I have had many false starts to explaining my illness/condition/affliction. I did not want to announce my greatest joy with the grave and heavy news of my rare condition. I did not want to come off as dramatic nor not be able to express what this is properly. I feel like I owe this to the brave women that have gone before me, are suffering with it now or will suffer with it in the future. It is flippantly described as “severe” morning sickness, but that seems like a day at the beach compared to what I had/have and the consequences of said severe morning sickness (a misnomer if ever there was one). Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a rare condition that effects about 1% of pregnant women, many consider it to be much more but the condition often goes undiagnosed. Charlotte Bronte is said to have died from it, along with her unborn child. Being that it is the 21st century, you would think we would have more of a handle on it, but we don’t and many women suffer miserably both mentally and physically. It robs you of all joy and hope and many have had to make the painful decision to terminate much wanted, planned and tried for pregnancies (the only known ‘cure’ for this disease). It is not just “severe” morning sickness. I have read via the HG forums that many women have had major organ failure and near death experiences. I did not know that HG existed prior to having it, I just knew that I could not eat anything and movement made me sicker, that is why a car ride across country nearly killed me. I am not exaggerating.
I had been pregnant for 3 months with my condition undiagnosed. By the time we got to Seattle my first doctor here was not familiar with HG and told me to eat Saltines and drink gingerale and that I should feel much better going into my 2nd trimester. I got worse. I already could not eat without becoming violently ill, but then I had stopped drinking all together because I suffered the same reaction. Even if I had nothing in my stomach I was still sick and my insides felt like they would become my outsides. I did not feel pregnant, I felt like I had a terminal illness. I laid on the cold tiles of our bathroom floor, trying to sob wildly, but not being able to produce tears. I had migraine headaches that effected my vision and felt like my skull was being cracked open with a hammer. I begged God on more than one occasion to just let me die. I could not live like this. The worse knowledge I had was that this could all go away if I terminated the pregnancy, it was some sick and twisted non-option and I wondered in my delirium if I was being more selfish by ‘sticking it out’, this couldn’t be good for my baby. My husband lobbied for me to get admitted to a high risk pregnancy specialist practice which you needed a recommendation for, they agreed to meet me and I was immediately put on an IV since I was severely dehydrated, underweight (at 5’7, I was barely over 100 pounds) and my blood pressure was dangerously low, it didn’t help. They prescribed me the same anti-nausea meds that they give to cancer patients after chemotherapy, again it did not work. We discussed hospital stay, it was not an option for me I could not be in a strange city away from my husband and my beloved pups, I couldn’t. It was arranged for an IV to be put in at home so I would be hydrated at all times, the anti-nausea medication was administered via needle attached to my stomach and I had to replace the needle every day (myself!). I had one nurse that came to the apartment each week and I had another nurse that checked my vitals every day. I still could not eat and a medical nutritionist was instituted and made the plan of me eating one spoonful of something, anything every two hours. I could not keep the spoonful down. One sleepless night, after being sick for what seemed like hours I came to bed and had severe chest pains. This was a problem because I have an existing heart condition. I was born with a murmur and then had Rheumatic fever as a kid (how very Victorian of me). My low blood pressure was not doing my heart any favors. The next morning, I calmly told my husband, ‘I thought I was going to die last night’, he calmly replied, ‘I did too’. We wondered if this was worth it, I hadn’t felt pregnant and I was clearly deteriorating more each day and now we had the very real threat of me going into cardiac arrest. We made an appointment to have my heart checked and another to terminate the pregnancy. I sat with the doctor for what seemed like hours discussing the procedure and then I passed out. I would have preferred to have been struck by lightning or have some other force come in and take me away, when I came to I spoke to a battery of doctors and specialists, I wanted to make sure that my baby was indeed healthy and that this condition hadn’t affected her. Every test came back with glowing results, our baby was perfect and it was a girl! When my husband found out he looked over at me, his now emaciated and very sick wife and said, ‘she’s going to be so beautiful’.
I have always been able to look on the bright side, even in my most darkest of times, but I couldn’t move past this obstacle, no amount of praying and positive thinking helped. My Frenchie became my shadow she still refuses to leave my side, I had to hang on to the idea that this would pass. Now that I knew that she was perfect, a miracle if there ever was one for me I had a fleeting glimmer of hope and I decided to hold on to that as if our lives depended on it, they did. I would write down every day in a notebook what I was grateful for, it made me feel better, it started with my being grateful for the ability to drink a sip of water. And then another miracle happened, I started to get better each day, not 100%, but I was slowly able to eat, drink and take a walk. I could sit up, read, make plans for the future. I am grateful for everything right now, the most minute of details feels like an Everest accomplishment. I am not going to lie to you, I am scared. I haven’t really worked in five months, income that I had counted on, we have gone through our savings, emergency fund and baby fund, the mounting medical bills are so unbelievably astronomical even with insurance it makes me wish we would have kept driving through Seattle on up to Canada. It’s stressful but I have an unwavering belief that everything is going to be okay, that we will figure this out as long as we are healthy, happy and have a roof over our heads. I am so grateful for my little ‘home’ on the internet, your visits and kind words have kept me going and they still do, I feel very, very lucky to be part of this community and hope to continue to be for many moons. Thank you kindly.
P.S. My last check-up on my heart had the cardiologist in awe. He said, (and I quote), “You dodged a bullet.” My heart rate was that of an athlete-slow and steady, my blood pressure was close to ‘normal’ and there was nothing for concern, we are out of the danger zone. I am now six months pregnant and look 9 and I am most definitely feeling very pregnant!
Miss Tristan B. is the proprietress of Besotted Brand and the writer of this delightful blog. She recently re-located to sunny Seattle with her handsome husband and two pups, they are expecting a baby girl in December. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.