Make your kids proud
It's my first son's birthday today. It's six years since my first encounter with hyperemesis finally ended after the longest nine months of my life. It's been the best six years of my life, despite two more rounds of hyperemesis and various other significant trials, none of which felt as challenging as hyperemesis.
I know those of you reading this suffering now wonder how I did it more than once. Those contemplating another, or perhaps newly pregnant with second, will be worrying about the impact on your first and perhaps second child. I did. We contemplated adoption after Alfie was born but decided in the end that we had survived it once and could do so again, better armed and educated. The second was the worst, the third was the best (although I'll talk more about why another time).
I missed out on my first son, Alfie, twice. There were times when he was really little that I could only see him for a few minutes a day and Rob would take him out of the bedroom once I was retching again. Later in the pregnancy he would rub my back and pretend to vomit with me. It was pretty cute really and would make me laugh through the nausea. He and Rob would make cards for me and bring me gifts back from their days out. They were such a little team and Rob now cherishes his memories of those days as a “single dad”. He grew as a person and gained confidence as a father. He potty trained Alfie and got him sleeping in a big-boy bed and he learned to cook and clean (sort of). Alfie learned to be flexible and easygoing. He didn't miss me much when he wasn't with me, the tricky times where when he was with me for a while and then had to go... he didn't like that. But Rob handled it and Alfie survived.
He was so excited about having a brother or sister. I think he wanted to call a brother Potty and a sister Wee Wee (we were potty training at the time!). He gets on well with them now but I think he could take or leave them to be honest (last night Orla climbed out of her travel cot and landed on Alfie's head who was just drifting off to sleep, keen for the morning to arrive... we are living in an Airstream trailer in the Appalachian Mountains of North America at the moment). Have more children because you want them, not because you want to provide siblings.
Alfie is now six years old and he's such a great little kid... He's smart and kind and amazingly capable. Sure he's grumpy and has melt downs and can be seriously annoying and repetitive but he has not been negatively affected by my hyperemesis which spanned 18 months of his six years. He doesn't even remember it now. And I know he will be so proud of me when he is old enough to understand what I do for other sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum.
We are at the brink right now. The awareness of hyperemesis gravidarum is increasing rapidly. Amazing Green Top guidelines for the UK are being produced soon and our book will be out within a year. More and more hospitals are embracing better practice and care for hyperemesis patients and the media are taking note (I spoke with a producer this week looking to document a sufferers experience for a major channel). Healthcare journals are publishing best practice articles and poor practice is being challenged. We, the mothers of now, can change the situation further for our daughters and nieces and grandaughters... stand up, take action for your children, your HG Survivors, make them proud, set the example, let them know that they can improve the world and add compassion and empathy and care to people who are suffering, not just from hyperemesis but all sorts of misunderstood or under-appreciated conditions.
We talk so much of being proud of our children. Well lets make our children proud of us! Lets make sure that when we tell them about the hyperemesis we suffered during pregnancy we can add “and this is what I did about it... I went on to support other women, I raised money for the charity that supported me, I raised awareness about hyperemesis, I changed practice in my area, I fought for the rights of sufferers, I spoke out about it and advocated for other sufferers”.
Becoming a parent is the best thing I've ever done. It's given me a passion for life and love which I never imagined could exist. My enjoyment and passion for hard work has changed beyond recognition, as has my understanding of it. My appreciation for the important things in life is far more acute now, such as my health, and that of my family. My appreciation for sleep, as with any parent is deep! But I appreciate detail like waking up in the night and not feeling sick. I appreciate my ability to brush my teeth without retching or vomiting every night now. I appreciate being able to kiss and cuddle my children without finding the smell of them stomach turning. I appreciate everyday I have with them, although some of those days it's not until long after they are in bed and I have a glass of wine in my hand that I appreciate it. But most of all I appreciate my voice – when I was sick I couldn't defend myself at all, it was like I was mute, I couldn't speak out without being sick. I felt so weak, helpless and pathetic. Now I can shout at the top of my voice, not just for myself but for the women suffering now. And that's what I've done and I'm doing and I'm going to carry on doing... and one day Alfie and Patrick and Orla will be old enough to understand the work I do and they will be proud.