I’ve been thinking a lot about hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), pregnancy and the size of our family over the past few months. With all of the media attention surrounding Kate Middleton’s pregnancy announcement and struggle with HG, it’s been on my mind almost non-stop.
The First Time
When I was pregnant with C, I was so ill that I could barely leave my apartment. I couldn’t attend my graduate school classes, and I had to complete my grad assistantship work almost entirely from home. After several weeks, my choice was to either fail a class or drop it. Failing was not an option, but dropping it meant that I was no longer eligible for my assistantship. My assistantship was paying for my education. I had no choice but to withdraw from grad school. I had no job, no income, and was so sick that I could barely move. I thought several times, “I can’t do this. I just can’t. No one is strong enough to endure this.”
I thought I would die.
Around weeks 15-18, things started to improve. My doctor finally realized how bad my situation was, and after some trial and error, I went on 4mg of Zofran. I know now that my condition was severe and my case was mishandled. I should have been hospitalized on multiple occassions for IV hydration.
I struggled with severe aversions throughout the rest of pregnancy, but I would pop a Zofran and it helped. In April 2011, C was born.
I Wanted More Kids
I’ve always wanted three or four kids. I’ve always wanted my children to be close in age, in hopes that they’ll have a close relationship. As soon as I found “me” again after my struggle with PPD, we started talking about trying for Baby Deuce. Much to our surprise, we got pregnant the first month that we started trying.
It was a wonderful blessing, and a shock. I have PCOS and doctors have told me that conceiving would be difficult. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case. Our children would be almost exactly two years apart! I was thrilled.
The Second Time Around
Then the symptoms began. Right away, things started smelling different. Bad different. Food and beverages tasted different. Bad different. In week five, HG began again. And this time, it was worse.
Thankfully, my doctor this time around is knowledgable about HG as well as my medical history. They weren’t going to mess around. I was put on 8mg of Zofran during week six. It helped, but not enough. The gagging was so bad that I couldn’t get any food or fluids into my mouth. I went into the hospital during week seven for IV hydration. The nurse had trouble finding my vein because I was so dehydrated, and it collapsed when she did.
I ended up on what I call a “cocktail” of Unisom, vitamin B6 and 8mg of Zofran. I was still miserable. Most days, I was lucky to consume 500 calories and more than 16 ounces of fluids. I barely left the apartment during the week, napped whenever C did, and spent most of my days on the couch with C begging me to get up and play with him.
I can’t do this. I’m not going to make it. The familiar words crept up in my mind, over and over again. But this time I knew that I could. I’d done it before, and this time I had this beautiful child as proof of the reward that awaited me.
A Devastating Realization
Now, at 17 weeks, I’m still nauseous almost every day. I can barely handle certain smells: pasta cooking in boiling water, freshly toasted bread, my favorite face wash, C’s dirty diapers. There are certain flavors or textures that continue to make me gag: toothpaste, many tomato sauces, meat, anything remotely onion-like. Even the sight of some things is almost too much to bear: uncooked meat, eggs.
Three days last week, I couldn’t keep down my dinner. It didn’t matter what it was.
HG this time around is so much worse. I can’t bear to go through this again.
As much as I want a large family, as much as I love my child(ren), I just cannot do it. There’s not enough strength in me.
I can’t begin to describe the guilt I have felt coming to this decision. I want a large family. Women should be able to handle pregnancy. Many women handle it wonderfully. They have beautiful pregnancies, natural births and several children. Why can’t I handle it? Am I not woman enough?
And then I felt guilty because my case of HG is mild compared to some. If those women can live through worse, how come I can’t do this again?
But that’s not the case. I am woman enough. My body just isn’t good at being pregnant. HG is something that is out of my control. It’s out of anyone’s control that suffers from it. Some women with HG might have it worse than me, but that doesn’t mean that my case is easy either. HG, in all its forms of severity, is a monster.
Hubster and I have discussed the possibility of adoption in the future. It helps ease the sting of this decision. If our family feels incomplete a few years from now, at least I know that adoption is on the table for us. This doesn’t have to be it if it doesn’t feel right.
I pray that nausea and vomiting doesn’t plague this pregnancy until Baby Deuce arrives in May. I can’t think of that possibility because even considering that makes this pregnancy feel like an eternity. I know that I’ll survive no matter what, but I need to stay positive and live day by day.
I’m thankful for my wonderful, supportive husband and my beautiful boy, whom I can look at and know that this will all be worth it in the end. Even when I don’t think I can go on, it’s the two of them that push me through. Family. It’s the only good that can come from HG.