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Journey into the world of hyperemesis gravidarum...
19Dec 13

Adoption - An Alternative to Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

There is no doubt hyperemesis limits an awful lot of families. I personally know dozens of women who can not face going through pregnancy again despite wanting more children. Most of them already have one child but sadly some have none.

I've talked before about the benefits of having an only child and personally I do not believe that anyone should have a child to “provide siblings”. However, many people do want more than one child for their own reasons... me included! I wanted three.

Adoption is an option open to people in the UK and with over 4,500 children waiting for adoption in the UK adoptive parents are desperately needed. However, it is important that people considering adoption because they can't have more children biologically have taken the time to grieve for the babies they haven't had. Counselling may help if you are struggling with this and you should allow yourself to go through the grieving process. Most (though by no means all) of us women have grown up from a young age with ideas about our future family and the children we plan to have... not being able to for whatever reason is a genuine loss and the grief can be profound. Give yourself time to heal and come to terms with it.

What does the process involve in a nutshell? Well, to start find out as much as you can about adoption. Look online, read blogs about adoption, investigate which agencies are in your area and contact your local authority. You'll get invited along to an information meeting where you will find out more about what it means to be an adopter and about the children who need adopting. Here you will meet social workers, experienced adopters and other people considering adoption. At this point if you decide to continue you'll choose an agency to register with.

The process involved two stages.

Stage one involves the background checks, references and medical/criminal history checks. You also attend workshops to learn more about adoption and the challenges becoming an adoptive parent.

Kate Hilpern has sat on an adoption panel for ten years and I asked her to explain how adoption differs from standard parenting. Here she explains the challenges and gives a realistic take on the process:

“Adoptive parenting is often described as therapeutic parenting because it requires an additional set of skills in addition to the usual nurturing and love that being a mother or father requires. Usually, these children come from a damaged past - mainly neglect or abuse - and it's the adoptive parent's job to help the child overcome any challenges that this may have brought them, whether this manifests itself in worrying behaviour, coping with painful memories, dealing with loss or all of those things and more. If you ask people to imagine the worst case scenario, they'll usually think of a child who is troublesome and wild, but sometimes the opposite problem happens - that is, they are withdrawn, which can be even more difficult to deal with. For most children, it's neither one nor the other but a complex mix of challenges that pop up at different times of their childhood.
There's no doubt it's challenging, but the vast majority of adoptive parents say it's hugely rewarding and ideally, you should get support when you need it. Having sat on an adoption panel for a decade, it was most satisfying to see these adults who were so keen to be parents either for the first time or to add onto their existing families being matched with children who need homes.

Nobody would say it's easy and this explains why the adoption process can seem challenging and long. Indeed, with an estimated one in five adoptions breaking down, it's essential that we know for sure that any adults who are approved for adoption are going in with their eyes wide open.”

Stage one should only last two months although you can take longer over it if you want. If at this point you still want to proceed you'll move onto stage two.

This stage is carried out by a social worker and takes around 4 months. The social worker will make a number of visits to your home and and you will talk about why you want to adopt and what sort of child would best suit your family. You'll also attend further training sessions which prepare you for becoming adoptive parents.

Next your case will be presented to a panel you will be invited to attend. Based on the report and meeting the panel will a recommendation and the agency will either approve you or not.

Assuming you get approved you will then be matched with a child, usually within three months but it can take longer. Often though it is very quick as agencies explore potential matches before approval in order to speed up the process. But this is not a passive process and you can also pro-actively look for the right child for you via the family finding service Be My Parent (run by BAAF) and via adoption activity days amongst others.

Once a potential match is found for you, more information about the child or children, including their family background, early years history, reason for needing adopting, any special needs and general character will be provided and discussed. If you want to go ahead with the match then you will attend another panel who will also look at whether it is a suitable match and make a recommendation.

“We owe it to these children to make sure a forever family means just that - not a family who is going to let them down because they were not well prepared enough. Many adults wind up changing their mind about the kind of child they'll take on. Having originally wanted a baby, they might wind up preferring the idea of a toddler or an even older child or they might decide to consider a sibling group or a child with disabilities. This also takes time to work through.” - Kate Hilpern

Once the match is approved you get to meet the child. Getting to know them usually starts with a visit their foster carer’s house and plan outings. Next the child will visit you at home, including overnight stays. The child will move in as soon as you are all ready which will obviously be exciting for you all!

