Cross-posting this from my hyperemesis blog, ladies! It is my strong belief that every birth professional and birth junkie needs to have a working knowledge of hyperemesis gravidarum, because ignorance in this area causes mothers acute suffering and can cost lives. Definitely take the time to go through this story!!
This story comes from a client of my midwife, here in town, who had her babe two weeks ago. (She is a client of both my midwife and one of my doulas, also mentioned.) She has an amazing story, and I wanted to share it!
The more I delve into the HG world, the more I realize how blessed I was in regard to the "mildness" of my HG. When I came out of my HG pregnancy, I was under the impression that I had been to Hell and back and had personally grappled with Satan himself. That's what that pregnancy felt like. But when I read stories like this (and like the stories of lots of you mamas out there), I realize how easy I had it. You ladies out there are such amazing warriors for your little ones.
(I have put all names as initials to protect privacy.)
For those who don't know, I had a very challenging pregnancy. I struggled with hypermesis gravidarum (HG) for nearly the entire time. HG is basically a severe form of morning sickness. It is kind of like having food poisoning that lasts for weeks on end, but it's not. It is so much worse.
Please know that I haven't covered everything that I experienced or felt during my pregnancy. Some things are just too painful to rehash. However, I am trying really hard to heal from all the damage HG caused. I'm hoping by letting some of this out, I can help myself let it all go. I don't want to hold on to these feelings anymore, especially now that A. is here. It is her time now, and I don't want anything to come between us anymore.
I do also share what I believe is the proudest moment of my life. I am so thankful that I was able to give A a beautiful, quiet, peaceful, and loving birth. With everything that she had to experience while growing in my belly, it just fills me with joy to know she had the most perfect arrival.
Lastly, I talk a little about what is going on postpartum. To tell you the truth, I never expected to be dealing with my HG issues AFTER birth. Yes, I am not nauseous. Yes, I can eat anything I want. Yes, I'm not puking. Don't get me wrong, all these things are wonderful, but I still haven't healed emotionally. I knew HG had taken its toll on me, but I guess I didn't realize just how hurt I am by it all. I honestly thought once Aria was here, it would all fade away like a bad nightmare. Unfortunately that just hasn't been the case.
At 5 weeks, I am exhausted. Not just sleepy tired, but down right run down. All I could do was sleep. At 6 weeks the nausea and vomiting have started. By 9 weeks I can barely keep any food or drink down. At this point I see a doctor for a prescription of Zolfran to help calm my issues. The meds don’t seem to be helping and I go a couple days without being able to keep food or drink down. Exhausted and dehydrated I go to the ER. Weeks 10 through 12 are a huge struggle. I’m vomiting about 15 to 20 times a day. Nothing is staying down, not even water. I get a different prescription for Phenergan. This medication completely knocks me out. It was so hard to believe that a medication which had that strong of an effect on my body could truly be safe for my baby, but my hands were tied. Not eating and drinking wouldn’t be safe for the baby either. Week 13 and home health care has finally been setup and approved. A nurse comes out and hooks me up to an IV and Zolfran pump. I have the IV on and off for the next five weeks. The Zolfran pump stays for the next three months. Weeks 14 through 25 are horrible. Even with the medication and IV I am puking everything that passes my lips. At one point the only way I could keep small amounts of water down was to blend ice and eat the snow. I was a freaking mess. By 26 weeks I manage to be off the pump. I am still puking at least 4 times a day, but when you drop down from 20, 4 seems like a piece of cake. At least at this point I can keep food and water down. I am still taking oral meds once in a while, however I am trying really hard not to. Weeks 27 through 37 are better. By no means was I back to normal. I would still have some good days, and then have some crappy days (crappy really isn’t a strong enough word…). But again I was actually able to keep food and drink down, even though I was still vomiting. Weeks 38 through 41 and I feel much better. I only vomit a couple times during these weeks, but the nausea is still there.
Needless to say, being pregnant has been one of the worst things to happen to me. Thank you HG. HG robbed me of a time in my life that was supposed to be exciting, beautiful, fun, joyful, etc. HG took away my ability to connect with our unborn baby. How could I love something that was causing me such pain and sickness? At times I was actually resentful towards our baby. I would sit and cry for hours thinking about how horrible of a mom I was that I couldn't nurture and love this baby yet.
HG isolated me. Not just physically from the world around me, but also emotionally. Physically, I couldn't go anywhere. When you are puking all the time, it’s hard to leave the house. Then there was also the motion sickness. It was bad. I couldn't watch TV, look at a computer screen, read a book. It all made me horribly nauseous. Try passing time when all you can do it lay there. Well you can't. There was nothing to take my mind away from the HG, so I would sit there and just think about it all. Not good. Emotionally, I felt separated from everyone, especially any woman who was pregnant or had been pregnant. I HATED speaking to them about my pregnancy, especially when they started talking about theirs. They would talk about cute little cures like crackers and coke, or say they “know” how I felt because they puked too (although they still went to work, could drive, could eat and drink, you know pretty much function like a normal human being). It didn't help that I hated them and was jealous of them. It was really hard. It didn't feel like anyone could understand. But how could they?
