At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this. I don’t want to seem ungrateful because I am so thankful for all the friends and family that have been supporting me, loving me, and praying for me. I also wanted to be sensitive to my friends and family who are suffering in many ways worse than me. And then I also felt embarrassed to share some of my terrible feelings to the rest of the world. But still, I choose to share simply so that others going through this might not feel so alone. I know I sure felt/feel alone, not having been at all aware of the potential miseries of pregnancy. Anyways, this is what’s been going on in my life.
Right before Andrew left to go back to Scotland, we found out that I was pregnant (due early October). Maybe it wasn’t the most ideal time since Andrew is still a student and jobless, but this was something that we wanted, something we’ve dreamed and prayed about. We were happy. Even if the timing wasn’t the best, Andrew was going to finish his thesis without distractions in Scotland by this summer and move home a few months before the baby would be born. I was going to work (you know…gotta pay for the student husband), go for my runs around Lake Chabot, attend my weekly yoga class at 24Hr Fitness, eat organic, and take weekly pictures of my tummy (you know, like on Pinterest…). And when we reached somewhere between 12-20 weeks (when they say the risk of miscarriage decreases), we’d share this news with our family and friends with some annoying pun or cutesy picture. Yeah, we planned to be extraordinarily ordinary.
About a week later (~5.5 weeks), I started feeling nauseous. That just reconfirmed this pregnancy even though I didn’t go to the doctor yet. I started noticing that I didn’t want to eat the foods in my fridge and that I wanted to nap more. (All normal pregnancy symptoms right?) I also began having headaches. I emailed my doctor for some relief and she ordered Reglan for me and advised Tylenol for the headache, which I started taking religiously. By the end of the week, I didn’t think I could handle the nausea or even take care of my own meals, so we told our parents and I decided to move back home with my parents.
The following week, I started throwing up and the migraines got worse. While I took Tylenol, the headache never went away. I googled and tried every home remedy I could find online. The ginger ale and crackers thing did nothing. Friends gave me those Preggie Pops and while they tasted good, they did nothing to help with my nausea. I tried Vitamin B, but I felt more sick when I took it. I drank ginger tea and lemon, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I wore those seasickness pressure-point bands for days, but I don’t think it made a difference, besides bruising my wrists.
I read that chiropractic did wonders for this one lady’s morning sickness so I got my dad to adjust me (like every other day), but nothing changed. Then, I started to disregard every pregnancy rule in the book. Eat healthy? The only things that would stay down were Taco Bell and soda, so I did something I never do. I rolled up to the drive thru window. Don’t have caffeine? If it might help my headache, I’m going to have that Coke (my doctor actually recommended this). No massage first trimester? I had one everyday. Taking prenatal vitamins? I stopped because I kept throwing them up almost instantly.
I’d call Andrew (who was in Scotland) at ALL hours of the day and cry. My doctor then prescribed Zofran, an anti-nausea drug that’s usually given to cancer patients. I started calling in sick at work and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t handle the morning sickness. Freaking 16 year-olds get pregnant, hide their pregnancy, and go to school, and yet I couldn’t even get myself out of the house. My headaches got worse and I became afraid of driving. I became afraid of throwing up and crashing or not being able to pull over fast enough. I very quickly stopped driving and had my parents bring me everywhere.
By week 7, I was begging Andrew to come home. I felt awful and selfish for asking him to leave his studies and come home when he and his supervisors were already concerned about him finishing well, but I stopped caring. I didn’t care how long it took Andrew to finish his PhD. I didn’t care how expensive the flight was. Maybe I was selfish, but I couldn’t do it anymore.
Millions of women get pregnant and have been giving birth to babies for thousands of years. They go to work everyday, take care of children, clean the house, cook dinner, and just suck it up. Morning sickness, vomiting, and nausea is totally normal and a healthy part of a pregnancy, right? I mean, what the hell was the wrong with me?
