Fifty shades of green
Have a baby they said, you'll glow they said.
So I did but I didn't...
My glow was more a shade of pond green algae rather than the pregnant lady radiance I had hoped for.
It’s amazing how you know early on when everything's about to change and not just because your boobs are massive, it all proceeds with a puke.
Jamaica Baby! Literally on our ‘oneymoon’. We'd made it a year and so decided to jet off to Montego Bay in celebration. A trip to Bob Marley’s birthplace in Nile Miles and several undignified pee stops by the side of the road did make me wonder, the fuller chest, the spotting which I thought was a UTI (sorry for the TMI) and a pukey 10 hour flight home mistaking sickness for overindulgence and jet lag for what was about to become my hyperemesis hell.
Except I didn't have a bloody clue what hyperemesis was or that it even existed! Little did I know I’d go on to become a ‘professional puker”.
I was pregnant, I just knew it. The second line appeared as I sat on the loo laughing nervously. I needed digital confirmation, 2-3 weeks it told me!
Fuck a duck!
Must inform the husband, he was working away so I rang him up (never call him, he always calls me) I've always been high maintenance. He thought someone had died, and I did a little along the way.
Anyway he's delighted, we did say we'd try. I can tell he's gutted not to be trying more often, trying for longer, but he's chuffed everything’s in good working order! Every macho cloud and all that. By the time he's back home I must be about 6 or 7 weeks and we laugh at my first puke - ah that's the morning sickness kicking in we chuckle, all pregnant and smug together!
I look back at this memory and hate us both!
Then the fog descends, the nausea, the vomiting and not just in the morning but all the live long day! It's like the worst hangover known to woman (and I've had some belters) or think of food poisoning which lingers for 9 whole months!
I naively thought 'this is how it must be' until I couldn't get off the bathroom floor, until my piss was the colour of petrol, until I couldn't even sip water. Husband knew this was wrong, this was not normal morning sickness.
I lay across the blue plastic chairs of the A&E department with zero fucks to give. I looked like a homeless wreck, a drunk, a junkie even but I'd lost the will to care. Anything would’ve been better than this! They tested my urine - ketone levels were high, I was seriously dehydrated. They were lucky I managed to produce any urine in the first place - it really was taking the piss, they got a dribble at best.
Next I was scanned for multiples, we were equally terrified and excited somehow at the prospect of this! It would have saved me the head fuck of considering another potential HG pregnancy to have BOGOF babies first time round.
Alas there was no multiples as the 7 week scan showed what I declared was a single prawn in my womb. I called it a ‘wee bugger’, the midwife called it a parasite (she was on my side). It was healthy, heart beat visible on the screen and it was sucking the life out of me. There was love and relief but I still felt like I was dying. I can relate to Bella in Breaking Dawn (if there's any twihards reading this you'll get my meaning).
So I'm hooked up to IV fluids, I have a memory of sharing a IV stand with some other poor soul who just stepped out a lift. We looked like the walking dead, the stand was the only thing holding us up.
They gave me the cheap anti emetics first and they only made me sicker (the irony)! Zofran literally saved me, Zofran (or ondansetron), an expensive anti emetic usually reserved for chemo patients is pretty much the last resort. Those tiny yellow pills were priceless and now I had new sympathy for addicts.
Zofran helped reduce the puke sessions but the nausea never, ever let up, or the excessive spit (could fill a bucket) or the extreme sensitivity to smell. I couldn't even stand the smell of my own skin, I sprayed perfume on myself before bed and I'd became allergic to husband. Poor guy!
I had my prawn pic to keep me company in hospital on my first admission and I looked at it closely trying to figure out what the hell it was.
A fetus, a parasite, my vampire baby, my little love.
