It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. The truth is that I have wanted to write this post for months now, but I have been far too incapacitated to do so. I have also contemplated whether to write this entry, fearing that others may mistake my honest rendering of my pregnancy experience as me being ungrateful or regretful of the pregnancy and the precious baby I’m working so hard to grow. So let me be clear from the start– I love this life inside me more than words can express, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a mother, especially considering I thought I would never have it. But let me also be honest— I have been deblitated and more sick than I ever fathomed a possibility.
Let’s start from the beginning.
I posted a while back about finally getting a diagnosis regarding my long history with my female woes. I was diagnosed with adenomyosis (read about that here) and after many appointments with traditional and non-traditional doctors and the like (gynecologists, iridologists, alternative doctors, herbalists, etc), everyone seemed to come to the same conclusion–I had reproductive issues that would make having a child unlikely. I still remember like it was yesterday when the “amish doctor” I visited in 2015 looked into my eyes and within seconds put his magnifying glass down and said it was probably the most severe case he’d seen (read about that here).
I also wrote in the past that I chose not to think about my issues as a death sentence for my fertility, but accepted it with realistic expectations. With that said, when I started my wellness journey a couple years back, I also had my Mirena IUD removed (read about that here) and gave up using birth control to lead a more natural life (read about that here). I hadn’t been on any birth control since 2015 and had never had any “pregnancy scares” and I felt like that fact just reinforced what I had already been told.
Well life goes on…
Kyle and I got married in the autumn of 2016. I left the comforts of my job working in the school district to pursue my health and wellness passions further and opened a small business in my hometown. In February I announced to my customers that we would be closing down temporarily at the end of the month to move to a better location, and mid-week of the last week I was open, I mysteriously became very ill. I thought I had some kind of stomach bug, which was odd because since jumping on the health and wellness bandwagon, I never got sick. But being the only employee, I couldn’t open up that day, but assumed I’d be on my feet again the next day. Luck would have it that I wasn’t for the rest of the week, so my quick shutdown happened 3 days sooner than I had planned, and as it would turn out, it wouldn’t exactly be temporary either.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I wasn’t just under the weather–I felt like I was 6 feet under. I couldn’t even clean out my store for the move. My parents spent hours cleaning up and hauling equipment and inventory with Kyle, as I laid miserably on the couch at home. I thought perhaps I had done something to my hiatal hernia because sometimes that would make me nauseous, but it would always pass. Kyle spent days performing the corrective hernia massage I had taught him on me to no avail.
Can you imagine how surprised we were when I took a pregnancy test and two lines appeared?!?!
I yelled out from the bathroom, “KYLE!!!” There were undertones of excitement and fear and disbelief mixed into it.
I confirmed the pregnancy at the doctor’s office shortly thereafter. I sat in the waiting room sniffing a bottle of lemon essential oil in an attempt to not throw up on everyone in sight. I have never felt so miserable in a waiting room before. Just standing for a few seconds in line made me feel like I would faint. I just sat there with my eyes closed, sniffing lemon, and breathing. With every breath I took, I focused with every ounce of power I had not to barf in public. I hadn’t been able to eat or drink in a few days. Even small sips of water would make me vomit so I didn’t attempt. I would just use water to keep my mouth wet. I was surviving off of licking the salt from plain Pringles. That is the only thing I could stomach. Occasionally I would take a small nibble off of the chip and let it dissolve in my mouth until it became nothing.
“All principles that I considered fundamental to who I was were about to tossed in the garbage, and this was just the beginning of it all.”
It took me 2 hours to produce enough urine for the doctor to test and send to the labs for the initial work up the office does. I was too dehydrated to produce just an inch or so of urine in a cup. And I was as white as a ghost. It was obvious that I wasn’t doing well, and if I continued down that road, I would have to be hospitalized for fluids, and no doubt start losing weight because I couldn’t chew or swallow without setting off my gag reflexes. I was given a prescription at that appointment and sent home with samples to hold me over until the prescription could be filled. It was a Category A drug, which is as safe as it gets in the drug world, but you all know me, I was hesitant to take it. I won’t even take an ibuprofen normally, and I was pregnant, so I didn’t want anything but natural goodness entering my body. Well all principles that I considered fundamental to who I was were about to tossed in the garbage, and this was just the beginning of it all.
