I missed out on sharing quite a lot while I was pregnant. Its not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that I think sometimes when things are really hard, they are easier to talk about retrospectively.
In May 2017 I found out we were expecting our second baby. I felt every emotion you can possibly imagine. From absolute shock as we weren’t expecting to have any more children to delight and excitement at how lucky we were. Fear that something might go wrong and absolute panic that it would be another pregnancy like I had with Theo.
When I was expecting Theo in 2012 I had a condition called hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). It’s incredibly hard to explain this condition anyone who hasn’t suffered from it. It’s is NOT the same as ‘morning sickness’. Sickness in pregnancy is common and around 7 out of every 10 pregnant women experience nausea and or vomiting. For most women, this improves by around week 14. HG involves excessive nausea and vomiting and is thought to affect around 1 in every 100 women. It occasionally eases at 20 weeks but can continue for the entire pregnancy.
As well as nausea and vomiting, symptoms include and extremely heightened sense of smell, excessive saliva production (ptyalism), and headaches and constipation from dehydration.
When I was 6 weeks along with Noah, I felt the familiar waves of nausea begin to wash over me. Over the next few weeks my life changed beyond all recognition. I was housebound, I vomited up to 20 times a day. Anything I ate came straight back up. I vomited so frequently and so hard that I tore my oesophagus and vomited bright red blood. I wasn’t able to care for myself or for Theo and when I wasn’t vomiting the nausea made life unbearable. I began taking medication to try and avoid long hospital admissions. They helped me keep down enough fluid to stay at home but did nothing improve the nausea.
On one occasion I was about 12 weeks along, I was alone at home with Theo and had been vomiting for about 20 minutes – there was nothing left to come out except blood from my throat. I was hoarse from coughing and I had wet myself from throwing up so hard. Theo came to look for me and the look on his face was one I will never forget. He looked at me like he didn’t know me and it broke my heart.
My mental health began to suffer. I wanted this baby so badly yet it was pregnancy was ruining my life. I felt depressed, frustrated that I was unable to look after my son, to enjoy my pregnancy, to even care for myself. I felt afraid that the HG itself or the tablets I was taking would hurt the baby. I felt guilty that I was so unhappy at a time when I should be so happy. Most of all I felt like a failure. That my body had let me down again. I had numerous hospital admissions for rehydration but there isn’t any cure except delivery. That for me was the part that was hardest to cope with, that no one could really help.
Noah was born early (not due to the HG but preeclampsia) and the HG left as quickly as it came. It has taken me awhile to come to terms with how difficult the pregnancy was and how much of life I missed out on. After being ill for months with cancer and missing out on so much time with Theo I felt so guilty that I was ill again. Noah however has been worth all of the pain, all of the tears, and all of the worry. I’m so happy that I was able to give Theo the gift of a brother.
HG can have a huge impact on your life at a time when you were expecting to be enjoying pregnancy and looking forward to the birth of your baby. It can affect you both emotionally and physically. Severe sickness can be exhausting and stop you doing everyday tasks, make you feel anxious about going out or being too far from home in case you need to vomit, isolated because you don’t know anyone who understands what it’s like to have HG, confused as to why this is happening to you or unsure whether you can cope with the rest of the pregnancy if you continue to feel very ill.
If you feel like this don’t keep it to yourself. You can contact Pregnancy Sickness Support https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk
who have all sorts of coping strategies, a forum and can offer peer support, advice or just someone to listen. Don’t feel like you have to cope alone. I can promise you, even though some days it doesn’t feel like it, it’s all worth it in the end.