I need to get something off my chest.
Whether for myself or for others, I write to heal. Heal physically. Heal emotionally. I’ve already shared with my readers my journey with hyperemesis gravidarum (read here). I thought I had written enough to shed that weight from my chest. I was wrong. It is a beast. And I don’t know how long it will take me to heal from the ordeal of last year. In one way I am so OVER talking about it, I want to be done with it. And in another way, I can’t say enough about it, and I will never be “over” it, as it remains forever a part of me.
The isolation from HG remains still, months after giving birth. No I am no longer confined to bed in a dark room, but I feel so separate from others. To be surrounded by a world of people who don’t understand something that has become crucial to who I am now. To be surrounded by friends, family, and strangers who perhaps mean well, but are clueless about what HG is. I’m not talking about what the definition is when you type it into Google, nor not what medical sites or medical professionals describe it as. Those are mere words. I’m talking about what this condition does to a person, how it depletes and destroys, how it forever changes a person who has survived it. I talk on social media about how I was “sick”, but God, I wish there was a better word. What I want to say is how I “died”. But I imagine everyone would roll their eyes at that. Yet I truly do associate the word with death. It somehow manages to kill a person without actually killing them.
I’ve had so many people dismiss my experience in one way or another. (Whether they are consciously doing so or not, sometimes it is hard to decipher. But people, words are powerful, so be aware of the meaning and weight the words you speak carry). And as a result of having this happen so many times, I have doubted myself and perception of the experience as well. Then I snap out of it, and say sternly within, “No, what I experienced is real!” So I still hop on HG forums and check in with my online support groups. That’s the only bit of camaraderie I can find. And last night at 3am I found myself on Instagram, yet again searching hashtags for hyperemesis gravidarum. Searching for some comfort, for some understanding. And I happened upon a blog, by a woman named Tara (tarabliss.com). And I read her story, her words so beautiful and so much more articulate than my own. And I wept for a good hour. For this woman took the words right out of my mouth over and over again.
“But all Hyperemesis Gravidarum does is destroy. Sickens. Kills. Maims.
We are afraid of that. It’s a beast that takes residence in your house and consumes every living thing there. It’s scary.”
She didn’t get a baby at the end of her journey. And I can’t even imagine that feeling. Certainly, I would be in a straight jacket today if that had been the case for me. To go through hell and back and not come out the other end with your baby, there are no words.
But I read and related tremendously to this woman. Health and wellness enthusiast, essential oil guru, yogi, organic foodie, etc like myself. She just pleaded for others to understand the “level of surrender” it took to BEG for anti-nausea meds. And what it felt like to fully feel like you would DIE without them. That act in itself is a huge ordeal, it is a huge surrender of our way of life, of who we are and strive to be. HG robs you of who you are at your most basic foundation. Of all those building blocks that make you, you. It leaves you unable to even recognize who you are. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of what it does. It robs you of EVERYTHING.
“Leonie Dawson wrote in anguish about her experience of completely losing her faith while she had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. She lost faith in her body, which she once thought was a miracle, she lost faith in the Universe, and in Life itself.”
I’ve tried for a year now to find the words to explain it. Oftentimes the best I could do is to say it left me inhuman. Like there was nothing left of me, but a body, and a broken body at that. Like her, I never wanted anyone’s sympathy. I just wanted people– I STILL just want people to understand what is meant when I say, “I had hypermeremesis gravidarum.”
“To the GP that I visited to get my prescription renewed so I could carry on surviving; the GP who told me, ‘No, I will not give you a prescription for that drug, you don’t need it. Just eat peanut butter on toast and get on with it. All women who make the decision to get pregnant have to go through this,’ please, quietly go fuck yourself.
To the nurse at my second hospital visit who said to me ‘My wife had what you have when she was pregnant. She didn’t vomit though,’ please, you clueless prick, go fuck yourself.”
And I believe deep down that people mean well. I don’t think they mean to be insensitive, but for the love of God, don’t compare my pregnancy to your sister or wife that had morning sickness, don’t say I will miss being pregnant, don’t ask me why I’m selling my maternity clothes, don’t drop statements or ask questions about future children. There is already a knife in my heart and you are twisting it. I am already wounded and you are hurting me more. And then after the original hurt from such statements dissipate, I then become angry at the ignorance of such words. I am so tired of this hold people now have on me in this way, and it is wearing me down. Don’t show me sympathy or pity. Please just recognize my pain and be sensitive to the things you are saying that could further exacerbate the pain that already exists. Just hear me please, I’m begging you.
“I hated being alive.
Everything that I once loved, sickened me.
All things personal development could kiss my ass. Positive thinking? It’s all bullshit.
The touch of the afternoon sun on my skin would send me recoiling back into the dark like a vampire. (Yep you read that right – sunshine made me vomit)
I hated the mornings and I hated the evenings. Mornings meant I had 15 hours of battle ahead of me (a far cry from my usually optimistic morning mantra of ‘thank you for the blessing of a new day.’)”
It is a condition that is physical in nature, but it breaks you emotionally, too. It changes everything. It changes your relationship with everyone. You become a burden to those around you, and some people will carry that burden and others will not. There were people who were not there for me during that time, and I forgive them, but my heart is bruised, and I cannot forget that feeling of dying and some people seemingly not giving a shit. How do you forget something like that?
Hospitalization, anti-nausea drugs, and anti-depressants are the only ways to manage HG. Without them, the mothers could starve or dehydrate to death. Or even commit suicide. Yes, it happens. Mothers and babies die from both the physical and emotional effects of HG. The physical pain of my labor was nothing in comparison to the pain of my pregnancy. I would gladly go through labor every day while pregnant as a trade for having HG if given that option. Child birth hurts, but you have to believe me when I say it’s a drop in the bucket to hyperemesis gravidarum.
This is what HG is. It is vile, it is unforgiving. Now having emerged on the other side, I thank the universe every day that I am no longer pregnant with HG. I do see the silver linings. At least I had health insurance. At least I had drugs. At least the drugs had some effect on me. At least I got a healthy, beautiful baby at the end. But thank you, universe, that I’m not sick anymore. And I ask the universe each day to continue to help me heal from the aftermath. Because it is not over for me. There is so much damage remaining. And I know that those reading this won’t fully understand that. No one will, unless they have lived it, and I get that. While I am thrilled to not be sick, to not be pregnant, and to at last have my beautiful baby– I am forever changed. A part of me has suffered and died. A part of me has been born. And I have to figure out how to live again as this new being who has emerged.