The Big 3-0!

This year I turned the big 3-0 in April. I had a quiet celebration with my husband. We went back to one of our first date spots – Sir Winston’s aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. We also celebrated with my parents and brother at a cute little restaurant in Larchmont. And my friends took me out to a Persian place in Westwood. This all happened right before I become pregnant and the HG storm started in May.

This week, I’m so excited to say that I made it to another big 3-0. By God’s grace, I made it to the 30 week mark of my pregnancy! I think I’m more excited to celebrate this milestone than even my 30th birthday. I’m excited because I am that much closer to the due date and meeting our little girl, Katelynn. I am 10 weeks away from beating HG for the second time. Ten weeks away from living nausea-free again. Ten weeks away from finally feeling normal again!

I’m also so grateful that this blog helped to inform another blogger about HG and that she decided to make a donation to the HER foundation! What a wonderful gift to celebrate hitting the 30 week mark. I’m so honored that she mentioned me in her recent post. Please support Miss Marzipan and her commitment to donate to charities on behalf of her little “cupcake” who is due in 14 weeks!

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Depths of Despair

When I was in the midst of the worst state of HG during my first and second trimesters, it was a very dark and scary time not only physically but even more so emotionally/spiritually. I think when your body is going through hell and when your life is on the line, inevitably your thoughts turn very bleak. My mind was clouded with this fog of overwhelming nausea that I couldn’t escape.

I couldn’t think or concentrate. I couldn’t read anything. Any movement or motion would trigger a vomiting episode. So I slept a lot or stayed in bed. I watched a lot of TV to try to take my mind off of the nausea. I was on daily IV treatment at home. My life was dependent on this contraption attached to my arm. I had to push the IV pole everywhere I went…and the only places I went were the bathroom, my room, and the living room.

I was bed-ridden for almost three months. The isolation, loneliness, dehydration, constant vomiting and nausea, and starvation really start to eat away at your soul. HG strips away all semblance of a normal life. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep at night because of the nausea. I couldn’t go out because I was attached to the IV and was too weak. I couldn’t take a shower because the heat from the water would trigger my nausea. I didn’t feel human. I felt like a shell of a person…like an animal barely surviving.

It felt like I was on the brink of utter insanity. Every week, I would hope that I would feel better and every week, I wouldn’t feel better. With my first HG pregnancy, I felt so much better after my first trimester so I expected the same relief at the end of the first trimester with this pregnancy. So when it didn’t come and I was still throwing up and still not gaining weight, it felt absolutely hopeless. It felt like I was on this long, dark path with no end in sight and no relief from the nausea. Every meal I threw up felt like a slap on my face. Every time I weighed myself on the scale, I would get frustrated at the low number.

Depression and anger stewed in my heart. I had fleeting thoughts of death. A lot of death fantasies. I would tell Danny – “Just shoot me. Just kill me now.” Pain sounded better than nausea. Death sounded better than nausea. Anything seemed better than nausea! I wanted to die every day just to escape the never-ending nausea. So many women who experience hyperemesis battle depression on top of the physical disease.

Many women with HG contemplate terminating the pregnancy to end the battle with nausea. Some women actually follow through with the termination. Every minute of the day, I was tempted to terminate the pregnancy. But somehow I couldn’t. I had to focus on the end goal. That it would be worth it in the end when we have our little baby girl. I had to fight every instinct to die, give up, or to terminate the pregnancy.

It was a daily battle. I clung to the fact that my suffering had to have some meaning, right? I read stories of women with HG who were actually recommended by their doctor to terminate the pregnancy because their symptoms were so severe that if they didn’t terminate, their own life would be in danger. I cannot fathom the thought of being forced to make that choice. I also read stories of women with HG who miscarried even in their third trimester. I can’t imagine suffering HG for that long only to have your baby taken away from you.

So I was thankful – thankful that despite how miserable I felt, my baby was alive and well. And I was also grateful that Annelise survived an HG pregnancy and is so healthy today. I’m also reminded of what Marilla Cuthbert would say to Anne Shirley when she was going through the “depths of despair” – “To despair is to turn your back on God.” Somehow by God’s grace, I survived my first and second trimester.

