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When it isn't just "morning sickness"

Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

Sounds like a spell from Harry Potter, but I can assure you... this pregnancy ailment is far from magical. When I describe the experience of suffering from hyperemesis to other people it usually includes expletives because let's be frank, that is some straight up bullshit right there, folks. Read on, if you dare.

So, you've got that positive pregnancy test and you're overjoyed, organising your first doctors appointment and making nervous plans, and then you pass that 6-7 week mark and bam! As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, you vomit, and it doesn't stop there. Imagine you spend your day in near constant stomach churning nausea and it comes in waves, just when you think you're wobbling along okay.... the next minute you're doubled over the nearest garden bed/rubbish bin/out a window/grab a plastic bag/whatever you can find to heave into. Food? Good luck. Remember all those favourite things you once enjoyed eating? You will now exorcise them promptly from your stomach like an unwelcome demon. Whoever named it 'morning sickness' was obviously having a laugh. It just keeps going. 

Hyperemesis honestly robs so much of the joys of pregnancy.... the miracle of creating human life aside. Approximately 1 in every 200 pregnant women will experience the severe reaction to surging pregnancy hormone HcG and many will require hospitalisation for treatment. I was one of the lucky ones, my case was somewhat less severe in that I would generally tolerate liquids. I didn't spiral into dangerous dehydration levels by meticulously sipping drinks throughout each day, no matter what. I have heard tales of women who could not get anything at all past their lips without triggering the vomiting, bless their poor hearts. Some of us are fortunate to respond to antiemetic medication, for me I had a reasonable response so it halved the number of spews each day. Sad to think that a "good day" would only entail 2-3 spews eh? I was so sick we had to do an early dating scan to check that it wasn't twins (it wasn't).

My dear husband was practically trained to jump up at a moments notice and run through the house to me, bucket in hand, to try to "catch" a sudden spew that caught me off guard. Oh and props to our faithful Labrador, who once was so concerned by my rushing out to the front garden to puke that he followed by jumping through the bedroom window, knocking the fly screen clean off its frame. (If you are a reader with hyperemesis please avert your eyes, cause you know how this story ends... well the bloomin' dog ate it....didn't he. Oh dear, sorry about that.) I have lost count of the number of places in public I've unceremoniously vomited, although three years down the track I try and look back with humour. At the time, it was definitely 100% not funny.

Ordinarily a voracious eater, I begun to approach food with a kind of methodical dread, knowing exactly what was in store for me after each meal. You must eat to fuel this incredible growing creation inside you, unpleasant as eating is, but you're so worried that harm could come to unborn bub so you soldier on day in day out. I saw a naturopath for diet support and found liquid or powdered pregnancy-safe vitamin supplements I could manage to swallow. I tried the acupressure wristbands. I found that as long as food didn't have a scent... it was okay. Go figure. I felt mildly concerned I might resort to striking the next bystander who 'helpfully' suggested I try ginger or plain crackers, roaring internally, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS IS LIKE!". 

Time crept by. Hallelujah. At just after 20 weeks into pregnancy my symptoms of hyperemesis begun to slowly fade. It was as if the sun had appeared from behind a very dark and miserable cloud. Approximately 140 days, 3360 hours of hell.... but who is counting. I was so lucky, for some women the only relief will come when the baby is darn well delivered. People began to compliment me on "that pregnancy glow", bump was growing healthily, I got my head back in the game and I felt grateful. Truthfully, making a human and bringing it safely into the world is an opportunity like no other. 

If you or someone you know is going through the experience of hyperemesis, I cannot stress enough the importance of early management. You must take extremely close care not to fall down the slippery slope, grab onto whatever help you can. Don't be hero, take the medication, talk about how you feel, rest as much as you can without guilt, this is a potentially serious medical condition and in my eyes, you deserve a bloody medal for getting through it. Keep up the good work.

Thank you for reading my tale mostly consisting of vomit. I'd like to dedicate this article to the inventors of Frosty Fruit ice-blocks because essentially thanks to you I survived pregnancy.... no big deal.

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