Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hyperemesis: Part I

It was a year ago that I told Jake I couldn't swim with him.

"Why not, Mommy?" he asked.

It was a reasonable question. We were at the swim club. I was in a bathing suit. It was summer.

"Mommy's sick, honey," I said. I held up the black bag that my BFF Liz told me to deem as the newest fashion accessory if anyone asked. Didn't you see it in Vogue? You didn't? Too bad for you because it's the new rage. The black bag, a smallish purse about a foot long and ten inches wide was attached to me -- literally -- for the first five months I was pregnant with Elke.

Beautiful Elke. This picture, a reminder that I made it through.

I had been diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness that had put me in the hospital twice in a ten-week period. I was almost three months pregnant and down to 114 pounds. Couldn't eat. Couldn't puke. Couldn't do anything but roll in a ball. Television hurt. The sun hurt. Sheets hurt. I wanted to live under the covers. I wanted to live under the bed and not come out until the nausea stopped pulling me down under and stopped sucking the life out of me.

Inside my fashionable bag was a syringe and a motorized pump that continuously fed me Zofran, a powerful anti-nausea drug typically given to cancer patients. Every morning and night, I injected my thigh, my waist, or what was left of the fatty part of my emaciated belly with a new needle and refreshed the syringe. The Zofran took the edge off -- when it was working. It wasn't a miracle drug. It allowed me to eat three tamari rice crackers.

Andy took Jake's hand. "Come on, buddy. I'm here to go in the pool with you. Mommy will just watch us."

Andy kissed me. "At least you're out of the house, babe," he said. For the first time that week. But I was angry at this disease for taking away the joy of a pregnancy. Of our new life together. I was desperate to have a baby. Now, I was desperate not to be pregnant.

Jake was only four years old and was just learning how to swim. His wonderful body flailed in the water. Blowing bubbles and then erupting to the surface. "Did you see that, Mommy? Did you see that?"

In my haze, I saw him. Like a zombie, unable to experience anything but the weight of my thin body. I shuffled to a blue, grimy lounge chair in the shade. My legs, lifeless and weak. My mind, warped from the hormones, and the nausea, and the drugs. Watching like a spectator as my son learned to swim.

The hyperemesis made me doubt my ability and my identity as a mother. I could barely take care of Jake, let alone the baby growing inside me, whose new home in my womb was infested with depression and the steady flow of Zofran. Imagine if it was 100 years ago, Andy and I would say. I'd be gone.

An older woman sat next to me and asked what the bag was for. So I told her.

"What we do for our children," she said.

I nodded, thinking, yes. What we do. This experience would be Jake's first lesson in sharing Mommy with a sibling, I thought, as I sipped my savior, Lemon-lime Vitamin Water.

I read blogs of people who have not survived breast cancer. People who have had miscarriages. Who are burned in plane crashes. Real, real tragedies from people who still have an incredible outlook on life. I cry for them. I ache for them. My hyperemesis wasn't traumatic like those losses - but the unrelenting nausea was devastating and debilitating. Ask any woman with hyperemesis to look outside her mind at what she has to look forward to, and she will tell you in that moment... she is unable. Being pregnant and unable to At least 25% of women polled in a study by the Hyperemesis Foundation have aborted at least one pregnancy. I certainly contemplated it as well. Is this really worth it, I couldn't help but think. (Of course now, I see it totally was. Because, holy shit, I love that little girl like nobody's business.)

"Mommy's going to feel better soon," I told Jake when he got out. I wrapped him up in his favorite dinosaur towel and pulled him tight I hoped. I hoped. I hoped.

More on this...


  1. Hi. I love your blog. I just ran into it through a web search. You are amazing!!
    I had HG twice and like you, felt miserable, alone and completely debilitated. It was the most traumatic experience of my life!!!

    It was so hard to be so sick and still tey to take care of my two year old. It feels so unfair that they have to suffer too because you can't be the mommy they need you to be. :(
    No one could ever truly understand.

    Unfortunately, Zofran was the strongest drug I ever found and unfortunately, it wasn't strong enough for me either! :(

    I just started a blog about my experience too.
    Please stop by at babyyouremakingmesick.blogspot.com

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Hi - thank you for your nice words. I just checked out your site and I CANNOT believe what you went through twice. I got the IUD two months after giving birth - and it still puts me back into a depression when I think about my pregnancy. It was like slow torture, right? Thankfully though, I have my beautiful daughter that helps me forget how bad it was - and I wouldn't trade her for the world!

    Anyway, thanks for finding me... and glad to hear you made it through.


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