My HG Story- An Irish Mum's Experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

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THE BEGINNING

This was a very planned pregnancy. After two years of marriage, my husband and I decided that this would be a good time to have a baby. Within two months, I took a pregnancy test at  home - positive - feelings of pure joy and excitement quickly followed. I went to my GP to get official confirmation. The GP said there was little point, it was too early, but I knew my body and insisted on the test. One week later the GP’s secretary phoned to confirm that my test result was positive. There was no mention of a baby, she spoke as if I was having a routine blood test, but this wasn’t routine to me, this was about a baby, my baby.  At five weeks pregnant, my husband and I went on our last holiday, just the two of us. We went to Belgium and took in the sights and enjoyed our time together. Three days before the end of our trip, we went for a pre-bedtime drink, I had a hot chocolate. That night I woke up at 2am and ran like a woman possessed to the hotel bathroom. The vomiting started then, in a hotel bathroom, I was only six weeks pregnant. I continued to projectile vomit throughout the night. In the early morning, I rang my mother (a nurse) and asked her what I should do. I had an overwhelming fear I was going to lose the baby. Mum suggested I should get to a doctor’s surgery, but I couldn’t move for fear of throwing up. Thankfully, the hotel organised for a local doctor to come to my room. We explained through broken French that this vomiting had come from nowhere. Could it be food poisoning, could that lovely hot chocolate have actually made me this ill? The doctor gave me an antiemetic injection and also prescribed tablets to ease the sickness. For the next two days, I lay in the hotel bed and I continued to vomit and feel nauseous, even with the medication. As the time drew nearer to get our flight home, still feeling no better, I loaded up on the last of my prescribed tablets and we got a taxi to the airport, plastic bag in hand.

GET ME HOME AND GET ME BETTER

          We got to the airport and I struggled physically to even walk to the checkout and through security. I looked horrendous, I looked like someone with the worst hangover imaginable. At this stage all I wanted was to be back in Ireland, back home where I could rest and get proper help for whatever was happening to me and worse still whatever was happening to my baby. My mother was waiting for us at the airport, she didn’t say anything. They brought me home and they put me into my own bed. I was so happy to be home, I slept for the next 10 hours straight. When I woke up, the nauseous feeling immediately returned hit me like a tonne of bricks. I dragged myself to my bathroom and was sick over and over again. My head throbbed, my body was weak.  I went to my local GP and explained what had happened, I told her I was really worried about losing this baby. I showed her the tablets I had been prescribed and asked if I should get more. I was told to throw them in the dustbin. I asked if this was all in my head, was I going crazy and was told “to get on with it”. There was no mention of any other medication which might help me. There was no mention of counselling or a dietician which might help me. I felt alone. The GP issued a sick note for my work, for two weeks and said I would be fine after some rest. After two weeks at home, hardly eating or drinking I had lost one and a half stone and it was noticeable.  I went back to work and my clothes were loose. I couldn’t face putting on makeup, I swept my hair up into a ponytail. I looked dire. During my first week back at work, a colleague asked me if I had cancer. I thought she was joking, she wasn’t. At this stage, I was nine weeks pregnant and didn’t want to tell people I was pregnant at all. I told my manager and he was understanding enough to let me go home on my particularly bad days. It was hard, but I struggled on, no medications, no compassion from my GP. At about 16 weeks pregnant I finally told my work colleagues I was actually pregnant. No one could believe it, my appearance had become more disheveled and at this stage I had lost a good two stone. At five months pregnant, I got my first appointment with my hospital. The midwife took pity on me and made sure I got to see the head consultant. This day was a real game changer for me.  
 

IT'S YOUR HORMONES!

