Sunday, February 17, 2013

Not Morning Sickness

I write all of my posts with the knowledge that I'm writing more for me than for anyone else.  That's on purpose.  It keeps me focused and is comfortable for me to live small that way. 

This post, however, is entirely different.  I want people to read this one.  I need people to read this one.  Share it, Retweet it, copy and paste it, whatever you want, but please give it to someone you know might need it because you might be that person's salvation.  If what we do here helps one person realize they are not crazy, weak, or a medical mystery, then we have done a freaking stellar job.  Everybody wins.   
This post is long because it's important I get the details right.  Lives depend on it.   A mother's, a baby's, or both.

Since the news of Kate Middleton's difficult pregnancy broke, I can't stop thinking about her.  Not just because this lovely woman is sick but because I know how she is suffering.  I know because I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and it was absolute torture.    

~ Not until 6 weeks in with my second pregnancy did I think something was really wrong.  I remembered feeling this awful with Grayson but now, so early on, I could not keep anything down. I was averaging 15 upchucks per morning while my friends talked of throwing up 15 times per pregnancy.  

I asked my OB if she thought this was Hyperemesis Gravidarum, what my mother had while pregnant with my little brother.  I knew about it because of what my mom endured (without proper diagnoses or treatment) and because I researched words like "hyper hormonal," and “more than morning sickness," like it was my job.  It was all I could think about while the nausea amped up and the vomiting responded to nothing, not even the Zofran.

Meanwhile, the numbers on the scale kept ticking down.

Any bite of food or sip of liquid triggered a fight response in my body.  My stomach had its own personal bouncer who ejected all contents out if its club at whatever cost. 

By 8 weeks, the cost was jaundice, debilitating nausea, extreme weakness, fainting spells, and hypersalivation.  I had a spit cup.  A disgusting addition during American Idol night with my friend.  She pretended it didn't gross her out.  I pretended I was able to concentrate on the singing.

"Yep, this is pretty standard extreme morning sickness," my doctor would say, making me feel like a huge crybaby even though I knew that was the last descriptor my friends or family would use to describe me.
I maintained something was wrong for weeks, but doctors advised “Preggo Pops” and seasick wristbands in lieu of further evaluation.   My nurses recommended nail salons.   

I did not demand more.  

Despite growing sicker by the hour, I tried it all:  pedicures, ginger candy, chewing gum, Saltines, seasick wristbandsStanding in line at CVS to pick up the Zofran that didn't work became a nightmare. I could smell everything's toxic insides.  One whiff of L'Oreal and I was hurling into my purse like I hadn't been home from Mardi Gras yet.  Most days I could hardly stand the scent of my own skinMy world was on fire and every surrounding thing burned like hell.  

When nothing alleviated my illness, I tried the unorthodox route:  pressure points, meditation, hypnotherapy, crystals, and praying to a God I wasn't sure existed.  

It was no use, I was a Failed Pregnant Superhero able to spot exit signs in the blink of an eye.  The Caped Uterus, Iron Womb-an, The Incredible Hurlk

My poor husband spent more time outside in the cold cooking his own dinners on the grill. I would watch him eat.  I would study my husband enjoying his dinner trying to figure out how he kept his down, like we were both pregnant.

My sweet friends looked at me sideways, wondering what to say.  I'm sure it appeared I'd morphed into Scarlett O'Hara overnight.  Oh my, how my poor tendah feet need a rest.  I didn't return calls, could not finish books for Book Club, and wouldn't host Silpada parties.  I felt as though I lived under a death cloud of nausea and vomiting at all times.  I was shackled to my bathroom, under house arrest.
At the 12 week mark, when doctors promised my "morning sickness" would magically disappear, things only got worse.  There was no more sleeping through the nausea.  I lost 25 lbs, and had become a disturbing shade of scallion.   Twizzlers and ice cubes were the only two things on the menu.
This didn't feel like a pregnancy.  This felt like a parasitic invasion Not sure how much longer I or the baby could make it in starvation mode, I made one last trip to my doctor. 

“Your bladder's completely empty,” she said pressing her magic wand hard onto my organs. “Your stomach is too.  How long have you been like this?” Her eyebrows as high as they could go. 

“Since the beginning,” I answered. "Like I've been telling you all along," I thought.  Within minutes I was hospitalized, hooked up to IVs and feeling like I landed in a Sandal's resort.  

 A new doctor diagnosed it It was exactly what I had suspected all along.

 Hyperemesis Gravidarum. 

"Is it serious?"  I asked from my imaginary hammock.  

"Yes, it is," said the no-shit new OB. "Hyperemesis Gravidarum is making you very sick.  It is intractable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration which gets you here because of malnutrition or other complications.   

"Other complications?  Is my baby ok?"

"Yes, but I'm glad you're here because if left without treatment, well...HG can result in maternal and fetal death.."

Whoa...I'm glad I'm here too, brother.  This mess is no joke.  
Validating news for me came when I read the pamphlet.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition so rare it affects 0.5-2.0% of the pregnant population.  It is hormonal poisoning that acts like a 24-hour stomach bug lasting 6,048 hours instead.  A nine month long siege of poisoning.

HA.  I wasn't a crybaby afterall.  And my poor mom hadn’t been a delicate one either.  Quite the opposite, really.  We could both rest on our laurels that we fought this beast off until salvation arrivedLactated ringers for Mom, and a PICC line surgically implanted into my arm for me. 

A visiting nurse walked my husband and me through what to do with my PICC line once, then she drove away.  We sat across from each other, dazed, and unsure of how legal this operation really could beI was a teacher.  He, an Aviation Logistics Officer.  We fumbled at first - with gloves, sterile needles, syringes, and flushing my line with heparin but eventually we felt like two interns on Grey's Anatomy.  Only fewer visits to the broom closet.


