When we saw the two pink lines on the pregnancy test for our third child, I could already picture the moment when our boys would meet their sibling: the five of us piled together in the hospital bed, our family complete. What I did not envision was a high-risk pregnancy riddled with complications caused by severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).
I did not envision the debilitating nausea and vomiting that would overtake my entire pregnancy. At times vomiting more than 20 times per day, I had to take steroids and several antiemetic medications used for chemo patients that did not even touch the unrelenting nausea. Having to keep the blue vomit bags in my purse, car, and desk drawer at work.
I did not envision being hospitalized at 8 weeks, 11 weeks, and 13 weeks pregnant, and then 8 more hospital admissions after that, or my Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) physician saying, “my goal is not for you to feel better, it is just for you to live.”
I did not envision having a home health nurse and a permanent IV for 7 months. Mixing cocktails of vitamins and and administering my own IV fluids on a daily basis to ensure my electrolytes stayed in balance.
I did not envision my medical team telling me I would die if I did not have a feeding tube surgically placed into my small intestine. Then, having to convince them that this was not anorexia when I questioned their plan of care or when the sickness did not go away when they thought it “should.”
I did not envision having a feeding tube down my nose to my intestines, surrendering all dignity while my nurse sat with me as I retched for hours.
I did not envision the unbelievable weakness and my husband having to be my caretaker- carrying me up the stairs, helping me shower, get dressed, and brush my hair. Too weak to tuck in the boys or even read them a story, my husband took care of every single need for our family.
I did not envision the isolation and loneliness. The tears that would overcome me while in the shower or driving alone, wiping them away and assuring everyone I was starting to feel better, while truly wondering if I was going to live.
I did not envision having threatened preterm delivery at 24 weeks. And then again at 33 weeks.
I did not envision my body literally starving itself, my 5’6” body weighing just 91 pounds at 36 weeks pregnant.
I did not envision our MFM suddenly deciding it was safer for our baby girl to be out rather than in at 36 weeks. The perfect delivery I envisioned with hours of skin to skin and nursing was replaced with the NICU team whisking our girl away after a quick cuddle.
I did not envision our first family photo with the boys meeting their sister through the NICU glass.
I did not envision the heartbreaking guilt. Guilt that I was not the wife, mother, friend, employee, and boss that I should have been. Guilt that the boys would call for “daddy” in the middle of the night instead of me; guilt that my two year old was scared to touch me; guilt that I was taking dozens of medications “not recommended for pregnancy” but that my doctor assured me were necessary to keep me and baby alive. Guilt that my baby wasn’t getting enough nutrients. Guilt that I wasn’t making the right decisions. Guilt that my husband took on the full parenting load without one complaint. Guilt that my family watched helplessly as I suffered, and they suffered too.
I did not envision the overwhelming kindness and compassion that was shown to us during the most challenging time of our lives. The most thoughtful notes, care packages, dinners, groceries, puppy chow, muffins, and gifts for the boys. Our MFM who continued to research medications and treatment options and patiently answered my legal pad of questions at each weekly appointment. My home health nurse and pharmacist who ensured I received all of my meds, even during snowstorms. Every single NICU team member including the cleaning lady who treated our sweet girl as her own. Our workplaces who were so flexible and accommodating. I’m so thankful for my husband and parents, for…everything. It took a village, and we are forever grateful!
After suffering through all of this, I could not have possibly envisioned the beautiful, dark-haired, feisty 5lb 11oz baby girl who would join our crazy crew! I’d do it 1,000 times again for you, sweet girl.
HG is hyperemesis gravidarum: a potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease that may cause malnutrition, dehydration, and debility due to severe nausea and vomiting, and may cause long-term health issues for mom and baby.