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’!
This Mother’s Day, I am so grateful to be a mom of two, healthy HG miracle babies. Annelise is almost 22 months and Katelynn just turned 4 months! One of the things I learned when I underwent hyperemesis is that we cannot take our health for granted and that it is truly a blessing from the Lord to be healthy. I’m still so amazed that despite my 15-20 pound weight loss with each pregnancy, Annelise and Katelynn are both so healthy…and so big!
May 15th is HG Awareness Day. If you have the means, please consider giving the gift of a donation to an organization near and dear to my heart – the Hyperemesis Education Research (HER) foundation. www.helpher.org
I hope and pray that we can one day find a cure to this devastating disease so that pregnancy does not have to turn into a nightmare!
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!
Well, things have taken a turn for the worse this week. I’m 36 weeks now and I’m back to throwing up once or twice a week. I’m having a lot of trouble eating and digesting food again. I haven’t showered all week because of the nausea and lack of energy. My own body odor is starting to trigger nausea! I checked my weight today and was alarmed to see I lost 6 pounds in a matter of a couple weeks. I started to panic. I know how HG can spiral out of control very quickly. It feels like I’m back to battling HG in my first trimester…I’m anxious that if things keep going the way they are, I will end up dehydrated and will have to get IV fluids again. I called my OB and she put in a referral for home health care. She said it would take a few days for them to call me so if things continue to get worse, I can get the Zofran pump and home IV treatment again. But if I am doing okay, my OB said I could just cancel the order. At this rate, I may take up my OB’s offer to induce me at 39 weeks! Please keep me and baby in your thoughts and prayers.
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.
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.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum has become a trendy topic in the media since Duchess Kate’s hospitalization due to the disorder. Some of the news coverage has been good while others have butchered the opportunity to inform the public about HG. The hosts of The View managed to cause uproar in the HG community when they announced Duchess Kate’s pregnancy and hospital admission and flippantly joked about her “morning sickness” and said it “doesn’t sound too bad.” It is appalling and mortifying that an Emmy-winning show like The View did not take the time to research HG before discussing it on national television! Their approach to talking about this disorder was completely insensitive to Duchess Kate as well as the many women who have and are currently suffering from HG. Many of us have written to the show expressing our concerns and deep disappointment. We are hoping that the hosts of The View will issue a public apology and take the time to explain the real dangers and symptoms of HG.
Through a funny string of circumstances, I was contacted by one of the editors of the NY Daily News yesterday. He asked me to write an article offering advice to Duchess Kate about surviving HG. I had to quickly jot down my thoughts as he needed it to be done within a couple hours. I haven’t been able to sleep much this week due to the nausea. I felt so nauseous and exhausted but somehow I got an extra boost of energy to write this article because I was so excited about the potential it has to educate the public about HG.
Early this morning at 6 am, I received an email from a producer at Inside Edition. She had found my blog through the NY Daily News article and said they wanted to interview me for a segment on HG! Needless to say, I was shocked and flustered (not to mention sleep-deprived!) but I agreed to do the interview. I knew I had to push through the exhaustion in order to share about my HG experience on behalf of all of you who are suffering through it now. The segment aired this afternoon in Los Angeles. Here is a clip of it that you can watch online –
I am truly thankful for the opportunities this week to share about hyperemesis and hope I’ve helped to get the right information out there. I hope that more and more people will become knowledgeable about HG so that women experiencing HG do not have to suffer in isolation or have their symptoms minimized by even medical professionals. And I hope they know that they are not alone in this battle and that they can endure it (as difficult as it is!) to the end to receive the best gift in the world!