HG almost took away A's homebirth. I'll never forget the appointment with my midwife where she looked at me and said something about 28 weeks. Honestly I don't remember her exact words, I just remember thinking I've got 10 weeks to pull myself together or I'm going to lose the homebirth too. That thought was almost unbearable. I was already super freaked about the amount of drugs being pumped into my body and the effects they were having on my baby. Then I had to start considering what would mostly likely happen at a hospital. Pitocin, epidural, IV's, antibiotics, high likely hood of c-section, oh and all the damn germs. I just didn't want that for my baby, but really it wasn't up to me. HG isn't something you can just "pony up" to and get over. You have no control, as much as you wish you did. Yet, by 26 weeks, I was off the pump and the home health care. I was still puking like 4 times a day, but that was manageable. Plus I could actually keep food and water down. The homebirth was saved. Thank God.
HG also forced me to compromise my morals. I am a vegetarian, but wasn't during my pregnancy. HG took that from me too. Beans, grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts would all come up. And I mean all of it. Still at 38 weeks I could barely choke down a banana or raw carrot without my nauseous levels skyrocketing and puking. With this forced diet change also came a HUGE load of guilt. I couldn't stand the fact that my diet, well when I could eat, consisted of processed foods and meat. That's it. I freaked every time I thought about the lack of nutrition that I was giving my body. I mean if I wasn't giving myself the proper nutrients, how on earth was my baby getting what she needs?
My HG also took its toll on C. (husband). He was forced to take care of everything, and I mean everything. Working a full time job, feeding us, keeping the house clean, taking care of the animals, and the hardest part—taking care of me. Cleaning out bowls and bowls of puke. Helping me in and out of bed because the Zolfran pump made me so sore I couldn't do it alone. Plus, at times, I was even attached to an IV. Sore, strapped to a pump and connected to an IV… it's almost impossible to get around. He had to stab me every day with a needle, because the Zolfran injection sites cause so much trauma to your body that they have to be moved just about every day. Two months off the pump, and you could still feel the bumps in my legs. He would help me shower (when I actually could stand it, and even then I would often vomit afterwards), help me dress, brush my hair, help me to the toilet, you name it, C. had to do it for me. On top of all that, he had to deal with how mentally unstable I was. I was a wreck. I was sick, I was scared, I was sad, depressed, and worried. I was angry, helpless, fearful. I hated the guilt, the resentfulness towards baby and others. Really I was a MESS. Try and console that. You can't. You have to sit there and watch me cry, sit there and take it when I scream. Sit there and just watch me fall into a depression. Oh and of course I knew all this. I knew just how much stress I was putting on C., and it killed me.
I feel like I could go on and on about all the layers and layers of unhappiness, guilt, fear, sadness, and resentfulness that I feel about my pregnancy. I'm working really hard to let it all go, especially now that I have my beautiful daughter in my arms, but it is hard. I mean just the other day (yes I am taking about AFTER A's birth), I woke three times in the middle of the night to the sound of my Zofran pump going off. Each time it took me a while to shake all the bad feelings. Healing is a process I guess.
Sunday September 18th
I awake to what I thought were cramps. I soon realize these pressure waves are different. They are requiring a little more of my concentration, but I can still function quite normally. My midwife had promised me I would "know" when I was in labor, and since I was still questioning it I thought for sure it wasn't time yet. So I go about my day. My mom comes over for a visit. We order Mexican food, watch football (C's idea), chat and relax. It was a nice and relaxing day. That evening the pressure waves continue to get stronger, but again, I was still questioning it. I decide to make cupcakes and cookies for our doula and midwives. I was secretly hoping that if I made these treats my birthing time would start right away.
Monday September 19th
I text Rose (our doula) at 11 AM telling her the pressure waves are averaging 9 minutes apart. I've got ants in my pants just sitting at home, so C. and I head out for our two favorite things. Cassanova Pizza and Bergies Coffee. Pizza and coffee in hand we head back home. At 1 PM I text Rose that I can't exactly talk during the pressure waves anymore, but that they are still about 10 minutes apart. At 7 PM I text again saying they are 7 minutes apart and strong. I still remember during all this time not having that "ah ha" moment, and thinking well this can't be it then. But Rose suggested I give Stephanie (our midwife) a heads up, so I text her as well. 9pm and pressure waves are super strong and 4 minutes apart. 10 PM I call Rose and ask her to come over. At 11 PM Rose is over and she and C. work on setting up the pool.
