The Silver Linings
Hyperemesis Gravidarum has been the toughest experience of my life so far. That is not because my life has been ludicrously easy, admittedly it hasn't been particularly hard but I've had my fair share of s**t over my 33 years (33 really? I hear you ask... I know I only look 23 but alas it's true!).
But I did have hyperemesis, it's part of my story and you know what - I'm glad now... Am I mad? Well, maybe a little but the truth is some really great things have happened because I had hyperemesis gravidarum! And I'm not just talking about my angelic little darlings (ahem).
The best is all the friends I have made. Hyperemesis is a truly bonding experience. At the time you may feel totally alone and isolated and find it impossible to believe that anyone else has ever suffered like you are doing, but they have, and are, and will. Connecting with other sufferers is an incredible experience in itself and to find out you are not the only one who has fantasised about miscarrying a baby you tried for months to conceive and your not the only one being told to think positively and try ginger, is liberating. By bonding with other women you can gain hope and a strength to survive the condition. United we can make a massive difference not just to our own experience but to thousands of other women too. I have friends not just around the UK but around the world, women and their partners whom I am bonded to by hyperemesis gravidarum.
Personal growth - I have learned compassion and tolerance and gained an inner strength which I honestly didn't have before. Lets address those things separately.
Pre hyperemesis I like to think I was a pretty compassionate person. As a nurse I tried hard to empathise with my patients and treat them with an open mind and kindness... Post hyperemesis I realise just how little I actually could understand their experiences. Hyperemesis sufferers may feel totally alone and misunderstood by healthcare professionals and the world but we are not alone. There are literally hundreds of misunderstood conditions which are met with equal disbelief, pseudo science and old wives tales. Various mental health conditions for example, myalgic encephalomyelitis, fibromyalgia, various allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, symphysis pubis dysfunction to name but a few. At least with HG it's generally over in 9 months. Many other conditions last a lifetime! HG has given me an insight into suffering without compassion from others and made me a better person for it.
Tolerance and perspective - I lost a few friends over my experience but not many and far fewer then many women I know who simply couldn't cope with how abandoned they felt by their friends. I did feel abandoned too by many of my "close" friends and relatives. But then I gained perspective and came to realise that it's simply impossible to understand if you haven't been through it and its not through lack of caring... It's a lack of knowing how to care. That's why I put so much effort into posts for friends and relatives, why I'm writing a book including a section for them and why I made a page on the PSS website for them. When you are the ill one, stuck in bed day after day, week after week, it's hard to remember how quickly the weeks fly by when you're at work everyday, sorting the kids out and generally getting on with life – it's a matter of perspective. See tolerance and perspective as things you will gain from this experience and you'll be grateful for it in the long run.
Inner-strength... By the time I gave birth I was weak, physically and mentally. I had barely moved for 9 months let alone exercised. After nine long months I was at breaking point and every day was as much of a struggle to get through as in the first few weeks. But once that baby comes out.... I'm ready to take on the world. Maybe not physically, I can barely walk up the stairs without getting out of breath, but mentally... Bring it on. Nothing seems as hard again. I know it's not as easy for everyone and the mental health legacy from hyperemesis can be profound but luckily for me the strength it gave me has been brilliant – Think of it like a hardcore workout at the gym!
They are the general things which many women find to be true for them too. On a personal level I have learned about running a charity, I've developed writing skills, had articles published and am writing a book. None of those things would have happened if I hadn't had HG. I appreciate every moment of wellness and have a passion for life and work which I seriously doubt I would have to the same degree had I not been house and bed bound for 27 months of my life. I have the personal satisfaction of knowing that the work I do now makes a difference to literally thousands of women and their partners every day and I know I am changing the world for my daughter and grandchildren. A hundred years ago my genes would not have been reproduced... I would have died at around eight weeks pregnant in August 2007. But they have been reproduced and I have a daughter. She has a 35% chance of suffering hyperemesis gravidarum... So I better make sure the treatment for it in 25 years or so is top notch!
Do I wish I hadn't had HG... Of course I do, I'm not that mad! But am I glad I had it? Yes I am, it has been part of my journey, it has made me who I am. It may have stolen my happiness during my pregnancies but it has contributed to the happiness in my life now and it's legacy will last much longer than the pregnancies - for that I am grateful.