Dear Kate - Your Hyperemisis Gravidarum Sisters Understand

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I have always said I would rather go through labour and birth a hundred times over without pain-relief, than to have morning sickness once.

And I would know - I have had it five times. Even with the baby I lost at 14 weeks, I had severe morning sickness - or hyperemisis gravidarum - as its medical term is called. Each time I found out I had another baby on the way, which was usually just after the 4 week mark, I would spend the next week or so frantically trying to get meals in the freezer and get the house in order, because I knew that once week 6 hit, I would be down and out.

It's such an all-encompassing feeling. I tried to explain it to my husband once in terms he would understand....

"it's like being stuck in a stifling engine room on the Cook Strait ferry in a very, very bad storm for 12 weeks with no let up in the weather."

This. In fact, this picture describes hyperemisis gravidarum perfectly. Now just imagine yourself in the bowels of that ship.

Photo Source

With the new royal baby on the way, once again the spotlight falls onto this little-understood condition. I hate seeing all the criticism and mocking of Kate over this - it's just ignorant ranting by people who don't have a clue about this. You can't just 'get over it,' or 'suck it up, honey,' or 'find something to distract you,' or 'eat a cracker' or 'drink plenty of water.'
That advice is laughable.

It just doesn't work. It might be very treatable, as one midwife suggested in the New Zealand Herald today, but often those treatments just make them feel better, not the sufferer. An intravenous drip might save the mother from dehydration, but it won't take away the relentless, unmerciful nausea. There's nothing that makes this better, except giving birth.

The last thing you want to do is eat and drink, because every. single. breath. makes your stomach want to heave. Every drop of water or smell or taste will make you throw up, and if there's nothing in your stomach, then you'll just dry-retch all day long. The only release is sleep. I used to hate waking up in the morning because it meant a whole day of misery and getting acquainted with the toilet. At one point, my dehydration was so bad, that (look away if this is too much information), my urine turned brown.

I was the only one in my family to experience it this severe too; and sometimes, even women who have had morning sickness don't understand it. They liken it to their own experiences, which maybe was horrible enough to complain about, but not horrible enough that they couldn't carry on with their daily activities.

This kind of morning sickness that Kate has, and the one that I had, and what many women go through, is the kind where you absolutely cannot do anything, except lie as still as you can because even turning your head a little on the pillow will make you throw up.

Thankfully, I had a husband who was able to get time off work, but as our family grew, by the time I was pregnant with my fourth baby it was getting harder to manage, so my mother arranged for a young friend to come and live with us during the really bad weeks to look after the children, which was an absolute life-saver.

As the weeks progressed for me it gradually dissipated, though I do know of some women who have it the entire 9 months. I can't even imagine how awful that must be. They are truly heroic. I at least knew that by 22-24 weeks the worst would be over.

During my last pregnancy with Miss A, I had a tally each day. "Today I've only thrown up xx amount of times. That's one less time than yesterday." Progress!
We go through it because we know that the sweet baby at the end will be worth the weeks of hell. It's a short time in our lives for the reward of that precious life.

So, believe me when I say that childbirth is a picnic compared to the relentless assault of hyperemisis gravidarum.

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc


Anonymous said...

I too suffered severely with ‘morning sickness’. Although I much prefer to see it labelled hyperemisis gravid arum - it sounds as impressively severe as what it actually is!!
Morning sickness doenst really sound that bed to a non sufferer.
I had it for 9 months with my first, lost 1/2 stone before I gained any weight. Couldn’t be around any meat for the full nine months. As soon as my baby was born I was ravenous for meat.
It is totally bizarre.
I discovered VitB6 and it seriously lessened the ravages of it on my following pregnancies. I would get sick from 5-6 weeks until at least 12-15 weeks. My only pregnancy without it was my 3rd.
My tastebuds heightened and I could not bear to be around things like toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, cleaning stuff, the toilet after it had been used and meat cooking!!
Horrendous stuff.
I think the only reason I never ended up in hospital like my daughter did was because of my isolation.

Rachel said...

Ahhhh the toothpaste! Brushing my teeth was actually a better pregnancy test for me than the pregnancy tests. I couldn't bear it either. Ugh - sorry to hear your daughter had it so bad too - it's a dreadful thing. I think you're amazing for going through this so many times. Truly. xx

Sammy said...

Wow. That sounds truly truly awful! Beyond bad. Sorry, but so grateful for my mild morning sickness ;-)

Elizabeth Collins said...

Oh man - that sounds seriously awful; my cousin got it and ended up in hospital on numerous occasions with all her pregnancies (she had 4 kids also)!

I doubt I would have had more than one if I'd had to deal with that. I got no morning sickness, but did suffer from serious heartburn from six weeks - enough to require medication throughout my second pregnancy. Not in the same category though, as it was fairly controllable...

Poor Kate, and I truly admire ladies like you and my cousin (and Kate) who are prepared to suffer through all that time and again!

Heather LeFebvre said...

I've been thinking of you with Kate's announcement. I don't know how you, or she, do it/did it. I thought she was super brave to have another one. I'm guessing she wants a family similar to the one she grew up in. I think you were super brave to have FOUR!!! I'm sure you are glad that is behind you and you can enjoy your precious children now :)

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