I promised myself to write this article about my pregnancy as soon as I get my strength back. However I kept postponing it. First I thought it was because I was too busy with my new baby girl but later on I discovered that it was out of fear….fear that writing this article will bring back pain that I wish to forget. Today, almost two years later I decided its time, it’s time to sit down and write about my Hyperemesis Gravidarum Story. At least with the thoughts in my head, and feelings in my heart, that my story may give hope to someone out there.
Funnily, it was not a week after my missed period, but actually it was three days before, and it was not “first morning urine”, in fact it was 9pm. Still, I took the pregnancy test anyway. And there it was, two pink lines getting clearer and clearer. I felt a burst of joy that poured out in the form of tears. But of course like everyone else I had to reach out for that second test to be double, triple sure, right? I took another one and thankfully, it was also a positive. I looked down at my stomach and a strong realization dawned on me…that at this very moment I’m not standing here alone.
After I calmed myself down from the intense storm of happiness that just hit me. I started to google all the creative ways to tell my husband and family that I’m pregnant, but I was too excited to think, let alone prepare anything. As soon as my husband walked in the house I shouted “I’M PREGNANT!” and did the same to my family on the phone. I had the self-control of a 4 year old. At this moment our home was filled with nothing but pure joy. I also had two months left to my final exams, then I would officially be a Master’s degree graduate. Everything was just perfect.
Four weeks into my pregnancy I was in the car on my way to university when I first felt sick. I thought I had car sickness because I usually get car sick. I waited 15 minutes for it to wear off as usual, but it didn’t. I then waited for hours and hours and still I felt sick. It was like I was stuck in a car ride forever. I ended up throwing up almost in the middle of my lecture. Little did I know that this was only the beginning.
By week six things were pretty much downhill. I became very sick. But people and some doctors kept on telling me “it’s normal” “every pregnant woman goes through this” “just eat crackers and drink ginger tea.” Unfortunately I listened to them and tried to be strong and handle it alone until things got even worse. I was throwing up around 40 times a day. While throwing up I was straining my muscles, bursting blood vessels in my face and eyes and tearing the lining of my esophagus and throat. The more I threw up the more painful it became. The pain in my ribcage, shoulders and throat was unbearable. I did my best to hold myself from throwing up again to give my body a break, a moment to heal, but I failed. I just had this persistent extreme nausea that won’t go away. It felt like a mix of food poisoning and car sickness then being thrown in a roller coaster all in one.
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I want to pause here for a second to explain what it was I was actually going through, yes morning sickness is a common thing during a woman’s pregnancy. But what I had was not just morning sickness, what I had was Hyperemesis Gravidarum or HG for short. HG is a very severe and debilitating pregnancy complication that unfortunately not too many people know about and not too many doctors take seriously enough.
The first time I went to the hospital I was quickly dismissed and sent away. But then when things got serious and started to show in my blood tests I was admitted to the hospital. This was when I was first introduced to a new term…ketone levels. A word every woman that suffered from HG and severe morning sickness is very familiar with. As long as my ketones were high I had to be hospitalized. At this point I could eat nothing, and when I say nothing I mean NOTHING, not even water, so I got all my nutrition’s through IV. Even though at this stage I didn’t eat anything I still threw up because of the nausea. Vomiting on an empty stomach took the pain to a whole new level. I remember telling the doctor that it feels like throwing up acid and that I’m burning from the inside out. I also remember crying myself to sleep until my husband one night told me jokingly “your last test results show extreme dehydration I won’t waste water on tears if I were you”.
In the following few months, I lost 20Kg, became very weak and completely dependent. I felt useless and like a failure. I wasn’t able to set my exams and didn’t graduate. I didn’t know if the pregnancy was going to continue or not, I had severe panic attacks from being trapped in the hospital for so long (5 months in total, in and out of emergencies and hospital rooms). My biggest concern was my family. They took shifts to take care of me. My sister had to call off work plenty of times to take care of me. She told me not to worry and that she could work while being by my side. But every time she started a video conferencing or even turned on her laptop I managed to disturb her. Either I had to go to the bathroom (yes I needed help with this too) or I was throwing up. After all who would be able to focus on an e-meeting while someone is puking in front of them. My poor mum and husband spent sleepless nights by my side. My husband was just lost and helpless. I was robbing their life and health away with me. I felt so bad and guilty yet so lucky to have such amazing people by my side.
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But then…the calm after the storm; when I was about to start my third trimester this is when things started to get better. My nausea never completely vanished but it became manageable. It’s funny when I think about it now, but at the start of this phase the first time I ate a whole cracker was a day of celebration for me. We take being able to eat and sleep for granted sometimes, and here I was being clapped for because I managed to eat an entire cracker… As soon as I gained my strength back, I started to build myself again. My university agreed to set a supplementary exam for me. I had 15 days to study and God knows how much I pushed myself. In my third trimester I was hospitalized twice again because sometimes my nausea just got very bad. I use to ask the nurse to keep the IV on my left hand so that I can write notes with my right. Day by day I started to get my life back. I sat my exams, I graduated, and my baby girl got to attend my graduation ceremony.
This brings my story to an end. From the moment I saw those two pink lines to the day my baby was sitting in the audience at my graduation. Before I go I would like to say that this is not just my story. There are a lot of women out there who had similar experience with HG and even worse. Those amazing and strong women are true heroes. And to anyone who is suffering from HG and reading this article, just remember that all the pain, loneliness, and the sleepless nights will soon become a memory. Just hang in there. And never allow anyone to underestimate your pain or tell you it’s all psychological. And to all doctors who encounter HG cases, you have no idea how much you can make a difference. Every explanation, Guinness, care and, most importantly, true empathy gives so much hope.