You would be entitled to statutory adoption leave and pay, and will continue to be supported by your social worker. Finally after a minimum of 10 weeks you can apply to the courts for an adoption order and once this is complete the child will be legally yours and can take your surname!

Keman is a single man who wanted to adopt to have a family of his own. He kindly answered some questions for me about his experience of becoming an adoptive parent to his little girl:

How did you find the process? I found the process an eventful and emotional journey. I was really blessed and very grateful to have such a great social worker. I had heard certain comments about social workers prior to having my own , however, my social worker was very approachable and welcoming and always kept me up to date with the process. I also felt like I could contact her at any time to discuss any issues that I had regarding the process without being made to feel like I was a burden.

What fears did you have and were they justified? My main fear was attachment and having a bond with my child. I was informed on the adoption awareness course that some adoptive parents do not bond initially. But from the first moment I saw my little girls photograph I knew I would just fall in love with her. She had huge cheeks (I've always loved babies with big cheeks), big brown eyes, long eyelashes and perfect eyebrows, this little girl was made for me. I was really blessed to get to meet her for the first time on my birthday, the best gift anyone in my position could ever ask for. From that day even up to this morning I count my blessings as I've got the most amazing gift I could ever EVER ask for, I’m very grateful.
What has been the best thing about adopting for your family? Being one of seven children and my parents having a foster daughter who gets on well with my daughter. Having nieces and nephews who adore her is just the most amazing feeling. My family do not see my daughter as my adopted child, but just a member of our family in the same way as if my daughter was biological. Seeing all the children playing together is heart melting.
What advice would you give to someone considering adoption? DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! Don’t be put off by time scales, as the times flies by, to stick to what you want but keep an open heart and mind. But most of all enjoy your journey and never give up as your child is waiting for you to provide a warm, loving and stable home!

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16Dec 13

The Sliver 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.

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09Dec 13

Hyperemesis Gravidarum - Christmas Survival Guide

Obviously if you can just hole up with your partner, whatever food and drink you can manage at the moment and some gentle Rom Com's then great – do it! However, if doing so risks inducing the wrath of the relatives from far and wide who are utterly convinced that you'll be cured by having your mind taken off it by trivial pursuits with tipsy aunties, then you may need a bit more of a survival guide...

  1. Have a think about the comments you are likely to come across and have a few appropriate retorts up your sleeve. That way, on Christmas day when you are faced with your second cousin twice removed informing you how lucky you are to have time off work to lounge around in bed you'll have a quick reply... Oh yes, lounging around a hospital bed with a drip in my arm so I don't die has been such a relaxing break. I'm so lucky to be having to take medication in pregnancy and I'm especially lucky to have been on sick leave from the job I love for so long that we are struggling to pay the mortgage. Hell, who needs a mortgage anyway when you're living on a hospital ward? 
  2. Don't sign up to cater. Seriously, rooky mistake peeps... Even if they promise to do it all and assure you that you won't have to lift a finger... it's a trick. If it's in your house you will still end up doing all the cooking and cleaning, you'll have beds to make, loo roll to buy and masses of recycling to sort out after. I learned this one the hard way. 
  3. Shop online. Yes we all want to support local shops and mooch round Christmas markets and unique boutiques dishing out free mince pies and Christmas cheer - but there is plenty of years in the future – And by future I mean in about 25 years because you're about to be financially crippled by children so work on your relationship with Amazon, Asda and Argos now, make them your friends! 
  4. If you can get it gift wrapped then do. Wrapping presents was a major spew inducer for me, I think it was the amount of arm movement involved. Unfortunately Mr Spewing Mummy is not talented in the art of wrapping and when I say “not talented” I mean he's utterly incapable. He's good at emptying spew buckets though so I really can't complain. If a friend comes to visit or asks if they can help – get out the paper and sticky tape, bingo! 
  5. Don't over indulge. If you do have the odd moment of wellness or if you're luckily over the worst at this point just try not to change your routines and systems that are working at the moment. I had relapses after all three hyperemetic Christmas's because I did too much, ate the wrong stuff and didn't rest enough... It's just not worth it. 