Thankfully, most women with HG get through this period of darkness until the nausea subsides into a more manageable level. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing persistent suicidal ideation, please contact: 1-800-SUICIDE

If you want to vent or talk to someone about your HG experience, please take a look at the following resources:

Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation, www.helpher.org (leading source of information for moms, family members, and medical professionals; contains medical studies and treatment options)

Baby Center’s online support group for hyperemesis suffers, http://community.babycenter.com/groups/a986645/hyperemesis_sufferers

Beyond Morning Sickness, http://beyondmorningsickness.com/ (offering books for moms and kids, forums, and phone mentoring support)

Ayden Rae Foundation, http://www.aydenraefoundation.org/ (HG advocacy and research organization)

Distress at the Dentist’s

Today I went to the dentist’s office for a cleaning. This is no ordinary task for someone with HG though. I remember when I went for a cleaning when I was pregnant with Annelise and how I got really nauseous. So I was nervous that the same thing would happen today.

I gave the hygienist a heads-up regarding my nausea. She asked if I had any other medical changes besides the pregnancy since the last visit. I could have answered, “Well, I’ve thrown up too many times to count, I’ve been dehydrated and was on IV treatment for two months…” But I replied, “Nope, just the pregnancy.” Sometimes it’s just easier to save my breath and give the simple answer.

Not even halfway through the cleaning, I found myself feeling very nauseous. I think it was the combination of lying down, having a hard time breathing, the smell of the latex, and the heat emanating from the overhead lamp that made me feel queasy. I was afraid that I would either hurl or pass out if the cleaning continued.

So I stopped the hygienist and sat up. She and the dentist were very accommodating and got me a cup of cold water. Sitting up and drinking the water helped. For the remainder of the cleaning, we decided it would be best for me to sit up rather than recline on the chair. And the hygienist used the lamp on her goggles rather than the larger overhead lamp.

Thankfully, the rest of the cleaning went much more smoothly! Now I’m back home and I’m pretty exhausted from that ordeal. It’s so sad how the littlest things just suck all the energy out of me.

Annelise’s Birth Story

This is the story of my first HG pregnancy. Danny and I got married in December of 2008. He left for a deployment to Africa in April of 2009. He was gone for seven months! It was such an emotionally challenging time to be away from each other as newlyweds for more than half a year. A lot of emails, phone calls, video-chatting and many prayers helped us to survive the deployment. When he came back in November of 2009, we decided to wait to have kids till we settled down as a couple.

A year later, we made the decision to forgo contraception. We weren’t preventing pregnancy but we weren’t really actively trying either. When I missed my period in November of 2010, I decided to take a pregnancy test – just in case. I really didn’t think I would actually be pregnant…but there I was holding a positive pregnancy test in early November 2010 (on Veterans Day)! Danny was pretty excited. Me…I was just shocked.

The nausea wasted no time rearing its ugly face into my life. It started out slowly…what you might call normal morning sickness. I was still able to eat and function. Then the nausea kicked into full-force and slammed me with an overwhelming sickness that I was totally unprepared for. I knew that I would have some nausea because my mom had a lot of morning sickness with her pregnancies. But I had no idea how bad it would get.

I still remember the very first meal I threw up. It’s etched into my memory because HG can be so violent and relentless in its symptoms. I had had dinner with a few friends to celebrate a birthday. We went to Tofu House and I distinctly remember the stench of mushrooms from my friend’s spicy tofu and mushroom soup. My sense of smell was extremely heightened and the mushrooms just smelled disgusting. That night, I threw up the spicy tofu soup – not a pleasant thing to throw up. That was just the beginning of my hyperemesis…

The nausea and vomiting got worse and worse day by day. Eventually, I couldn’t eat anything without throwing it back up. I remember my mom being so concerned with my eating and like any Korean mom would, she kept pushing me to eat despite the nausea. I would get frustrated and tell her – “You don’t understand, I can’t eat because I’m so nauseous and I’m going to throw it up anyway so what’s the point?” This was the daily battle I struggled with. Every part of my body was screaming nausea and telling me not to eat. At the same time, I knew I should try to eat for the baby’s sake. But inevitably, whatever I ate would come back up.

I told my OB about my excessive nausea. She told me it’s normal morning sickness in the first trimester and that it would get better soon.

It didn’t.

A week later, I called my OB nurse and complained about my nausea and vomiting. She said – as long as you’re keeping fluids down, it’s fine.

It just got worse. Not only could I not eat, I couldn’t keep liquids down either. So I decided to go to urgent care one day when I was feeling horrible. They told me I was dehydrated and gave me fluids via IV. The doctor said, “You have something called hyperemesis which means you have excessive nausea and vomiting. There isn’t much we can do. Here’s some information about HG.” I felt a bit better after receiving the IV fluids but they sent me home soon after with a prescription for Zofran (anti-nausea medication). The Zofran did not work and I was back to vomiting multiple times a day. This continued for days.

