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Kerry's HuGStory

Sorry folks, this is VERY long. Itís the first time Iíve told my story and I need to tell you everything to get it out of my system.

Eric and I started trying for a baby in September 1998 after being married for most of a year and together for five years previously. I had just come off the pill, so nothing happened immediately, but after about four months I was pregnant. This first pregnancy was only 9 weeks and uneventful apart from threatened and then actual miscarriage - I had no nausea. So when I fell pregnant with Tom almost straight away I was overjoyed that it had happened so quickly and looking forward to a happy pregnancy, although a little nervous about telling many people too early after what had happened the last time. But at least I wasnít going to have awful morning sickness like my friend Megan!

A couple of weeks later, at 6 weeks pregnant, I felt very sick standing at a station waiting for a train after a night out with Eric and some friends. Eric pulled my leg about it being morning sickness, but I was sure it was just because I hadnít eaten recently. Eric went to buy some french fries. I ate half of one and spat the rest out. It tasted vile and I was sure I was going to be sick. I spent the journey home trying not to be sick but holding a paper bag just in case because I wasnít sure I could stop it. As soon as we stepped off the train I was sick. The next day I still felt very rough. I remember walking past the canteen at work on my way into the building from the car and finding the smell of the food cooking made my stomach churn. I put my jumper across my nose and mouth and kept walking. The next day at work I got an e-mail from one of the friends we had gone out with before the train ride. He had just been off with a 24-hour stomach flu which had made him throw up violently. So that was it! I didnít have morning sickness at all, it would just stop any time now.

I went to my doctor a couple of days later because I was unable to eat anything without throwing it straight up again. He advised me to keep trying to eat little and often and keep sipping water and come back if it was still worse so that they could test me for that stomach bug I thought I might have caught. Needless to say, I went back two days later and they tested me. The tests took a week to come back, during which time I was still not able to keep anything down, although I was managing to keep a small glass of warm water down each day by sipping it gradually. To start with I was eating baby yoghurts (I was told the bacteria in my stomach needed replacing) and later I was eating nothing but Rich Tea biscuits (crackers to you people in the States!) and I couldnít even eat a whole one in one go. I was managing about half to one biscuit a day in total, most of which was coming out again. I had tried every remedy for morning sickness in the book, from ginger anything to dry toast.

I kept trying to work, but frequently had to go home as soon as I arrived. I think the only reason I even tried was because it was such a short distance from home, but even then I rarely managed to go the ten minutes from my house to work without stopping to throw up. When I got to work, I couldnít use the lift because it made me vomit and had to take the stairs VERY slowly because I was so weak. When I got to my desk I had to sit down and rest and couldnít look at the computer screen for long because it made me feel sick, especially when I scrolled through anything. Luckily Iím a touch typist, so I didnít have to look at the screen all the time.

The test eventually came back negative, but the doctor said that it didnít necessarily mean that there was no stomach bug, just that it wasnít bacterial and therefore they couldnít treat it with antibiotics. I would just have to put up with it until it went away but it was very likely morning sickness anyway. By 9 weeks I had lost a stone (16 pounds) and was seriously worried about my baby. The doctor advised me to take a vitamin supplement if I was worried but that the baby would get everything it needed from my bodyís reserves. Eric was determined that I should take something because he didnít believe the baby could survive all this vomiting. I tried to find a vitamin supplement but was mortified to discover that they were enormous! I was so horrified that I wrote a letter of complaint to the manufacturer saying how I couldnít possibly swallow them so they were no help at all. I gave up trying to take them, much to Ericís disapproval.

By now, every day was a living hell. I was off work most of the time because I was too weak to move. I had what I now describe as Ďhypernauseaí: I didnít just feel queasy all the time, I felt like I was actually on the brink of being sick all the time. That water in the mouth, rising bile in the throat, the hot flush, wanting to cry. It never went away the whole time I was awake. I never dared keep my sick bowl out of reach, I walked around in the house carrying it under my chin whenever I needed to move.

