Dear Princess Charlotte. Welcome to the Club
Dear Princess Charlotte,
Welcome to the world! Happy 0th Birthday! You are part of a special club… and I don’t just mean the royal family… sure that’s a “special club” too but this is a different one… you are an HG baby. You and your mum and your brother are HG survivors and that is something special.
Welcome to our club!
We’re a welcoming and inclusive lot and are so proud of every member, royal or not. Not all of our member’s babies made it and some have lasting damage from the dehydration and malnutrition and the trauma they have been through, mainly through lack of care and treatment by doctors. Luckily your mum got great treatment (I hope!) and won’t have lasting damage or need operations to fix her oesophagus or stomach muscles. Hopefully she won’t need psychological help to recover from the ordeal (of the pregnancy at least!) and if she wants more children I’m sure she will have adequate support to enable that.
Unfortunately I have some bad news for you. You have about a 35% chance of suffering the condition yourself (should you choose to have children in 30 or so years, which, let’s face it, as a member of that other club, you kind of have to!). I won’t go into details about how awful it is as I don’t want to scare a little baby, but I think it would be wise to discuss it frankly with your mum in about 16 years’ time and adjust your expectations of pregnancy accordingly.
Really I’m writing to let you know what other members of this club are doing now for you and your generation. You see I have a daughter too and she’s not royal. That mostly means that she won’t automatically get good treatment and she may not be able to afford to have the practical help she would need in order to have more than one child.
We’re working on treatments that will hopefully mean you, and my daughter and all the other club members of your generation, won’t suffer so badly. By the time you have kids I’m confident we will fully understand the cause and therefore may, possibly, have a complete cure but at the moment those things don’t exist. We are working to ensure that women stop dying from hyperemesis gravidarum and it’s complications, like your namesake, Charlotte Bronte, did and many women, even in my generation have.
Until we have those answers and treatments there is lots more we are doing such raising awareness so that women aren’t stigmatised as weak or neurotic (as you get older and get to know your mum you’ll realise she is far from weak or neurotic). We are educating healthcare professionals to know about the various treatments and ways of managing symptoms. We are developing services so that everyone can get the sort of top notch care your mummy (hopefully) got. We have developed a support network so that women don’t experience the sanity crippling isolation they used to with this. We are fighting for employment rights because, Princess Charlotte, believe it or not, a lot of women lose their jobs and homes because of this illness. We are conducting research, not just into the cause of hyperemesis but also the effects, both physical and mental, we are documenting the experiences of women with it and looking at the long term impact for both mum and baby. We are testing the drugs and increasing our knowledge, we are dispelling the myths and building the evidence base.
We are doing all this for you… and you generation of HG Sisters. For my daughter and any daughters you go on to have.
We are, I am, doing all this without pay, without compensation, without agenda or financial motivation… We, I, am doing this out of love for my daughter, love for you and all the little girls who will one day want to be mothers yourselves but for whom such a natural thing won’t be so easy. For who, a drug free, natural, earth mother, hippy dippy, blooming beautiful pregnancy will be nothing more than a lost dream, a source of guilt and jealousy. For who, what should be a time of happiness and wonder will be a daily battle to survive the long torturous process of creating new life.
The good news is that we are on the brink of exciting discoveries, of exciting treatment developments and scientific explanations. Awareness is growing, in part thanks to your mother’s own suffering but not only because of that… also, and mainly, because of the work that my colleagues and I are doing around the world.
What we really need though, more than anything, is support. Mainly from within our own club, but alas it is a difficult thing to ask of women who are physically, mentally and financially struggling because of the legacy of hyperemesis. Which is why it is so important that those who can help do. Those members of our club who can afford to help must, be it with time, money or simply speaking out.
None of us asked to join this club and I’m sorry for every single member of it that they have been through the initiation process of hyperemesis gravidarum. But here we are, fighting for our daughters and our daughter’s daughters and their right to survive pregnancy. Fighting for the memories of those lost souls, Charlotte Bronte and all the other mothers and babies who have died for this condition. Fighting for the hope of a future with a cure, or at least adequate treatment…
Perhaps one day, little Princess, you will join us in our fight and represent all the daughters of Great Britain whose mothers suffered as yours did. In the meantime sleep easy in the knowledge there are people out there working on a cure so that you won’t suffering it yourself. And once again, Welcome to The Club!