I decided to go to urgent care again since nothing was working. This time we waited three hours in the waiting room to be seen. I remember sitting in the waiting room and just wanting to die because the nausea was so strong. I silently cried because I was so frustrated and tired of waiting. I think the people in the waiting room probably thought I was crazy or something. I was seen again and given fluids via IV and again immediately sent home. Literally the moment I stepped back into the car, I threw up again – just the smell of the car caused me to retch. The around-the-clock vomiting continued again for days.

Finally, on Christmas day of all days – I knew something was seriously wrong and that short-term IV fluids and oral Zofran were not enough to help me get better. I literally felt like I was dying. I had absolutely no energy. I was either in bed or throwing up into the toilet. The nausea was so bad. I was still throwing up multiple times a day but now I was vomiting bile. At this point, I wasn’t eating or drinking anything but still throwing up! I weighed myself and was shocked to find out that I had lost 15 pounds. I should be gaining weight my first trimester not losing weight! That scared me and I called my doctor’s office and spoke to the on-call nurse

I expressed my concerns and frustrations to her over the phone – between pathetic sobs. She told me to go to the ER. I asked her – “Well, will they admit me?” She said “I don’t know.” I was so frustrated at that point and wondered if it would even be worth it to go to the ER. But in my heart, I knew something was wrong and if I continued going like this, I would just die.

So we went to the ER on Christmas day. Thankfully, there weren’t too many people there and I was seen quite quickly. The doctor gave me Phenergan (another anti-nausea med) via IV and it made me so sleepy – I loved it! Something to finally take the nausea away. They ran some blood tests and the ER doctor consulted with my OB and they concluded that I should be admitted because the numbers from the blood tests were off. I think my electrolyte level was really low due to the dehydration. I was so happy to hear that someone finally was taking my condition seriously!

I stayed in the hospital for about four days. I was on continuous IV – getting fluids as well as Zofran and Phenergan. I was still throwing up but at least the fluids were keeping me from being dehydrated. When my OB came to see me, she had a totally different attitude. She clearly didn’t think this was ‘normal’ morning sickness anymore. She wanted to do an ultrasound to make sure the baby was okay. The baby turned out to be perfectly healthy and quite active!

My OB decided to have me to get a PICC line for long term in-home IV treatment. A PICC line is a peripherally inserted central catheter. It is a long, slender, flexible tube inserted into a peripheral vein, typically in the upper arm and advanced until the catheter tip reaches into a large vein in the chest near the heart to obtain IV access. Because I would be receiving IV treatment daily 24 hours a day, it would be a hassle and also difficult on my veins to change the IV site every week. With the PICC line, you don’t have to get pricked every week for the IV treatment. I loved my PICC line! It was truly a lifesaver.

I received IV treatment for a month. A home health nurse would come every week to change the dressing and check up on me. The rest of the time, Danny changed my IV bags and administered the medications into the PICC line for me. He was a pro! His navy medical training definitely came in handy. He already knew how to administer an IV so it was a piece of cake for him.

After a month of continuous IV treatment, I finally started to feel better and could start eating again. By the end of my first trimester in January, I started to feel somewhat normal and I gained my weight back. I still had nausea 24/7 but it was at a much more manageable level and the vomiting significantly reduced. That was my traumatic introduction to HG. I was forced to take three months of sick leave from my job. I went back to work in February and thankfully, the rest of my pregnancy went more smoothly.

My labor and delivery – compared to my pregnancy – was so easy. I was actually kind of surprised at how smooth and fast my labor and delivery was. My water broke at 7 am on July 13th, 2011. I called the hospital and they told me to take a shower, eat breakfast and head over to the hospital in a couple hours. So I took my time and showered and ate some cereal. I started feeling sharp contractions and we drove to the hospital.

By 9 am, the nurse measured me and I was already 6 cm dilated! (I had been dilating even before labor started) The nurse told me I could get the epidural then since I was already 6 cm or that I could wait. I decided to just get the epidural because the contractions were quite painful. The anesthesiologist was wonderful and the epidural was wonderful! Now I was in no pain and just waited to push. By 2 pm, I was fully dilated at 10 cm. I threw up a couple times (of course!) during the pushing. I pushed for a couple hours and Annelise was born at 4 pm! She weighed 8 lbs 5 oz! The doctor was amazed at how big she was. My OB told me I was the worst case of nausea/vomiting she had seen.

The best part about delivering the baby was of course meeting Annelise finally but also the fact that my nausea was finally and completely gone! Food never tasted so good as when I ate the hospital food that day. I’m still amazed at how big and healthy Annelise is despite the HG. Annelise means “grace”. It was truly by God’s grace and many people’s prayers that I survived my first pregnancy and that Annelise was born full-term at a very healthy weight and that Annelise is such a good eater!

