In the first of our Monday Mother series, the incredible Hannah tells us about her HG experience. Spolier alert- it’s not just bad morning sickness. She also shares her top tips for Mamas and their loved ones dealing with this condition.
From the moment I saw the 2 lines appear on the little white test, I was overjoyed. I already had a feeling I was pregnant, I just felt different, I even felt sick in the mornings. That was all in my head people told me, you can’t feel sick from 4 weeks! But this was my first warning that for the next 9 months, sickness would be my constant unwanted companion.
I was first sick between 5 and 6 weeks, I actually felt a little happy at this, ‘look I really am pregnant!’ When this happened the next day, and the next the happiness wore off fast. I went sick from work in September, when I was 5 weeks pregnant, the next 4 months were the hardest of my life. My sickness increased to the point where I was being sick multiple times a day, every day. My midwife saw me at 10 weeks and told me ‘first pregnancy could be tough’. My doctor saw me every 2-3 weeks, signing me off with ‘HG’ as the reason, but at no point did he tell me what that meant.
In desperation around 10/11 weeks I started googling and found I was not alone, research told me the scary facts of what I was suffering. Severe sickness, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Many women ended pregnancies, or were in hospital for months, and some even lost their lives.
I couldn’t do anything without feeling sick, rolling over in bed made me sick, so for weeks I lay in the same position, only moving when the urge to vomit became too great. I ate nothing for 4 and a half weeks! And I really mean nothing the only things I could tolerate were small sips of water, and pregnancy vitamins. I was so scared I would lose my baby I choked tablets down every night, many nights they came back and I would sit huddled on the bathroom floor crying.
Things came to a head at 12 weeks, I decided to make the trip to Yorkshire for a family holiday, a trip we have done every year since I was born. I honestly remember very little of the holiday, it past in a blur of sickness and sleep. By this point I was also in a wheelchair. I was losing so much weight so quickly my muscles had gone and I could only walk a few steps before falling. I couldn’t even get myself to the bathroom to be sick, my poor husband would carry me, wait till I was done, clean me up and carry me back. On the last day of the holiday I managed a dry cracker and piece of cheese, it didn’t come back, a huge victory!
However, I had started to have panic attacks about leaving the house. I was so scared I would be ill and in public that I stopped going out. Even the 20 steps to my parents house would leave me crying and heaving on the pavement. Enough was enough and I contacted a therapist to help me. She was fantastic and honestly if it hadn’t been for her help I don’t know what I would have done.
As soon as I was home I went to the doctors, he gave me the number of a depression helpline!! When I explained I wasn’t depressed, I was ill, he called the maternity unit and explained, they told me to get there within the hour!
Everyone had already had so much time off with me, I was determined to do this on my own. I drove to the hospital where they checked me over. They told me I should have come at the very beginning, I was dehydrated and needing a drip. I explained that for the last 4 days I was doing better, I was eating a cracker or 2 a day! They agreed to let me go with a number of tablets and an injection so big they wouldn’t let me see till afterwards.
For the next month I slowly began to eat things, a lot came back but bits stayed. My doctor said he would sign me off work for the rest of my pregnancy, but I argued. I had worked so hard at my job, I didn’t want to be a bad employee now, so on January the 12th (4 months to the day to when I left) I went back to work.
I was still being sick, but only every other day. Commuting to London was hell, and I feel terrible for the commuters who had to put up with being sick on the trains. I worked until I was 36 weeks, by this point I was being sick every day again. I was still going to work, still working late shifts till 8pm but I had a handy bin by my desk and the team were used to me running out of meetings and sprinting for the loos.
When labour arrived at 38 weeks, my sickness vanished, I was starving! I sat on my birthing ball on the ward eating anything I could get my hands on, only pausing from my mars bar when a surge hit me! Midwives didn’t believe I was in labour until they saw the evidence on the monitors as I ‘looked to happy to be in labour!’ My HG vanished that day and I have been sickness free since then!
So this sounds like a terrible ranting post and there are some scary facts behind it, 4 weeks 3 days – how long I went with out any food, 5 weeks – roughly how long I went without going to the loo, 3 stone – the amount of weight I lost at my lowest point (but with a noticeable baby bump!).
