Living With Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Last time, I talked about what my symptoms were.  This time, I’ll tell you about what it’s like to be pregnant and have Hyperemesis.

Life Sucks

I’m not trying to be dramatic.  When you’re vomiting anywhere from 10-40 times a day, life starts to look pretty shitty.  You can’t eat.  You can’t drink.  You can’t handle the smell of ANY food.  No one was allowed to cook in my house because I COULD SMELL IT!!!  If I smelled it, I would immediately run to the nearest trash can / sink and vomit.  Most of the time, nothing would come out because I had already vomited whatever I tried to eat or drink earlier.  

Because you literally cannot hold any food or fluids in your system, you become dehydrated and weak.  It was a mini miracle anytime I managed to get up from being flat on the bed / couch to go pee.  I felt like I won the lottery every day I managed to take a shower.  

The fear of falling down became a very real thing.  Because I could not keep any food or fluid down, I became weaker and weaker.  I would start to black out daily.  I fell down a few times.  I remember the days when I couldn’t walk so I would crawl to the bathroom.  My puppy thought it was great fun to try and knock me over when I was crawling.  He succeeded a few times.  

Food Becomes Your Enemy

I touched upon this earlier.  No one was allowed to cook in my kitchen.  If I smelled something, it would trigger another bout of vomiting.  Nothing looks good to eat.  Nothing smells good.  Nothing tastes right.  Something as bland as water would offend me.  I’m serious.  Water felt slimy and heavy in my mouth.  Usually, I would vomit up the water within an hour.

Orange juice was something that would always make me puke.  You’d think I’d stop drinking it but it’s a quick way to get some calories, sugar and fluid into me….as long as I could hold it down.

My husband tried making me chicken soup to help me feel better…but the smell of the chicken boiling became my living hell.  I ran into the bedroom, shut the door, stuffed towels under the door to block the small opening between door and floor, ran into the bathroom and shut that door.  It didn’t matter.  I could still smell it.  I spent most of that day on the bathroom floor.

People Think You’re A Drama Queen

Because Hyperemesis afflicts about 1-3% of the population, no one really understands it.  They think it’s just morning sickness and that you’re over exaggerating your symptoms to…I don’t know…gain sympathy or something.  

That’s not the case.

Most women who are diagnosed with HG also suffer from depression.  This is not an easy condition to live with.  You can’t eat.  You can’t drink anything.  You can’t function.  It robs you of your ability to live like a person.  It makes you hate your pregnancy.  Women report feeling so desperate, they consider terminating their pregnancy.  Yes, it is that bad.  While not every woman terminates their pregnancy while suffering from HG, some do.

There were days when I would wake up and cry because I knew it signaled another day of what felt like nonstop vomiting.  I lost interest in….well, everything.  I would drag myself out of bed 2 hours after I woke up to brush my teeth.  Toothpaste triggered a round of puking.  I then managed to find my way to the couch and just lay down.  I couldn’t read because it made my pounding dehydration headache worse.  I would turn on the TV and just stare at it.  I have no idea what was on TV.  It was just images and sound coming at me.  

My puppy would try to engage me in play but I couldn’t summon the energy to throw his little tennis ball.  Eventually, our puppy would give up and lay down on his bed next to me on the couch.  It was so sad and I felt so bad but I couldn’t do anything more than petting him.

Your Partner Also Suffers

In the beginning, my husband did not understand what was happening.  Like most people (myself included at first), he thought it was just morning sickness and could not figure out why I was so listless and drained of energy.  He began to feel overwhelmed from taking care of me, taking care of our puppy AND being the sole breadwinner.  He shared his frustration with me and I felt bad.  I tried to help out around the house more since I could not work (throwing up 10-40 times a day doesn’t make me a very good ICU nurse.  Can you imagine???  My patient is sick and I throw up all over them.  I’m sure they’d LOVE that) but I would start to black out.

One time, I tried to help him by cleaning up after our puppy went potty.  I was hit by a sudden need to vomit and I ran from the lanai into the kitchen trying to hold the vomit in.  I failed.  I ended up spraying my breakfast on the carpet, on the kitchen tile, on the sink and on my puppy.  My poor, poor puppy.  

