We are survivors - Guest post
I said last week that I was handing over to share other women's stories of their battles with hyperemesis gravidarum. Well this week I'm starting with Susanne Remic, otherwise known as Ghost Writer Mummy. Her story here finishes back at 33 weeks but I've just had the great news that her baby is here and the nausea is gone at long last! You'll notice a lot of similarities between the stories to come and they'll have elements you can relate to yourself. During the research for the book we got stories from hundreds of women to include as quotes. What is striking is how much we can relate to each others stories and have shared experiences. Through my work with Pregnancy Sickness Support I also know how incredibly valuable it is for women suffering now to hear other women's stories and know they are not alone. Just this morning I spoke to a lady who just couldn't believe there was a whole hyperemesis community out there to support her. She was weeping on the phone, a mixture of misery for her suffering and joy at speaking to someone who understood.
We Are Survivors - By Susanne Remic
Before I fell pregnant with my fourth baby I had only a small idea of what Hyperemesis Gravidarum was. Having seen some friends suffer from it, I knew it could be particularly miserable, and since I’d suffered pretty bad sickness with my son, I had lots of sympathy for them. But that was it. No empathy. No way of really knowing what it was like to walk those shoes. No way of knowing just how miserable it could be. How lucky I have been to survive three pregnancies with only comparatively mild morning sickness!
This time, the nausea started at six weeks, almost to the day. It came in waves and by lunch time I was vomiting. Being sick is very unlike me; I am usually very healthy and have never suffered from flu or food poisoning and very rarely have a cold either. Being sick was just not like me! But I was sick. Very. Enough to take to bed, praying for sleep so that the room could stop lurching. We assumed I had a bug that first day and thought no more of it, until the vomiting continued long after what is normal for a ’bug’.
At this point, my husband was working away from home 3-4 days a week and I found that first week incredibly hard. With a preschooler and a toddler at home, plus an older child to get to and from school each day, not to mention almost full time work (which I did from home) I was quickly exhausted. And panicking. I could barely keep my head up. How was I supposed to cope on my own?
After three days of constant vomiting, I took my sorry self to the doctors and asked for help. I was told that I was severely dehydrated and needed to go to the hospital for fluids. If I hadn’t been in tears, I would have laughed. There was no way I could’ve gone to the hospital with three children to look after and nobody else to do it. We had decided not to tell anyone about the pregnancy yet so I was on my own. Luckily, the doctor agreed to prescribe some medication and sent me home with strict instructions to drink as much water as I possibly could.
The medication I was given was called Phenargen, and it came with a warning that it could make me drowsy. I spent the rest of that day in tears, sipping water, sucking tiny pieces of ice cubes and waiting for school pick up time. As soon as the children were home, I took a tablet and waited for the sickness and nausea to abate. Ha! The Phenargen took the edge off the nausea, in some ways, but mainly it just made me really tired. We were all in bed by 6pm.
I soon learned that these tablets could only be taken at bedtime, and so I spent the next week on my knees, crawling through the days until then. Sleep was my only relief, and even then some nights were interrupted with vile nausea. My eldest kept me company while the little ones were in bed, and the days where my husband was home were bliss, as they meant that I could switch off a little and rest. But it was clear that I needed different medication if I wanted to stay out of the hospital.
I was finally prescribed Metacloprimide, a stronger anti-sickness drug. It is safe to take in pregnancy and it is the only reason I am still here, with a baby growing in my belly.
The early weeks of this pregnancy were so hard. There have been some truly dark days. Days where I have seriously wondered whether this pregnancy was the right thing to do. Days where I have wished for it ALL to go away. Everything. Days where I wanted to just curl up in bed and leave the world to it. I cancelled so many plans, cut off so many friends because I just couldn’t face seeing anyone or speaking to anyone. The effort to just carry out the bare essentials of life was immense. Yes, the medication helped (a LOT) but the nausea never really left. It was always there, lurking in the darkness.
I was 27 weeks when I stopped taking Metocloprimide and hopefully I will never need to take it again. I am now 33 weeks and I wish I could say that the sickness and nausea is a distant memory, but I’m not sure it ever will be. To say I feel robbed of my last pregnancy is an understatement! I still live in fear of the nausea returning, stealing what remains of this pregnancy. And yet, each day I wake and I feel okay and I know how lucky I am.
Some women spend much of their HG pregnancies bedridden, either at home or in hospital. They miss birthdays, family gatherings, holidays and life. They are unable to hold conversations, sip a cup of tea or even lift their heads from their pillows. Some women are not given medication until they’ve been admitted to hospital at least three times. Some women terminate their pregnancies because they are just unable to continue. Some women have no choice but to terminate, as their bodies begin to shut down with the ferocity of being so ill.
Most women who have HG in their pregnancies go on to deliver beautifully healthy babies and yet the memories of their sickness remains long after. And me? I am still unable to enjoy this pregnancy and I know that I must accept that, but for different reasons. And yet the fact still remains. Hyperemesis Gravidarum stripped me of my pregnancy. My dreams of nurturing my bump, bonding with my unborn child and enjoying these last months with the three children I have, before our world is turned upside down again. I have let my children down by being unable to be the mum they knew, the mum they deserved. I am no longer able to get through the days without a pang of guilt over who I used to be. I still cancel plans because I cannot face seeing people, or being in crowded places. I still think I could be ill, or feel panicked, or need to leave. I still carry tablets around with me.
I am one of the lucky ones. My experience of HG has not been as bad as many other sufferers. And yes, I am a survivor. My baby is a survivor. But it has been one of the hardest battles I’ve had to face.
If you would like to submit your story for consideration please use the form on the contact me page.