My PICC line was three feet long, snaked through a good vein, and rested right above my heart. This tiny tube angel allowed nutrients to directly enter through my bloodstream  


It kept me and my baby alive while correcting the chemical and metabolic damage that had already been done.  My tube angel would stay with me for the rest of the pregnancy so I could go back home to my family.

Many women with HG can't go home.  Once diagnosed, they remain in their hospital bed, attached to tubes, and illness for months on end.



We named my IV pole Ghostrider as it followed us everywhere.  Our two-year-old became an expert at lifting tubing over his head for story time.  Our kitchen looked like a hospital triage but felt like hope.  Once nutrients and fluids came through a bag, I became less frantic about the nausea.  Food was still largely a non-option but over the next five months, life began to pick up speed...and weight.

At 8 months pregnant, I finally discovered I could eat a burrito and keep it down.

So I ate them all.

25 pounds of them.

Just when I was really getting my feed bag strapped on for good, the big day arrived.  Our baby was ready to show up with gusto. 

Abigail Kate entered the scene a fast and furious three hours after my first contraction.  The nurse placed her in my arms and I was met with a penetrating gaze that drove chills to my heart.

Her little determined face and those serious could I have not known?  All those months of nose holding, IV pole dragging, pregnancy hating, HG cursing...Abby Kate was working just as hard from the inside to stay as I was working on the outside to keep her.  We were anything but fragile.

“Thank you," I whisper to her,  "Thank you for being a warrior.  Just like your mama and your grandma.  I'm so proud of you, Baby Girl.  Now you go rest while Mommy gets a tubal."

Post Note:
Please refer anyone possibly suffering from the misnomer "extreme morning sickness" to this website:
Help HER - Hyperemesis Education Research

And if you think I might have been stretching the truth, please read this woman's account of her experience with HG.  or ask my husband. 

Hyperemesis Gravidarum:  Is NOT morning sickness.  It is intractable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration resulting in malnutrition and serious complications and imbalances.     Hyperemesis Gravidarum can result in maternal and fetal death..

The literature existing now is very clear.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum is very serious and often misdiagnosed as severe morning sickness.  If ignored, HG often results in depression or termination of fetus, as a life saving measure for the mother.  If left untreated, both mother and baby are at risk of losing their lives.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition so rare it affects 0.5-2.0% of the pregnant population.  But it does affect.  And 0.5-2.0%...still a person makes   

Hyperemesis Gravidarum takes a toll on your mental state as well as your physical state.  For me, Hyperemesis Gravidarum was letting my two-year-old watch an endless loop of Winnie the Pooh while I quietly pounded my fists on my thighs so he wouldn't hear me sobbing.  (I still can't hear the Pooh theme song without dry heaving.)  HG was being scared, alone, and fighting for two lives.  It was feeling crazy because nobody seems to believe any pregnant woman can be that sick.  They can't understand.  You are their 0.5%.  Comparing HG to morning sickness is like comparing anorexia to a common cold.  One could kill you, the other one just needs Gatorade.

HG is nothing new; it has been around for hundreds of years.  Author, Charlotte Bronte died in 1855 at four months pregnant with complications from Hyperemesis GravidarumHyperemesis Gravidarum is still so obscure it doesn't even show up on Word’s spell check.

While the social media iron is hot on this topic, let's bring this horrendous beast out into the open.  Only then will it lose its power.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum is treatable, often manageable, and survivable if diagnosed in time.  There are tests doctors can do to determine unhealthy hormone levels.  DEMAND them, do NOT worry about looking impolite, sensitive, or weak.  None of that matters when you start to to rapidly deteriorate from dehydration and other imbalances, when it is too late to reverse the negative slide.

Help me educate our friends, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and children about Hyperemesis Gravidarum before one more mother or one more baby unnecessarily loses their fight.


A Speckled Trout said...

Wow............this I never heard of and yet I could see myself at every one of your pre-natal checks. Nodding my head and taking another script. Why, of why do we not speak up for ourselves and our health when we are convinced we are really sick? I am getting better and being informed helps, but that is hard when you can't function. I went through a summer of ovarian cysts - 13# weight loss in a couple of weeks. I'd eat half of a grilled cheese sandwich and then be full and go back to the couch. Kudos, friend, for writing your story. Somebody will be helped by this and you will be the one to thank.

Anonymous said...

Your story sounds soooo familiar. I had friends who thought I was having a mental breakdown. It felt like I was. Thank you for sharing your story and helping me feel like my vomiting, retching, crying, weight loss, please cut this baby out at 22 weeks pregnancy experience was not all in my head.

OSMA said...

SpeckT ~ It's such a sad truth so many of us don't look out for ourselves as much as we could and often, should. I'm so sorry you had that summer with ovarian cysts. It sounds terrifying and painful. I hope it is forever eradicated from your body. We need you healthy, hilarious, and happy. Thanks so much for your support.

Anonymous - YOU are the reason I wrote this. I wanted nothing more than to know a.) my baby was going to be ok b.) i was going to live too and c.) i wasn't freaking wackadoo while going through HG. If I have helped you and anyone like us realize it has a name and a treatment plan, then I feel victorious! Thank you SO much for commenting, it means so much to me that you took the time to tell me it mattered. You and I can keep spreading the word so other mamas get the help they need and the support they deserve. All the best to you, fellow HG warrior, and thanks again for leaving a comment here. xo

The Palmer Family said...

Alleluia!! Well said my dear friend! We just need to make sure Morrissey reads this!


The Palmer Family said...

Alleluia!! Well said my dear friend! We just need to make sure Morrissey reads this!


Anonymous said...

Wow. Never knew that you'd had HG. You're even more awesome than I already thought you were! J Lo