It wasnít until later on that I realised this isnít most peopleís experience of morning sickness. I thought I was just being pathetic and I didnít hear anyone disagree with me although most people were initially sympathetic. If the phone or doorbell rang, I was sick. If I watched TV, I was sick. Even magazines made me sick because they would so often have references to food. I read good books as my only way of escaping: as long as I was reading, I could bear to carry on living because I was concentrating on something else. Eric couldnít touch me, not even my little toe. I hated him climbing into bed or sitting down on the side of the bed to put his socks on in the morning because the small movements of the mattress were almost more than I could bear. I couldnít wear clothes that came anywhere near my neck, I couldnít wear a necklace, I couldnít wear anything with a waistline and I couldnít bend down long enough to tie shoelaces so it had to be slip-on shoes. I couldnít bend over the sink to brush my teeth, I couldnít bend to soap my body in the shower (I squatted or just washed my hair and hoped the soap reached other parts as it washed down me), I couldnít sit in the bath because the water lapping on my tummy made me retch. Eric couldnít eat anything in the same room as me and had to keep the door to the kitchen shut at all times. I couldnít even sleep facing him in bed because of the smell of what heíd been eating, and I made him sleep facing the other way too so that he couldnít breathe over my shoulder either. The worst thing was garlic. I discovered there was garlic in almost everything, from mint and cucumber dip (yes really) to chicken and vegetable pies. I had to read the label on every food packet before Eric could open it. Sometimes I would retch as he came in from work and ask him what heíd eaten for lunch: poor Eric would reply that it was just a spicy chicken sandwich, but I knew that it had garlic in it. He tried to avoid it, but he didnít always know what was in his food. I couldnít cry because that made me vomit, although there were times when I just couldnít stop myself - what the hell, I thought, I feel so bad anyway it doesnít really matter.

To make matters worse we were trying to move house because we wanted more room to bring up our children. The move wasnít going well, so I had to spend a lot of time chasing the solicitors etc. More phones ringingÖ I told the doctor that I couldnít cope and he suggested that I try to stick it out a bit longer, but perhaps if I still had it at 11 weeks he could give me some anti-emetics. Looking back, I should have made it clearer to him just how sick I was. He was still under the impression that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. I went back a week later and got the prescription and collected the pills from the pharmacy the same afternoon. I threw them up shortly after taking them. I phoned the doctor who prescribed a different type of pill that you disolve between your lip and your gum. Too ill to move, I phoned my friend and asked him to pick up the prescription for me. I still threw up, but the doctor told me that I wouldnít be throwing up the drug because it was absorbed into my mouth not my stomach. I got some SeaBands which a friend with bad travel sickness had recommended. I wasnít sure if they were helping, but I wasnít going to take them off just in case. White elastic wristbands were now part of my daily wardrobe.

By the time I reached 12 weeks I was certain it was all going to stop any day now. Morning sickness lasts 12 weeks, right? Well actually, the doctor said, itís often 14 weeks. But no, I was going to stop tomorrow, I could feel it. Eric and I had booked a holiday to celebrate our anniversary before I fell pregnant as Ďjust one last special holiday on our owní. We were due to fly to Barbados when I was 12 weeks pregnant, staying for a week in a fully inclusive hotel on the beach. I really didnít feel like I could enjoy a holiday but I was convinced that I was going to start feeling better by then and thought if I was going to feel dreadful I might as well feel dreadful on a beautiful tropical island. In any case, Eric needed the holiday and the insurance wouldnít pay out if we cancelled. The flight was ten hours. I remember every one of them. We watched a film called ĎStepmomí and another called ĎYouíve Got Mailí. We sat next to a couple whoíd just got married and were going on honeymoon. We sat just in front of someone who kept kneeing me in the back which made me retch. We sat just to the side of someone who had awful body odour. Whenever I wanted to be sick I had to sit sideways with my head in the gangway because there wasnít enough room for my head in front of me. We had asked to be moved but the airline said they couldnít because the better seats were extra money and people had already paid for them.