The long and short of it though is that Christmas with hyperemesis gravidarum is never going to be easy, unless you happen to have the worlds most perfect family – in which case do you want to swap? I am truly sad for everyone suffering this year, the isolation is most pronounced when you're surrounded by loved ones who don't see how much you are suffering. But remember... you are not alone and this won't last forever... Christmas happens every year and next year you'll get to be Santa, honestly, that's Mega!


Oh and don't forget to put our book on your Christmas list!

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05Dec 13

In the Words of a Great Man

In your darkest moments take heed the words of a wise man. Here is the story of my journey with hyperemesis gravidarum as told by Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” - Nelson Mandela

It always seems impossible until its done.” - Nelson Mandela

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” - Nelson Mandela

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” - Nelson Mandela

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” - Nelson Mandela

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” - Nelson Mandela

Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement.” - Nelson Mandela

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” - Nelson Mandela

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” - Nelson Mandela

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” - Nelson Mandela

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04Dec 13

Hyperemesis Gravidarum - A Dad's Experience By Matthew Henwood

When my fiancée told me at 05.26am on the 7th May 2013 that she was pregnant I firstly didn't know what to do - whether to jump up and scream, shout “OK honey” and go back to sleep, hug her and pat her on the back or grab my 'men's department' and shout they work and congratulate them!! I opted for the hug her and the typical male line “are you sure?”

This seems a life time ago and from that early morning in May till now the one thing that has been constant is..... SICKNESS!!!

My fiancée has struggled from the start with this and from early on she told me that she was heavily sick with our first child but this had stopped at 12 weeks (well 11 weeks and 6 days to be precise!). So when she said she had a metallic taste in her mouth I knew something was different and boy did I find out! From very early May she was sick morning, noon and night and it would be caused by the slightest thing - a smell from me, a smell from outside, a taste of food and just about anything.

At first certain food and drinks were craved - such as Orange Fanta! To be honest she was getting through 4-5 cans a day just to take away the metallic taste. So me being the practical one looked around all the supermarkets and found one that had an offer on cans of Orange Fanta - so I purchased 30 cans to get us through a week and save myself from nipping to the corner shop at 21.55pm to get her supplies.

Well did this backfire or what?!?!? This craving was very short lived and after having Orange Fanta coming through her nose (literally!!!) the taste and smell was the worst she had ever had and couldn't stomach another can or even look at one - so there I was stumped with 28 cans of Orange Fanta.

This was not my only 'bulk buying' disaster. They ranged from having 17 bags of Walkers Chunky Ridge Salt and Vinegar through to various chocolate bars and biscuits.

So - I was on countdown to 12 weeks and was rapidly ticking off so many different foods it was untrue - even Mcdonalds Fries were banished and never to be seen again (apart from the sink and that's a clear up operation I don't want to see again!!!).

BOOM we/I made it to 12 weeks, slightly out of pocket for over shopping, gradually overweight and having enough sugars inside me to power me up until 2015! And I still had 11 cans of Orange Fanta in the fridge.

12 weeks became 13, which became 15 and you get the pattern.

The one thing I have forgotten to mention throughout the whole of this is - DEODORANT and AFTERSHAVES. I have gone through 7 different deodorants and at present I'm currently using Nivea Silk and Smooth 48hr (yes its a women's one but I can confirm it smells nice and works) At one point my deodorants were located on top of the fridge as I had to spray them outside. I have since moved to roll on and now women's deodorant. Now, back in the day Channel Platinum Aftershave would send my fiancée into a frenzy and make her drag me upstairs and make me late for work but now it sends me to the naughty step for being stupid by spraying it in the house and sends her for her latest 'go to product' to stop being sick. As of this morning I now have a stock of deodorants in the car (2 of which I cant use!!) and 2 aftershaves.

Only once through this pregnancy have we argued about the sickness and this prompted her to tell me to put a 2p coin in my mouth and suck on it for an hour and that's how her mouth feels constantly. So not one to shirk a challenge - in went 4p (just because I wanted to prove a point!!) and yes I can confirm its horrendous but I didn't tell her that!

We are now 2 weeks from our little fella coming out to play and Stacey (I've called her fiancée and “she” throughout this post so thought I would confirm she has a name) is still being sick - she has good days and bad days but the average is once a day at least.