          My GP had been next to useless and had zero compassion for my situation. I was overweight when I got pregnant, so even when I had lost almost two and a half stone, I was still in a “healthy” BMI weight bracket. During my first meeting with my OB/GYN consultant, I explained I was in real fear of losing this baby due to my sickness. The consultant explained to me that this wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t doing anything wrong, she stressed she could find nothing wrong with the baby either and judging by my scan the baby looked a normal size and weight. In my case she explained it was most probably my raging pregnancy hormones that were making me so ill. For the first time I didn’t feel absolute guilt over my body seemingly attacking my pregnancy. In fact, my hormones were in overdrive and were helping to keep the baby very much alive. I later learned that oestrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels rise during pregnancy, however, they usually peak by the end of the first trimester, so for most people morning sickness doesn’t continue or at least starts to ease. Increased levels of oestrogen and hCG can help prevent miscarriage. I knew I should feel happy about this, but my body was turning on me and instead favouring the baby, but even this knowledge didn’t help much when I was so sick. The rest of the pregnancy continued with tiredness, vomiting and nausea. I went to work, I went home, I ate and drank what I could, I was sick, I went to bed, I was sick, I got up, I was sick. I couldn’t wait for this to end, I couldn’t wait to get my baby. Sometimes, when the sickness was so bad I would pre-empt what I knew was going to happen and I would stick my fingers down my throat, just to get it over and done with. I put back on the weight I had lost, or rather the baby put on weight. Other than all that, I had no other pregnancy related complications. At 39 weeks pregnant, I met with the head consultant at the hospital for the second time. As she felt my stomach, she thought something was a little off and sent me for a scan to confirm it. Sure enough, the baby's head was neatly digging into my ribs and I was booked in for a c-section.

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FINALLY, THE BABY IS COMING!

          On the morning of the scheduled c-section, I was still vomiting and feeling wretched. The midwife asked if I was nervous, no just morning sickness I explained. The baby was born at 9.42am and weighed in at a healthy 8lb 10oz. In recovery, I couldn’t believe it, the nausea started to fade. I slowly started to feel like my old self. To my disbelief  when I ate and drank I kept it down and didn’t feel ill, this was my second miracle of the day. After four nights in hospital, we got to take our baby boy home. A few days later I weighed myself and see what I had to lose and to my astonishment, I figured out I only had two pounds to lose to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  Over the next two years, I ate whatever I wanted. I felt somehow that I was making up for lost time and that I was owed any calorific indulgence I wanted. After all, I was making up for nine miserable months. Eventually my husband and I broached the idea of possibly trying for another baby. (I know some people would say, well if it was really that bad before, why bother again?) We had a beautiful and healthy two-year-old boy who was our world, but we didn’t want him to be lonely, so we decided to try again. Maybe this time I would be lucky and not get such bad morning sickness, maybe this time my body would not go into a hormonal hurricane.

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

          Yet again, we got pregnant within a couple of months. I told myself that this pregnancy was going to be different. Surely I wouldn’t be so sick again? Then one day, at five weeks pregnant I started to feel unwell. I rested for a few hours but when I got up the nausea hit me. I knew now I wasn’t going to be lucky, my hormones were going to protect this baby yet again. I knew what was coming, my GP offered little comfort yet again and told me to take it one day at a time.  We decided our son and I would move to my parents home, they could look after us both while my husband continued working full-time. When I was four months pregnant we moved back to our own home. My poor son and husband had chicken nuggets or fish fingers for dinner each night. We struggled through this time, our son watched a lot of television and I rested as much as I could. Our son spent a lot of time looking at me lying on the couch or in bed, his face  showed his concern, his gentle hand patted my head. At six months pregnant, the sickness eased a little and I managed to put on weight, a lot of weight. Soon my blood pressure was high and the GP was concerned enough to send me to hospital for IV fluid. At this time, it was announced that Kate Middleton was pregnant and had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I looked at her on the television and wished I looked as well as she did. My hair was dry and coarse, I couldn’t face the hairdressers. My skin was dull and spotty and there was no makeup that could make me look better. I envied her. I envied her diagnosis. No doctor, no consultant, no midwife had uttered those words to me. This was the moment of revelation, after nearly two full pregnancies.  I finally self-diagnosed myself with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. My due date came and there was no sign of this baby, at ten days overdue, I was swollen and tired and asked for a c-section. This baby was born at 12.30pm and was a very healthy 9 lbs 6oz. When I arrived home this time and weighed myself, to my horror I realised I was now four stone above my pre-pregnancy weight. I took the decision rapidly for my family and for myself that I was going to lose this weight. I never wanted to be skinny, my thinnest weight in adulthood was during my first pregnancy. My baby girl is now almost four years of age and to date I have lost and kept off just over five stone of excess weight. My body is finally healthy, my heart is happy and because of Hyperemesis Gravidarum I will never try for baby number three. I am happy in this decision. I am also happy that Ireland now has a charity dedicated to women like me.

Sarah

*** If you or someone you know is suffering from severe morning sickness (vomiting) or hyperemesis gravidarum, there are supports available!  Please see Hyperemesis Ireland's website or their Facebook page for more information.  They have a Facebook support group and local support volunteers, including in County Limerick, that are available to help you!