They served us food that would have been inedible at the best of times, but the smell of it was unbearable even though I didnít eat it. Finally we arrived and all I wanted was to fall into my hotel bed in my air-conditioned room but there was still a 45 minute transfer by minibus. The driver was a maniac and I just buried my head in my paper bag and tried not to look. The others in the minibus were young couples, intrigued by this woman with the paper bag over her head. Eric explained. When we finally reached the hotel the woman behind us said ĎWell done! Even I was nearly sick with his driving!í. I got to my room and collapsed over the toilet until I had nothing left to vomit and cried my eyes out. I wanted to die, right now. If someone had given me a gun, I swear I would have used it. Eric ate our anniversary dinner on his own while I slept. Throughout the holiday my sole aim was to survive. I made Eric go off on his own and sail so that he wasnít bored, but he didnít really enjoy doing everything on his own and felt bad about leaving me. He made a few friends and I gradually found people coming up to me to ask how I was. I spent most of my time trying to read or sleep. I spent a little time each day in the shade of a palm tree and occasionally ventured into the sea up to my ankles just to cool off. I found it very hard to get right in because the movement of the water made me feel sick, but I occasionally managed it just because I was determined to get something out of the holiday. But the best thing was sleeping in an air-conditioned room. I dreaded meal times and often didnít go even though the restaurant was an open-air one and therefore the smell wasnít too bad. Nearly every meal I started trying to eat the bread roll that came with the soup and had to literally run to the bathroom after a mouthful or two. All the staff at the hotel knew me and asked me how I was every day. They were terribly kind and offered to bring me anything that wasnít on the menu. I remember one night Eric brought back a scone for me that was left over from that afternoonís tea spread. I endured it for a few hours before having to put it somewhere outside the room because the smell of it was stopping me sleeping.

The journey home is a bit of a blank to me. I remember there was a woman on the plane in a row behind us who had a brain condition and had just discharged herself from hospital. Her teenage son didnít want her to fly but she insisted she was fit and the staff eventually let her go. Within a few hours of take-off she had a fit and needed to lie across all the seats and have constant medical attention and oxygen. I had had my eye on those seats to lie down myself so was most disappointed. I didnít bother complaining - I didnít have the energy.

When we arrived back in England Eric got us an electric trolley to take us around the terminal and an assistant to collect the baggage and take us through passport control. I sat with my paper bag and tried to respond to the assistantís pleasant conversation. I was just so glad not to have to walk. Eric drove the one and a half hours back home while I tried to sleep laying down in the back with my sick bowl. I so wanted to die. I donít remember what happened after that for a while, but I was vomiting far more and keeping no water down at all. For some reason my doctor still wasnít concerned. He asked if I was vomitting blood. I said I wasnít, so he told me not to worry. So I had to vomit blood for them to take me seriously?! A day later, they got their wish. I started vomitting blood. Eric was now seriously worried. I phoned the emergency doctor late one night. She told me that if I vomited blood again, sheíd come and see me. A while later, I phoned to say that I had vomited blood again and had now kept no food or fluid down for 2 days. The doctor finally agreed to come and see me. When she arrived she mentioned that she was concerned I may have hyperemesis - this was the first time I had heard the word. She told Eric to drive me to hospital and phoned ahead to tell them to expect me. The hospital admitted me and started trying to find a vein to hook up an IV for fluids. I have difficult veins at the best of times, but this was even worse because my veins had collapsed. They got a needle into the back of my hand eventually but it wasnít well placed and hurt like hell. But that was what I had come in for, so I had to put up with it. They also started injecting anti-emetics. Initially none of them did anything and I continued to throw up. My ribs hurt from all the heaving and I was so weak I could hardly sit up. I couldnít listen to the personal stereo I had brought in to pass the time because the vibrations from the sound in the headphones made me feel sick even when I played it quietly. My legs looked like sticks, my skin was grey and flaky and I had now lost nearly 2 stone (about 30 pounds). I had lost around 20% of my total body weight. Admittedly I had been a little plump to start with, but I now thank God that I was - Iím sure it was what saved me. The third anti-emetic they tried was Phenergan. It didnít help the nausea greatly, but it made me sleepy. Heaven! I could escape for a bit more of the day. Unfortunately the nurses didnít seem to want me to keep taking it because they said I was sleeping too much, so I was switched to Maxalon. It didnít feel like it was doing much but I got back to vomiting just twice a day and they allowed me to drink water again. After a week in hospital I was able to eat a little.

