MY STORY OF SEVERE SICKNESS AND VOMITING DURING PREGNANCY
It was late April and I had been experiencing what I thought was several days of flu symptoms. Lying in bed, nausea, vomiting, a migraine, feeling really tired and weak… that’s definitely what it was, right? Wrong! By day three I noticed the symptoms, especially the nausea, were coming and going with no real pattern. I already had a seven year old son so the signs and symptoms of pregnancy were not new to me. I understood how pregnancy-related nausea could stop you in your tracks one minute and you could be fine shortly after.
I took a pregnancy test that evening and sure enough, there were the double pink lines. I was in disbelief really, as was my husband. As a lady with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) who had been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for two years, I didn’t know if another pregnancy was on the cards for me. But there we were. My husband was very excited, as this would be his first child.
I thought I was about four weeks pregnant. The extreme nausea and vomiting was the first sign of this pregnancy and sadly, it didn’t ease up. For three weeks I had nausea that would come and go with vomiting and when week seven came around… things became relentless. I started to vomit at the smell of anything- food, hygiene products, candles, you name it. I could barely keep it together. I started to spend more time in bed, more time feeling alone and wondering when things were ever going to improve. I knew nausea tended to ease a bit following the first trimester, but how would I ever get through that long? I never experienced nausea and vomiting this badly before, including my first pregnancy.
My “morning sickness” was really all day sickness. The vomiting got increasingly bad to the point where I couldn’t keep down any food, water or even pieces of ice I tried to suck on. I grew increasingly worried, as did my husband and family overseas. He had never seen anything this severe and for such a prolonged period of time. Neither had I. While I experienced mild nausea and vomiting during my first pregnancy, which would have been considered normal, this was much worse in every single way. I felt weak constantly due to the lack of nourishment and I had to put a halt on the business I was trying to start up. As an immigrant to Ireland who had only been here two years, I had a few people I could talk to but no one like my best friends back in the United States. I felt like I couldn’t dump the heavy emotional burden of my circumstances onto other people. I stayed at home feeling increasingly isolated and like no one understood what I was going through. When I did try to reach out to others and tell them how bad things were, most people were dismissive- “sure, everyone gets sick in early pregnancy,” “things will get better,” “were you not sick during your first pregnancy?” I was treated like I was being over dramatic!
I remember reaching a breaking point. I went to the maternity before I was even referred by my GP because I couldn’t take the pain and constant vomiting anymore. I found the staff also dismissive, telling me I should expect some nausea and that it was normal. I tried telling them “YES, I know some nausea is to be expected, but this is out of control now!” to no avail. They didn’t offer me IV fluids for dehydration, take a urine sample or anything! I basically received an eye-roll, some anti-nausea medication and was sent on my way. I felt incredibly dejected because I knew back in the United States I would have received what I considered better treatment. My husband and I felt lost because we did what we thought would be the most helpful, see a physician. We had no clue what to do when the doctor essentially turned us away and told me to deal with it.
I went another three months experiencing the extreme nausea and vomiting without the medication doing much at all. On my worst days I would be vomiting 10-20 times even when there was literally nothing to come up. I started having acupuncture treatments, which I found very helpful and even relaxing. I remember my husband having to drive me to every appointment because I couldn’t make the 25 minute journey without getting sick. I used to go everywhere with a sick bag. The only things that really helped put a stop to the all-day sickness was time and an herbal remedy that was recommended by a family friend. The herbal remedy was what allowed me to eat more than a few bites of food and keep it down!
Half of my pregnancy was spent flooded with worry and anxiety. Is my baby getting enough nutrition from me? What if this lasts the entire pregnancy? I felt awful because I had spent two years trying to conceive and then when I did, I regretted it because I was so damn miserable. My mental health tanked as I watched other women enjoying their pregnancies while I sat in a river of tears feeling disconnected from my pregnancy and wishing it were over. The isolation of being at home all day, every day started to wear on me and I felt like a horrible mother because I wasn’t able to be present for my son who was seven at the time. Those were my worst days.
I did make it to the end of my pregnancy. I was eventually able to eat more and nourish my body in the way that it needed. My daughter was born on the 13th of January during the only snow storm of that year. I was so incredibly grateful to meet her and have a positive birth experience with the support of a birth doula and my husband by my side. Although my pregnancy was far more difficult than I could have anticipated, it was worth it to snuggle my baby and become a mom again.