Once my husband started opening up to his close friends about what our pregnancy was like, he learned that some of his friends went through the same thing with their wife.  After talking to them, he realized what I was going through and how it differs from morning sickness.  

Unsolicited Advice

The combination of the rarity of Hyperemesis, the many unknowns that surround it and the fact that not all women are correctly diagnosed with this condition, the general public think it’s just a morning sickness but a bit more severe.

I’ve had people tell me to do things like eat soda crackers if I feel nauseous.  That’s not going to work.  You see, I feel nauseous ALL DAY LONG.  It’s so bad, sometimes the nausea wakes me up in the middle of the night and I have to vomit.  Soda crackers won’t help.

I’ve had people tell me to eat ginger, drink ginger tea or ginger ale.  I’ve tried every form of ginger there is.  The end result?  It ends up in the kitchen sink because I just threw it up.

People told me to try Sea Bands.  It’s this accupressure bracelet thing.  It didn’t work.  I was throwing up while wearing them.  They also gave me 1st degree skin breakdown.

I’ve been advised to eat small meals.  I gritted my teeth and smiled at them when I felt more like screaming “WHAT PART OF ‘I CAN’T EAT ANYTHING’ DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND????!!  EVERYTHING MAKES ME THROW UP!  EVERYTHING!!!  THAT INCLUDES WATER!!!”  Instead, I would just smile and say “Thank you.  I gotta try that.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing that sooner!”

People pressed juices on me.  I threw it up.  My family bought me Pedialyte and Gatorade.  I threw those up.  I have to say, throwing up juice and Gatorade within minutes of drinking it wasn’t too bad because it still tasted like juice and Gatorade when it was coming up.  Pedialyte is nasty to begin with.  Ugh.  * shudder *

No One Knows When It Ends

There’s no definite timeline as to when HG will set you free from its clutches.  Some women suffer their entire pregnancy.  Some women say the symptoms went away as suddenly as it appeared by the 20th week.  I’m well beyond the 20th week and I’m still relying on IV medications to suppress the nausea.  

I’m happy to report that I’m off the TPN.  With the help of IV medication, I’ve been able to eat again.  Water feels and tastes like water again.  Orange juice and I still do not get along but I love eating oranges.  

There is light at the end of the tunnel.  For me, I didn’t find it until I was hospitalized.  It really opened not only my eyes but the eyes of my family as well.  This is a serious condition.  People have died from it in the past because they did not receive adequate treatment.  I am fortunate enough to have a supportive husband, medical insurance and access to health care.  

Ladies, if you think you have hyperemesis, please Please PLEASE tell your doctor immediately and get treatment.  If you are depressed, find yourself crying uncontrollably, you’re unable to get out of bed, any or all of the above, seek help.  Call your mom.  Call your family.  Tell your husband.  A really good resource is Help HER.  

Guys, if your wife / girlfriend is telling you what’s going on with her, please just be supportive.  Saying things like “It’s all in your head”, “It’s just morning sickness”, “You’ll get over it” is not helpful.  She’s scared.  She doesn’t know what’s happening.  Ask her what she needs.  Sometimes, it’s something as simple as a hug and acknowledging that she’s feeling like a prisoner of her pregnancy.  

3 Responses to “Living With Hyperemesis Gravidarum”
  1. lisa says:

    Omg Bonnie. Mine was just a severe form of car sickness. Yours? I can’t even imagine how horrific it must have been/must be. Hang in there girl. When are you due?

    • Hey, girl! I’m due late April. 😀

      You know, it sucked pretty bad and I thought I was going to die more than once but I’m still here, Baby Girl is doing well and I’m keeping my eyes on the prize – safe birth and happy, healthy baby. 😀

      Welcome back to LA!

      • lisa says:

        So glad to hear she’s doing well! Is it still as bad as before or is it more manageable? Just know that it’s all worth it! You’re doing great, Bonnie!

        Btw, I still have a full box of newborn diapers if you want them. I can drop them off wherever you want.

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