Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

An amazing post from a mother of 6 who suffered much more than I with her pregnancies: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I completely understand everything she is talking about in this post; that's how my first and second babies were for me. Throwing up bile. Yep. I needed IVs every three days for dehydration. Oh, and the intolerance of any smells!

Things are definitely getting better for me this time around, but they are not good yet. I always hesitate to tell people I'm feeling "better" because the natural expectation is Oh, we'll be seeing her soon I guess! No. Better means I am not getting worse. Better means there are still 6 weeks to go before I can function and drive myself places and take care of my family. Better means that instead of having all-day, constant nausea that puts me on the verge of throwing up with every single bite of food, I have a few moments in the morning where I feel well enough to carry my laundry basket downstairs or sit at the table instead of lying on the couch. Better does NOT mean "all better."

Another thing that really resonated with me in Sarah's post is how much misunderstanding there is. When I was pregnant with my second and living with my mom, she kept pushing me to drink more water so I wouldn't be as dehydrated. I tried, in as few words as possible because talking made me throw up, to explain that every sip of water made my stomach seize and I had to drink slowly so I didn't throw up. And she said, "Well, Tienne, if the doctor told me to drink more water I would drink it, even if it made me throw up!" And I said, "What would that accomplish?" Because the truth of hyperemesis is that nothing helps. An empty stomach will make me throw up, but so will eating food. Drinking water would make me throw up (or Coke, or Gatorade, or milk, or juice, or Perrier, or Sprite, or Ginger Ale, or ANYTHING) yet if I didn't drink, I got dehydrated, and that made me throw up, too. You have no control over your body. There is NOTHING you can do to make it better.

I have been very fortunate with pregnancies #3 and #4 to have found a combination of medication and rest that works to keep me from throwing up, and yet every single moment of the day I am working on NOT throwing up. If I sneeze, my stomach seizes up, and I have to breathe gently and keep very still for a few minutes until it stops rumbling and clenching, or I will throw up. I try as much as possible to keep myself in that perfect state of "food in my stomach, but not overfull" so that if I do sneeze, or cough, or get startled by a bird flying into the window, my subsequent reaction is not to throw up. When I was pregnant with my second, I got word that my cousin had given birth to a baby girl, and I gasped in elated surprise. And threw up, just from that. I remember it vividly because I had been drinking a glass of milk, and it came out in one, horrible, gelatin-like chunk that wobbled when it hit the bucket.

It's not just the unpleasantness of throwing up that I'm trying to avoid. Sarah has a great line in her post that hits the nail on the head:

(One of the crappiest things about hyperemesis is that once you get to a certain dehydration level it is super hard to recover from it-and every symptom just gets worse and worse-it is a vicious cycle-it needs to be diagnosed early on.) 

For me, throwing up makes it more likely that I will throw up. My stomach will be more prone to seizing, my gag reflex will be more sensitive, my aversions will be stronger because every time I look at a certain food I will remember the taste and sensation of throwing it up, and I will be unable to eat it. My entire day revolves around trying to not throw up.

I don't experience hyperemesis the way I did with pregnancies #1 and #2 BECAUSE I am putting all my concentration into avoiding throwing up. My baby is actually getting the nutrition I consume because the food I eat is being processed through my digestive system instead of lining the sewer pipes. The most important work I do every day is keeping my food down.

It is very very long. We are on week eight of my illness. I know the light at the end of the tunnel is near. I can make it out, way in front of me. Every day brings me closer to the point where I will be functional again (at least for part of the day) and able to contribute to the family life that has been going on around me since November. The depression is bad, but it's an amazing thing...I can really feel God's grace surrounding me. It happened quite suddenly just after Christmas, like Jesus came along and lifted up a blanket that was smothering me, and I can breathe again.

The thing about an illness like this is that it's the same hope and encouragement you find in a tragedy like a school shooting or a famine. People want to help. They pull together and it brings out the best in humanity. They may not fully understand, but they still try; they still step forward and offer themselves. That's what I find so beautiful. What an expression of love for this baby to come into the world swaddled in the offerings of so many people, some of whom (like those at church who brought us meals) might never even meet the baby!

It is worth it. That's what I keep repeating to myself. It's all so worth it.


Mary said...

I am so so sorry you are going through this. I can't even imagine. Congratulations on this newest little one! What a sacrifice of love you have to make for each of your children. They are so loved! I will add you to our family prayers and hope these next few weeks go super quickly for you!

Suzanne said...

I hope you really do feel better soon. Praying for you, from one hyperemesis sufferer to another.

Rae said...

I am so very sorry. I am also thankful that you are given a little light during this time. Here's to it being over soon!

Michele Chronister said...

I just found your blog through another blog...thank you so much for writing this! I'm pregnant with my second and have had hyperemesis (for the whole pregnancy!) both times (assuming that since I'm days away from the third trimester with no end in sight this one will probably continue on to the end, too). Reading stories like yours make me feel less alone...thanks!!

Michele Chronister said...

Hi! I actually commented on this post when I was pregnant with my most recent baby girl (who is now a year and a half) and I still am so glad you wrote this! I'm working with Haley of the Carrots for Michaelmas blog to run a series on HG from the Catholic/open to life perspective, and I was wondering if you'd be interested in contributing a post to our series? Thanks!