When I found out that I was pregnant with Landon, I was beyond happy. My husband and I were newly married and I was excited to embrace this new chapter in our life. Little did I know, I was about to go through one of the hardest things that I have ever experienced. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is a pregnancy-related disease that approximately five women out of a thousand will experience (McCall, 2006, pg. 17). And I was one of them. HG sufferers experience severe vomiting and/or extreme nausea, malnutrition, weight loss, and dehydration.
To make matters worse, my husband and I moved during my pregnancy to a very small town in Southwest Texas. With no family or friends living close by and living in a town that had very limited resources, those were some of the darkest days I have ever had. Jason would leave for work and I would be left to fend for myself. The days went by so slowly that I thought I wouldn't get through it. I lost 10% of my total body weight and was so weak that it was hard to do even the most basic things in life, like make myself something to eat or even shower. I felt alone and trapped inside my body forced to endure the same day, day after day with no relief. I felt guilt that I wanted to end a pregnancy that we had so dearly wanted. I felt ashamed that I wanted to die just to no longer suffer.
The illness even made it difficult to even advocate for myself to receive proper care. It was hard enough just getting to the doctor's appointment and sitting in the waiting room for an hour or more to be seen. Sometimes, just having to leave because I just couldn't physically wait any longer for the doctor. The two obstetricians that I saw during my pregnancy, offered little support and told me just to eat whatever I could. It wasn't until the middle of my second trimester, that I found the San Antonio Birth Center and started my care there that I had someone to help restore my health. And then into my third trimester, the nausea and vomiting eventually became less and less. My focus changed from just trying to survive day to day to focusing on becoming healthy enough to have a natural birth. You can read Landon's birth story here.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum robbed me of what I thought pregnancy would be like. It robbed me of loving my baby while it was growing in my belly. It robbed my husband and me of what was supposed to be an amazing time in our lives. I have been working for the past 2 years towards having another child, trying to heal and prepare my mind, body, and soul to endure HG again. The fear is ever present when I think about getting pregnant again. I'm scared of being that sick again. I'm scared that I won't be able to take care of my family. I'm scared that Landon will be scarred seeing what HG can do to someone he loves and depends on.
I'm scared, but this time will be different. Like Maya Angelou famously said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better". Preparation, education, and support are the keys to overcoming Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This time, I will be able to advocate for myself and get the medical treatment I deserve. This time, I have resources and know of the many treatment plans that are available me.
This time, I might have HG again but it will not have me.
There is still so much research that needs to be done to find the root cause and cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum. But sharing is a powerful way to change our birth culture and to inspire other mothers. If you would like to share your HG story, please email yours to: AmazingBirthJourney@gmail.com
McCall, A. F. (2006). Beyond morning sickness: battling hyperemesis gravidarum. Charleston, SC: Booksurg.com.