Most doctors don’t see their pregnant patients until they’re 8 weeks pregnant, but I felt so awful that I got an appointment a week earlier which revealed a healthy baby with a normal heartbeat. Even though I got to see a live being inside of me and bring a picture home with me, I continued to feel awful. I didn’t want to hang out with my friends. I started skipping out on family dinners. I decided that I needed to cancel my trip to Hawaii (I was SO bummed cause I’ve been dreaming about lying on a warm beach ever since we moved to Scotland). I even missed my dear friend’s wedding. At one point, my parents almost brought me to the ER because they thought I was dehydrated (I was).
Andrew finally succumbed to my pleas and tears and booked a flight home. By the time he came home (Week 9), I had lost about 8 pounds (I normally weigh 108) due to my nausea, decreased appetite, and vomiting. Andrew became my personal slave – waking up in the middle of the night to get me apple juice (not water-because water made me feel worse) or fix some crepes (cause that was the only thing I could eat), spoon-feeding me in bed, drying my body and hair off after I showered, driving me everywhere, and just sitting with me in silence.
The following week (Week 10), I got this unimaginable abdominal pain at work that had me keeled over on the floor for 1.5 hours so we went to the ER. The pain started easing away once we were at the hospital, but they put an IV in me. I had 2 liters of fluid put in me and I didn’t even need to use the restroom. For about an hour and for the first time in weeks, I felt okay. They don’t know what caused the abdominal pain, but they think it might have been a cyst. They checked on the baby and everything looked fine.
After visiting my OBGYN for a follow-up from the ER, she decided to admit me for 3 days at the hospital for fluids, monitoring, and to try out various medications. Nothing seemed to help (I was taking, and some by IV, Reglan, Zofran, Tylenol, Norco, even Morphine!), but at least I was rehydrated.
After my stint at the hospital, I even tried acupuncture for the first time. But as soon as I got home, I had a major vomit session.
I ended up taking about a month off from work during which I had some really bad days. Never in my life have I ever felt so sick, so weak, so miserable, so depressed, so alone, so angry, so embarrassed, and so guilty. It was worse than my depression days in Scotland! I would be in bed and sleep for most of the day. I’d go from my bed, to my parents’ bed, to the couch, and then back to my own bed. It sucked because I was starving, but I couldn’t eat or drink anything. I threw up water. At one point, I threw up 3x in 1 hour and there were numerous times when I was just throwing up my intestinal acid. I’d dry-heave constantly cause I didn’t have anything else to vomit. I saw my weight drop to a 2-digit number. I was throwing up so much that I exhausted my throat muscles. I constantly felt like someone was choking me.
The side effects of the medications were also making me feel worse. I got serious constipation and would end up taking stool softener for this side effect. I’d also wake up in the middle of the night due to constant movement in my stomach, most likely due to the side effects of the Reglan. I eventually started taking Phenergan, which is a Category C drug (which means there aren’t enough studies in humans, but the potential benefit may warrant the use despite potential risks) which probably helped the most, but it made me so drowsy that I’d sleep from 6pm-10am. And since I wasn’t able to do anything, I felt even worse. Helpless would be the best word to describe it. Even taking a shower was difficult cause it made me feel more nauseous. And yes, I’ve thrown up in the shower. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown up as soon as I got out of the shower.
I didn’t want to see anybody and couldn’t respond to the texts, Facebook messages, or emails that friends and family sent me. The screens only worsened the nausea. I couldn’t play games on our iPad or even look at cute doggy videos on Instagram. And you know that freaking ‘Boomerang’ option on Instagram? That was the worst! The screens were so bad that I stopped watching TV. I would just lay in bed, cry, and listen to the Hamilton soundtrack all day. I was angry at everything even though everybody just wanted to help me. I felt like a terrible future mom because I started feeling like I didn’t want to be pregnant. I mean, how could I be a good mom if I couldn’t even handle being pregnant a few weeks? Shouldn’t I be willing to undergo ANYTHING for my baby?
And then, I’d feel even worse because I know so many people would love just to be able to get pregnant, or have been waiting years for a baby. I had terrible thoughts about everything. I literally wanted to die. Even though I always imagined my life as a mom, my only thought was that I didn’t want this baby and I just wanted everything to end.
