something I suffered with throughout (yes, all 9 month folks) my last pregnancy and to be honest is the main thing that has stopped us trying for another child sooner than this. The tangible fear of having to go through that again was literally enough to make me content with having an only child or consider other options for growing our family. But, after much praying and with gentle, patient encouragement from Gareth, I decided that the time had come to try again – ‘this time could be different, an absolute breeze’ I told myself. Sadly it isn’t. You see, HG isn’t just morning sickness that passes, it’s unrelenting, debilitating morning, noon and night sickness. It can be a dark and lonely journey and one that I wouldn’t wish for anyone to travel. If you are suffering with it, I hope as you read this that you’ll realise that you’re not alone – there is someone else out there vomiting into bowl in the middle of the night or crying from the pain of a torn oesophagus due to constant retching. If you’ve not experienced the horrors, yes I’m jealous but hope this will serve as a little insight into the world of your pregnant friend or work colleague who is green instead of glowing and struggles to raise a smile as you congratulate her on such wonderful news.

Getting pregnant happened fairly quickly and for me, with that initial excitement also came some guilt. Whilst close friends are struggling to conceive for the first time, there I am peeing on a stick and seeing two pink lines. So as the HG began to rear its ugly head again, I started to try and suppress the feelings of dread and despair – after all there are so many women who would love to be in my position aren’t there? Actually no. If you are going through the painful struggle to have a child, I won’t pretend to know what you’re going through but I do pray that if and when the time comes for in-utero-human-growing, you don’t go through this.

Now, perhaps Princess Kate’s experience of HG has shed a little more public light on the subject but there are still some things many people don’t realise about this type of sickness. I don’t want to seem like a complete moaning Minny (too late, I hear you cry) but here’s what HG means to me:

Nausea and Vomiting 24/7

By this I’m talking about teeth grinding, toe curling nausea that occupies all thoughts and prevents sleep. When the inevitable ‘producing of the goods’ (bile and that dry cracker from 3am) arrives in your toilet bowl, the few moments of relief is like finding fresh water in a dry desert. The moment is fleeting but it’s relief all the same until the nausea builds again. If you think labour and birth is going to bring about some level of indignity try chucking in the car (whilst driving), waking from your upright sleeping position to make use of the bedside bucket, making a mad dash from a work meeting to retch in the toilet with very thin walls and having to leave your crackers&ginger tea on the conveyor belt as you dash for the litter bin in the middle of the shopping centre.

Bad teeth

Initially, back in week 3 when I could vaguely keep food down, I found that I could demolish a (large) bag of Haribo within a (very) small length of time. Once the routine of daily (as in 4,5,6 times per day) vomiting set-in that’s when the acid started its handiwork resulting in a week 10 visit to the dentist for a tooth repair as one of mine literally disintegrated in my mouth. I’ll allow you to picture the scene as I, the super-nauseous person who hasn’t been able to lie flat since week 4 and gags with use of a toothbrush, reclines in a dentist chair for half an hour. Not so fun.

Days off work (and life in general)

At its worst HG has seen me in bed for a solid 3 days. I mean literally only getting out to be guided to the toilet by my husband. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a restful time. When the aforementioned nausea is at its height, there’s no energy or motivation for reading, watching TV or even talking. There’s also the additional distress associated with being unable to care for the child you already have who asks each morning with expectancy and hope in her voice “are you better yet mummy?”. The stress of feeling unable to fulfil your usual home and work responsibilities starts a vicious cycle of feelings of guilt and inadequacy. You tell yourself you’re not dying (even though it feels like it) and just to get on with it but then as you move to change position in your sickness bed, the retching is awakened and the whole thing starts again…

Medication

But is there anything you can take when you’re harbouring a tiny human within? Actually yes. During my previous pregnancy, I held off taking anything until fairly near the end of the third trimester – mainly for fear of anything affecting the baby and also due to my ignorance of all things HG related. This time round, I’m more clued in and my GP and I are becoming friends rather than acquaintances based on the number of visits I’ve made to her in the past few weeks. I’ve been through the whole ‘Ginger’ routine – biscuits, tea, tablets, you name it, I’ve tried it. Whilst it works for some people, it doesn’t seem to have any beneficial effect on me so I’ve stepped things up to Pyroxine (vitamin B6) whilst having the prescriptions for Maxolon and Zofran waiting in the wings if/when things get even worse…

An everlasting pregnancy

The thing with my old “friend” HG is that it’s pretty difficult to hide. Whilst most people enjoy keeping the secret to themselves for at least the first 12 weeks, regular and consistent sickness has resulted in having to share the news with people earlier than I’d necessarily have liked. Although most people are usually sympathetic and I’ve been blessed to work in very supportive environments during both pregnancies, it makes pregnancy last FOREVER. “How are you feeling?” shouldn’t really be a question that evokes feelings of mild rage but even coming from your partner or close friends, it’s one that whilst you’d love answer with something positive, sadly it feels like there’s rarely anything good to say…

Crying (a lot) 

As if a surge of pregnancy hormones wasn’t enough for any pregnant woman to contend with, add HG into the mix and you have yourself your very own basket-case!
That’s how I feel anyway. There have been times when at my lowest, I’ve actually wished not to be pregnant anymore. That’s hard for me to write and likely very difficult for some of you to read but it’s the reality of how much HG can affect not just the body but the mind too. Now, those feelings aren’t constant for me unlike other HG sufferers, but in the depths of vomiting and not being able to function (even dressing can be a huge effort), they are very real thoughts. The thought process is a viscous one as you then berate yourself for ever thinking such things and so the crying continues… My advice: Invest in tissues. Lots of tissues.

Since writing all of the above, I’ve now reached week 14 and all is well with baby A Ironically on the day of my first scan and the time when we should have been celebrating getting to see our little bean with a healthy heartbeat, within hours I was in A&E with severe dehydration as a result of all the vomiting. After a couple of litres of fluids and some injections of Maxolon and Ondansetron (Zofran) I was able to go home and remained vomit-few for 3 whole days – a miracle! There have been further episodes since then and the nausea remains ever-present along with the added delight of nose-bleeds but thankfully dare I say it, symptoms are less intense. The first trimester is over and there is some hope that that the next 6 months may come with some relief – who knows…

Well, there you have it – a window into the wearying world of HG. As with so many things in life, the experience of this condition and how to deal with it varies from person to person. My HG struggle is one that has taught me and continues to remind me daily that my God is bigger than these bad days. He will not tempt me beyond what I can bear. So, whether your current battle is with HG, infertility or another issue associated with the ‘joys’ of being a woman, rest assured that even on days when it’s hard to get dressed, God has given us strength and dignity to clothe ourselves with (Proverbs 31:25).

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow… Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

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Written by Claire Andrews for her blog, Postnatal Ponderings.