Here is your load, now bear it...
As you know, along with the wonderful Tony, I answer a lot of the Pregnancy Sickness Support helpline calls that come through from desperately ill women needing help, information and support. This week I had to have a really difficult conversation with a young woman who wants to be a mum and indeed is pregnant with a baby they have been trying for some months to conceive. The problem is she suffers from severe hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition which already lost her a baby a year ago when she had exhausted the treatment options obtainable without a fight. Sadly she didn't know about steroids at the time and she had no idea what the condition was she was battling, no support or information from healthcare professionals and she was scared.
Now at 4 weeks pregnant the nausea was starting again.
I think she had hoped that the helpline would provide information about a cure or reassure her that she wouldn't suffer this time, which, albeit as gently as possible, I basically crushed into smithereens. Hopes of IV at home rather than the day case re-hydration she had last time were crushed as I explained that most women consider IV's as a day case a significant improvement on admission and IV at home is rare across the UK.
As I went on I could feel the reality of the situation dawning on her... unfortunately you can't have a normal pregnancy like other women. Unfortunately you suffer a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum and if you want to be a mum you are going to have to battle this enormous beast.
What about work? Realistically you'll be signed off for sometime... good news is your employer can not discriminate, bad news is, many do regardless.
I tried to put it in perspective: Some couples can't conceive naturally and for them to have a baby they need to go through, potentially, multiple rounds of IVF. That's hugely expensive and very stressful. Some couples re-mortgage their homes to afford it or sell their cars or other assets. Other couples have problems with long term conditions prior to pregnancy which can make pregnancy a real battle, lupus and other auto-immune disorders, mental health conditions, physical disabilities and so on. You have hyperemesis gravidarum – that's your load to bear and although there is treatment and support which can make the road you are walking a little easier we can't lift the load from your shoulders – there is no cure and there is no short cut to the end.
Your partner can bear a little weight by helping to advocate for you, fighting for treatments and defending your honour, but they can't take it all for you. You must bear the bulk. The constant unrelenting nausea, the vomiting day and night. The long lonely hours. The warped smells and dripping saliva. The crushing pain of malnutrition and cracking feeling of dehydration. The bed sores on your hips and scars from IVs... they are yours alone to soldier through. Yours and your baby's. These will be you war wounds – there will be mental and physical scars from this battle, less if you get good treatment and start early medication but even then... you will never forget.
You want to be a mum? Here it is, this is your challenge. I'm not going to dress it up, I'm not going to bullshit you about it all being better at 12 weeks or easily fixed with a ginger-nut biscuit. I haven't got a quick fix or natural remedy. It is one of the hardest things you will ever go through and it will fundamentally change you as a person. But it is worth it, I promise. When you reach the other side you will have new knowledge and insight, you will have grown not only a baby but a new part of you, a badge of honour. An internal medal that says “I survived”.
Because you can survive this and it will end. Take it one day at a time. Take medication. Accept help. Seek support.
Here is the information you need to survive... here is the treatment plans and coping strategies... here is a volunteer to hold your hand... and here is the 2 tonne anvil of HG you have to climb up that mountain with. Your baby is at the top.