I eventually learned that I had a case of HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) which can be described as “unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.” Duchess Kate and Ayesha Curry (Steph Curry’s wife) experienced this. While I would never wish this experience upon anybody, I wish I knew that this happens to a good number (well, 1-2% of pregnancies) of women.
While the physical suffering is terrible, the emotional and psychological suffering is just as awful. Nobody has ever shared with me that they wanted to die (due to their pain and suffering of extreme morning sickness). Nobody ever shared with me that they wanted to terminate their pregnancy (10% of HG sufferers actually end up doing this even though a lot of these pregnancies were planned or wanted. Just google ‘HG Terminate Pregnancy’. Nobody ever shared with me how much they wished for a miscarriage. Nobody ever shared how much they hated everything. You know in Genesis when God curses Eve with pains in childbearing and labor pains for birth, I always thought it was just the physical labor during the actual birth of a child. Well, it’s not. It’s everything-pain. I’ve read that before the invention of IVs and anti-sickness medication, it was the leading cause of death in early pregnancy (some people think Charlotte Bronte died from the nausea associated with pregnancy). I hope anybody who is suffering from HG reading this knows that they’re not crazy…and they are not alone. I think HG is very misunderstood and almost unknown by most of the population. It’s both physical and psychological and it absolutely sucks.
By week 13, my parents and Andrew were urging me to get back to work, probably in an attempt to get my mind off of things and to get me out of the house. After a lot of help and assistance from Andrew, I finally went to work for the first time in a month for a half day of work. I had headaches and felt nauseous for most of it. However, by week 14, I think we finally figured out the timing of the worst nausea (around 10-11am & 7-11pm) and that Phenergan was the only thing that really worked for me. During week 15, there were moments during the day when I felt “okay” and was able to get through a full day at work, tough days of vomiting and headaches would still come back with a vengeance.
I’m about halfway through week 16 now (when my doctor and others say morning sickness is supposed to go away), but I still feel like crap and at this point am so tired of everything. I’m still throwing up (although less, probably because of the Phenergan). I want to eat like a normal person, but I can’t. Yesterday, I ‘exercised’ for the first time in months, which really was just walking more than the stairs in my house and from the parking lot to a building and now my body is so sore. I’m pretty sure I lost all the muscle I ever had.
My doctor has been great. From all the tests they’ve run and what she can see, the baby is fine and healthy. She also shared with me that a lot of her patients tell her that they want to die and/or they don’t want the baby (even if they do). I also know that there are women out there who are suffering from HG way worse than me. You can read dozens of their stories online. I don’t think there is any cure to HG except for time so I guess I will keep waiting. Waiting just sucks. Anyways, here’s the best picture we have of our baby taken ~13 weeks.
I’m really thankful for all the concern, prayers, and friends/family that have wanted to help. I’m still not sure what the best way to help people with HG is except to pray (even though I hated, and still hate, praying throughout this whole experience). Even though I liked it when people were around, I didn’t want to talk to them or for them to talk to me. I didn’t like noise or movement. I also hated hearing about other people’s pregnancy experiences (especially when they weren’t at risk for dehydration or crying daily wishing for it to end), like that it will ‘definitely’ go away by week 12, week 14, week 16, or week 20. It was honestly really discouraging. Counting the weeks until ‘that day’ arrives is seriously depressing. In the beginning, I might have appreciated an hour long head massage, but I really don’t think anybody would want to be massaging around my dirty hair (cause I wasn’t washing my hair regularly). With HG, you can’t eat, so bringing food isn’t really very helpful, especially cause most foods ands smells trigger the nausea. Even responding to texts and emails about how everybody cared for me was really difficult when the screens from my phone and iPad only made me feel worse (sorry for not always replying back!). I guess for me, knowing that people care helped a lot (even if I never responded back). Reading some encouraging comments to other HG sufferers was helpful. But honestly, writing this blogpost has been the most beneficial for my own sanity.
If you want to read more about HG and what some other women experience, here are some articles that I felt captured some of what I was feeling (these stories are WAY worse than mine).