I tried every natural remedy I could think of to curb the sickness. I brewed tea from scratch using mint and dandelion root and raspberry leaf, I tried various brands of “morning sickness” teas, preggie pops, lemon and ginger, lemon and ginger candies, sea bands and acupressure points, a chiropractic adjustment, just to name some. Nothing worked. At one point, I genuinely thought I was going to die. I lasted a couple of days longer, but ultimately gave in and tried the sample of medicine I had been given. I soon felt the edge to my misery being taken off. For the first time in a week, I was able to stand long enough to take a 5 minute shower. Soon I was able to chew and swallow some crackers or bread and keep it down. The nausea was still very intense and always present, but the point is that I could finally eat and drink, which was a huge improvement. I took the max dose of pills–two at night and two when I woke up and didn’t dare deviate from the routine.
As I said above, taking a prescription medication was just the beginning of the deviation from the principles I held dear to me. Prior to pregnancy, I ate a well balanced diet that was almost entirely organic, with very few processed foods. Superfoods and fermented foods and loads of herbs and supplements. But with the onset of my sickness, all of the foods I ate and enjoyed suddenly repulsed me to even think about, let alone smell or taste! All meats–gag, fruits and vegetables–gag. Even my infamous smoothies–gag. Bagels, I could do. Crackers, I could do. Potatoes, I could do. Bland pasta, I could do. Mac n cheese, I could do. Jolly Ranchers and Nerds, I could do. But nothing else! I was so upset to have had such a healthy diet prior to pregnancy, and I always imagined continuing this diet if I were ever to become pregnant. I thought I would be eating bone broth and fermented foods and juicing and all that jazz. Not happening. My doctor tried to console me saying to eat what I could, when I could eat, even if that meant the only foods I could stomach were carbs.
So I gave up being healthy and eating organic and just tried to survive. The days have been so slow. For months all I did was lay on the couch. The only way I can describe it is it’s like having a stomach virus day after day. I was lucky to shower a couple times a week. I would lay and moan through the gnawing nauseousness. I had to rely on Kyle to feed me for I often couldn’t even muster up enough strength to pop some easy Mac in the microwave. What I could stomach and what repulsed me would change day to day or week to week. I would eat mashed potatoes for a week and then hate them, later on all I wanted was my mom’s deviled eggs, which I ate for about a week and then hated eggs. One week toaster strudels worked well for me and the next I couldn’t look at them. The trend continued. My mom would come by 2-3 days a week and bring a batch of food for me (like a giant bowl of mashed potatoes or the deviled eggs I mentioned). Just FYI, this is the best way to help someone if you know of anyone else suffering from severe nausea or hyperemesis gravidarum. We can barely stomach anything as it is, are too sick to cook, and smelling the food being cooked in your house makes it all the worse. So just offering to bring a dish of something we are craving is the kindest act I can imagine. My mom would also clean the dishes, sweep, fold the laundry, or clean the bathrooms–again an AMAZING act you can do for someone like me. Because outside of going to doctor appointments, I literally did not move beyond the couch/ bathroom for a couple of months.
Around mid April, I was feeling a little better. As in I could move about my own house. I could usually make my own food in the microwave (I wasn’t even feeling guilty about using the death-o-wave anymore lol), wash my bowl, sit outside in the swing, occasionally even wonder down the driveway to the mailbox. My palate began to expand by a little. I still had huge aversions to meat and most vegetables, but I would sometimes crave a banana or some strawberries, pistachios, a turkey sandwich, yogurt, etc. By May I would try to catch my nausea when it was off-peak and walk around the neighborhood. This was often a struggle and would completely deplete my energy stores, but it felt like a huge success when I was able to just walk for 15 minutes. The nausea would change what time of day it was peak and off-peak, and some days it was still peak all day long, but other days I would catch a break and feel mostly okay for the majority of the day. Then when things seemed to be improving some, I ended up with pregnancy gingivitis, which is about as painful as you might imagine.