My only piece of advice for any 'geezer' (because that's what I am!) in this situation is to 'man up' and be prepared to clear sick up, unblock sinks, hold up hair, wash sick away from streets, find nearest toilets in shopping centres ASAP, DON'T BUY BULK, suck 2p coins and quickly adapt to women's deodorant.

And you know what... all this will be forgotten about in under 2 weeks when we get to meet our son.

Since writing this post Matthew and Stacey have had their little boy Freddie. Here are some pictures. Well done Matthew and Stacey you are officially hyperemesis gravidarum survivors now and I think Matthew deserves recognition as an HG Hero for being a super husband and wearing women's deodorant.

Matthew Henwood and Fiancée Stacey - HG Survivors  
Master Freddie Henwood - HG Survivor

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02Dec 13

Christmas with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

'Tis the season to be jolly, fa lala la la – la la F*** Off!

Oh the joys of Christmas with hyperemesis gravidarum. It's the time of year you are surrounded by food and drink and relatives who bombard you with well meaning advice about ginger and crackers and thinking positively. Tales of their wonderful pregnancies and their awful pregnancies which they “just got on with” abound along with drunken lectures about how grateful you should be and how lucky you are and how beautiful pregnancy is.

Money is likely to be tight if you've been off work for weeks or months and listening to other people moaning about feeling sick from over indulgence makes you want to commit genocide on the entire greedy nation.

I've spend three Christmas's in the throws of hyperemesis and the intervening three I was breast feeding. I shan't go into detail about my own Yule Tide experiences as family on both sides may disown me for announcing their failures on the world wide web, but believe me... I feel your pain at having to spend Christmas with hyperemesis and with people who do not have hyperemesis. This will be my first Christmas neither pregnant or breastfeeding for 7 years and I intend never to be pregnant or breast feeding ever again – that is cause for celebration indeed!

There is of course another reason to celebrate, and that is the children. On the whole, having people tell me how “worth it” the sickness is would really hurt, particularly in my first pregnancy, because I really didn't know it would be worth it... I worried often that I wouldn't bond with the baby and that if I hated pregnancy this much I might hate parenthood even more. I felt no attachment or bond to the baby, which is natural, I mean, if it weren't for the medications the pregnancy would have killed me! Those feelings were distressing, depressing and above all, secret! We had tried for 7 months to get pregnant, experienced the pain of miscarriage and I wanted nothing more than to be a mother.

But at Christmas it was the one time of year that I really did look forward to having a baby. It is hard to imagine things you have never experienced before, (like being a parent for example!), but Christmas is tenable – because we all know what Christmas is like and how magical it is for children and we can project that. I was able to imagine the following Christmas and the one after that and all the ones after that. I was excited about being Santa for the next 18 years of my life – they would be the best. I knew Rob and I would create new traditions, merged from our own childhoods. That from now on our Christmas's would be about getting up at 5.30 am to watch our children's faces as they opened their stockings. I knew I would be able to teach them about the seasons and about the light returning to the world and we would go for cold winter walks and make snowmen and eat mince pies and sing songs and tell stories and this whole nightmare would have been worth it.

And I hate to say it, particularly to those who don't yet have children, but it is worth it. It really, honestly, truly IS!

Our Alfie, Christmas 2010, worth every spew!
2014 update - If you are suffering this year don't forget to put Hyperemesis Gravidarum - The Definitive Guide on your wishlist! 

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Hi, Ive had HG twice. I could hug you for doing what you do. I want to offer my help - is there anything i can do to help?? I dont know anyone else who has had HG and am terrified of a future pregnancy and the likelihood of it rearing its jead again. GPs answer? "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it".... FFS. I know i am not alone. I need to do something about it. Hope this gets to you... C x
carmen, 13th January 2015

Approaching my first Christmas with HG (currently almost 12 weeks) and this managed to make me smile. Though the thought of any more Christmas's feeling this way fills me with nothing short of dread.
Laura, 11th December 2015

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Hyperemesis Gravidarum - The Definitive Guide by Caitlin Dean

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About Me

I am mother of three beautiful children and wife to a fantastic and supportive husband. I am a nurse, a farmer and a trustee for Pregnancy Sickness Support. I love working hard and spending time with my kids.

About this blog

Information and support for pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. Views are my own and do not represent those of any other organisation. Information provided here should not be a substitute for medical advice. My aim is to raise awareness and encourage sufferers to know they are not alone.

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