Another brilliant blog from Vicky our Parenting Programme and social media manager
In this edition Vicky shares her experience of Hyperemisis Gravidarum (a severe form of morning sickness)
Vicky was in good company as Kate Middleton (The Duchess of Cambridge) also suffered from this during her pregnancies.
See end of blog for more info on HV
Trying for a third baby was always on the cards for us. We ended last year on a huge high having gotten married just before Christmas and we had talked as a family for a long time about the possibility of having a new baby brother or sister for the two we already have. So it was decided! Wedding out of the way, we would start trying.
It happened in record time. I had barely had time to process the fact that we were now husband and wife and low and behold - we had a baby on the way! Life was good - we were feeling very blessed and blissfully happy.
I'd suffered some sickness in my previous two pregnancies - morning sickness sucks. I remembered it vividly - my eldest would be watching CBeebies and I would be retching in the ensuite. There'd be sickness in the car, at work, after work. It made me feel super classy...not!
I wasn't expecting to escape it this time round and I wanted to make sure we both knew that life might get a little bit tough for a while. I don't think in the end either of us were prepared for what came.
We got an early pregnancy scan at 7 weeks as a I had a small bleed and the doctor wanted to be sure that everything was OK and that the pregnancy was indeed a 'viable one' (what is it about that term?? So clinical!) All the signs were good - we had a heartbeat, and whatever had caused the bleed seemingly had passed, and everything was on track. As we left the unit that day, I felt very unwell. I knew I would be sick before we got home and honestly, I put it down to tension and stress as I had been worried about the situation.
I made use of the 'facilities' and then again on route home Rich had to pull over...I went to lay down when we got home in the hope it would pass, but that was the first day that I realised perhaps it wasn't like it had been previously. I never felt right from that point on.
Morning sickness for me always came in waves. I coped, I worked, I took care of the first as best I could when I was pregnant with the second one and although it was by no means nice, it did pass in the end and I was always functional, if not always at my very best. This was a whole new level of unwell. My first encounter with the Women and Children's hospital came very shortly after that early scan. It felt as though my body was doing its level best to reject the pregnancy in some way. I was more sick than I ever remember being EVER and I couldn't stop. By the time I saw the GP I was vomiting blood and I ended up going to see the doctor in my onesie and slippers. I couldn't even feel embarrassed, I was so poorly. I was worried for the kids who had barely seen me, I had no idea what was happening to me, and I felt fearful for the baby. It was an awful time.
I was admitted for re-hydration via an IV and anti-sickness injections (which were agony to administer but heaven once they kicked in!) My doctor made a reference to my full name being regal (Victoria) and asked jokingly if I was related in any way to Princess Kate as it appeared we had suffered the same fate. He talked to me about something called 'Hyperemisis Gravidarum' and asked me lots of questions about my previous pregnancies and birthing experiences. He said in medicine they called it 'HG' for short - I for one was pleased, because even now I struggle to pronounce it!
I felt like a new person in hospital - I could eat again, I could drink again, I bathed and after 24 hours they let me go home and honestly, I thought that would likely be the end of it all. That was surely as bad as it gets. I coasted through for a short period, two days or so - not feeling as awful and glad for it. But it came back with a vengeance and before long I was being sick so frequently that I couldn't leave the house. I was advised to rest fully, which meant that I couldn't do any of the day to day stuff.
I lay in bed, listening to the hustle and bustle of the household, getting on with life without me and it stayed that way for weeks.
The smell of the house downstairs made me heave I couldn't bear to be near the kitchen, any mention of food made me vomit and the dog was banished too.
I missed my babies
I missed my husband
I missed my life
Eventually I signed up to an online forum for suffers of HG in pregnancy as a way of connecting with people who were experiencing or had experienced something similar. I don't think unless you've been there you can fully comprehend how all consuming it is. It takes over your life. I wasn't able to work or socialise or even hold a conversation as my gag reflex just wouldn't allow it! Everything seemed to fade away and I would lay in bed crying, feeling so low and lost, dreading the idea that there were still months to go until delivery time and lots of women suffered HG for the pregnancy duration! I just wasn't coping.
I interacted a little with other mums on the site and I will always be grateful to my sister for connecting me to them for that period. Some were decidedly worse off than I was. I had so much love and support during that very dark time. I was always safe in the knowledge that my children were cared for - clean and fed and educated and loved - despite feeling heartbroken that I couldn't be the one to do it. My house was looked after and the domestic side of life managed on my behalf.
My husband is in the Airforce which often means time spent away from home. When I was admitted to hospital the second time, he managed to get some compassionate leave and stayed at home for a while after I was discharged. I was reassured and calmer just for his presence. Our family felt whole and I knew that the children would be happier knowing that he was going to be around whilst I couldn't be. That was at 14 weeks and it was at that point for me that things took a new turn...
It wasn't an overnight improvement. My nausea was terrible and I often felt sick much of the day, but the actual physical sickness slowly began to ease up. I didn't even dare talk about it out loud, for fear of jinxing it. I took the new combination of medication the hospital had given me religiously and at a snails pace I began to reintroduce myself into civilised society.
Tomorrow we have our 20 week scan. I feel beyond emotional when I think of everything myself and this little life have gone though to get to this point. The children and hubby are so excited that I have had to relent, and if we can, tomorrow we will find out whether it’s to be a little boy or a little girl. I know most people will say that they don't mind either way, but I honestly don't! I spent so long in fear for the health and wellbeing of this precious cargo that all I need to hear is that it is safe and sound in there - that will be good enough for me.
There was a section on the forum devoted to cases where women had been so unwell that the pregnancy had to be terminated. Not because they didn't want or love their baby, but because their life had been reduced to nothing and the impact it was having on their health and already established family was too much and the price too high to pay. The guilt and suffering they endured as a result of that decision has stayed with them and continues to haunt them - some of the things I read were so completely moving, I won't ever forget their stories. I was fortunate not to be in the same position that they found themselves in, but I won't lie either. I had days when I wondered if I could do it. If I was strong enough to keep going, no end in sight, nobody able to tell me when if it would pass before nine months was up; I loved my baby, but I felt as though I might disappear in that bed some days. And that I would have done just about anything to feel well again. You do have desperate thoughts and in some respects I can identify with those women. My hearts go out to them.
I didn't know much about HG or the reality of living with it before now. I thought a ginger biscuit or an ice lolly would always be the answer. I had no idea how debilitating it would be. How much weight I would lose, how drained I would feel, the mental and emotional strain I would be under, the pressure it would put on those around me, the guilt I would feel as mummy to two beautiful little people who still need me day to day.
Morning sickness and Hyperemisis Gravidarum are two completely different things.
I had lots of (well meaning) people ask me;
I would nod and smile, but honestly the answer is no. Because I couldn't get any of it past my lips without being sick. And when I did, it came right back up. Nothing worked - only the medication, and even then, that was trial and error until I found the combination that worked best for me.
My saving grace was this website www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk- I got information, I got honesty and I got support. There is even a section for family members effected by HG - don't underestimate the strain on those around the sufferer, they need help too. If you know anyone who is experiencing something similar then this might be a really useful tool for them - there is
a presumption that all pregnancy related sickness effects the sufferer in a similar way. It doesn't. My own experience has changed my perception of it forever. I don't think I will ever give the same response as I used to when I hear someone is having a hard time with it. I really hope that by sharing this story, it will enable others to talk more freely about it and help break down some barriers that definitely still exist when it comes to how women suffering with HG are treated by medical professionals and their peers alike. It is a physically debilitating illness that can have huge implications for the sufferers mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
For more information, please visit www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk
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