Memorial Day Weekend of 1998, I was two-and-a-half weeks late and decided to take a pregnancy test. My husband, Chad, and I had been married almost five years, and I was more than ready to start a family. I had only been off the Pill a couple of months, though, and didn't really think I could be pregnant so soon. Well, the test proved me wrong! We were both so stunned that I did two more home tests and one lab test. All positive, of course. It was still so hard to believe I was pregnant! I was so happy, scared and overwhelmed all at once. But mostly overjoyed. And I felt wonderful...the best I had ever felt in my life.
I wanted my baby to be as healthy as possible, so I immediately filled the house with healthy food and started keeping a chart to make sure I was getting the right number of servings of each food group every day. I also decided to start walking every night. We began telling friends and family members the news...we were so excited! I couldn't wait for my tummy to begin pooching out. I was mystified by this little person inside me, and anticipated hearing his/her heartbeat, seeing him/her on my sonogram, and finally holding him/her in my arms. I bought the book "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" and a baby name book. This was the most exciting time of my life.
At six-and-a-half weeks on a Monday, I went to my OB and he prescribed pre-natal vitamins. I still felt good...so good that I worried that I wasn't really pregnant. On Tuesday night I took the first pre-nate, and woke up in the middle of the night feeling very queasy. I figured it was either from the vitamin I took, or pregnancy nausea, or a combination of both. Wednesday night I took another one and woke up that night feeling very sick. I still hadn't thrown up, so I assumed I was just feeling the nausea that is common in pregnancy. Thursday night I took another one. That night I did throw up...and most of the next day. I was getting frustrated because my husband and I were supposed to be leaving for Houston (a seven-hour trip) to attend my parents' 35th wedding anniversary party that I had been planning for over a year. Friday evening, when I was still vomiting, we decided to just leave early the next morning. When I got up the next morning and resumed vomiting, I called my doctor. He wasn't on call that weekend, and the one I talked to was annoyed that I hadn't taken my temperature. "It could be the flu," he said. If it is the flu, I thought, this is the worst flu I've ever had! I couldn't even take a sip of water without losing it. He went ahead and prescribed Phenergan, which we got from the pharmacy immediately. I couldn't wait for this to subside so we could get on the road and I could spend this special weekend with my family. Little did I know that not only was I going to miss that trip, but the next 15 weeks of my life.
The Phenergan worked, but what I didn't realize is that is it a tranquilizer. I was weak and worn out from two days of vomiting, and since the Phenergan was kicking in, Chad suggested we stay home so I could spend the weekend in bed. I tearfully gave in...I hated missing this once-in-a-lifetime celebration for my parents. I had planned the whole thing, sent invitations, ordered the cake, and now I couldn't even be there. I decided to rest as much as possible that weekend...I was sure this vomiting would subside at any moment. I hated having to buy 12 Phenergans at a time; I was sure I would never need to use that many. By Sunday night, the Phenergan didn't seem to be working anymore and I began to get dehydrated. I was so thirsty, but I knew even a sip of water would not stay down. We called the doctor back, and he said to come to the hospital. We stopped on the way there to get a sno-cone with no flavoring in it. I was desperate to "sneak" some fluid into my body any way I could. At the hospital, they gave me an IV to get me hydrated. The vomiting still wouldn't stop...by that time, I was throwing up stomach fluid. The gave me a Phenergan injection (note to any of you out there: *always* get a Phenergan put into your IV instead of letting them inject it directly. Phenergan burns a lot going in and the IV makes it not hurt so much.) I got rehydrated and they sent me home. Hopefully this is over, I thought. How can my baby grow if I can't keep anything down?
The vomiting came and went during the next few weeks. I went to work when I could, but usually ended up coming home early. Other women kept telling me things to try: eat crackers before you get out of bed, get out of bed slowly, eat smaller, more frequent meals, etc. None of these things worked. If I ate crackers, I just threw them up. It was hard to get up slowly...I could hardly get out of bed at all! And eating more than a few bites of anything was impossible. I went for a sonogram at 10 weeks, and found out that I had lost eight pounds. The nurse weighing me was very surprised. "Have you been sick?" she asked. "Very," I replied. My doctor wasn't concerned about my weight loss...he said a lot of women lose weight from morning sickness and it always came back after the first trimester. The sonogram showed that the baby was fine...and we were even able to hear its heartbeat! I was glad it was healthy, but I had not idea what it was living on. It seemed like everything I swallowed came back up. I was still sure the vomiting was going to end at any time. I had things to do that summer. I was working full time, and since Chad was in graduate school, the money I made was our only income. I was also scheduled to go on a business trip to Washington DC in the middle of July, and then our fifth wedding anniversary was coming up in August. We were hoping to go to South Padre Island, Texas, where we had honeymooned. Plus I was in charge of coordinating Homecoming at the university where I worked, which was going to be in October. I had a lot of work to do!
