The long road to recovery from HG
HG mum, Cheryl Arumugum contacted me a few weeks ago in order to nominate someone special as her HG hero. In the past my HG Hero posts have featured husbands, doctors, children and other people directly supporting women during a hyperemesis pregnancy. But HG heroes aren't just those people who help us practically at our most sick… for many women the recovery from hyperemesis gravidarum can be a long and exhausting road and it is during that recovery that we may meet people who can make the world of difference! Here Cheryl pays tribute to her HG Hero Sandra Zocher who, through kindness, support and pure fun has helped Cheryl regain her confidence and vigour for life which HG had been holding prisoner....
Sandra Zocher - HG hero
For a long time after my pregnancy I couldn't look HG in the face, even going on the Pregnancy Sickness Support site was traumatic as it brought back all the awful memories that I hadn’t been able to process yet. I think it took me about 9 months to a year to recover physically from the hyperemesis and emergency caesarean section but the mental recovery has taken a lot longer.
Shortly after my daughter was born I remember the health visitor asking whether I was feeling depressed and I was thinking "Are you kidding? I don't feel sick for the first time in nine months, I can eat most foods again and I can taste and enjoy them. I am happy!" Looking back I would still say that was true but what I didn't have then and am only fully regaining now, 26 months later, is my confidence and properly feeling like myself and being genuinely, all the way through my body happy. I'm not sure if that is a very good description but I remember when my daughter was 5 months we went to California for my best friend's wedding. The band were playing, I was dancing, which is my favourite hobby, with my husband, everything was great and my husband was so happy and I was smiling and willing myself to feel that happiness but I just felt shaky and empty. Like the happiness was very superficial and it worried me.
When I had hyperemesis I had to work from home following my hospital admission for the rest of the 9 months. I couldn't prepare my own food or do the essential chores around the house… you've heard it all before, it’s a common hyperemesis experience. I was ridiculed for my spit bowl, told I should stop taking the cyclizine as it would harm the baby and experienced all the common stigmatising misconceptions from everyone around me. Then I had an emergency c section and found it really hard to recover from, I suppose because my body was so weakened from the HG. Again, there were comments and looks making me feel that I was pathetic for not having healed yet. I felt that I lost my voice with hyperemesis and ironically a few days after I gave birth I did lose my voice and did not regain it for 5 months! The nurse who took off my pressure dressing had left it too long after I had had a shower, and when she ripped it off I screamed in agony, it must have bust a vocal chord.
However, it was very demonstrative of the fact that I felt that I had lost my voice metaphorically as well. I didn't have confidence in my body any more. Not so much in terms of weight but of my body doing what I wanted it to do. For example, I wanted to eat healthily and continue my sport in my pregnancy and wanted to have medication free labour. None of those things worked out and it felt like my body was working against me, it had let me down.
I lost so much confidence and was so worn down by the experience (including what seems to be irreparable damage to a friendship) that starting new things was far more daunting than it was pre-pregnancy, I worried about meeting new people and being judged. The first group that I joined was a baby massage group and the lady who ran it, Kati Armstrong, was wonderful. She was always warm and friendly and smiling. I learnt to smile again myself and met some like-minded people. I think the saying of "Smile, you never know how much better you might make a person's day" applied tenfold to me post hyperemesis.
I gradually built up my physical strength through walking and when my daughter was 15 months finally felt able to go back to my chiropractor to get my back fixed so that I could be in less pain and start doing more strenuous exercise. I was really nervous of being touched. I’m not sure whether that was a hangover from HG or the c section but luckily Dr Griffiths, who treated me, had an amazing way of making it all be ok.
I had tried a salsa class in my town but it was poorly attended and not my level. There are not many dance classes in my town so I thought maybe I would try Zumba to keep me fit whilst I try to find something more suitable. A friend said she had tried Sandra Zocher's class and that it was really fun so I gave it a whirl. I had done Zumba classes before and got bored after a few weeks, (even with one run by a Strictly pro!) so I didn’t have high hopes. But Sandra puts so much love and fun and laughter into her classes that you can't help but get hooked. She is always smiling and so full of fun that even before you start the class, it is like you have been given a boost and you start to grin. She was sensitive to my back problems and to recuperating after the c section and she just helped me to learn to let go and to trust my body again. I faltered over the steps initially but as I began to loosen up, my body started finding the right moves and it started to sing again. Dancing makes me feel alive and Sandra brought that back to me.
Sandra recently posted "It doesn't matter what exercise you do as long as you love it" and I think that is true. It even applies to any hobby, not just exercise. I’ve regained so much confidence and happiness thanks to Sandra’s Zumba class. So my recommendation would be whatever hobby it is that you love, try and get back into it as soon as possible post HG as hopefully it will help you to feel good again.
This story highlights that the key to supporting women with hyperemesis is plain and simple kindness! So much of Cheryl's confidence had been robbed, not by the condition it's self, but by the insensitive and cruel comments from other people. Society's expectations of her body to reproduce, her experience of a c-section, her ability to maintain her house and work meant that her experience of those things eroded her self worth because they didn't match the social norms. Sandra, just by being non-judgemental, positive and fun, gave Cheryl back the ability to see through the fog and enjoy life again. And for that she is an HG Hero!