At this stage Eric was sent out of the country for a few days on business. This coincided with the final stage of our house move which I ended up conducting from my hospital bed. I didnít feel ready to leave hospital although I hated the way all the nurses belittled how I felt (Ďoh yes, I had awful morning sickness - of course, back in those days you couldnít get a bed in hospital for that sort of thing, we just had to put up with ití). But the doctors in their infinite wisdom decided I could manage at home without IV drugs and fluids, so I was discharged with vitamin B6 and anti-emetic tablets just in time to move house. I still felt atrocious, still throwing up at least once a day, but was managing to keep a very little food and fluid down. I concentrated on drinking to avoid going back to the drip and found that hot, very weak blackcurrant cordial was just about drinkable. I still couldnít tolerate plain cold water. I began to crave quiche and found that I could eat a little. I gradually felt that the nausea was easing, although it was still constant and almost more than I could bear. I noticed that I had stopped losing weight and was overjoyed that I must finally be getting over it.

Some weeks later I returned to work, having worked from home for a week. Around 22 weeks I was sick for what I thought was the last time. I continued to feel nauseous but it was less severe and was helped by eating a little of some carefully chosen food. I still found it impossible to do grocery shopping; I couldnít choose food because nothing appealed to me and I had to be so careful about garlic sneaking in to everything. But I finally felt like I had ordinary morning sickness. I was sick once more at 32 weeks, and that was it until I was in labour, when I suddenly felt that familiar Ďhypernauseaí. I was sick three times during labour and the nausea only disappeared three days after the birth. I was so disappointed - I had been promised that the nausea would disappear as soon as Iíd given birth to the placenta. They lied!! But I was so happy with my relatively easy birth and my beautiful baby boy that I couldnít get too worried. It did go, it was just a bit later than I expected. My beautiful Tom (see www.tom-simpson.co.uk) was a healthy 8lb 5oz even though I was one pound lighter the day before I gave birth than the day we conceived him. My normal clothes were too big for me within days because most of the weight I gained towards the end of my pregnancy was Tom and his placenta. Eight months on Iím still not over it. I have suffered from post natal depression, which I am sure is mostly due to the difficulty of the pregnancy. I spent so long coping with that and the miscarriage that I had no energy left to cope with my new baby. I was terrified of getting pregnant again to the extent that I didnít even want Eric to cuddle me. Iím now getting treatment for the PND and have started to feel quite good again, but itís been a slow process. I have just found the hyperemesis web sites and started to realise that my experience was not unusual at all. In fact, I feel humbled by the women who were in and out of hospital for months and couldnít even bear the smell of water in the bath. But I finally feel justified in describing my pregnancy as hell and feel passionately that the world needs to be educated about hyperemesis so that we donít have to endure the inane suggestions of people who think you can fix everything with a ginger ale.

Iíve just met a woman on the Internet who lives near me and has recently suffered hyperemesis. Weíve agreed that the UK needs a support group, so weíre meeting to try and set one up. If youíre interested, or just want to get in touch with me, please e-mail me at kerry.simpson@keric.co.uk. Good luck to you all and wish me luck if I ever dare to get pregnant again!

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