BUT… there have been some huge positives!
Firstly and most obviously my amazing, beautiful daughter, who makes every chunder worth it a million times over.
Secondly, the closeness between me and my husband. He has held my hair, pushed my wheelchair, cleaned my sick, washed my hair, and a million other things besides. He never complained, he never moaned and still told me I was beautiful. We are so much closer now than we have ever been and HG did that!
Thirdly my amazing friends and family who stood by me. Most knew from very early on when I disappeared from everything and my Facebook went dead. They called, they text, they sent presents and they visited and held my hand though it all. When something so huge hits you, you realise who your true friends are!
Finally to the amazing people I met along the way who helped me survive. Mainly Gemma Bennett, my amazing therapist, and Keri Jarvis, my hypno teacher turned pregnancy guru. They both taught me things that were invaluable and helped me conquer my fears! I am so lucky to still have see and talk to both of them, and I now call them both friends!
The reason I wrote this is, no one talks about HG, its ugly, its gross and its hard! Every mum suffering with it is a bloody warrior, she’s fighting a battle every day to keep someone she has never met, never spoken to, and never seen, but loves more than her own life, alive. We need to talk about these things, we need to ask for support, even if its someone to tell you, you are doing great and hold you hair!
Am I scared to even think about baby number 2? You bet I am!! Am I going to do it anyway? You bet!! HG hasn’t put me off pregnancy, its made me realise I am amazing, its going to be hard, I’m going to spew all over the place, but I love my baby more than anything in the world and she is worth it all! I’m an HG warrior!
So what helped me and what advice would I give anyone suffering with HG?
Firstly don’t push yourself, your body is doing something amazing, so stay in bed and sleep when you can!
Take pregnancy vitamins, if you can gag them down. I took them from the day I found out I was pregnant, I was so worried that not eating would harm my little girl. To my surprise at every blood test my iron levels were perfect, even the doctors couldn’t believe how much the vitamins were keeping me going.
Sip water, and if you can manage it try the still lucazade sports drinks. The hospital put me on to those, they are packed with electrolytes and it helps with the dehydration and energy levels. This is also great for anyone in labour and another tip a midwife told me!
I mentioned that 2 people helped to save me! Firstly Gemma Bennett my amazing therapist. She gave me EFT therapy to help with my panic attacks, she also did pregnancy reiki on me. This was one of the few times I felt I could full relax during my pregnancy. Also during the later stages, my little girl would go crazy when I had reiki, moving and wiggling! She still loves it to this day.
Secondly the amazing Keri Jarvis!! I went to her hypnobirthing classes. These were amazing and a subject I would rave about for pages, but I will pick out the main points I felt helped with HG. Keri taught me to breathe, this sounds crazy but its a skill. When I would feel my sickness coming and the panic rising I would close my eyes and start the breathing Keri taught me. I might still be sick, but the panic would go and sometimes even the sickness would too! She also taught me not to feel ashamed for what I was feeling. She made me feel better about feeling I hated pregnancy, that I wasn’t coping. I asked her a million questions on every subject and she always knew or found me the answer!
If you are living with or know someone with HG what can you do to help?
Acknowledge this is not morning sickness! The normal tricks, eat little and often, ginger, mint, won’t work! Most people I met suggested these things and by 4 months I was ready to chuck a sodding ginger biscuit at people’s heads!
Understand that HG causes a chemical shift in your brain so a normally very together person might be seeming to lose it. 17 months on there are still places I can’t visit as even the thought of them makes me gag, there are things I can’t eat or smell as they make me sick (unfortunately my favourite lavender sleep spray and candles all had to be rehomed), and if anyone around me feels sick or worse is sick I now have a panic attack (I will be off to see Gemma soon!)
Just be there, hold her hair, put a cold cloth on her forehead, just show you are there and you love her.
That’s what helped me. Also get help and find support! There are forums and charity online or I’m sure Keri would pass my contact details on to anyone needing them, I’m always around and happy to talk to anyone who needs the support of a survivor!