This was the standard chat that followed. ‘Get to twelve weeks and you’ll be fine’, what lies! ‘Ok it’s got to be better at sixteen weeks’, nope! There is no sense of time when you’re in the HG zone, it’s timeless, minutes, hours, days mean nothing. I didn’t even bother to hope for better, I knew it wouldn’t come. I firmly believe HG is the biggest endurance test known to woman. I sat zombie like for the duration. I went off the grid with some not knowing I was pregnant until after the baby arrived. Daytime TV proved to be a mild distraction. Murder She Wrote (which I’d never given the time of day) was a firm favourite. I could figure out a crime scene in less time than Jessica Fletcher, I was embarrassed for us both. It was my fate that I would endure HG for the whole nine months, little love did make an appearance five days early which was a welcome relief of sorts.
Now as much as I was grateful for the Zofran and the doctor who prescribed it, his name was actually Dr Love and I did love him, it left me feeling rather bagged up. Constipation is the curse of the Zofran. They’d given me the usual stool softeners to combat this but of course an HG sufferer is going to puke that stuff straight back up. So, no, the constipation along with the sickness and nausea was my constant companion. By Christmas I was six months pregnant and I’m not sure if the bump was all baby or due to a blockage. The best Christmas gift that year would’ve been the ability to have a crap. I’d googled (as you do) how to alleviate this horrendous situation. Take a warm bath said one website, I knew what this meant – and I did not fancy a festive floater. Lay on your side on the floor with a towel advised another site and so that is what I did. Christmas Day and there I lay on the bathroom tiles, on my side with a towel underneath my arse, husband was thankfully completely oblivious in another room. How undignified I thought as I pulled my knees up to my chest and hoped for the best. The bathroom floor was the scene of many a crime, if I wasn’t hugging the toilet I was laying on the floor as it’s alternative but it worked!
It was a very Merry Christmas!
Prawn baby was now affectionately named Hubble, being the nosey bastards we are husband and I paid for a gender scan. I’d always had a thing for Hubble Gardner (Robert Redford in The Way We Were) and Hubble rhymed with trouble which prawn baby had been nothing but. You can’t resent your unborn child (actually you can, so don’t feel bad about that) but you can resent the situation you find yourself in. I didn’t know Hyperemesis Gravidarum existed until it was written on my notes, until a kindly doctor knew I wasn’t functioning the way a normal pregnant woman should. Before Dr Love, I’d been to see a few GP’s during emergency appointments, sadly I don’t think many of them knew much about it either. One floaty female GP in tie dye told me to persevere as it wouldn’t last much longer. Where was the solidarity? I got back to the car and punched the dashboard in frustration at the ‘fucking hippie’ much to husband’s amusement.
The next GP told me to go straight to A&E and that’s how I knew I was ill and not just pregnant.
The last few months passed by in much the same way, still vomiting and still nauseated. The nausea was worse than the puking. Husband said he could tell what stage I was at in the puke zone by the tone of my vomit groans. The nausea was all consuming, I gained great skill at staring into space, sometimes I didn’t want to talk, sometimes I wanted to maintain the art of silence forever. It’s a lonely place to be, even when you’re harboring a tiny human life inside of you, when you’re puking for two instead of eating for two. Hyperemesis is a solitary affair.
March was the month of deliverance. I’d managed to practice the art of hypno birthing and found the meditations quite soothing so I was ready. I had my birth plan in place and consultant led care so I knew all would be well. I also knew the sickness and nausea had to go when baby arrived. I was so ready for this!
The labour was actually quite liberating. It was a Saturday and I’d had what husband and I later referred to as ‘the last supper’ - some Italian food that I managed to keep down. It was absolutely delicious and miraculous, it was obviously the fuel I would need for getting through the next twenty four hours. Propped in my usual space on the sofa which now had indentations the shape of my arse, I settled down to watch Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (doesn’t everyone)? They’d proudly re-released “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’ I laugh as they do their dated dance moves and come over all nostalgic for PJ and Duncan. Then I felt a rumble of another kind, some pain which grew more intense, like how I imagine a concertina must feel when being squeezed in half, bloody hell this is it I realised and so I made ‘the call’ to husband, who drove back from wherever he was in jig time. “Get the bloody tens out” I screamed, having been a victim of chronic back pain my whole thirty years even I knew I needed back up. Now I’m all business, managing the tens machine with one hand and my contraction app with the other, both a great distraction from the reality that I was going to have a baby and soon! With all my tech I felt I could rule the world, I was in control, I knew what was going on. Clearly these women who surprise deliver on the toilet never had HG, how could you not know you were pregnant in the first place?
