Aside from good looks and lovely husbands, Kate Middleton and I have something in common... we both suffered from BAD morning sickness, or Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
Here is an old blog I wrote but have revisited given the news of an impending royal baby and a sick Princess this week.
I have spent at least 60 weeks of my adult life staring into the bowl of a toilet. And that's not even including the four years I drunk my way through, whilst attempting to complete my teaching degree.
That's 60 weeks of riding the porcelain bus, doing the liquid laugh, calling Ralph on the porcelain phone and bowing before the porcelain God. Whatever you want to call it, I had the most severe morning sickness in all three of my pregnancies. The phrase 'morning sickness' causes me to roll my eyes in the most over exaggerated manner. Clearly it was a phrase invented by a man. Because any woman who has experienced this debilitating illness would testify to the fact that it is not only something you will experience in the morning.
The worst part about Hyperemesis is not being able to keep your pregnancy a secret for as long as you would like to, because it is obvious to everyone that something is wrong. I feel for Kate Middleton at the moment, who has to share her news to the world probably sooner than she would like. Alternatively, I am happy she is bringing this condition to the media. It's about time people knew the truth.
Below I have recounted the first 20 weeks of each of my pregnancies.
I learned I was pregnant (officially) at 5 weeks. I was up in St George with my friend Kym a day or so later and we stopped for lunch. I couldn't eat it. I should have realised something was 'out of whack' then. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my food. But I have really only been in tune with my body since having been pregnant 3 times. That afternoon I arrived home and felt nauseous. This lasted into the early hours of the morning. The actual vomiting started the following day. And then it continued for 20 weeks. But let me get you into the head space of a woman who vomits every day for 20 weeks.
Take the worst hangover you have EVER had. Remember that feeling of not being able to move or think straight. The feel of every movement you make causing the room to spin and your stomach to lurch. And then the actual experience of emptying the contents of your tummy into your little toilet friend. Then multiply that feeling by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 20 weeks. And I was lucky. Some women have it even worse.
I lost 6 kg in two weeks. And on my frame, that is really something. My face was gaunt and I looked like death warmed up. Sleep is your only respite. Your waking hours are spent counting minutes between your visits to the bathroom. If you can even make it that far. I became very well acquainted with a bucket.
One morning I woke up and just cried and cried. I wondered how much my body (and more specifically my baby) could take? You get dehydrated (I couldn't hold down water, let alone food of any description), and that starts to do funny things to your mind. I was starting to wonder if any baby could possibly be worth all the 'pain'. Of course, having had 3 babies, I know it is completely worth it. But in that time and head space, you really do wonder. It does become a mental thing. You become more and more dpressed. You wish it would all end, and you you hate yourself for not being stronger. I have an aunt who sent me a book on 'morning sickness' and potential remedies. People suggested tea, and crackers and ginger, but nothing was working for me. I couldn't even hold down water. But the book did help, in that it made me feel like I wasn't alone. It even spoke of some women who cannot complete the pregnancy for the reasons I described above. I truly sympathise with those women. You can't imagine how horrible things can be for them. ANYWAY... On the morning I woke up crying, I decided enough was enough. I checked myself into the local hospital. I needed to be hydrated, or something! Several hours later I sat alone in my own room, hooked up to a drip, dosed up on Maxalon (an anti nausea tablet), and crying. CP had gone home and I was to stay here for at least one or two nights to be monitored. It was a low point.
I took time off work and spent the next few days learning to eat food again. Potatoes seemed a safe place to start. Twice a day, I would heat up a small potato in the microwave, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. And that became my staple diet.
I remember being curled upon the lounge in the foetal position during that period, staring at the television. Too weak to move, too sick to do anything. Penny Wong starred in an ad on calcium at that time, and to this day, even seeing that ad (or Penny Wong for that matter) takes me back into a dark space. I don't like it. Even writing it now is kind of giving me a headache!
This behaviour dragged on. Eventually I returned to work. I borrowed a bean bag from the library at school and used to have little naps in my lunch breaks. I was too weak to make it through a full day on 2 upright legs. I took my 'Sheila Kitzinger Pregnancy and Childbirth' textbook into my classroom and was fully prepared to answer any and all questions my high school students would throw at me. To my pleasant surprise, even the worst students were sympathetic to my condition. It was lovely. I took a 'spew bucket' into my classroom and kept it behind my desk 'just in case.' I used to threated my students with threats like 'If you so much as put a foot out of line, you will have to come and sit up here behind me with the spew bucket.' It seemed to work.
Gradually I was sucking on ice blocks and then biscuits and eventually things were back to 'normal'. The remainder of my pregnancy was incident free, and I would even go so far as to say I glowed. Nice.
Baby 2 and Baby 3:
We had weddings we were attending in the early stages of both pregnancies. We had hoped to keep the pregnancies a secret until the magic 12 weeks, however morning sickness set in for these pregnancies as well, and since we didn't want to disrupt either wedding by having people speculate about my frequent visits to the bathroom, failure to consume litres of free alcohol and inability to eat, we told people very early on.
I didn't require hospitalisation with Baby 2, however I checked myself in for 'rehydration' with Baby 3. Maxalon became my best friend. And there is something really strange about having a toddler hold your hair back from your face and rub your back when you are lurched over a toilet. Goodness knows what my two eldest ever thought I was doing!
We renovated our house during my pregnancy with Baby 2. My morning sickness factored into our designs. I insisted on an ensuite close to my side of the bed, so that my midnight and early morning dashes wouldn't be too far from my bed.
Being in public is also traumatic if you are suffering from this infliction. You can never trust a public toilet. (Having to place your head anywhere near where people defacate is enough to make you vomit even if you aren't already feeling nauseous.) I could only do my grocery shop immediately after I had vomited, so that I knew I would have the time to finish it in one go. And given that we live an hour from the supermarket, my drives to town were fraught with frequent stops on the side of the road. I can still point out all the places I have ralphed. Charming.
On the upside, the last half of all of my pregnancies were perfect. Perhaps that was my good karma for the first 20 weeks. I feel desperately sorry for those people who suffer from this illness until the moment they give birth! I also have some of the best, fastest and easiest labours and births of everyone I know. I walk out of hospital weighing exactly the same as what I weigh when I learn I am pregnant. (Except that it maybe hangs off my frame a little differently). So everything equals out. The good with the bad.
And all you have to do is look at that tiny baby once to realise that it was all completely worth it.