Sickness is almost a rite of passage when it comes to pregnancy. The traditional timeline of morning sickness takes place from the first six to twelve weeks and it isn’t limited to the early hours of the day.
After that, for the next 16 weeks, you’re supposed to experience cravings and a burst of energy due to the “honeymoon” status of the second trimester. With this stereotype of pregnancy, I expected the first part to be rough, my second trimester to be enjoyable, and the final trimester to become more challenging due to the physical demands of carrying a baby. And although I had heard of celebrities like Kate Middleton and Amy Schumer having Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) pregnancies, I hoped that the one in ten odds of being afflicted with sickness for my whole pregnancy would be in my favour.
As it would turn out, however, I would not be so lucky.
My Experience with HG
With my second pregnancy (my first ended in miscarriage), I had no signs of sickness until I was five weeks and five days into it. My husband and I had even shared the news with our parents, celebrating with restaurant and takeout food.
Then the sickness hit.
I was nauseous 24/7 until I gave birth 8 months later. The vomiting began a week into my chronic nausea, with my first waking moment every day involving me grabbing a bucket so my stomach could expel its contents.
Weeks went by and my weight dropped. I was getting sick up to six times a day, which may be why I was only initially diagnosed with severe nausea and vomiting instead of HG. By the ninth week, however, I became so lethargic from not eating—not just because everything came back up but due to a secondary symptom called dysgeusia, which involved having a fuzzy feeling and an awful sour taste in my mouth, along with a white tongue. After taking a round of antibiotics for what was misdiagnosed as oral thrush, an Ears/ Nose/ Throat (ENT) specialist said the white tongue was what she sees in cancer patients due to a lack of hydration.
I was given Diclectin at twelve weeks and was told I could take Gravol, but both did nothing for me. I hoped that my morning sickness would subside after the twelve-week mark, but it kept getting increasingly worse. Metoclopramide was my next prescription and it made me vomit one time less a day, with my nausea staying the same. At seventeen weeks, I was given Zofran, which reduced my vomiting to once or twice every few days and sometimes weeks, but my nausea remained strong and debilitating.
Debilitated by HG
Because of my HG, I could no longer do laundry, dishes, vacuum, or make food. I spent my days on the couch with a bucket in front of me playing turn-based RPG video games (because real time games require subtle movements from game play). I found solace in online HG forums because the people there knew how hard it was to live minute- by- minute, hating every second of being alive. I couldn’t tolerate car rides or lie down on my back, so I became trapped in my house and body for the duration of my pregnancy.
Unfortunately, my gynecologist said there was nothing more she could do for me. Before getting pregnant, I was under the impression that severe sickness during pregnancy could be managed with medication. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to reduce the symptoms, let alone get rid of them. Other people online claimed how they were given a round of Prednisone, IV medications through the E.R., a Scopalamine patch behind the ear, a Zofran pump, Total Parental Nutrition (TPN), along with a host of other pills. While some were successful in their treatments, like me, many were left to flounder until the day they gave birth.
Throughout the pregnancy, I was told at pre-natal appointments that my sickness would go away soon. By the time I reached around 30 weeks, the narrative changed and it was pretty set that I would not find relief until my delivery date.
My Postpartum Experience
While most people find that their sickness disappears after they deliver their placenta, the only relief I had on the operating table during my caesarean section was the foul taste in my mouth disappearing. It took another three weeks of experiencing waves of nausea before it went away. Car rides were still triggering during those weeks, with my emotional state also dictating my levels of sickness.
Before experiencing the terror of an HG pregnancy, I planned on having my tubes tied during my elective C-section because of issues with my hips, but I did struggle with feelings of guilt that I wouldn’t be able to give my child another sibling. After this pregnancy and learning that many people with HG go on to have another HG pregnancy, sometimes worse, however, I am convinced I made the right decision. My body has gone through so much that I will never do it again, especially now with a pandemic and not being able to guarantee outside help during a debilitating pregnancy.
After the long road of my HG pregnancy, I received my reward: my daughter. Although she is healthy, she was born in the first percentile and diagnosed as Small for Gestational Age (SGA), with a chance of Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), due to her small stature that could have been caused by malnutrition.
Despite this traumatizing chapter of my life, the most beautiful and vivacious little girl was born from it and she is worth all the suffering it took to bring her into this world.