It happens to less than 1% of pregnant women. It happened to me. Hyperemesis Gravidarum. In both pregnancies. According to the HELP HER Foundation ‘Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. HG usually extends beyond the first trimester and may resolve by 21 weeks. However, it can last the entire pregnancy in less than half of these women.’
It lasted the whole of my first pregnancy. I counted more that 100 (!) times of being sick. I am almost half way through my second pregnancy, and it is still going. Here is what I learned:
It is ok to go dark: When we are sick we can have dark thoughts, and that’s ok. It is part of being unwell. But, close family members maybe not be the best people to share your dark thoughts. They are going through enough seeing you ill, give them a break. A close friend or your doctor might be better. Unlike 55% of women with HG, I managed not to get depressed. But I did go very dark when I was at the bottom of it.
It’s an opportunity to give less and receive more: For the last year there was a lot of purpose in my life but little pleasure. If a purpose/pleasure balance is what is needed to be happy, I was certainly off balance. I worked hard. I took care of my daughter. I coached. And that was about it.
When I went sick, I stopped all that. And in the beginning, I felt guilty. For not working. For being a burden to my husband and family members that did everything to support me. For not being the mother I wanted to be.
But I managed the guilt. I started feeling compassion for myself. And I allowed myself to binge-watch Netflix for a month and read a lot of mystery books. I allowed myself not to pick up my daughter from the nursery the moment I was not working. I started asking for help and receiving it gladly. I started sleeping. And in a weird way, losing my health gave me back some balance.
When all activity stops you are alone with yourself: When I started peeling the layers off because of my sickness, first the employee, then the mother (for the hours that Sofia was at the nursery) I was curious to see what’s underneath. In the beginning, there was nothing. I got scared. When I am not a worker, and I am not a mother what’s left? I held this emptiness for a while. And then ideas started coming up. What is important to me and what’s not started becoming clear. I stripped all distractions. I waited. And there it was…a part of myself I had forgotten.
Find the blessings in hell: They were many of those. HG may be horrible, but I know it will end when I give birth unlike a lot of other diseases. I will have a cute bundle of joy to show for all my suffering. My employer was supportive while a lot of women with HG lose their jobs, especially in the US. My doctor gave me medication immediately saving me from excess weight loss and dehydration. That’s not the case for a lot of doctors who refuse to give any medicine to pregnant women. Every little joy started counting. Everyone’s expectations are so low for me that when I exceed them, it’s a party. My husband was so surprised I cooked this week!
If I could avoid HG, of course, I would. But everybody has their misfortunes in life, their battles. And depending on how we react to them, they can be a turning point. They can help us get to know ourselves better and help us grow. If life gives you lemons, please try to make the coolest damn lemonade ever made!