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.
Entertaining children whilst spewing
A common question I get asked is how on earth do hyperemesis sufferers look after and pass the time with their toddler when pregnant again. It's a commonly cited reason for not having another hyperemesis pregnancy. I believe strongly that the key to surviving subsequent hyperemesis pregnancies is in the planning and preparation and the planning for your children is just as important as planning your medication and treatment. So let me introduce my friend and colleague, hyperemesis survivor Emma Edwards who has developed an incredible resource for women suffering with toddlers at home...
How exciting – my first ever guest post!
For those that don’t know me I am Emma, author of the Adventures of Adam blog. I am Mummy to 22 month old Adam and we recently took part in a 100 day play challenge.
In 2011/2012 when I was pregnant with Adam I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum. Unfortunately my story is typical of many sufferers – hospitalisations, medication, isolation... I also added breathing difficulties and pre-eclampsia to the mix. It wasn’t a great 9 months to say the least! Throughout my pregnancy as I lay there being ill I would think about the adventures Adam and I would have together. I made a promise to myself that once the hyperemesis was over I would value each day. Hence we took part in the play challenge and started our blog.
It was during the play challenge that it really hit home to me - how am I going to look after Adam during my next pregnancy? The idea of being separated from him for nine months petrifies me. In my last pregnancy I couldn’t look after myself for 9 months let alone an active young child. Although I can live in hope, there is an 86% chance that I will suffer from HG again.
I am the administrator for the Pregnancy Sickness Support Forum and I regularly see the concerns of members who are planning another pregnancy or are currently suffering from HG. How do you entertain your other children whilst you are so ill? How do you entertain your other children whilst you are so ill for up to nine months? The guilt they feel is immense.
I asked my HG friend, who is towards the end of her second HG pregnancy, what it is like to go through HG with a toddler. This was her response:
“In a way, the few weeks leading up to getting pregnant were the very worst and most upsetting... dreading the separation, dreading missing having kisses and cuddles and stories and playtime, etc... then at least once I got a positive pregnancy test and became sick soon after, I could be on countdown to being well again and being able to be a proper Mummy to my little boy again.
In the first few months full-time childcare was essential. There was just no WAY I could have taken care of him, at all. Sometimes I couldn't speak to him without vomiting. We had to juggle between two nurseries, close friends and hired a cleaner and an ironing company.
Since the sickness improved (at the midway-point-ish) I have better and worse days. On no days do I ever feel normal, or am able to function at a normal level, but on my better days I am able to interact a bit with my boy and do some (limited) activities/play with him (almost always in the house as travelling, etc. is very difficult).
The nausea is always there but vomiting is under control so long as I don't do too much. On my worse days I need to lie still mostly and have had to rely heavily on CBeebies!”
So I decided to find some sort of solution – a way that could help HG sufferers entertain their children. During my play challenge I started to look for activities which didn’t need any preparation and that a child could play with independently. Minimum preparation for maximum distraction. At Adventures of Adam there is a dedicated section for play activities that are suitable for HG sufferers.
When putting together the activities suitable for HG sufferers there had to be some criteria for the activities to be deemed HG friendly. There is no point doing an activity which involves food or has an odour as these are bound to trigger vomiting. Even the smell of playdough can cause a sufferer to reach for the sick bowl. The activity also had to be mess free - an HG suffer will hardly be in any state to clear away a messy activity.
Please note though that the things which can trigger HG will vary from person to person. These activities are also not meant for HG sufferer at the very early stages of pregnancy. At that stage an HG sufferer will be focused solely on getting through each day and childcare will be a must for their other children.
Adam and I will continue doing a daily play activity and each week we will add at least one play activity which is suitable for a HG sufferer and her child. These activities could also be used for women post pregnancy during feeding time to entertain their older child.
One day I hope to be brave enough to go through hyperemesiss again. For the time being I will savour every moment I have with Adam.
I would like to thank Caitlin to share here today. It has been a privilege x
Blowing my own trumpet; A plea for your support
I mentioned in my last post I'm not eligible for the MAD Award category of Best Pregnancy Blog because I haven't been pregnant in the last twelve months.
Thank goodness as if I had I wouldn't have been able to raise so much awareness about hyperemesis gravidarum. I wouldn't have been able to wizz up to Manchester from Cornwall to appear on BBC Breakfast News to talk about the condition, I wouldn't have been able to write articles for numerous magazines, health care journals and blogs. I wouldn't have been able to give radio interviews or talked at the Healthcare Professional Conference I helped organise or host the volunteer conference last summer. I wouldn't have been able to grow the support network for sufferers and increased the social media presence of hyperemesis gravidarum on numerous feeds and blogs. I wouldn't have been able to raise thousands of pounds for the charity supporting the condition or been able to attend the Royal College of Midwives conference to raise awareness. I wouldn't have been able to support all the women I have personally supported through their pregnancies or written care plans for them. I would not have been able to travel to America to discuss international collaboration and providing worldwide support with other organisations.