Here’s a picture of my little chub-chub doing her favorite thing…eating!

A Mother’s Love

I made it to my 28th week of an HG pregnancy! Thank the Lord for sustaining me thus far.

One of my biggest supporters throughout this pregnancy has been my mom. I don’t think I appreciate her nearly as much as I should. Only a mother would do half the things she’s done for me to help me survive the hyperemesis.

I stayed at my parents’ home for two months from June to August while I underwent in-home IV treatment. We decided that it would be best for me to stay at my parents so that it would be easier for them to take care of me as well as my daughter since I was physically unable to take care of Annelise at the time.

My mom is a nurse by profession so that came in quite handy during the IV treatment. I felt quite safe at home knowing that my mom would know when the IV had gone south and would require a change. She administered Phenergan (anti-nausea medication) through the IV for me at night.

Because my nausea was so bad, I had a really hard time taking a shower (the motion of even standing up and washing my hair was enough to cause a puking episode). I also had no energy to take a shower regularly. So my mom took up the tedious chore of washing my hair once a week just so that I didn’t look like a complete barbarian. She endured my frustrated screams at her to hurry up because even the smell of shampoo would send me over the edge. She also faithfully administered glycerin suppositories when I was extremely constipated (gross, I know!). I don’t think anyone but a mom would be willing to do that!

One time I was taking a shower and I got extremely nauseous from the heat of the water and I vomited my entire lunch onto the tub. The shower drain started getting clogged…so I yelled for my mom to come help me. She scooped all the vomit out of the tub.

On top of all this, my mom (on her days off from work) took care of my daughter. It was quite a stressful time for all of us – it’s an understatement to say that my parents were drained after a long day of taking care of me as well as my active toddler!

All of these things were amazing for my mom to do but I think what I’m most thankful for is her simple, unconditional love. I had so much frustration and anger regarding my pregnancy – it inevitably would come out in emotional outbursts toward my mom. And yet she chose to stand by me despite my frequent, ugly temper tantrums…

A mother’s love knows no bounds, can lift you up in the darkest moments of life. A mother’s love is unique is its ways and can be the most persistent and constant of loves that we’ll ever experience. It is probably the most thankless job in the world but it can be a glorious gift for her children. 

Here I am at 28 weeks about to become a mom of two soon. I hope that I can, one day, show this kind of unwavering love to my little ones.

The HG Dilemma

Now that I’m able to eat regularly most of the time, a daily challenge I face is this peculiar dilemma that HG poses. I can get super hungry due to the pregnancy but I’m also quite nauseous at the same time. So what do you do when you feel famished but nauseous at the same time?

The two very conflicting feelings warring inside my stomach drive me insane. Sometimes I just want to scream at my body, “What do you want me to do?!” Some people say their nausea gets better when they eat…but for me, it seems like the only time I don’t feel the nausea is when I’m eating. After I’m done eating, I just feel full and even more nauseous than before! I really can’t figure out what’s worse – feeling super hungry/nauseous or full/gross/nauseous!

There’s just no escape from the nausea with HG. This perpetual mild-grade nausea lends itself to a sort of perpetual mild-grade depression. Because I feel icky/gross/queasy all the time, I tend to be irritable and sad much of the time. What keeps me going is the light at the end of this very long tunnel…my baby girl number two.

Victory In The Little Things

This is what happens when you move to LA from SD in April and then immediately get pregnant in May and undergo hyperemesis…things are left unpacked and disorganized. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey! It’s October and there are still things we’re unearthing that we haven’t unpacked.

We stumbled upon this stash of candy the other day and I was flooded with traumatic memories of HG during my first trimester. This was my go-to survival kit of sweets I had in my parents’ house where I received IV treatment for two months. The nausea was so bad that I had to constantly be chewing gum or sucking on candy to try to keep myself from upchucking and also to battle the perpetual yucky, sour taste in my mouth. Werthers caramel candies were my favorites.

I couldn’t eat or drink anything for two months but there was always candy or gum in my mouth. My friends who would visit me would bring bags of candy because they knew that was the only thing I could eat! I guess this is a good reminder of how far I’ve come. At least now I am able to eat and digest food most of the time!

I realize HG is about finding victory in the little things. Mild-grade nausea is still ever-present and I’m still throwing up once or twice a week but I can celebrate the fact that I am: 1) not throwing up every day, 2) no longer on daily IV treatment, 3) no longer losing weight but actually gaining weight, 4) able to eat without major stomach pain, 5) able to have a bowel movement every day! (sorry if that was TMI, but this one is a serious victory to celebrate), 6) able to go out in public (on my good days at least), and 7) able to take care of my daughter most of the time.