In honor of HG Awareness Day, we had our first annual HG Survivors Meet Up. When I was pregnant with Katelynn and battling depression during my third trimester, Sarah (an HG survivor herself) visited me with her 9 month old son in tow. She listened to my story, empathized with me, offered encouragement and prayed the sweetest, most compassionate prayer. At that moment, I could feel the Lord’s presence during a time I felt very abandoned. It was wonderful to reconnect with her. Thank you Sarah for touching my life and the lives of so many others’!
I feel like I’m being dragged through a war. A war waged against my body, my spirit, my very own soul. This is the story of my 2nd HG pregnancy. This is Katelynn’s story. A story of (literally) blood, sweat, and tears…as well as months of vomiting…and ruthless nausea which gratingly lingers today, even as I write this post.
Imagine having the stomach flu or food poisoning…the constant wave of nausea is overbearing and you’re unable to eat anything because you are puking around the clock. The only thing you want to do is sleep so that you can escape the miserable feeling of queasiness in your stomach. It’s hard for you to smell anything because it triggers more waves of nausea. It’s tough to do much of anything except lie in bed and count the minutes that go by so slowly. The good news about the stomach flu or food poisoning is that the symptoms usually resolve within a week or so. And the good news with the stomach flu or food poisoning is that you usually feel better after you throw up.
But what if you just kept vomiting and the nausea never got better? And imagine if the nausea and vomiting continued for let’s say another week…and the week after that. What about if the symptoms lasted for a month, two months, four months, eight months?! At what point would you go insane or contemplate killing yourself to escape that dreadful, looming feeling of nausea? Welcome to my absolute worst nightmare.
I had hyperemesis with my first pregnancy so I was very much acquainted with this nightmare. You would think that such familiarity would make it easier the second time around…but I have to say it was actually much harder this time. Maybe because my hopes, that my second pregnancy would be easier, were viciously shattered. Or maybe because I faced unmet expectations that my symptoms would disappear by the end of the first trimester as it did with my first pregnancy. And this time around, we had Annelise to worry about too.
We had just moved to Los Angeles from San Diego this past April. I was looking forward to settling down and organizing our new condo. We had barely started unpacking our things when I got nauseous one day in May. I didn’t think too much about it. I have always had chronic stomach problems so it wasn’t too unusual for me to get nauseous from time to time. But when the nausea persisted and lasted for days…I began to wonder. Uh-oh…am I pregnant? I had a feeling that I was. The HG nausea was all too eerily familiar. I took a pregnancy test and sure enough, it read positive. Honestly, my initial reaction was one of anger and shock. How could I be pregnant again? And this soon? Annelise wasn’t even a year old! I was not ready to fight the HG monster again. I was still reeling from the trauma with my first pregnancy.
I set up my first doctor’s appointment and realized that even before I could see my OB, the HG would take me by full force once again. The nausea got worse every day and then the daily, non-stop vomiting started. I couldn’t eat anything because I couldn’t keep anything down. I called the doctor’s office and requested to see someone sooner than two weeks because of my history with hyperemesis. The receptionist said the physician assistant would be able to see me in a week. So I decided to meet with the PA.
But in the meantime, I was worried because I was rapidly losing weight, constantly vomiting and the nausea was overwhelming. I called my OB and complained about my symptoms and my worries about ending up in the ER like my first pregnancy. She said she could prescribe oral Zofran for the nausea but I explained to her that the oral Zofran had not worked for me with my first pregnancy. So the doctor prescribed another anti-emetic called Compazine.
Taking the Compazine turned out to be a very, very bad idea.
I tried the Compazine a couple times and found no relief from the nausea. Then one day after I took the Compazine, I felt a very strange sensation on my eyelids. It felt like my eyelids were involuntarily twitching. I didn’t think too much of it at first but when it continued, I started to feel very nervous. Then my neck started to spasm and I couldn’t control the muscles. I started to panic! I was having severe muscle spasms on my face and neck. I started sobbing uncontrollably because not only was I battling nausea, I was apparently having a negative reaction to the Compazine.
I yelled at Danny, “We have to go to the ER! Something is very wrong!” So Danny drove me quickly to the ER. It was the freakiest car ride of my life. I couldn’t lean back on the seat because my head kept moving back – I must have looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I remember staring at the ceiling of the car and trying really hard to force my head back down to its normal place. It was maddening to not be able to control my own face and neck!
I was seen right away at the ER thankfully. I was put in a wheelchair and wheeled to a bed. The ER doctor told me that I must have had a dystonic reaction to the Compazine. He gave me Benadryl via IV to relax my muscles. It worked! He explained how Compazine was a Class C drug and that in rare cases, people can have this negative reaction to the drug. Of course, I have to be one of the atypical cases with this reaction to Compazine. And of course, I am one of those scarce cases who have to battle hyperemesis. I wanted to laugh…here I was at the ER with my 2nd HG pregnancy when I had been so determined not end up in the ER this time.
After that horrific experience, I realized that I need to be careful about what medications I take. I was upset with my OB for not clarifying with me that Compazine was a class C drug. I stopped taking the Compazine and the vomiting/nausea continued to get worse.
The constant nausea was galling and the perpetual retching with no relief from the nausea was a nightmare. I was either in bed or hanging out at the toilet. Everything smelled putrid and food became a curse and a chore. Nothing stayed down, everything came out.
When I saw the PA a week later, I found out that I was 8 weeks along. I brought up my concerns about HG and how I had ended up in the ER with my first pregnancy due to dehydration from excessive vomiting. The PA remarked about how miserable I looked and that it was obvious to her how bad the nausea was. The PA said she would set me up with home health care (continuous IV treatment) so that I wouldn’t have to go to the ER or stay in the hospital. I had home health care with my first pregnancy so this sounded like a good plan.
At this time, Danny and I decided that it would be better for me to stay at my parents’ house since I was incapable of taking care of our daughter. My parents agreed to help take care of Annelise. I have no idea what we would have done without my parents’ help.
The home health nurse came a week later and set me up with a Zofran pump. This was something new to me. With my first pregnancy, I had a PICC line which is a long-term IV line. The Zofran pump is less invasive than a regular IV line. It is a subcutaneous IV which slowly administers the medication 24/7. You have to prick yourself in the stomach or thigh (any fatty area on your body) and the Zofran is administered slowly via the pump. It didn’t hurt as much as an IV needle. Danny would prick me in the belly and changed the site daily. You had to change the pump site because after one day, the area on your belly would get swollen and tender.
I kept calling the home health care agency to ask them to raise the dosage for the Zofran because I was not feeling any relief from the nausea/vomiting. After a week of trying the Zofran pump, I called the PA and told her that the Zofran pump was not working. She became frustrated with me and told me that there was nothing she could do and that the first trimester of HG was the worst time for nausea. I insisted that something needed to be done and that I wasn’t getting IV fluids. The PA seemed surprised that the home health care agency had not set me up with IV treatment already. So she said she would call Alere and recommend IV treatment for me. It was absolutely infuriating that the PA was getting frustrated with me – it wasn’t my fault that the med’s weren’t working!
So my home health nurse came out again and set up the IV line for me. She explained that I would need to call her whenever the IV site became sore so that she could come out and change it for me. I called the nurse once a week to change the IV site for me. After weeks and weeks of IV pricks, my veins became destroyed. It got harder and harder for the nurse to find a good vein. Sometimes, she would prick me four times to get the IV in. Pricking someone who is starving and very nauseous is really not a good idea. The sight of blood running down my arm triggered horrible nausea so I threw up a couple times during the IV site changes.
I was on IV treatment for two, very long months. Every day I would vomit several times a day and I would also dry-heave. The nausea was ever-present but for some reason, it would get worse at night. Since I wasn’t eating much of anything, I would just throw up bile and saliva. Sometimes, my throat would burn from all the stomach acid coming up. The toilet and my throw-up bucket were my constant companions. I had to have the throw-up bucket by my side 24/7 because I never knew when I would throw up and the vomiting was so unpredictable that there were many times I did not make it to the bathroom in time. I lost 15 pounds due to HG. I battled insomnia every night. I couldn’t sleep till 3 or 4 am because the nausea was so potent.
While I was on IV treatment, I was so weak and nauseous that I couldn’t even muster enough energy to take a shower. So my mom faithfully washed my hair for me once a week. During this time, any and all smells would set off the nausea. I couldn’t even have Danny sit close to me because of his body odor (not that he smelled bad but any smell would trigger the nausea!). Any type of motion/movement would also cause me to throw up. Car rides were impossible. Sometimes even talking would make the nausea worse so I stayed in bed or tried to sit still for most of the day. Sipping even water was the biggest task due to the nausea. Thank goodness for the IV fluids which kept me hydrated.
I thought for sure that by the end of my first trimester, I would start to feel better since that was what happened with my first pregnancy. But the nausea/vomiting persisted well past the first trimester, and into the second trimester.
HG took its toll on me physically as well as emotionally. I had many meltdowns during this time. In addition to feeling very depressed and frustrated, I battled a lot of guilt about not being able to do anything and having multiple identities stolen from me. I was no longer capable as a mother to Annelise. I was no longer a wife who could do anything for her husband. I was no longer a daughter who could take care of my parents. I was no longer a friend who could be by your side.
This proved be the darkest period of my pregnancy. My relationship with my daughter was nonexistent. My relationship with my husband was tenuous. My faith in God was waning. HG really started to bring forth irrationality. Starvation, dehydration, and malnutrition take a toll on your body and mind. I couldn’t think clearly because the nausea was so over-powering and it felt like I was dying. And every day, I wanted to die, to end it all. It’s funny…I was terrified of dying but I also readily welcomed death to escape the nausea/vomiting. But every morning I would wake up…still alive and still having to face the nagging nausea!
By mid-July, all of my veins had collapsed due to the multiple IV pokes and the nurse could no longer start an IV for me. She recommended that I get a PICC line to continue with the IV treatment. My mom encouraged me to try and see how I would do without the IV fluids since my nausea was somewhat better and I was able to eat a little bit more than before. The PICC line is more susceptible to infection so I decided to heed my mom’s advice and tried going without the PICC. I still had not gained my weight back but I was vomiting less. I was making very slow progress but it was progress nevertheless.
July 13th was Annelise’s first birthday. I thought that I would be much better by her birthday…but July came and I still felt miserable.
I thought that by the beginning of August, I would feel better…August came and I still battled perpetual nausea and vomiting. I don’t know how many times I broke down and sobbed bitterly because it felt absolutely hopeless. This is when I realized that the HG monster was much, much stronger this time and would battle me to the very end of my pregnancy. I no longer became surprised when I didn’t feel better the next week and the next and the next.
HG destroys your digestive system. Starvation and continuous vomiting really annihilate your body. It took me a long time to be able to eat again. It was like my body forgot how to eat and digest food. Every time I ate anything, my stomach would churn and spasm in pain. It was a struggle to force myself to eat when my body seemed to be rejecting food with every bite. I ate very small amounts and drank a lot of Jamba Juice smoothies. Eventually, I was able to eat without pain or major indigestion.
By mid-August, I was feeling somewhat normal. I didn’t feel good but I felt better. At least better than when I was on IV treatment. I started to go out again…but very carefully and always with a Ziploc bag in case I threw up in public. I started going out to restaurants and I started going to church again. I limited going out though because anything could trigger the nausea. The smell of public restrooms really got to me. The summer heat was so oppressive and would make the nausea worse so I tried to stay indoors with the AC on as much as possible.
I moved back to our place in Culver City and started to take care of Annelise on my own. My parents would come over a couple times a week to help though. And if the nausea got really bad, I would call my parents. Taking care of an active toddler when you have HG is a challenge. Every morning, I would wake up to the sounds of Annelise babbling or crying in her crib. It would take every bit of willpower to fight the nausea and get up from bed, go to her crib, change her diaper, and feed her breakfast to start the day.
I slowly gained my weight back. Over time, the vomiting reduced but stubbornly persisted well into my third trimester! I would still throw up once every week or two. The nausea was very erratic. One day I would feel okay enough to go out. Then the next day, the nausea would hit me hard and I would have to stay in bed all day. The unpredictability of the nausea/vomiting really drove me crazy. It was impossible to make plans with anyone because I never knew how I would feel that day.
By 30 weeks, the vomiting significantly reduced but I still had nausea 24/7. The lingering nausea was so vexing but my countdown to the delivery date began!
Then the morning of Thanksgiving, I threw up my breakfast. I was amazed that I was still barfing at 33 weeks! This is when I realized that I had a relapse in my third trimester – the nausea was worse than before and I threw up more than usual. I am now back to throwing up once a week and the nausea has been crippling. My sense of smell is again very heightened and it’s hard for me to smell anything without getting sick. It’s been a challenge to get things ready for the baby when I still feel so nauseous.
After vomiting this past week, I lost six pounds recently which alarmed me. But the past couple days have been better and I haven’t lost any more weight. I’m hoping the vomiting will calm down till I deliver.
Without a doubt, HG has been the most difficult thing I’ve had to endure. It was harder than when my husband left for a 7 month deployment four months after we got married. It was even harder than when Danny left me to take care of 2 month old Annelise for a five-month training out of state last year.
I am finally at 37 weeks and I can see the bright light at the end of this long, dark, and torturous tunnel I’ve been crawling through the past 8 months.
I would not have made it to this point without the Lord’s grace, my husband’s faithfulness, my parents’ outpouring of love, my daughter’s laughter, many friends’ prayers, Babycenter’s online support group for hyperemesis sufferers, and the generous volunteers at Beyond Morning Sickness!
I cannot wait to deliver! I’m excited to be rid of the nausea once and for all. I’m looking forward to being able to fully enjoy food without the sour/bitter taste of nausea in my mouth. Most of all, I’m so thrilled to finally meet my little girl Katelynn!
HG has thrust me into the deepest, darkest valley thus far in my faith journey. During my darkest moments – when I was on IV treatment during my first and second trimester – I became angry with the Lord for allowing me to suffer HG for the 2nd time. I was beyond furious that the vomiting was lasting much longer this time. I was enraged about being robbed of my relationship with my daughter for the two, long months I underwent IV treatment. Bitterness and resentment festered in my heart.
I found myself asking the question that probably every HG sufferer demands to know the answer to – “Why?” and “Why me, Lord?” Why is it that out of all the women out there in the world, only 1-2 percent of pregnant women suffer from HG and why did that 1 percent have to include me? I was jealous of “fluffy” pregnancies – women who sailed through their pregnancies without one bout of nausea!
I could understand going through HG once (maybe!) but twice?! And it being even worse the second time?! I didn’t understand the purpose of all this torment. It made no sense to me. Why suffer for eight months? My suffering seemed to be more of a curse than anything. It caused so much upheaval not only in my own life – but it negatively impacted my marriage, my daughter, and my parents who ended up taking on the burden of caring for Annelise.
I knew that the ultimate purpose of my life was to love God and to love others but how do you expect that from someone who’s in bed all day, throwing up around the clock, starving, dehydrated and nauseous 24/7? I could barely get out of bed some days – loving God and loving others seemed like the most impossible and onerous task to me. I often wanted to simply die because I did not understand what the purpose of living was if I couldn’t even eat normally! I’m not sure how many sleepless nights I stayed up due to the nagging nausea, pondering these questions, arguing with God, and simply sobbing out of frustration and deep disappointment.
Somehow, the Lord kept me semi-sane through the thick of it and I was able to stop the IV treatment and began to keep liquids down on my own and I eventually started the lengthy process of training my body to eat again. I’m thankful that the Lord kept the baby safe and that the Lord protected me from Satan’s beckoning to terminate the pregnancy to escape the nausea. Numerous women who have suffered HG have terminated their pregnancies and lived to bitterly regret it. It truly is a spiritual battle.
I began to read the book of Job for inspiration. I could easily identify with Job and his suffering. He questioned God many, many times throughout his suffering and I could relate to that as well. It seems that the purpose of Job’s suffering was to test his faith in the Lord. Satan teased God and said that the only reason Job was so faithful to God was because he was prosperous and doing well in life. Yet God was confident that even if Job lost his family, his wealth, his friends, and even his own health, that Job would stand firm in his faith!
Perhaps this is a test of faith for me? It’s easy to praise God when you feel good and when you’re experiencing success in the world. It’s not so easy and sometimes feels impossible to praise God when you’re suffering. And yet, this is what the Lord is calling me to do. I don’t think I’m quite out of the valley yet but my good Shepherd has been slowly leading me out of the darkness into His marvelous light. I know He wants me to heal from the emotional trauma of HG and that He wants me to lie in green pastures and be restored in Him.
Our health is something we easily take for granted. But my body is not my own. It is the Lord’s. He gives and He takes away. Danny said that perhaps the Lord wants me to learn to fully depend on Him regarding my health.
Despite all the emotional battle scars I have, I cannot deny the goodness of the Lord. I still do not quite understand the “why” of it all, but I can say with confidence that in my darkest moments, He lifted me up with His word, with many people’s prayers, and many people of faith encouraging me to not give up. I long for heaven with a new-found hunger.
And lastly, I believe that the Lord allowed me to go through HG in order to mold me into Christlikeness which is our greatest purpose in life.
I’m 31 weeks and I’m just so tired…tired of the unending nausea. It seems to have gotten worse this week. I’ve been more constipated (maybe it’s a 3rd trimester thing?) which probably makes the nausea worse. I feel so gross.
I’m tired of being stuck at home and not being able to go out regularly. I’m tired of being dependent on everyone. I’m tired of the nerve pain in my leg and major pelvic pressure. I wanted to go see the acupuncturist today for the nerve pain but I was so nauseous…I decided not to go after all! That’s when I realized the nausea is worse than the pain. I’m tired of waiting for the baby to come. I’m tired of people not understanding HG fully. I’m tired of being a halfhearted mommy to my 15 month old. I’ve been feeling down all day today due to the nausea.
By the end of the day, the fatigue was taking its toll on me. I broke down and started crying…but I couldn’t wallow in self-pity for too long because Annelise brought me a book and asked me to read to her. I wondered if she noticed that mommy had been crying. She didn’t seem to notice thankfully. I read to her…in between broken sobs. And then she wanted me to read the book again. So I did, even though I just wanted to cry.
I decided to email Beyond Morning Sickness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women suffering from HG. Ashli Foshee McCall, the founder of this organization, wrote a book about her HG experience, “Beyond Morning Sickness”; she chronicles her horrific battle with HG which ended in termination of her pregnancy. The book also contains valuable information about hyperemesis as well as a comprehensive treatment plan for HG.
Someone from BMS emailed me back immediately and offered to send me a free copy of Ashli’s book as well as a children’s book about HG. He also said that one of their volunteers (someone who has survived HG) could offer support via email. I was so touched by the generosity of this organization. I emailed him back to thank him and this is the response I received (which brought tears to my eyes):
“Mimi, you are more than welcome! Thank you for your wishes for Ashli. And thank you for doing so much for your baby. YOU are an example of what true generosity is. It’s easy for me to ship out a few books — but the sacrifice you are making is simply astonishing. You have endured the horrendous suffering that HG brings for another human being who you have never met, and who may not even have a name. The few minutes and few dollars I spend for you are nothing compared to what you are doing for your family and your baby.
God bless you!
I was so touched by this email! It is nice to know that someone truly understands what I’m going through. I’m really looking forward to reading these books. If you or anyone is suffering from HG right now, please contact Beyond Morning Sickness!
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)
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.
Today I really wanted to go to the beach. I’ve wanted to go to the beach all summer actually but every time I wanted to go, I got sick. So this morning when I felt a little nauseous, I ignored it and pushed myself and decided to go anyway. It would be Lisi’s first time at the beach so I was determined to go no matter what! And also because I was getting sick of being at home all the time.
On the way there, I got car sick of course. I forgot my Ziploc barf bag that I carry everywhere so I made a cup with my hands and threw up into my hands. It was disgusting! This is the 2nd time this week I’ve thrown up…it makes me so sad that I’m still throwing up at 26 weeks. I’ve wanted to return to a semblance of normalcy but it doesn’t look like that will be happening till the day I deliver.
On a positive note, Annelise did have fun at the beach – she liked playing with the sand and would giggle when the sand tickled her feet and hands. Glimpses of happiness are few and far in between but I’m thankful for my daughter who makes me smile even in the gloomiest of days.