But most of all I would not have been able to maintain or write this blog. I did start it during my pregnancy but as followers from the start will remember, posts were few and far between as I was too sick to type. I have only been able to blog because I am not pregnant!
I am now writing a book about the condition which will be published later this year. I hope this book will really make a profound difference to women in the UK suffering with hyperemesis and in fact any degree of bad pregnancy sickness.
Nominations for “Outstanding Contribution” are still open until tomorrow night (21st March) and if you feel that my blog fits this category then I'd really appreciate your nomination, even if you nominated me for the pregnancy category they have said you can redo for this one. It's not for me personally... none of it is (believe me I have plenty more I could be doing with my time, like playing with my three kids), it's all for the sufferers...
Nominating just takes a moment and you can do it by clicking here. Thank you.
Me at the 5 live and BBC Breakfast Studio in Manchester this time last year... NOT PREGNANT!
A letter to my pregnant self
Thank you so much to all those who nominated me for the MAD Blog awards. Sadly it seems that because I have not been pregnant in the last year I am not eligible for the category of Best Pregnancy Blog despite being a blog entirely about pregnancy from personal experience. Shame, as it rather discriminates against women with HG who are unable to post to the same degree as other pregnant bloggers during pregnancy – picking my battles and moving on though... It has however given me a moment to reflect on my own experience and how much hindsight I have been able to gain since my third and final child was born, nearly two years ago. It has prompted this letter to myself of the past, to myself while I was suffering and stuck in the miserable cycle of vomiting, retching and constant nausea, to me at a time when I could not see a future with lovely children and new friends... This is to me and to all those who are suffering now, written with the benefit of hindsight.
To my pregnant self,
The three children you have produced are your greatest achievement. They make you proud every day. They also make you cross and happy, frustrated and challenged, worried and confused and they make you laugh, a lot. They are intelligent, funny, beautiful, kind, helpful(ish), sociable, loud and sometime a bit weird (and yes, they like talking about poo and wee a lot!)
I know the vomiting is intense and painful and humiliating and scary, but if you could see them now you would know how worth every moment of pain has been. You are worried you won't bond with the baby but you don't need to worry, the nausea lifts the moment they are out and you will feel great. You love being a parent and the new born phase is easy and fun compared to now.
And it's not just the children that have come from the suffering you are going through. You have new friends and colleagues, not just around the UK but in Washington, New York, New Zealand and all around the world. Although the truth is you will also loose some friends as you realise they will not come through for you when you need them. It may seem impossible now but you will learn to let go of the resentment you are feeling and move on from them... to better friends. Hyperemesis is changing you, giving you perspective and insight. Some people, no matter how close you thought you were will never be able to understand what you are going through.
Your marriage is stronger because you survived hyperemesis three times together as a team. And because you go on to have more pregnancies Rob is a confident father with a close relationship with the boys... he looks after them on his own when you are sick again with their sibling. He is proud of you.
You are a much stronger, more confident and happier person then you were before and that is largely down to the suffering you are going through now. You appreciate feeling well every single day and when you are ill it never seems as bad as you know it will only last a short time. The illness you are suffering made you realise that as long as you have your health you can do anything you set you mind to... including making the world a better place for other hyperemesis sufferers.
During pregnancy you are suffering immeasurably and it is impossible to imagine that anything good can come from it other than the baby, but it does... it really does.
Don't feel guilty about the dark thoughts on black days... they are natural and understandable. Take one day at a time, occupy yourself online, play solitaire and lie still... the end will come and the black cloud will lift... wellness will overwhelm you and you will feel better than you ever have before.
And you will have your children, Alfie, Patrick and Órla. And you will travel the world with them, and your hero, and you will be strong and happy... thanks to hyperemesis gravidarum.
With love and care
MAD Blog Award Nomination!
Oh my giddy aunt... I've been nominated for the MAD Blog Awards in the “Best Pregnancy Blog” category. I'm blown away and must admit I'm a little naïve about the whole blogging world awards, but I've looked on into this and am so excited about the publicity and awareness that could be raised for hyperemesis gravidarum through this award! But I need a little help from all my loyal readers...
To get through to the finals I need to be nominated as many times as possible... the more nominations the greater the chance of getting through and the more people will hear about my blog and read about hyperemesis.
So if you have suffered yourself, if you've watch a loved one, or perhaps a patient, suffer or if you happen to be a friend of mine (or if you've randomly stumbled on this post and have a spare few minutes) then please get nominating by clicking on the link below and filling in the form by 14th March 2014...
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In conjunction with Pregnancy Sickness Support and Plymouth University I am looking for women who have been treated for HG in the last 2 years in the UK to take part in a research survey. Please click here to find out more.
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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