Monday, February 1, 2016

Guest Post : Not blooming ... just wilting. A Hyperemesis Gravidarum story.

During my second pregnancy I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. An extremely debilitating pregnancy sickness condition. Not morning sickness! During my pregnancy I spoke with a few women in the same situation, we cried, laughed and vomited together, oh the things you bond over! This is one of their stories. It's so touching, it will make you cry. 

Just. Don’t. Want. To. Vomit. Anymore.

Not blooming … just wilting.

“I just don’t want to vomit anymore,” I wailed to my mother today as she wiped my brow with a damp cloth in between my heaves and retches.

I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Vomit. Anymore.

36 weeks into my second pregnancy and you’d think I’d be used to it. Stoic. Unfazed by another round with my head in a bucket. I am used to it. That doesn’t mean it gets any easier. Ever.

Just when you think you’re handling the chronic nausea and spewing you get plunged into some other slightly different and far more distressing vomiting fiasco: The burn of acid bile vomit, the nose spew, burst blood vessels in your eyes and face from the force of your heaving, ‘spewrination’ (yep, you heard me right, it’s the term I coined in my first pregnancy to describe the awesome combination of spewing and incontinence.)

Today I discovered the “squash vomit.”
That’s pretty much where one is bent over power heaving with such potency that one is essentially crushing their unborn child to the point where one’s abdomen is screaming for relief in one pain filled nightmare spasm and one’s whole stomach alters shape in one rebellious convulsion.
Today I feared breaking my waters with the force of my spewing. Today I wondered if I’d injured my baby in utero by crushing her limbs. Today I questioned if it was possible to forcibly detach my placenta with the sheer vigour of my heaving and retching.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
The latin term that literally means EXCESSIVE (Hyper) VOMITING (Emesis) in PREGNANCY (Gravidarum.)
My unwanted companion through 2 pregnancies.
Its rare.
Its debilitating.
It’s cruel.
It’s unpredictable.

I could tell you about the toll of spewing twenty plus times a day. Everyday. I could tell you what it’s like to vomit until your throat bleeds. I could tell you about the treatment options that essentially involve the medications they use to treat Chemotherapy patients for their nausea and vomiting. I could tell you about how worried you feel taking such potent drugs in such large doses while your pregnant friends and pregnancy app garble on about whether or not it’s safe to use mosquito repellent and take paracetamol. 

I could recount what it’s like to have uninformed doctors dismiss you, friends and co-workers pat your hand and suggest ginger and other homeopathic remedies for your “morning sickness” while they reminisce about their first trimester nausea. I could tell you what it’s like to be so sick and so unable to fight for treatment that you end up delirious on the bathroom floor hallucinating that German Shepherds have broken through the window and are feasting on your decomposing body. I could tell you that it doesn’t just end with pregnancy – that the toll it takes on your body during pregnancy is hard to repair post pregnancy to the point where chronic dehydration and ketones in my urine from my first pregnancy caused gall stones and the subsequent removal of my gall bladder.

But in the end, 80% of you would just dismiss my whining and complaints with the usual responses:
“Yes, but it will be worth it in the end.” Yes, it will. But it doesn’t diminish my suffering.
“You should be grateful that you can conceive and carry a baby at all.” Yes, I am grateful. But I am also very, very sick.
“It’ll all be over soon and the memory of this will all fade, as long as the baby is healthy that is all that matters.” Soon. Soon it will be over. Not soon enough for me who sat and listened to my obstetrician explain to me this week that while my baby continues to grow and thrive my liver and kidneys are no longer functioning as they should due to chronic long term dehydration. That could explain why I have blood in my urine nearly every day. It could be why my bile levels slowly rise above normal. The toll of carrying my child is causing my body to break down. I need a holter heart monitor to check why I am so breathless and suffer ongoing heart palpitations, but it’s mostly likely to be caused by ongoing stress on my body and organs or my extremely low iron levels. “Apparently when you vomit for 9 months you deplete your iron stores,” giggled my midwife flippantly. Yes, soon it will be over. For me it’s just not soon enough.

I am incredibly lucky to have conceived and (almost) carried two daughters to fruition. I look at my two year old every day and thank god for her existence and know deep within myself that she was worthy of 9 months of debilitating illness and that I would walk through the fires of hell to have her by my side. In a matter of a few short weeks I will be a Mummy again and be able to hold and cherish my second daughter with an abundance of love knowing she too was worth every god awful retching, bilious vomit.
But on another level there are things that I have lost in this battle to bring 2 daughters into the world that perhaps simply aren’t replaceable or retrievable. Yes, memories do fade, but I can assure you that it has taken a lot of counselling and inner strength to overcome parts of the trauma of my first HG pregnancy. To train myself not to constantly be looking for vomit escape routes – the nearest bin, the nearest vomit receptacle, an appropriate excuse, to not react to certain smells, sights, locations and sounds that bring back the clammy hands, the dizziness, the nausea. To not see normal, happy pregnant women out and about and wonder firstly how they are alive and secondly how they can eat, smile, function and seemingly enjoy their child bearing experience. To not hear the news of some lovely couple trying to conceive and to instantly think “don’t do it. You might die.”
It might just be resentment over lost time with my daughter while I fight to bring her sibling into the world. Worry over her constant anxiety – “Mummy, you okay? Mummy you so sick, call doctor. Mummy, you need a wipe?” Having to explain to daycare educators why my two year old daughter is role playing vomiting into containers during playtime, “just like mummy.”

