Buckingham Palace this week announced that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her second baby, and that she is again suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness. If it was just the first part of that sentence, I’d say, “oh, that’s nice” and move on, but with the announcement of HG, my interest and empathy thoroughly perk up!
In her first pregnancy, I found the plethora of comments about how she just had to suck it up, how she was ‘delicate’ and other disparaging remarks quite upsetting, as someone who had suffered from the same condition but now I just look at them as signs of ignorance. Honestly people, if you haven’t suffered from HG, don’t comment on it. As simple as that. Especially not if you want to say one of these things, because there are some things that you should never say to someone who suffers from HG.
Morning sickness sure is. Hyperemesis Gravidarum isn’t. Of the 671,255 births in the UK in 2011-12 one percent of women suffered from HG. That’s 6713 people who’ve been to one of the darkest places pregnancy can take you. They had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The other 664543 had morning sickness. But they are not the same thing. Many HG sufferers start being sick before they know they’re pregnant, too. For me that was at 2 weeks, each time.
How nice for you, really, that you could. I worked through the 18 weeks of my first fight with Hyperemesis, but it was just me to look after (and my husband, but he can cook himself dinner, and the house didn’t need much cleaning with two adults at work all day. I sat at a desk in my own office with a bucket by my side without too much impact on anyone else.
With my second, we moved house just as I became pregnant. I hadn’t unpacked all the boxes yet when I started throwing up. I didn’t until just before she was born. And I had another child to look after. Those were hard days. An excited, happy two year old, 20- country travel under the belt, had to sit and watch Peppa Pig for 26 weeks because her mama couldn’t get off the sofa without fainting. Hard days.
Other children of Hyperemesis Sufferers still have to eat. They still need their nappies changed. Life goes on, but most of us would be not ‘lying around’ if we had a choice.
[pullquote] If you love someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, don’t give them advice on handling nausea. Just ask them what you can do for them. [/pullquote]
Oh, between puking, fainting, feeling sick and trying to stay alive, being constantly thirsty, hungry, and generally gaunt, sleep is easy to come by. Rest, however, not so much. Because you’re still dealing with the bump, the SPD, the heartburn, the dreams. Everything that comes with pregnancy. Oh, and the vomiting, and the extremely isolating disease which knocks your confidence, your self belief and your ability to function as a mother, a wife, a friend.
It’s a great plan for someone suffering from morning sickness – fill the tummy, and help prevent nausea. It doesn’t work for Hyperemesis Gravidarum sufferers (everyone is different, of course). Eating anything, drinking anything, even water will make you vomit. It’ll make you wretch and gag and heave until you’re throwing up little pieces of stomach lining. Then comes the blood as you tear your oesophagus.
It’s like drinking so much you’re still legally drunk the next day. You wake up jittery and nauseous with a mouth so dry no drink can quench the thirst, you can’t even think about breakfast, and even water comes right back up again. It’s like that every day, all day, for some of us.
You can be so desperate to have a baby, be exhilarated by the news, be hopeful that the ginger will work, the bands will work, the magnesium will work, and then find yourself in a heap on the floor, convinced you’re going to be a terrible mother and your baby hates you already. You can start thinking about your ‘options’ or lack of them, even if it’s something you’ve never ever considered before. You can wish for death. Pray for it, in fact.
Back in the day they used to say that Hyperemesis was a psychological condition in women who didn’t really want their baby. Unless you’ve lived through this condition, you can’t begin to imagine how painful that is for a woman to be told, to hear, or have insinuated.
Charlotte Bronte is believed to have died from the extreme starvation, malnutrition, and dehydration associated with HG. Don’t tell a woman suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum that she should be grateful or is lucky.
By the time you’ve puked so much you’re seeing your stomach lining from the outside, or have ripped your oesophagus, you’ve pretty much lost the battle with bladder control too. What little fluid your body may still contain quite easily trickles onto the floor with each dry heave. Forget about clothes. It just adds to the laundry.
Just the feel of material against your skin can be enough to set you off, anyway.
That’s what blogger Rosie from Mummy And Boo was told by her midwife. You had fun making the baby… now comes the hard part. Wow. Just wow.
I’ve had my head in the toilet for 26 weeks. I’ve not run around with my child, I’ve not done anything for or with her. I’ve been fighting hospitalisation because I have no one else to look after my child, while my husband is the sole breadwinner trying to keep a roof over our heads. I have lost a ton of weight, rapidly, as well as two teeth from all the acid. I vomit every time I move. I’ve had to buy a new washing machine because the first thing I can smell when I wake up in the morning in the washing machine – a floor down and two doors away (sense of smell is heightened by HG). I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, have cried tearless sobs every time I’ve taken non-pregnancy safe medication in an attempt to stay alive while wondering what it’s doing to my baby, and I have had arguments with doctors about what medication will and wont work for me – this isn’t my first time you know.
Do you really think, like really think, that I didn’t somewhere in the beginning of all this, try ginger.
What a woman suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum needs is someone to take her child/ren to the park, or play with them in the garden. And feed them while you’re at it. Something that doesn’t smell after (like garlic or onions or beans). Take her laundry out of the house and wash it for her. Wash her sheets with anything not perfumed. Don’t wear perfume around her. Ask her what she needs. Bring ice cubes. Every pregnancy and case is different. In my first I couldn’t handle garlic/meat. In my second the smell of water was horrific. To this day I feel ill when I hear Peppa Pig’s theme tune. If you love someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, don’t give them advice on handling nausea. Just ask them what you can do for them.