Hyperemesis Gravidarum is best described as hell on earth. It’s vomiting until blood comes up, throwing out your back and ribs from aggressively heaving, having veins collapse from so much poking, receiving enemas because your digestive system nearly stops from the lack of food, and taking powerful anti-nausea meds that are prescribed to cancer patients and you wonder how on earth that’s safe for your growing baby. It’s living in a constant state of what feels like food poisoning only you know it won’t be over in 24 hours and this will be your life for months on end.
My nausea started before I even got a positive pregnancy test. The day after conception I had a terrible migraine which made me vomit and then it was a constant state of nausea after that. Within 4 months I lost 20 lbs, throwing up over 20 times a day. Everything set it off, even switching positions in bed. One day there was a massive snow storm knocking out the power in our basement apartment and the movement of shivering made me vomit continuously. It was so dark in the hallway and bathroom I had to crawl around trying to find the toilet.
During the first trimester my back kept hurting more and more until inhailing started sending shooting pain up my back and side. I went to the chiropractor who discovered I had thrown out my back and a couple ribs from all of the violent retching.
I was still in college for the first bit of my pregnancy and was forced to leave our apartment which always resulted in public hurling. I threw up on the side of the road and at my lowest point in the grass while walking to class surrounded by people trying to go around me.
I’m ashamed to admit I was so resentful towards my growing baby that turned my body against me. I fell into a deep depression from being so incredibly miserable and helpless. I felt trapped in my body and so very alone. I honestly prayed that I would die so I could be put out of my misery. My face sunk in and every pair of pants and even my underwear would fall off the moment I tried putting them on. My first pregnancy was a very dark time, and one I never really learned to enjoy.
I didn’t start getting nauseous this time until week 6 or 7, but it hit hard and fast. When I went in for my first prenatal appointment and I told my midwives I hadn’t kept anything down for days they immediately sent me to the hospital for IV fluids. They gave me a standing order at the hospital to come in for fluids if I ever went 12 hours without keeping anything down. I went in 2-3 times a week for 2-4 hours of IV fluids and wasn’t allowed to leave until I kept something down, even if it was just crackers and ice chips. My arms and hands became so bruised and sore from the constant poking and prodding, I had veins collapse and moments of a nurse poking me over and over unable to get a vein. They discussed putting a port into my body fearing the day would come that I wouldn’t have an accessible vein. I had IVs in the inside of my elbow, upper arm, all over my forearms, my hand and even my foot. For weeks that was the only nourishment I received and kept me from getting as sick as last time.
This pregnancy I only lost 11 lbs which I’m convinced is because of my midwives constant care and help. I had an appointment every 1-2 weeks to keep track of my weight loss and check-in. They were always giving me pointers on nausea relief and sending me straight to the hospital for more fluids. I became a regular at the hospital and developed friendships with the nurses there, all of whom I’ll always be so grateful for. When I came in they could just look at me and gage how bad I felt. They even started giving me empty rooms while I got my IV infusions. Whenever I was in the hospital they’d all come in and see how I was doing. Nurses are the best, guys.
Much like the first pregnancy every time I vomited I wouldn’t stop until absolutely everything was out of my system and blood mixed with bile would come up. I developed sores in my throat from all of the acid and bile which gave me a constant sore throat and caused me to cough up blood between vomiting. My chest was always so sore from all of the contracting and aggressive vomiting making it difficult to breathe.
This pregnancy my lowest point was when I contracted some stomach bug on top of the hyperemesis. I threw up every 3-5 minutes for 14 hours straight and was admitted into the hospital for 48 hours. They discovered that the anti-nausea meds had also given me a blockage in my intestines (the WORST part of Zofran) so nothing could pass through my system and must come out the other way. I was given two enemas (super glamorous I know), and this visit I was poked 4 times while they tried to find a vein which seemed to all be hiding from my dehydration. I sobbed to the nurses and asked them to please knock me out because I couldn’t handle this anymore, I could not take another day of feeling this way and being trapped in my body. They rubbed my back, gave me warm compresses for the IVs because the constant cold fluid going into my body made me freezing cold. The nurses held on my hands and rubbed my feet to try and alleviate my nausea and even blocked Madelyn’s view from watching me retch up blood and sob until Josh was able to take her to his parents house. I felt like such an awful mother for not being able to take care of her. I could barely make her a meal and she watched TV from the moment we got up in the morning to the moment daddy got home from school.
This pregnancy my hyperemesis suddenly got so much better around 14 weeks, much sooner than last time (although I still had occasional days where I felt nauseous and had to stay home regaining my energy). All of which I attribute to the midwives and nurses who took care of me, they never let me get as bad as I did last time. One of the midwives told me, “We know your hyperemesis can reach a 10, so this time we’re going to try and keep it below a 7 at all costs.”
The biggest difference with this pregnancy is that it took us so long to get pregnant and I went into the pregnancy not caring how sick I got as long as I had another child. And having Madelyn, a constant reminder of what I had gone through and gotten out of it helped me to stay positive. There was only 1 day where I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore (the day I contracted the stomach bug) and I wanted it all to end. My more positive outlook made a world of difference for my mental health and luckily this time I wasn’t depressed and resentful.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go through this hell again. It’s amazing how much you forget what you go through to have a baby until you’re going through it again. I would tell people how miserable my pregnancy was with Madelyn, but I felt disconnected from the experience like it was more of a bad dream. I had forgotten what it felt like, and during this pregnancy I kept begging Josh to never let me do this again because I don’t think I could survive a third time. Even now reading through this post (that I wrote while I was pregnant with Roz) it all feels so foreign. As I read it I get flashes of memories, but it feels like a distant memory that is mostly repressed and forgotten. If I ever get baby hungry again I’ll just have to read this post!
Hyperemsis is the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through and my heart goes out to anyone else that has experienced it because it really is torturous and feels a lot like being stuck in hell. Women are warriors who will do anything for their children and that is a one of a kind love.