As much as I wanted to get better, I only got worse. I began reading up on morning sickness, and found out that a small percentage of pregnant women develop a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a severe and debilitating form of morning sickness. I found out that these women have to be hospitalized for dehydration and sometimes need psychiatric treatment. What horrified me, though, is that some women get so ill that they end up terminating pregnancies that they had wanted and planned. Some women have even died from hyperemesis, including writer Charlotte Bronte. There was no mistake, I definitely had HG. But I still just knew it would end soon. It had to...I was getting thinner and weaker and there was no way my baby could grow if I couldn't feed it! Determined to not let this condition take over my life, I went ahead and booked my flight to Washington DC for the middle of July. It was still a few weeks away, and I knew I would be fine by then. I requested a seat on the plane close to the restroom.
I didn't know how I could have gotten sicker, but I did. I was vomiting so much that my bladder had weakened...and now I couldn't vomit without peeing on myself at the same time. This made going to work that much harder. Even if I did make it to the bathroom to throw up in time, I still had to go home to change my clothes. So I began missing more work and started avoiding going anywhere. The grocery store was definitely out...there was no way to get to a restroom quickly if I needed to. I don't think I went grocery shopping for three months. I became dehydrated again had to go back to the hospital, this time for five days. I had to cancel my business trip and became overwhelmed by the fact that I couldn't do anything I used to be able to do. The flowers I had planted in the spring died in the ground because just going out to water them was enough to make me sick. I couldn't stand the taste or smell of toothpaste. Taking baths was unbearable because the movement of the water around my tummy made me sick. Taking showers was difficult because the constant vomiting had made me so weak that I could only stand up for a few minutes at a time. Chad had to get in the shower with me so I could lean on him. Taking showers together for fun was a thing of the past. My life turned into a miserable succession of vomiting for several days, going to the hospital, going home, and vomiting some more. My weight continued to drop...I had now lost 20 pounds. I began to pray at night that I would die in my sleep so I wouldn't have to get up and face another day of being sick. We bought a few things for the nursery, and my family tried to get me excited about the baby, but I just didn't care anymore. I wanted the baby to be healthy, but I also wanted so badly to just feel good again...even for just a few minutes. I thought about the women who had had abortions because they had been so ill. Even though I am a pro-life Christian, I couldn't blame them. One day I was lying in bed staring at the wall and trying to delay another round of vomiting. My husband walked in and asked, "Are you OK? You seem depressed." I just kept staring at the wall and said, "I want to die...I just want to die." And I really did. I felt like there was no escaping this...I really thought I was going to throw up for the rest of my life. I didn't even feel pregnant anymore...I just felt like I had some horrible disease. I couldn't look forward to the birth of my baby. I didn't listen to people who told me this sickness would end at some point. All I knew was *now*...a miserable existence from which I could not escape. Word was spreading about how sick I was, and I ended up on the prayer lists of at least seven churches that I know of, and there were probably even more than that. I honestly don't think I would have survived without all the prayers that were offered on my behalf.
Our anniversary was coming up, and we both knew any kind of trip was out of the question. Not just because I was sick, but also because we had no money. I had missed two months of work and the hospital bills were multiplying. We ended up spending the night of our anniversary in the ER...I had just happened to dehydrate that day. The doctor was becoming more concerned about my weight loss and threatened to put me on a feeding tube if I couldn't start gaining some weight back. Around this time, something happened that I thought never would...the vomiting began to let up a little. I began going for two days at a time without getting sick. I was able to work more, and on the two days off from vomiting, I tried eating as much as I could to gain weight. Still unable to drink water (I threw it up so many times that the thought of it made me queasy), I ate ice constantly. Slowly my strength began to return. Then I began going for almost a week without throwing up. Then one Saturday, I was talking to my mother-in-law on the phone. A wave of nausea came over me and I told her had to go. I ran to the bathroom and threw up for the last time. This was September 19. The first day I got sick was June 4. I had been vomiting for 15 weeks, had lost 25 pounds, and had been in the hospital seven times. The nausea lingered for another week or so, but the vomiting was gone. I didn't even feel that elated...I just felt like I finally got back what I never should have lost - my life.
By the time my illness was over, I was five months pregnant. I quickly got back up to my pre-pregnancy weight, and then was able to start gaining baby weight. My baby was perfectly healthy through this whole ordeal...I'm glad one of us was! I finally started to show, and by the end of my pregnancy, you never would have even known I had been so sick. I gained 30 pounds of pregnancy weight, and gave birth to a healthy, 7 lb., 14 oz. baby girl on January 19. It is still hard for me to associate being sick and being pregnant...the sickness was so horrible and the pregnancy ended with the joyful birth of my daughter. I refer to my illness and my pregnancy as separate events. Now people want to know if I will have any more children. I'm still not ready to even think about yet. I know I will have to wait long enough to forget how awful my sickness was! Some people also want to know if anything good came out of being so sick. I think there were two things. First of all, I didn't even start gaining baby weight until five months, so I never got very big. I only gained 30 pregnancy pounds and lost half of that in the hospital. The rest of it came off easily a couple months after my daughter's birth. The second and more important positive thing was that I really learned what it meant to depend on God for my strength. I remember one Sunday, right in the middle of my illness, I somehow made it to church. The congregation was standing and singing "You Are My All in All" but I had to sit because I was too weak to stand for more than a couple of minutes. I had sung that song hundreds of times before, but this was the first time I really heard them: "You are my strength when I am weak." Now I truly know what that means!
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