My Pregnancy & Birth Journey Blog

Chapter TWO

HG | Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Trigger warning – pregnancy sickness & mention of food

My gut feeling, just something inside me told me this baby was strong & it be ok, even though I felt like death. Or maybe that was self-preservation, giving me something to keep me going, to not give up. My baby had to be strong for what was ahead of us. 6 weeks in & the nausea raged through my body, every cell, every limb, every waking hour of every day. The sickness was increasing day by day & I just kept thinking (hoping) it would pass, maybe it was getting worse for a short while before it got better. With good intentions my friends & family would suggest ginger, dry crackers or sipping coke. This wasn’t a hangover, this wasn’t ‘morning sickness, I began to feel angry. I don’t feel quite so angry now as I know that until any of us have truly experienced something it’s hard to understand, even though I tried to explain, I wasn’t being dramatic. Let me tell you… I tried ALL the tricks in the book, NOTHING was working! If one more person mentioned ginger I felt like I would explode! From the moment I woke until the moment I closed my eyes at night it was overwhelming. I even woke regularly in the night, churning, swirling, that overwhelming sickness, just nagging at me like a devil in the dark.

Whilst the sickness raged, firing & building more every day, every week, I started to lose more & more weight, feeling weaker, deflated, anxious & deeply depressed. I lost over a stone & I’m a petite 8 stone naturally anyway, I looked gaunt. It was like a never-ending storm, whisking me off my feet, slamming me down, over & over & over again, like uncontrollable waves. I soon realised this was something bigger, this wasn’t your normal 1st trimester sickness, this was Hyperemisis Gravidarum!

This was violent vomiting that could strike at any time. At no particular time, for no particular reason with no particular warning. Just appearing, raging like fire in the wind through every part of my body my body. Every time I was sick, taking every last drop of energy I had with it every time, physically & emotionally. Vomit so forceful & fierce, like food poisoning, worse than food poisoning, desperate to leave my body like an intruder. That’s what my baby felt like, an intruder, how would I love this little life, a life that was robbing me of mine, robbing me of being a mother to the beautiful child I already had. Vomit so forceful that my body would shake as acid poured from my nose, burning every hair, nothing left, an empty shell of a woman. Vomitting so severe that I daren’t move from a position, open a window where air would touch my face or get up incase it happened again, I couldn’t bare the thought. So forceful a small smell or new sensation would trigger it. I absoloutely could NOT step foot in the kitchen, not just smells but the thought of there being food in that room was enough, let alone contemplating what to try & eat or drink. I honestly felt like I was dying, I wanted to die, it would be better than living this hell. Grey bags like heavy clouds sat permanently under my eyes. Lack of sleep, energy & hydration, slowing feeling like it was killing me off. Every day, every hour, every minute, feeling like an eternity, counting down the hours to simply feel closer to this baby being out of my body. It felt like a parasite, what an awful thing to feel & think, what an awful ungrateful mother am I? When you have thrown up every single type of food that you have tried, you simply cannot try it again, the thought alone would cause another vomiting session. What now? There’s nothing left to try.

Having issues with gluten made it harder as I craved beige & sugar. Things like a doughnut or a hot cross bun were the only things that seemed mildly appealing & for those of you who know gluten free options just aren’t the same. I would open a cupboard on the rare occasions I could enter the kitchen & sob. Sob through starvation, sob at the thought of seeing whatever was in front of me come back up. Oh the thirst. The thirst so severe you would give anything to be rid of. A thirst so desperate to be relieved of, just to be able to sip. To even have wet lips & the inside of my mouth coated with fluid. My cheeks & gums felt forever sticky & dry. The weird thing was, I had so much excess saliva, to the point I had to spit, all day every day, in a tissue, in a pot, a cup, anywhere. If I let it sit in my mouth for more than a second I would vomit again! Early on at around 7 weeks I realised I needed help, I couldn’t survive. I reached out to Zara De Candole who became my doula (AKA Nobs) & is now a very special friend. We’d met before at Anna Le Grange’s Mindful Breastfeeding training & she was so well respected in the birth world, everyone I spoke to said she would hold me up & I knew I needed her support. Non-judgemental kind loving support, someone to help carry me through. I needed support outside of my friends & family, someone who wasn’t emotionally attached because it was too hard, I needed an escape. I wasn’t coping. Not that my friends & especially my family weren’t being lovely but they were struggling too & I was already leaning on them so much. www.doulabud.co.uk 

