I recently read a blog post touting yet another “cure” for morning sickness. It infuriated me for the lack of compassion the author had for moms with bad cases of morning sickness, because they assumed that ginger tea could cure every woman’s morning sickness.
Like so many other articles about morning sickness, it was just another reminder of how few women understand what it’s really like to have severe morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum.
I remember feeling this way when Kate Middleton was hospitalized with HG. I saw many women on Facebook saying “What’s the big deal? It’s just morning sickness, so get over it! All pregnant women go through it!”
In some ways, it’s like a club that you enter when you become pregnant. Every woman who has ever been pregnant will tell you one of two things.
1) She’s never had morning sickness or
2) She felt nauseous, terrible, and awful for that first yucky trimester.
And because normal morning sickness does indeed feel horrible and awful, most women have a hard time imagining that anyone could possibly have it worse.
But some do have it worse.
I remind myself of that all the time. I have very severe morning sickness that never goes away the entire 9 months. At my best, I will only throw up once or twice a week. But at my worst, I’m throwing up 3-5 times a day. I’ve even thrown up 5 times in 2 hours. It’s that bad.
And I remind myself that some women have it worse.
So join me in suspending your unbelief for a minute. Say it with me now: Some women have it worse.
Several of us who do indeed have it worse wrote this blog post together. I asked other women who have severe, debilitating morning sickness what they would want their friends to know. This is what they said. This is what we said.
What we want our friends to know about severe morning sickness:
1. We’re not doing it for attention. Trust me, I’d rather get attention for lots of other things, like just being a happy, healthy pregnant lady. There’s enough belly rubbing, asking about your due date, and discussions of baby plans to make a pregnant woman have plenty of attention. We don’t exaggerate our morning sickness woes to make anyone feel sorry for us.
And not all of us are hospitalized with HG. Only the most severe cases require IVs. I generally have enough good days in between my bad days that enable me to re-hydrate. There have, however, been a couple of times when I should’ve gone in for fluids, but to be honest, I couldn’t think clearly enough to make that choice, so I opted to spend time in bed, sipping bottled water on my end table. It took days to recover from one bad day.
2. It doesn’t feel better to vomit. Honestly, this is one of the most hurtful things a person can tell me because it completely nullifies my suffering. I hear women say that they would love to vomit so that the nausea would finally end. But it doesn’t, at least it doesn’t for many of us. Once I vomit, not only am I still nauseous, but I’m also exhausted from the retching, I have broken capillaries on my face, and I need to lay down immediately. The further along I am in pregnancy, the more it exhausts me to get sick.
To say it feels better to vomit completely discounts how rough it is on the body to vomit so much. I’ve had fillings in my teeth that only lasted a few years instead of a decade, most likely because of the damage done from vomiting so much. Saying that it feels better to vomit only makes a woman with severe morning sickness want to curl up in her bed and cry.
3. We feel useless and alone. We’re not any good at fulfilling our roles in life. I can’t be the wife, mother, friend, and daughter I would love to be. I’m even later than usual because no one plans on vomiting three times before church in the morning. I do leave margin in my schedule for getting sick or resting when nauseous, but some days are rougher than others. Making it to the grocery store feels impossible. Making it out of the grocery store feels even more impossible sometimes. I’ve called my husband from the back of Walmart, in tears, because I don’t think it’s possible to walk to the front. I’m spent from too much vomiting and pregnancy exhaustion. No one gets it, which is obvious because of the hurtful comments made by others.
4. We’ve already tried ______. Fill in the blank: Crackers, sprite, eating before getting out of bed, sea bands, ginger ale, ginger tea, ginger snaps, ginger supplements, peppermint, protein, carbs, snacking constantly, zofran, phenergen, reglan, B6 Unisom, the BRAT diet, drinking lots of water, not drinking water during meals, keeping cool, wearing loose clothing, laying down in a dark quiet room. You name it, we’ve tried it. We have Google too, and you can believe we’ve Googled this issue to death. Any comment like this, even though it’s meant to be helpful, implies that we just haven’t tried hard enough. I remember my husband coming home from work one day saying “Have you ever heard of hyperemesis? I think you have it.” That’s where our Googling left us. Nothing worked, nothing cured it. Many things alleviated symptoms a bit, but try as I may, I would still vomit. At work, at church, in a cup in the car, in the front yard, in the kitchen sink, and in way too many parking lots. Instead of looking for the magic cure, I’ve turned my attention to coping.
5. We may not talk about it much, so know that we vomit way more often than you’ll ever know. I love to talk about anything else in pregnancy besides vomiting. A lot of times, I feel sick just talking about it, but other times, I just want to be positive. And then there are times when I can tell that the another woman just doesn’t get it. She thinks I’m dealing with “normal” morning sickness. So I steer the conversation in a different direction. I really don’t even talk about it much with my doctor during pregnancy. He knows I throw up and he sees the numbers on the scale that stay the same for months at a time, and he’s tried every safe prescription possible to keep me from vomiting, so there’s nothing else he can do.
It gets old discussing it, and as I said before, I don’t want attention for this issue. I’ve decided to blog about it for the same reason I blog about everything else: to encourage, inform, and edify other women. You may be someone who needs to know that others go through it too, or you may be the friend that another woman needs as she’s struggling.
6. We know we’re blessed to have a baby. Truly, we do, and we remind ourselves of this all the time. We never resent the baby, just the fact that our bodies don’t respond to pregnancy the way that other women’s bodies do.
7. Help a mama out. Want to help? Clean house with us. Offer to watch our kids so we can rest, take a nap, or catch up on the house work. Invite us to dinner, since it’s far easier to eat a meal that we didn’t have to smell and cook beforehand. Bring us a meal when we’re pregnant, not just when we’ve had a baby. Everyone else we know complains about the newborn stage of babies and how hard it is, but my husband and I feel that pregnancy is always far worse than juggling children and sleepless nights. For us, nothing is harder than pregnancy. Nothing.
8. Encourage, sympathize, and have compassion with your words. Saying “Every woman has to go through this,” “It will pass,” or telling me that you’re sorry I feel so nauseous will only make me feel more alone. Nausea is rough on pregnant women. I get that and I don’t discount that, but I have nausea and steady vomiting for 9 months. There’s a huge difference.
Statistically, about 3% of women have severe morning sickness or hyperemesis.
And honestly, it feels like only about 7% of women around me actually understand and sympathize with us.
And then there’s everyone else. 90%. At least that’s how it feels. Sometimes, it feels like no one understands.
Make some extra effort. Be the 7%. These are the friends who bring dinner, who help with the kids, and who say they can’t imagine how hard life is for us when I’m pregnant. Be the friend who gets it.
How is morning sickness for you when you’re pregnant? I’ll celebrate with you, and not resent you, if you say it’s a breeze, but I’ll sympathize if you’ve got it rough too. If you’ve got rough morning sickness, what would you want your friends to know?
Wondering if you have HG? Check out this link.
Have a friend with HG? The HER Foundation has a great FAQ list.