The Lingering Effects of Hyperemesis Gravidarum: the life taking, life altering beast
Today, May 15, is Hyperemesis Awareness Day. Hyperemesis gravidarum, according to the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation, is an extreme form of pregnancy sickness, defined as “unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.” Affecting about one to three percent of pregnant women, HG can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration. In severe cases, it can lead to miscarriage and, rarely, it can be fatal.
Having already shared my story many times here at TLT, I enlisted the help of some of my friends, survivors themselves, to share their stories. Today Suzanne shares her thoughts about HG. HG impacts our teens in a variety of ways: a pregnant teen can find themselves suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum. Or a pregnant mother in the home may find themselves suffering from HG, which has tremendous impact on everyone in the home.
It took eight years of celebrating my son’s life, the joy I have as his mother, until the deaths stopped overwhelming me. The due date he shares with his older sister who didn’t survive HG. I think about my friend who announced her pregnancy the same week I did; her child did not survive HG. I always think about the mom and twins who died the week my son was born alive. All of them gone. All of them daily remembered. But that same week I bake a cake and put up streamers, my grief deepens. Five lives lost in a year and remembered that week. My son, the sole survivor.
Some might say these thoughts mean I don’t appreciate or celebrate my son, but nothing could be further from my truth. But the coincidence of all these dates and deaths make his birthday an emotionally confused time. So much sorrow mixed in with the date of my child’s healthy birth.
“It was hard to love you when you were sick,” he said during counseling with a local pastor. That truth cut me even more deeply than the pending divorce. When I was most vulnerable and ill, I was not loved?
I am certain I was horrific during the short pregnancy that cost me my daughter; it was the worst time in my life. I know our living sons’ pregnancies were awful. I know the PPMADs that I suffered were intensified by the malnutrition and debilitation of HG, and that they made me miserable to be around. And I’m certain the postpartum diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, along with all of its pain and fatigue, made me a very poor partner.
But I wasn’t loved?
I know I’m not the only mom to hear such things from her partner. It was indescribable devastation on an already broken heart.
I’m certain HG contributed directly to the loss of my marriage, my children’s nuclear family, and the financial poverty in which my now smaller family lives. The divorce also created a new grief: the loss of time of my living children. I no longer get to be their mother in the way I should be. I am legally obligated to miss them 43% of the time, so they can be parented by the father.
Recently, I was driving on the Interstate to meet a friend for lunch when a wave of dizziness and nausea overwhelmed me. I knew what was coming; after all, I have much experience with vomit. There was no time or place to pull over safely at 75 mph. So I scanned for something to save my car from the impending puke. I grabbed an empty coffee cup and vomited violently, all the while guiding my car along the highway, looking for a safe place to stop.
I pulled over on a street off an exit ramp and parked. I sat in a puddle of urine from the force of the vomit. Shaking. Sobbing. Wondering where to put my coffee cup. I didn’t know how to get back on the highway, if I should drive with the shaking, crying, nausea, and the problem of the coffee cup. What should I do with my coffee cup full of puke?
I texted my friend that I wouldn’t make lunch, that I was ill. Then I waited for the waves of dizziness to pass and found the Interstate. It was long drive home.
I was still shaking when parked the car in the garage, went inside, and changed my clothes. It was a deep and intense panic. I paced the house and eventually had to leave its confines. I paced the neighborhood. My heart was racing. My breathing shallow. My thoughts spinning. I was hot. I was cold. I had to walk. I could not calm down. Scared. Sick. Alone. I could not stop worrying I’d never see my children again, where all fear and panic take me since HG and since divorce. I was terrified.
I eventually knocked on a neighbor’s door. We sat on her deck with iced tea and talked. Well, I talked and she listened. My panicked thoughts. My frustrations with schools. My financial issues. She listened some more. Nodded where appropriate. Said things to comfort me.
I was hours into my full blown anxiety attack when she spoke words that shocked me. Slack jawed and wide eyed, I shut up for the first time since knocking on her door.
She asked again. “Could you be pregnant?”
The answer should have been obvious since I had a tubal ligation years earlier, my period had stopped., and I am unmarried and celibate. But I had to really think about my answer for a while.
“No, that would be impossible.”
“You puked once and will probably feel better tomorrow. You’re not pregnant. So what’s the problem?”
My heart beat was slowing. “I can’t be pregnant. I’m single, sterilized, and menopausal.”
She laughed, “You see? This won’t last.”
She was right. The hours of panic and terror, for I was truly feeling terror, were because I have PTSD from pregnancy. Hyperemesis Gravidarum does that to a woman.
My neighbor’s question was exactly what I needed to hear to stop the terror. I was simply sick, not pregnant, not going to suffer through HG for nine months, experience another loss, have my life split open and spit out by the beast. I have PTSD. It really was just puke.
The loss of joy in pregnancy is something HG moms frequently discuss when pregnant and postpartum, but a decade later, I don’t think much about that omission. I don’t even give much thought to the dehydration, malnutrition, medications, or mind-altering nausea. What occupies my thoughts when I look back aren’t the moments of pregnancy lost or endured, it is how Hyperemesis Gravidarum completely altered every facet of my life.
That is my lingering effect from the beast.
Meet Our Guest Blogger:
Suzanne is a writer and teacher of writing. She is teaches in the University of Michigan Summer Bridge Program and is a Writing Consultant in the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School. She has two sons, one cat, and one guinea pig. She has had HG three times.
More on HG:
The ABCs of HG: an unconventional picture book (Karen’s story)
Teen Pregnancy and Complications, HG and pregnancy termination (An anonymous story)
Please share with others to help us raise awareness. The key to a successful HG pregnancy is early and aggressive treatment. Get more information at the Hyperemesis and Education Research Foundation (HER) at www.helpher.org
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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