“I can’t give you an IV here, so I want you to go to an E.R. If I had an IV, I would stick it in right now myself. Sometimes women get something called ‘hyperemesis gravidarum’ while pregnant. It’s excessive morning sickness.”
Those were the first words from the doctor, which started the months long journey of my first pregnancy. I had been throwing up constantly for 24 hours and I was worried about my baby. I was confused. What is “hyperemesis gravidarum” and did my baby just cast a spell on me?
No, hyperemesis gravidarum is not a Harry Potter spell, but “a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. Mild cases are treated with dietary changes, rest, and antacids. More severe cases often require a stay in the hospital, so that the mother can receive fluid and nutrition through an IV.”
About a year later, Kate Middleton would suffer from hyperemsis gravidarum (HG) during her pregnancy with Prince George, and the condition would make the news, but in 2011, I had never heard of it.
HG blindsided me. My mother never experienced anything like it, and the only friends who I knew who had been pregnant experienced only mild nausea and vomiting. I went from a positive pregnancy test to throwing up in gas stations and in the front yard on my way out the door. Yikes.
The first weekend after the positive pregnancy test got so bad, it sent me to the ER for IV fluids. No one knows exactly what causes HG, but high levels of the pregnancy hormone HCG are thought to contribute. In fact, in the ER they did a blood test to confirm the pregnancy and the doctor asked me if I was absolutely sure I was only 6 weeks pregnant, because my HCG levels were so high.
I was sure.
Thankfully I did not need to be admitted. With some medication and a few extra doctor visits to monitor my weight loss, it was not as severe as it could have been. Some women are confined to bed rest and long hospital stays. It can get very scary for the mother and baby as they are deprived of the nutrients they need to thrive.
Even with a more mild case, it was still a rough few months. It was a good day when I could keep down at least some of my weight gain shake. I lost quite a bit of weight, vomited at least 5 times a day, and had to cut back hours at work. I started turning a corner around 17 weeks, and by 20 it had nearly subsided all together. To my great relief, I gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy, with no long term effects of the HG detected. I went on to have a baby girl 2 and a half years later, and, though my pregnancy with her was difficult, it was not nearly as bad. I “only” threw up 2 to 3 times a day…
HG was a battle, both emotionally and physically.
It felt strange to feel so helpless, to not keep up my regular activities, and to battle feeling like my only worth was in what I could (or in this case couldn’t) contribute. And who was I when I couldn’t contribute? Or how I shouldn’t complain about throwing up when I have a perfectly healthy baby and some others would do anything to have a baby. Luckily I learned a lot from that experience, like that it’s okay to rely on others and take more than you can give for awhile and, while I wasn’t going through infertility, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t allowed to feel pain. Yes, other kinds of pain may be harder, but it does no good to compare them.