It sounds like a Harry Potter spell, something not too serious. I see a lot of people saying ‘I had HG till 12 weeks’, or maybe ‘I felt so ill every morning’. I nod and I say ‘It is terrible isn’t
Let me tell you about what HG did to me. How it felt. How I still feel.
With my first pregnancy I was sick once. It was nothing.
With my second child, I vomited more times than I could count. Each and every day. The smell of the house, the smell of my other child, the smell of outside, the smell of my partner all repulsed me. It repulsed me to the point I would ask him to stay away from me. My home wasn’t dirty, it wasn’t spotless either but it didn’t smell the way I wished it would. Neutral. No smell.
Each morning I’d try to go to the bathroom, but the smell of the air after Mr had showered was too much, I’d rush to the kitchen and wretch, vomit and cry into the sink until eventually I could stand straight again.
At 12 weeks, days before my scan I thought about an abortion. I thought to myself that I could do it and pretend it was a miscarriage. I thought that if I could just be ‘unpregnant’ I would be fine again, I would be ok, that I would feel normal, that I could kiss my other child and ruffle her hair and that I could hug Mr without having to hold my breath. What happens to your mind when you are feeling so bad 90-100% of your day is strange, you consider things you would never ever dream of in a normal situation. When you can finally keep down something as simple as a dry cracker you cry with relief, which is a change from crying because you’ve wretched for hours on an empty stomach and your throat is burning from acid.
I used to wonder how she could survive in there. The turmoil of the heaving motion on my stomach, the lack of anything with serious nutritious value and the fact that each day I thought that I could not do it. I could not carry on. I was often not sure if it was her will or mine that got us through it.
When we hit week 18 and I was still really ill Mr said ‘I think maybe it’s in your head, no one can be this sick.’
I had no energy to argue, and nor would you. I just turned back to the sink and began to bring up the water I had just drank.
The problem is you see, that while you do always have the option (sometimes you NEED) to get a drip and now meds it’s far from ideal when you have other children and a partner, who at that point, doesn’t really understand what is going on. You feel a little bit daft when every pregnant person in the clinic is beginning to glow, and you are still a bit grey. You know that if you have had a bad few days you will get ketones in your urine sample and you will once again be told you have to really chug as much water as you can. You know that it’s the water that is keeping you going until the milder days arrive – whenever those are.
Being pregnant is never a smooth road, everyone has their battles. Somehow replying ‘No, I’m awful. I was sick on myself and my shoes this morning, before eventually crying into the toilet bowl and wishing I’d pass out for a while’ isn’t the right response when someone asks how you are.
That moment on the scan when you see the little beating heart, felt different to me the second time round. I watched this tiny, perfect human flourishing and I thought ‘How do you manage that in this hostile host?’ swiftly followed by ‘This is unbearable’.
A rub on the back, a cup of tea or a little box of chocolates won’t make you feel better. It will probably just make you throw up a bit more.
No matter how sick you are you must carry on. I went on a holiday with Mr while there his family were eating a Dutch delicacy – raw herring. The smell, the look of it and even the noise of them eating was so overwhelming. I wouldn’t eat it normally anyway but this was enough to make me venomous about it – even now.
I loved a nice cup of tea. I haven’t drunk tea with milk in more than 5 times in the last 3 years. I loved sachets of raspberry porridge, not anymore. The smell brings back an emotion now rather than a physical discomfort. The surprising thing about this physical issue is it has left me with emotional scars rather than something tangible to others. Often a mother who has given birth vaginally will say that was the most painful part, that is the bit that put her off having more children. Women who have had a cesarean birth often say that the recovery was painful and I know a few women who will never have another child. This is not down to the physical scar on her stomach, but the emotional one left from the memory of the operating theater and the recovery. I knew that if I wanted another child, I would have to go through this again. I would need to feel like ending her life and mine once again.
When I was pregnant with Ivy I was more prepared, it was in my notes again but this time they paid much more attention to. With Ivy, I didn’t need to do a normal pregnancy test. I sat down with a bowl of my favourite avocado and lime pasta once the girls were in bed, I breathed it in deeply. It smelled not as sweet and inviting as usual. I began to eat, with each mouthful I started to feel a little worse. Finally, I gave up, and ran from living room to kitchen where I then deposited the ‘final meal’. I text Mr and told him the good news. The day after I did the test anyway because it’s required to get a midwife appointment. My coping method became walking. Each day I woke up, vomited quietly into the toilet, cried for half an hour, cleaned the sick from my face, got the girls ready and we walked. We walk the same walk along the canal for weeks and weeks. On the way I would buy:
Dried banana chips
3 x 2-liter bottles of water
I would also pack a sandwich or two for the girls and some other small snacks. When I was walking I would often feel clammy as I hadn’t eaten, my legs would feel weak but I knew that in order to see this through I had to dig deep. I would run my tongue over my teeth and ever after scrubbing them with my toothbrush, and a mouthwash rinse they would be grainy and rough. My skin was dry and flaky, and my hair was not thick and shiny. My nails were brittle and I looked like a round-bellied drug addict.
It didn’t matter the weather, hot, cold, rainy, thunderstorms or a monsoon. I needed to be out of the house. During this pregnancy, I had a glorious break from it, suddenly – which can be terrifying if you are used to the sickness. When I could eat, I found myself ravenous. I ate hearty meals of potatoes, rice, and chicken. I ate the fruit I had wanted so much all those weeks ago. I would go to sleep satisfied and knowing that tomorrow that could change. Tomorrow I would wake up with the demon in my belly and in my mind once again.
There were still plenty of weeks after where those feelings appeared.
What is left now? I look at my middle child now and I recall the morning in the kitchen after Mr accused me of imagining it all – while watching me vomit, after crying because I was sick on my favourite shoes, after holding my stomach and for slivers of moments in time, wishing that I was no longer pregnant – what is left is an overwhelming guilt. I felt guilt for the baby that was aborted months before I felt mentally able to cope with being pregnant again and we went on to conceive our middle child. I still feel guilty, I still mourn the child that I was not strong enough for. I feel guilt for the lie I told myself and others about that baby. That I had no choice because I didn’t have the means to look after another. The guilt that my partner did not agree with my decision. The knowing that millions of women would give all they have and more for a chance to feel what I felt because they have issues with conception. The guilt that I can’t change any of it, if I could go back I can’t say I would have handled it differently at all.
While Hyperemesis Gravidarum is behind me for now, what remains is the guilt for the thoughts I had, the weakness in me when I took the decision to terminate a beautiful healthy baby, the fear that grips be when I hear the term Hyperemesis Gravidarum, the thought that even my own partner had doubted what was going on with me and knowing that the weight of the guilt is the reason we will never have more children.