Tuesday September 20th
My times are going to get murky now, but I have a rough idea of what went on. We have a very small water heater which meant it was going to take forever to heat the pool up, so C. went to put some water on the stove. Of course I just assumed that he was going to use our giant canning pot to heat up the water, but as I look over to the kitchen I see him filling up this tiny little pot of water. I start cracking up. I'm laughing so hard, I can barely speak. Here is my husband trying to fill this giant pool with a pot that holds about 12 cups of water. Good luck with that hunnie! It just seemed so silly to me, but it was really nice to have a good laugh. We eventually get the pool filled up and I get in. It feels good to be in the water, and the pressure waves seem to be slowing down and becoming less intense. I start chatting with Rose about if she should stay or go since things seemed to be slowing down. I just didn't know what to do.
As a side note, during this all this time our cat had been put away so he wouldn't be bothersome while setting everything up. Then the cat got let in. Less than two minutes in the room and our stinking cat jumps on the pool and puts three very nice puncture holes in the pool. So C. and Rose get to work breaking down the pool and setting up her other one. I have no idea how much time passes here. I just remember the pressure waves getting stronger again. Rose suggests I get back in the pool. The pressure waves are really taking my concentration now. Again, I have no idea how much time passes here, but around 3:15 AM I feel a pop. My water has broken. The pressure waves come and they come strong. Finally I have my "ah ha" moment. I know it is my birthing time now! Rose asks me to tell her when I start to feel pressure. I think I remember feeling that pressure right away, which I didn't like. It felt like I needed to use the bathroom. I was terrified of accidentally going to the bathroom in the pool. I know this can be a normal process for any woman in labor, pool or not, but I just couldn't do it. So C. helps me to the bathroom and I labor on the toilet. I was horrified that my husband had to see me in this position, but I was also horrified of going to the bathroom in the pool. Then eventually the pressure waves made me not care anymore.
Back in the pool and I try a new position leaning back against the pool. I sit through one pressure wave and it is horrible, so I tell myself I am going to "finger drop" for the next one. I don't know how I did it, since I hadn't been practicing my hypnobabies (Thank you HG) but I manage to "finger drop" getting through the pressure wave much easier. The next pressure wave comes and I am back on my knees leaning over the pool hanging on to C's hands. No more hypnobabies (sorry Noelia, but I did try!) I remember crying and cussing. The pressure waves sucked. Then C. asked Jen (our other midwife) a question. I don't know what he said, but I remember her saying that I would feel burning. Next pressure wave in and I feel the burning. Pressure wave after pressure wave and I feel more burning and more pressure. It was time to push. Jen tells me that I can take control. It felt so good to hear that. My entire pregnancy had been out of my control, and I just got permission to take the reins and do what I wanted/needed. 18 minutes of pushing and at 5:01 am our baby was born right into her daddy's arms and passed to me. C. says "it’s a boy,” and for the next 15 minutes we think we have a sweet little boy. It is time to cut the cord and I move our little boy… SURPRISE! It's a girl! C. cuts her cord and then I snuggle back up to her.
At this point I still have not birthed the placenta and I am getting quite frustrated and annoyed. I would like to focus on my beautiful daughter, but I couldn't because of my placenta. So C. takes our daughter tight in his arms. I remember feeling horrible that I couldn't spend these precious moments with my daughter, but I also knew she was safe in her daddy's arms. I'm not sure how much time passes but finally, with a little help, I am able to birth the placenta. My daughter is back in my arms. I was in a state of shock. It was hard to believe HG was over, and that here in my arms was our beautiful daughter.
The one thing that I held on to throughout my pregnancy was this idea that once the baby is here it is all over. This idea that I'll finally get to bond and connect with my baby. That I will finally get to love on her and enjoy what I have been trying to for the past 10 months. I never prepared myself for the reality of what it is like after a baby. I had no idea just how painful and miserable breastfeeding could be. For 10 months I had been telling myself when she's here I finally get to love her and enjoy her. Yet I found that at least every two hours my baby was still causing me pain. During these moments that I wanted to be bonding with my daughter, all I could think about is how much I wanted her off me. I hated it. Then all those HG feelings just rushed back to the surface and I was drowning in them. I would see my husband all cuddled up to his daughter telling her how much he loves her and I would just ball. I wanted to do that, but my breasts were so sore I couldn't hold her close. I wanted to tell her I love her, but I couldn't. It took me a week to say "I love you" to her. Of course it is not because I don't love my daughter. I do. More than anything. It is just really hard for me to put all my emotions aside. I'm scarred pretty deep. My wounds are still fresh and trying to heal, and they are easily torn open.
Lots of moms keep telling me you will soon forgot all the troubles you went through. That everything will be worth it. I'll agree with that second part. A. has been worth it all, but I won't forget. Perhaps the details of my pregnancy and postpartum issues will get murky, but I sure won't forget. I guess only time will tell. Until then, I'm going to take it day by day.