Most people celebrate finding out they are pregnant but I was terrified. I so badly wanted another baby, but I didn’t want to go through hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) again.
I woke feeling strange that Friday. I had a Mother’s Day morning tea for my son’s preschool, but I felt nauseous and off. I suspected I could be pregnant even though I wasn’t due for at least another week, but figured I would try a pregnancy test. A blood test confirmed the news, although I was only 3 weeks past conception.
Months earlier, I had seen a consultant OB at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Sydney to review my first HG pregnancy and if we had missed anything to help with a second pregnancy. Her advice was to look at adoption or surrogacy as I would be putting my life at serious risk if I was to fall pregnant again. I had also chosen my obstetrician, several months before I fell pregnant, providing him with an entire history, so he could understand what we were going to be dealing with. I was sick until I delivered my first in 2013 at 38 weeks and spent 16 weeks with a feeding tube to my stomach. I had countless hospital visits and barely scraped through without a long term admittance in the second half. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I was 56kg and at the end after I had delivered my son, I was 49kg.
We never imagined
My husband and I knew this second pregnancy would be a similar struggle, but we never imagined it could be as bad as it was. At just 5 weeks pregnant, I was admitted to hospital with my liver and kidneys failing. I remember that night clearly: I just kept vomiting even after taking Zofran (ondansetron). We never imagined that we would be talking to my OB about a medical termination or having a PICC line for TPN and fluids. We never imagined I would have blood tests daily, sometimes twice daily or that I would become familiar with the hospital routine. I hated the smells and the early morning wake ups. I yearned to feel normal, to be in my own bed and to give my husband and son a cuddle without vomiting.
The nausea was unrelenting, and I couldn’t keep anything down, not food, liquid, or medication. Most nights I cried into my pillow, so no one in the hospital would hear. I spent my awake hours counting down the moments till I could sleep again. Watching TV, reading, looking at my phone or any device, talking, and pretty much anything I did aside from sleep would make me nauseous and I’d vomit. My then 3 year old’s movements were so quick that they triggered vomiting. My pregnancy was killing me, and I felt like I was nothing more than an incubator. I had been stripped right down the most basic human need for survival. It was soul crushing.
After the first trimester, we trialed Gabapentin to help keep tube feeds down, so I could go home. The NJ tube was inserted in my small intestine under a general anesthetic and X-ray. This would get me through till 36 weeks, when I delivered my daughter by c-section because she stopped growing and her heart rate kept increasing while her movements were decreasing. At birth, she needed special care to stabilize her temperature, blood sugar, and establish feeding for 24 hours. Whilst she was small, she was a beauty and a healthy, 2.68kg.
Depression worsened postpartum
HG took a huge toll on me mentally and emotionally, and I was broken by the time I delivered our much loved baby girl. Postpartum, my days and nights were a struggle, and I wished I could just fade away. I couldn’t grow a child without my body trying to kill me. I sunk further into depression and can’t remember a day that I didn’t cry for the first few months of daughter’s life. How could I have gone through all that effort to bring both kids into the world and not know how to handle it from here?
Beginning to heal
Motherhood is life changing in its own right. My pregnancies changed me profoundly, especially the second one. I’ve recently returned to work part time and that’s helped a little in the journey to finding myself again. The times I was sick showed me a glimpse of strength I didn’t know I had. I did what I had to do to bring my children into the world. It breaks my heart that another baby is no longer an option, but I count myself lucky to have had excellent, compassionate medical care, an understanding workplace, and parents and husband who stepped up to make sure my only focus was getting through each day.