Hyperemesis: A longer word for Torture

Imagine always being hungry, but eating literally anything makes your body sick.

Picture thirsting for water constantly, but even water sends you running for the toilet.

You are supposed to be glowing and showing off your cute pregnant belly, instead you’re watching the bones in your chest pop through as your body is wasting away.

If you are easily squeamish, this post is not for you. I cannot share about my daily reality in an honest way, without talking about things that are normally taboo.

Don’t have time to read? Listen here instead!

“Breakfast” in bed

DISCLAIMER: Please do not feel that this post is an attempt to complain or gain sympathy. My goal is to spread awareness on a condition that many women suffer in complete silence.

Before painting a picture of what life with Hyperemesus Gravidarum (HG) is like, let me clarify that I am NOT talking about Morning Sickness.

My Life with HG

I knew I was pregnant at 4 weeks, but it wasn’t because we were trying. For Richard and I, having a successful pregnancy is less than 1% chance, so it wasn’t even on my mind. I knew I was pregnant because I woke up one day feeling so nauseated.

I have been throwing up every day since week 4.

First we tried oral medications, Zofran, Bonjesta, Reglan. Every new medication helped a little bit, but my diet became more and more restricted as the vomiting continued to get worse.

I had to go to the emergency room twice for fluids before I was 12 weeks pregnant. At the time, I didn’t understand what was going on. The doctors mentioned HG, but it is so rare I pushed it out of my head.

I then returned to the clinic twice for fluids when I could no longer take the splitting dehydration headache.

I kept waiting for things to get better, like everyone said it would, but things only got worse.

By week 18, I couldn’t even keep down sips of water.

I remember ordering a scone at the local Farmer’s Market five weeks ago, and that was the last solid meal I have had since.

We have tried IV medications, nutrition replenishment, timed meals, dietary changes, medication suppositories, everything…

At week 21, I now have a central line, which is the only way my body gets fluids and nutrients. I have a team of nurses that come to my home, so that I can remain with my children as long as I possibly can.

Unlike when you are sick with a stomach bug, my appetite is entirely intact.

I have been in a constant state of hunger and thirst for weeks without any relief. Yet, every time I eat or drink I feel like I am torturing my body.

The anxiety builds with every bite, because I know it is just going to come right back up.

  • I throw up so often and violently that I am now a high risk for ulcers and esophagus damage. I can’t even get through writing this without vomiting multiple times.
  • I feel incredibly isolated, because it is hard to connect with others when you can barely get off the couch.
  • I spend 6 hours a day hooked up to a pump that provides my fluid intake and nutrients.
  • I cannot take my children to regular summer activities, because my port cannot get wet.

Diaper plus plastic wrap is the only way to shower

  • I am unable to process thoughts quickly, I am forgetful, and I frequently get confused.

  • I live between starvation and the toilet, it’s always one or the other.

My body is forced to keep my baby alive by slowly killing me in the process. Without constant medical support, I would not be alive.

My body cannot tolerate prenatals, or any kind of vitamins, so I now receive them through my line.

  • My blood pressure is in the 90s/50s range, so it is no longer safe for me to drive, or even be alone with my children.
  • I have my own clothes packed in my children’s diaper bag, and I do not go anywhere without quick access to a toilet.
  • My two year old brings me water or crackers and begs me to eat.

HG has taken me away from my children, and they don’t understand why. It takes all of the energy I have just to read them their bedtime stories.

The End?

The question everyone asks me is “When will you get better?” No one truly knows, but statistics strongly suggest my HG will last the entire pregnancy.

Every day I choose to focus on my daughter’s safety. The longer I can fight my HG, the better chance she has at being born healthy.

I lived the NICU nightmare with my twins already, which is the only pain I have ever felt that is worse than life with HG.

How HG affects YOU

The norm is for pregnant women to have a unmistakable glow. Usually, families are celebrating the most exciting time of their lives. That’s not true for everyone, though. Please take notice of the woman who has started to disappear.

HG is incredibly isolating. People don’t know what to do with the weight of this illness. They are quick to say things like “It will get better soon!” or “Morning Sickness doesn’t last forever!

Those comments are well intentioned, but not helpful. Sometimes people just need to be heard. To be understood without having to constantly explain.

Offer to visit and bring flowers.
Help out with any household chores that you can.
Show patience and grace if you don’t hear from them.
Don’t unpack your emotional baggage on them.
Whatever you choose to do, just make sure your friend doesn’t feel forgotten.

It helps to acknowledge that this is HARD. Give them the space to fluctuate between staying strong and feeling entirely broken.