The first 18 months of my first borns life were mainly spent out of the house; endless play dates, baby groups and trips meant that she barely knew what a TV was, let alone a tablet or You Tube. Fast forward almost two years later, she is binge-watching Peppa Pig for days on end on a Kindle that has become hers, eating junk food by the plateful, and my ‘mothers’ guilt is tangible’.
I lie lifeless, curled up in a ball by the lavatory bowl, unable to move, paralysed by pain as my frightened now toddler, startled by the sounds of continuous retching, strokes my face, looks into my eyes and begs for a cuddle- but I can’t.
Last time was bad, this time is worse.
I should’ve guessed the moment my favourite meals onset crippling nausea, I should’ve known the moment a cool glass of plain water became unbearable, partnered with vomiting so frequent and violent I pulled muscles. Choosing to ignore the dizziness; fooling myself into thinking what I needed was more rest, obviously the result of having a toddler to look after. I tried not to be ‘weak’, ‘needy’ or ‘negative’; after all ‘pregnancy is a blessing’, ‘not everyone is able to carry’. I endeavoured to be the ‘strong black woman’, pushing through the tears and the burning throat, raw from stomach acid. Rebuking and praying away evident signs of dehydration, because anything else would mean a lack of faith and ingratitude for those earlier desired two blue lines.
Physical exhaustion eventually gave way to anxiety: ‘I am a failure’, ‘I’m letting my daughter down’, ‘I’m harming my unborn baby’, and later, anxiety to rage as I questioned what I had done in life to be suffering so severely through a time that’s supposed to be so wonderful. Rage turned to secret regret culminating in the complete lack of excitement and continuing disconnect with the life growing inside of me.
Words cannot describe my misdirected frustration with the friends and family who put their own lives on hold to help me (basic tasks like cleaning my teeth had become a mammoth task) deep down not really angry with them, but at the card life had dealt me- incapability and helplessness. Multiple and unhelpful suggestions to ‘try ginger’ and ‘eat as soon as you wake up’ only left me seething.
Twelve, sixteen, weeks, and even twenty-four weeks went by with no change.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) stopped me witnessing the marriage of a dear friend, took date nights and girls’ nights from me, it threatened to kill off friendships after months of being bed-ridden. HG robbed me of precious time with my daughter, it cruelly teased my husband, slightly subsiding one day, giving him hope that his once fiercely independent and proficient wife was coming back, but would unexpectedly return with vengeance the next.
When HG threatened my mental health, and the darkest of thoughts began to creep in; better late than never, it was time to act. Lying on the hospital bed, moments from passing out, I felt relief. Medical help was on its way. ‘This IS more than just ‘morning sickness’, the Doctor confirmed what I already knew, but tried to dismiss because every one I spoke to had ‘just got on with it’ , because the faces of the ones who had suffered didn’t look like mine and because it was supposed to be easier the second time round, wasn’t it?
Things are easier now; I am not trying to struggle through the worst days alone. Accepting help, and realising I am not alone, was the first step in having better days. With the support of UK charity Pregnancy Sickness Support, I was able to access information on drugs and a care package that could help me regain a semblance of normal life. Their unwavering dedication to raise awareness and empower sufferers is what I believe kept me going. Equipping me with the tools to present to my Doctor was a key step on my road to recovery.
Due to the severity and length of my sickness, this may be the last time I go through a pregnancy, so although it saddens me that both were plagued with NVP, as I eagerly await the arrival of my second child, far from feeling cowardly; getting to this point has shown me just how strong I can be.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is an extreme and potentially life threatening form of Nausea and Vomiting in pregnancy, which can have a profound affect on the sufferers health and well being. The Pregnancy Sickness Support Charity is the only Charity in the UK actively working to help women with the condition. The Charity aims to help those experiencing Nausea & Vomiting in Pregnancy (NVP)
They also provide information on treatments to discuss with your Doctor and advice for coping strategies at home. PSS volunteers also run an online forum where you can access support from a number of women at almost any time of the day or night.