I can’t describe HG. You can’t even begin to understand unless you have been through it, I didn’t before now I hope I will be able to support anyone going through it that I come across, simply just a listening ear from someone who understands is invaluable. We’d always hoped to give my daughter a sibling, so when we found out we were expecting although a little nervous we were really happy but HG led me down a road to a dark place. I reached a point of of researching termination clinics!!! How could I even consider this? Terminating a pregnancy was something I thought would NEVER enter my mind, this baby was a blessing, some people cant have children or go through hell & back to have one. Here I was hoping for a miscarriage, looking at termination of a baby I wanted, that I knew I was so very blessed to have. This was the biggest head fuck, the hardest thing I have ever had to go through emotionally in my life. I was trapped in my body, my broken body that wasn’t doing nice things, my broken body that was failing to absorb nutrients & fluids. A body that was giving the baby any tiny morsels of goodness I had, leaving me even more depeleted, leaving me in a heap on the floor. A useless vessel, unable to mother, to care for the child she already had & unable to provide a new life with what it needed, that’s what it felt like. Many people terminate their pregnancies when suffering from HG & horrifically some even commit suicide, it’s the only way out.

When will it end? Could end it now? I can’t do that, how will I live with myself, what will I tell my daughter, what if I can never ever have another baby? I can’t end a life I wanted, that I created, so precious, but I had to, I had to end this continuous torture for everyone’s sake. Each day fighting mentally even more than physically to get through another second, another minute. Each day not living, just dying a little more inside. You can’t carry on for another hour some days, let alone another 3o something weeks! I feel sick at some of the thoughts that ran through my mind, was I mental, was there something wrong with me, is this normal? Get me out of this nightmare, off of this ride, make it stop! My mental health was suffering, I was drowning.

I used to keep small snack a drink with me incase I could manage them. It’s like there are occasional moments where you could possibly eat or drink so you have to strike while the irons hot. Mainly banana milkshakes or coke were the only things I could sip or nibble on walkers ready salted crisps. Water was the hardest to keep down! So random! My acupuncturist suffered herself with HG & said water is actually really hard to digest. Sometimes I would drink a glass of something, down it, even though I knew it would come straight back out, just so I could drink, feel the sensation of fluid & feel hydrated just for a moment I was that desperate. Have you ever had to force feed yourself, poking tiny morsels of a biscuit into your mouth just so you have enough energy to function? Have you ever been so constipated through dehydration that you cry in the bathroom for hours trying to go to the toilet after 8 days of excruciating pain? Hemorrhoids, back pain, stomach cramps, every day, dreading every single bowel movement. There are no safe foods some days. It changes daily & everyone around you gets frustrated because what you need & want are changing from one minute to the next. You know your body will nourish your baby first but you cant help thinking “how the hell will a healthy baby grow when literally nothing is going in? How on earth will it form? How the hell will it be ok & come out with 10 fingers & 10 toes?
I felt like I was failing my baby, I was failing at the very beginning before life had started. I was failing growth, failing love, failing to do what nature intended. Failing my daughter, failing as a partner, as a daughter, at my job, as a friend. Well that’s how it felt anyway. By this point my daughter (3 at the time) wouldn’t even come near me, I think through fear of ‘getting sick’ or upsetting me as I couldn’t bare anyone to touch me. She didn’t know what to do & the distance between us felt huge. I know she felt rejected & in turn I felt rejected. The separation, the guilt, the anger, the frustration. The guilt for not nourishing the baby, then hating the baby for dividing me & my daughter, then the guilt for hating myself for thinking that as it wasn’t the baby’s fault, it was the pregnancy, I kept telling myself – it’s not the baby’s fault it’s the pregnancy! I felt so guilty that she would often come home from nursery, sit in front of a screen day after day as I just didn’t have the energy to play or do anything with her or for her. Thank god my mum was able to do most drop offs, pick ups & cook along with my partner, I simply couldn’t mother. She was so good at playing alone whilst I lay still trying to keep it together. I was grateful she was 3 & had been at nursery so at least was getting some time interacting & learning. I take my hat off to anyone who manages to get through HG but even more so with little ones or more than one child. It’s simply impossible