It might just be that I’ve lost so many friendships and largely been forgotten, like some broken toy in the dusty corner with the cobwebs. It’s just not fun having a sick friend who isn’t entertaining anymore and doesn’t socialize. It’s no fun not having a wife, according to my husband. Just like anyone facing a chronic ongoing or long term illness, people are strange creatures who tend to ignore the elephant in the room or essentially for them, when you disappear into a 9 month long sickroom, you become invisible. People I have considered true friends and loved and cared about have dismissed me, forgotten me, and misunderstood me. Everyone loves to revel in the prize at the end and ooh and ahh over the lovely baby but no one really wants to see the sad, droopy faced, vomiting woman with the sick bag stash who never goes anywhere. Everyone offers to help, “just call us if you need anything!” But if and when you can bring yourself cringingly to ask for some assistance, offers generally don’t eventuate.

It might just be that I’ve lost a little part of me that used to be more carefree and forgiving. I am bitter. I am a bit twisted over it all. It’s not fair and I can’t find the justification for it all. I may have lost a bit of faith in a humanity who couldn’t once (not once!) even make and drop a meal over to feed my family while I was struggling to feed my toddler non-spew-trigger foods like frozen peas and packets of popcorn. Yet strangely, strangely, I gained some of that faith back tenfold in the love and sacrifice of my family.

In my first pregnancy my sister flew me home to the Sunshine Coast after ten days of trying to assist me with my misdiagnosed “morning sickness.” I was too ill to care for myself – to shower, to drive, to shop for food and attempt to prepare it. This newly single mum with two small children to care for and a job and career to maintain took me in and fought for me like a proverbial lioness. She challenged doctors, questioned nurses, drove me back and forth to hospital for essential IV fluidsand Dr appointments, filled my scripts, prepared me meals that mostly ended up vomited down the sink, cleaned up my spew, helped me shower, wiped my clammy face, deterred me from a termination and held me together through the mental trauma of an illness that ravaged my body, mind and spirit. What was meant to be a few weeks of care to get me through my ‘first trimester morning sickness’ turned into a diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and a four month long stay with her and her children until I was essentially just well enough to cope with returning to my home. We purposely made a decision to shield my parents from the reality of my illness as they travelled Australia for the duration of my pregnancy, living their lifelong caravanning dream.

Likewise, this current pregnancy has not only gradually broken my body down to the point where I am writing lists of instructions on how to raise my children in the anticipation of my death, it has also broken my spirit and faith in friendship and lack of understanding in others. One thing it has strengthened and reinforced is my love and gratefulness to my family. I didn’t have the usual early pregnancy symptoms of feeling faint or skipping a period. At 2 weeks pregnant I felt nauseated and by 2.5 weeks I’d already started some occasional vomiting – enough to tweak my suspicion and wee on a stick. Sobbing with fear I cried to my husband in hysterics and wailed that same line over and over again: I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Vomit. Anymore.

I made a phone call to my sister, Mum and Dad the very next morning and wept into the phone – “Please, please help me. I’m pregnant again.” Within a week my caravan crew were parked up in my backyard, ready to fight the battle for another baby, the final grandchild. There is no better way to describe my parents other than ‘saintly.’ They took over the care of my toddler, cooked meals for my husband and child, washed, cleaned, drove me in and out of hospital for intravenous fluids, held my hair while I vomited, filled my prescriptions, emptied my spew bowls, ran errands, took me to Dr appointments… I could never repay them for the care and support they have given me over the past 9 months. What they do on a daily basis to keep me alive is phenomenal, amazing, selfless, and noble.

The comments of strangers, friends, colleagues and acquaintances don’t quite have the power they did over me in my first pregnancy. It’s true, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I can smile politely while you tell me about your homeopathic cures, how terrible your morning sickness was and how grateful I should be to be ill as every vomit should remind me of the blessing I carry as your friend/neighbor/sister can’t conceive at all. Most of the time I can hold my tongue and walk away after you’ve patted my hand and told me to eat more ginger and drink more water. I know having a healthy child, no matter how much it has cost me to carry her, is better than no child at all. I know that unlike Crohns disease, Cancer, autoimmune problems and any other significant long-term illness I’m the lucky one who gets a prize at the end. I know that there is an end. I don’t deny that there are people who are suffering far worse than I. I know every day there are women struggling to make and carry a baby to full term. I know all that. But I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Vomit. Anymore. My aim here is not to belittle or demean the ongoing struggles of very sick people in our community or people going through a tough time on any personal level. I just want to share my journey in the hope that maybe somehow it changes even one person’s attitude toward chronic illness.

Now it’s almost here. So close. The end of HG. The start of life again. I know it will be worth it, every vomit, and every retch. I’ll have my complete family. I’ll know that I never have to face another 9 months of hell. Maybe I will even be a little extra protective, a little extra loving and doting as a mum, maybe I will be squeezing my second child just a little tighter, the way I did with my first just because of what it has cost me to grow her in my body. But even though it’s so close I can almost touch it and it will all be over soon, and I will smile as I present my baby to the world, just know that I’m a little changed, altered forever perhaps from this battle they call pregnancy.

Once I stop wilting, I will bloom again… but right now, right now, I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Vomit. Anymore. So indulge me, allow me my complaints and bitterness… one day I will bloom again. 

No comments: