Postpartum Reflections

I am now almost a month postpartum and I still have a trace of nausea. It’s amazing how persistent the nausea has been with this pregnancy. But I am happy to say that the nausea is very mild so I am quite functional now! I have so much more energy compared to when I was pregnant since the nausea is almost gone. I’ve been able to shower regularly, run errands, go grocery shopping, wash the dishes, fold laundry, enjoy eating meat – day to day things that we all take for granted. I’m truly grateful for every HG-free day that I’ve been blessed with. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life – I feel so alive and free now!

Taking care of Kate and Lisi has been super busy! Finding time to just sit down and write is getting harder and harder. I will continue to occasionally update this blog as various topics regarding hyperemesis arise. But for the most part, I will be taking a break from blogging here.

In honor of starting life afresh HG-free, I have started a new blog called myriad impressions. It will be a mommy blog in addition to being an eclectic collection of things that inspire me.

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Katelynn

Our much anticipated baby Katelynn arrived on January 8th, 2013 at 1:06 a.m.! She was 9 pounds 4 ounces at birth! My labor/delivery was quite difficult. We got to the hospital at 8 am on January 7th for a scheduled induction due to polyhydroamnios (high amniotic fluid level). I was induced at 9 am and hoped that my water would break naturally. When it didn’t, the doctor broke my water for me at 3:30 pm.

I asked for the epidural when the contractions started to get painful. I didn’t realize that Cedars Sinai is a teaching hospital. The anesthesiologist was a resident and was given step by step instructions by the teaching doctor. It made me quite nervous to hear that! Unfortunately, the dose that they gave me was too high so my blood pressure dropped significantly. I got really dizzy and lightheaded and threw up (of course!). They gave me medicine to bring my blood pressure back up but my blood pressure kept dropping so the anesthesiologist decided to shut off the epidural completely.

Then I started to really feel the pain! So I asked for another dose of the epidural. But the second anesthesiologist was busy and by the time he got to me, I was so much pain! Finally when the epidural kicked in, I was completely numb which made pushing quite a challenge. My OB thought I would deliver by midnight. But I was not fully dilated till well past midnight. I pushed for about 30 minutes (and of course threw up a couple times while pushing!) and Katelynn was born at 1:06 a.m.! She looks just like Annelise when she was born!

Because my 20 week ultrasound showed a couple soft markers for Down’s syndrome, the PEDS team (a group of resident doctors) came to evaluate Katelynn at birth. They told me that Katelynn does not meet all 5 criteria for Down’s but that she has a few signs. It was disconcerting. We sent out an email to our friends asking for their prayers. The next day, the hospital pediatrician came to examine Kate and she said that she does not believe Kate has Down’s! Apparently the PEDS team was being super thorough and cautious. We were so relieved and thankful.

Kate is truly a testament to God’s faithfulness – that despite all the weight I lost, He protected her! I’m so amazed at how healthy and big she is! So far, Kate has been so calm and such a good sleeper. I feel very blessed. I was very disappointed when my nausea didn’t immediately disappear after the delivery but I am doing so much better now. My nausea has reduced to a minimal level. My appetite is back (thanks to nursing) and I have been eating well! I am finally starting to feel normal again. Even though I’m sleep-deprived, it’s amazing how much energy I have now that the nausea has significantly reduced.

To all my fellow HG mamas out there, please don’t give up and hang in there. It’s such a long, difficult road to be on but the reward is so worth it! When I look into Kate’s precious face, I fall in love over and over again.

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

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!

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Letting Go of Annelise

One of the most painful aspects of this HG pregnancy has been surrendering my daughter. It was an odd process…to let go of my little baby who had been so attached to me. For five months (when Danny was in Virginia for training) last year, it was just Annelise and her mama. And then all of a sudden, when I got so ill with hyperemesis, we were forced to separate.

I was unwillingly pushed to surrender my precious Lisi. I had no choice. My body gave me no choice. I was bed ridden and on IV treatment for two months. I had absolutely no energy for anyone but myself. I was on survival mode. It took every ounce of energy just to breathe and live, manage the nausea, and get through each day.

So I relinquished her…to my husband who took care of her after work and on the weekends. And to my parents who took care of her during the day while Danny was at work. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law have also been so wonderful with taking care of Annelise when they would visit us.

On the one hand, I was so relieved to have them take care of her – I knew I didn’t need to worry about her and I could focus on getting better. On the other hand, I was heart-broken that she no longer looked to mama. She looked to grandma, grandpa, or daddy to feed her, change her diaper, play with her, and hold her tight.

Some days, I couldn’t even look at her…I was just too exhausted to even acknowledge her presence. So that’s how two, long months passed, with our paths barely crossing. My parents and my husband became responsible for taking care of Annelise as well as me. They were overwhelmed with the dual responsibilities.

I had to grieve and mourn the loss of our relationship. HG killed our mother/daughter relationship. But the wonderfully amazing thing is how resilient Annelise has been throughout this agonizing ordeal. She adapted quite quickly to her new care-takers. And once I started getting better, when I could start eating again and had more energy, we began the process of rebuilding our relationship. I started to play with her and sing to her. I taught her “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” In fact, “twinkle” was her first sign. She loved that darn song. She would always sign “twinkle” for me to sing to her.

It’s been an excruciating journey to say the least. There are still days I feel as if I’m a half-hearted mommy to a very active toddler. Half-hearted because I’m still nauseous 24/7. I have battled feelings of guilt because I couldn’t be there for her when I was really sick. It’s heart-rending that I cannot fully be there for her even now. I find myself emotionally disconnected from her especially on my bad days. But I guess it’s something that an HG mama has to battle.

I’m letting go of Annelise in order to survive and in order to save her baby sister.

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Annelise’s First Birthday

Have you ever forced yourself to smile even though you feel like hell on the inside? Nothing about nausea is pleasant. But what do you do when your nausea lasts for 9 months? People might be sympathetic for the first few months of the pregnancy but they expect you to feel better after a while. So, at some point, you have to suck it up and fake a smile for the world. And at some point, you have to minimize your symptoms and tell people you feel okay even though you don’t really feel all that great.

So I forced myself to smile for Annelise’s first birthday this past July.

Traditionally, Korean families hold big celebrations (called “dol janchi”) for their child’s first birthday. Apparently, this tradition came about because in the past, babies frequently died before their first birthday due to various diseases. So if a baby made it to his or her first birthday, it was a big deal. Of course, these days in Korea, most babies survive well past their first birthday but people still throw elaborate and extravagant “dol” parties.

Because of the HG, I hadn’t done a single thing to prepare for Annelise’s birthday party. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I would feel good enough to even attend her party! We decided to do a simple, cozy family party. My mother-in-law made the reservations for the restaurant. My mom arranged catering for the fruit and dessert and she also bought a han-bok (traditional Korean dress) for Annelise. The one thing I did was order a custom-design cake for her.

It took every ounce of energy for me to get ready and go out to the restaurant for Lisi’s birthday. This would be the first time I would go out in public since my HG nightmare started. I had just discontinued my home IV treatment. Taking a shower was arduous. Getting dressed and putting on makeup for the first time in months felt strange. I was very anxious about throwing up during the car ride to the restaurant or during her party but thankfully I made it through the day without vomiting. I couldn’t eat too much because my stomach still hurt every time I ate anything.

I forced myself to smile during pictures – I really wanted a good family photo. It was pretty overwhelming to see all our relatives after being cooped up at home, but I was so thankful for everyone coming out, so I forced more smiles.

Annelise is quite a character. She became cranky and started bawling in the middle of the party because she was sleepy and tired. But as soon as we gave her a snack, she immediately calmed down. She loves food!

Looking at her gleefully chowing down on the puffs made me smile. And this one was a genuine smile…I was glad that my daughter was happy. I was thankful that the Lord blessed her for one year and that she is so healthy and chubby. My first HG miracle baby.

Beyond Morning Sickness

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!

Lyle”

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!

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!