Plodding on – Weeks 8-10 were the worst. After speaking to other HG parents on a great Facebook group these weeks seemed to be the hardest where hormone levels peaked. I was seriously at breaking point. What next….. I cant keep ANYTHING down, I’m losing weight rapidly, I hated the thought of meds…… let’s try acupuncture. This definitely helped. although I was violently sick right before & right after a treatment in the car (not much fun). I started The car journey was too challenging, the movement of being in a car, the smell of the car, too much! I was really lucky that my therapist came to me at home in the end. I always managed a good nap after a session as well which really helped with both the mental & physical exhaustion. My acupuncturist was Amanda Edwards in Forest Row www.awakentoheal.com

I couldn’t imagine the thought of going out for a day but at 8 weeks, after some hardcore acupuncture that week, I actually managed to leave the house & attend my neighbours wedding where my daughter was a flower girl. It wiped me out for a good week but I managed it

The 12 week scan! We made it to 12 weeks, please let there be a baby, a whole baby that’s healthy, phew there’s a baby. A whole baby, its ok & its healthy, thank god! How can that be? How can I have grown a baby? It all started to feel a little more worthwhile & perhaps now I would start to feel better? Everyone does at the 12 week mark right? Plus I was measuring a week ahead! Hurrah, maybe this means it will be over quicker? Although I new scans aren’t particularly accurate & are just an estimate, wishful thinking, wishful thinking.

I managed to find a few foods at this point that I could stomach. Wierdly a chicken dish – chicken alexander from Cook with plain basmati rice. At least there’s some nutritional value in that but to be honest a big mac would have felt like a win at this point. I would have a window around 6pm every day where I would feel a little better & would quickly get someone to microwave it for me. You have to strike when you actually feel like you might be able to keep something down as those windows are few & far between. It did always stay down, so I stuck with it & had that same dinner every day for weeks & weeks which was torture but at least I knew once a day I was having a fairly balanced meal. I was so worried about this poor baby getting any nutrients I would often chuck in a handful of peas for good measure. I could sometimes stomach a little chicken soup, some crunchy nut cornflakes, a milkshake of some kind, rich tea biscuits, coke & ribena. I had read that so many women have HG for the whole of pregnancy & were even being sick even in labour, right up until the placenta was released. I had also read that many women were able to function better or were sick less around 20 weeks. I seriously prayed that I would be one of the 20 week people but also braced myself for the whole way, anything less would be a huge bonus. I started to become quite aggraphobic due to the fear of being sick anywhere & anywhere, especially as you cant be sick discretely, your whole body convulses & it’s noisy. I was paranoid I would be sick driving & crash with Evalyn in the car, plus certain things would trigger me so going to public places was a huge challenge.

The drugs – I went to the GP as dehydration was becoming dangerous. Luckily I was fully supported as I know many people aren’t. They are often not given meds, sent away or it’s shrugged off as “morning sickness”. We did some tests & he was pretty concerned as I was borderline needing to go to hospital for fluids. He said if I was sick anymore within the next 24 hours then he was sending me in, no question. I hate hospitals at the best of times & really didn’t want to go but I knew it would be necessary as is for many people with HG. I was given a combination of meds but decided to do a lot of my own research as I feared my unbor baby would be affected. Another horrific decision to make – it’s me or the baby, a risk you feel you are forced to take. I went home & started immediately, tt took a few weeks of trialing & quickly upping dosages but it began to work & quickly! I was one of the lucky ones! It doesn’t always work. I decided to stick with Prochlorperazine Maleate as it reduced the nausea although didn’t actually stop me vomiting, reduced it most days though & the severity. It’s an anti-sickness med often used for those going through chemo. A quick working drug that you can take under the tongue that acts quickly but more importantly you can just use whenever you needed it rather than having a set amount per day. Most days I did have the max dosage but I knew I could be felxible. What concerned me most is that this medication wasn’t recommended for those under the age of 2…… what would it be doing to my unborn baby? In the back of my head until Penny was physically in my arms I had such huge fears of all the things that would be wrong with her. Was I selfish taking meds or was I selfish not taking them as I couldn’t go on? Another reason I agreed to this medication was because it had been used for such a long time & there hadn’t been reports of babies being affected, not that there are many trials carried out on pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, so you never know which always makes medication options/choices more challenging to weigh up. I didn’t want to risk a newer drug that was recommended as being more effective, I couldn’t do it, it felt like damage limitation.