“You change and lose grasp of the person you are. It becomes impossible to imagine ever being able to feel any other way.”
It’s been the most trying time I have faced thus far in my life. You feel so close to death when you are severely ill for a long period of time. That sounds dramatic, but it is the truth for me. You feel so lonely and isolated and depressed. You change and lose grasp of the person you are. It becomes impossible to imagine ever being able to feel any other way. For me personally, I can cope more easily with being in physical pain than I can being severely nauseous. I will admit that during the height of it all, I cried a lot and began to wonder if it was worth it. I didn’t know how to get through the fog. Some women don’t, and I can’t judge them for it, and I feel so lucky that I have managed to keep trucking along. I could have it worse. Some women with HG don’t respond to medication, they may throw up dozens of times a day until they are vomiting blood. Medication worked well enough for me that I never once had to be hospitalized for IV fluids. There are some ladies in my support group that have to go in weekly or even have to have a PICC line inserted. There are women who haven’t been able to continue with their pregnancies. Yes, there are many women who have it worse than me. Sure, I am on the severe side of the sickness stick, but I’m not at the very end–at least I’m on the less severe end of the bad side.
I hope that sharing my experience will help someone reading this know that they aren’t alone, or if you haven’t experienced this, perhaps this will help you understand what someone you may know is going through and how to help them. For most people, sickness ends around the end of the first trimester. For those with HG, it often continues for the duration of the pregnancy. Just because you were able to go to work with your morning sickness, doesn’t mean that a friend will be blessed in the same way, so please don’t judge them for that. I know that if I were working, there is a zero percent chance that I would have been able to keep my job. Many women are sick with their pregnancies, but there are so many varying degrees of severity. My mom read somewhere on an HG site an analogy and shared it with me– there is a difference between hitting your funny bone on your elbow and breaking your elbow and breaking your elbow and arm in multiple spots. No one will argue that hitting your elbow feels good, but it’s just not the same to compare one of those things with the other. And it’s hurtful to do so. Geez, you would be surprised how many rude people are out there and just think that we should “suck it up”. Life is enough of a struggle during this time, stop judging.
“I hate mostly everything right now, but there’s one thing I love for sure, and that is the sweet little boy growing inside me.”
It’s hard to look around at other pregnant women because it makes me feel like I’m broken–that I can’t do “being pregnant” right when it seems that basically everyone else is. I hate that I can’t work currently. And that I can’t reopen my store at this time. I hate that I can’t even go to the grocery for myself. I hate that I had to miss my best friend’s bachelorette party, and that I can’t stop worrying whether I’ll be able to make it through her wedding day as her bridesmaid at the end of June. I hate that I’ve had to throw my health and wellness principles out the window in order to survive this pregnancy. I hate that nothing seems to be within my control anymore. I hate that I’ve had to rely so heavily on Kyle, and that I’m such a pain in the butt to deal with because I never feel good and am always snappy. I hate that I don’t know how to answer people when they ask how I am doing. I’m struggling and I don’t want to give a false impression that I am doing otherwise, but I hate having to say I’m sick over and over again and that my answer never changes. I hate that I can’t say that I’m feeling much better or pretty good or even just okay. I hate that I’m not glowing. I hate that I know with certainty that I won’t do this a second time. I hate mostly everything right now, but there’s one thing I love for sure, and that is the sweet little boy growing inside me.
We, women, are each wired differently, but at the end of the day, look at what we are doing. We are working on creating a beautiful human. And no two journeys there are the same.
I’ll post some more pregnancy blogs in the weeks to come and share some more light-hearted stories such as how we announced my pregnancy, the baby sex reveal, showers and such 🙂