Surviving the Sickness: Life with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

My husband and I decide we want another baby and BOOM- I’m pregnant. I see those two little pink lines staring back at me. I never knew just how much joy those two lines would bring me. However, each time we choose to add another bundle of joy to our family, we also make the choice to willingly walk through nine of the most difficult months of our lives.

Within just days, that joy is washed over by the hardest thing I have EVER endured in my entire life…extreme morning (all day!) sickness. I’m not talking about typical first trimester nausea and tiredness. I am talking about a severe and intense condition. Think the worst stomach bug you’ve ever had combined with the worlds worst hangover…24/7, x10, for months on end.

It wasn’t until my third pregnancy I was aware this is an actual medical condition, which is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This diagnosis consists of severe nausea and vomiting, strong food aversions, dehydration, headaches, weight loss, extreme fatigue and low blood pressure.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) can look different case by case. For me, it consists of every symptom listed about. I vomit multiple times a day for the first five months. That’s right. Every, single day. So many triggers make me vomit. Smelling ANY food. Brushing my teeth. Standing up too fast. Heating up my kids chicken nuggets. Seeing a food commercial on TV. You get the picture.

I’ll never forget the time I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was driving with my oldest in the car who was 14 months at the time. There it was, that awful feeling quickly approaching in my mouth. The inevitable was coming. I frantically searched my car for a bag, bucket, heck anything! I had NOTHING. I turned the corner so fast not even looking where I had pulled into and right there in the middle of the (crowded) Sonic parking lot there I went, all over the pavement. I still feel bad for the people who witnessed it while sipping their coffee and eating their breakfast burritos.

Then there’s the MAJOR food aversions – I can’t look at food. Can’t talk about food. Can’t smell food. It is FORCING my body to keep food down for the sake of nourishing my growing little bean. I am pretty sure with my youngest I lived off canned mandarin oranges (gross) and toast the first four months.

Another characteristic of HG is you should ditch the word “morning” in morning sickness. It is 24/7 – morning, afternoon, night and oh yes – even in the wee hours of the night I wake up puking.

Before I was aware of HG I just thought this was part of the pregnancy journey. I believed I was one of those moms who was going to be miserable her entire pregnancy. The sickness was so intense, I often felt robbed of the beauty and joy in pregnancy. Many days for months upon months, I was curled up in fetal position sobbing and begging God to please help me. Please let me feel normal again.

My hope in telling my story is that other women may know they are not alone if you are suffering from HG. Or maybe you are like me, you thought this was normal pregnancy symptoms. Please know this is not normal. Please talk to your doctor and don’t be afraid to share just how truly sick you are. HG can be a serious condition, and many women are hospitalized because of it. Luckily, I haven’t been there, but I was close as I experienced dehydration and pre-term contractions with our youngest when I was 28 weeks pregnant.

A few do’s and don’ts with HG

  • DO ask for help. I can’t stress this enough. I am lucky to have a very supportive husband who practically steps in as Mr. Mom. Ask for help from whomever with whatever you need help with. It truly takes a village ya’ll!
  • DO find what liquid you can keep down and slowly drink it ALL DAY. Preventing dehydration is key.
  • DON’T tell a mama with HG to try ginger, or saltines, or lemon, or eating before getting out of bed. No remedy out there can make the symptoms subside – coming from a person who has tried EVERYTHING under the sun.
  • DON’T over do it. Rest when you can. Take breaks, move slowly and take lots of deep breaths.

HG will eventually end. You will eventually remember what it feels like to feel normal. The moment your eyes meet that sweet baby you fought so hard for those last nine months, it will have ALL been worth it. And chances are, you will even do it again.

This is the power of love. This is motherhood.


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