The side effects weren’t fun. Heavy dizziness, feeling light headed every time I got up/moved but also very very drowsy, like a numb zoned out drowsy. I just wanted to sleep. A weird mix of hung over & high at the same time, which felt really messed up, like I was in & out of reality. Oh & to add to it all, another side effect was constipation! As if the constipation wasn’t bad enough already through lack of fluids & dehydration! This drug is an antipsycotic med & was known to cause issues with breast milk production – also on the list of side effects not ideal. Not breastfeeding wasn’t an option for me. The possibility of having to deal with supply issues was something that played on my mind. Luckily I have a wealth of breastfeeding knowledge & I have many friends/colleagues who work in breastfeeding support should I need it! I really had to weigh up the risks & benefits. I used trusty BRAINS & taking the meds was a bigger benefit than risk at this point. I was sick on them still but often only a few times a day & was actually able to start eating a few more types of food & function a little better. The main benefit was I was actually able to keep a small glass of water, coke or ribena down, heaven, hydration!

The side effects weren’t fun. Heavy dizziness, feeling light headed every time I got up/moved but also very very drowsy, like a numb zoned out drowsy. I just wanted to sleep. A weird mix of hung over & high at the same time, which felt really messed up, like I was in & out of reality. Oh & to add to it all, another side effect was constipation! As if the constipation wasn’t bad enough already through lack of fluids & dehydration! This drug is an antipsycotic med & was known to cause issues with breast milk production – also on the list of side effects not ideal. Not breastfeeding wasn’t an option for me. The possibility of having to deal with supply issues was something that played on my mind. Luckily I have a wealth of breastfeeding knowledge & I have many friends/colleagues who work in breastfeeding support should I need it! I really had to weigh up the risks & benefits. I used trusty BRAINS & taking the meds was a bigger benefit than risk at this point. I was sick on them still but often only a few times a day & was actually able to start eating a few more types of food & function a little better. The main benefit was I was actually able to keep a small glass of water, coke or ribena down, heaven, hydration!

Selfishly I also felt pissed off that I wasn’t able to enjoy pregnancy when so many people do, however after being part of the forums and researching HG I felt extremely privileged & so lucky to have been supported, find meds that were working & that I wasn’t being sick 15, 20 or 30 times a day like many other sufferers do. Also medication doesn’t always work for some people or they often have to juggle a combination of 2 or 3 meds to get any relief. I had to put it into perspective. It also gave me the time to think about how incredibly soul destroying it must be to live with a long-term health condition that affected your life, your family, your body or your mind. A snippet of what it would perhaps be like to have a physical or mental illness that hinders every aspect of life & how soul destroying that must be. At least I knew this would end in a matter of months & I would have my baby, lots of people would say that to me (well meaning) ‘oh at least it will be over & you get a baby at the end of it’. To be honest that wasn’t helpful, it didn’t make it any easier. Being mentally or physically unwell really does affect everyone in your life.

With anyone suffering from pregnancy sickness or HG there’s a fantastic support phone line and supportive website – (www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk). I found the facebook group ‘Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Pregnancy Sickness (UK group)’ a complete lifeline. When you need to ask questions like “I am constipated after 7 days of trying to go for a poo” the people in this group offered the support & answers I needed. A safe space to talk & share with others suffering, whether it’s simply voicing how you feel with those who understand or asking for tips with constipation. A problem shared is a problem halved