I was so agitated I couldn’t think straight. I was only comfortable laying bent over a chair, I must’ve looked so graceful. I know it’s time to ring the labour ward but midwife tells me I don’t sound like I’m in labour (I’ve always had a good telephone voice) so I soldier on. A trip to the loo and I have ‘a show’ – time to go! Suddenly realise the Husband only has a coupe and I literally can’t sit on my arse so I clamber into the back seat and kneel with my arms hugging the head rest, face squashed up against the tiny rear window. Some poor sod at the red lights think’s I’ve been trafficked. We made it to the hospital which was in the midst of a massive refurbishment so we have to walk round the back of the building to the labour ward, I recall this was not fun as I stop for a contraction to pass and to puke.
I think I’m going to shit myself and go to the toilet as soon as we get there, and it’s carnage with blood everywhere. I think I’m going to die, then I remember this is supposed to happen. Midwife states she’ll need to examine me to see how many centimeters dilated I am and asks me to lay down. I’m adamant I cannot lay down, and ask ‘if we can do it standing up’. She doesn’t know how to take this request and I spy husband trying not to laugh.
I’m five fucking centimeters! I’m off to deliver. Birth plan goes out the window, no water birth for me so I remain as I have done for hours, on my knees. I hear husband at the business end ask the midwife ‘what’s that?’ – ‘Piles’ she casually replies. Classy to the end. Three hours of pushing and the threat of a c section under general anaesthetic which I point blank refuse results in a forceps delivery but finally he is here. Hubble has entered our world. We didn’t actually name him Hubble but the thought did cross my mind. He lay on my chest and we marvel at our miracle. I have some tea and digestive biscuits and I don’t feel sick one little bit, I have third degree tears but no sickness or nausea. You can’t have it all.
The thing with hyperemesis is physical illness aside - the mental torture is just, if not equally as bad. Have a baby they said, you'll glow they said.
The only glow from me was a shade of puke green. To this day, I can vomit just brushing my teeth, my gag reflex is super sensitive (ask my dentist and my husband) again poor guy! When Kate - Duchess of Cambridge was pregnant and hyperemesis made the media I physically threw up. I felt the nausea like it was happening to me. Smells, songs, places can trigger it. It's like puke PTSD and still people ask, 'have you tried ginger'? Jesus Christ how I'd have punched these people if only I had the energy to make a fist. I tried the lot, all the cheap meds, travel sickness bands, two on each wrist, it was a fetching look, very Wimbledon, dry crackers, ginger bastarding biscuits but nothing worked. Mint humbugs helped for a bit - reduced the saliva output for a while then I was sick of them too.
I wanted the glow, to be on mat leave doing pre-natal Pilates and lunching around town picking out things for the nursery, but no! I lay in bed graduating to the sofa on a good day, permanently in pjs, make up less and mojo less (saved a fortune on cosmetics - so much so I bought the husband a Rolex). Sick pay had a whole new meaning. He did alright out of it really.
Ask anyone who's had HG and they'll tell you the same, they felt robbed. Robbed of the pregnancy they'd dreamt of, longed for and that's a hard pill to swallow.
Today I am not the woman I once was, yet now four years down the line I find myself hankering for another, a sibling for my HG hero who I love with all my heart, who was worth every puke, every pill, every pile and who despite it all is pure perfection. We endured it together, we were a team from the start, we have a special bond, we made it. I'm still stunned that somehow during my HG hell I managed to keep him safe inside. Not only does he know the sound of my heart from the inside, he knows a good puke when he hears one.
So what now? Do I gamble, do I risk it all, my health, my sanity?
Have a baby they say,
You'll glow they say
'Fifty Shades of Green' Written by Christine Howie -
HG Survivor and Pregnancy Sickness Support Volunteer