Raising Awareness: Hypermesis Gravidarum

In a recent post, For Love of the Gift: Asher Sage, I highlighted my recent newborn photography session with a friend who fought through a pregnancy plagued with Hypermesis Gravidarm (HG) and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. I invited her [Amanda] to share a few words about her journey. What she put together is both heartbreaking and beautiful. My hope is that by sharing her experience with a rare and widely misunderstood, debilitating condition which affects less than 2% of pregnancies, we may have more knowledge and compassion in order to adequately comfort and support the women impacted.

My pregnancy was pretty abnormal. I started feeling really sick at around 4 weeks along, but at 9 weeks, I realized something was different. One night, I threw up to the point of feeling weak and then passed out. I had to be taken to the ER for fluids and nausea meds, which I detested and felt guilty for receiving. It was then that I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This disease is best described as being on chemo grade nausea medication and still not finding relief.

From 9 weeks until 25 weeks, I was throwing up between 10-20 times a day, and could find no solid or liquid food I could keep down. It was debilitating. I started ending up in the ER weekly, then twice a week, and at one point I was there 4 time a week.

Many times, I felt like everything was being taken away from me.

I worked part time, and then super part time, and then maybe 1-2 times a week as time went on, but at around 5 months I had to stop altogether.

“I thought morning sickness was supposed to go away around 12-14 weeks?” was something I heard quite often because of how misunderstood hyperemesis is.

I had bruises all up and down my arms for how frequently I was admitted for IVS and medications. At around 14 weeks, I finally started taking 4 different nausea medications, and they helped lower the amount I threw up by half, but I still couldn’t find relief. As someone who tries to treat things as holistically and naturally as possible, this was a huge dropping of my ego… surrendering to what my body needed vs. what my mind wanted.

This sickness lasted my entire pregnancy. I had to surrender to asking for help as much as possible, another huge lesson, and had to trust that my 5 year old wouldn’t feel neglected or resent me for how often I was sick.

Looking back, I think we grew an even stronger bond throughout it. He would often bring me toys while I was throwing up for hours in the bathroom, and he knew to pack a backpack with snacks and game when I said we had to go to the ER again. He was honestly, my biggest and most loving support. I remember people asking if they could keep Jude when I went to the hospital, and I didn’t want them to. Jude would hold my hand and comfort me throughout the IV insertions and long hours of laying on a hospital bed.

At 41 weeks and 1 day, my baby arrived Earth side in a 95 minute intense labor at home. It was the most beautiful experience of my life and everything about him is perfect. I think that HG prepared me for this bliss by taking me through darkness to get here and appreciate this new life even more… I would never choose having that disease, which only affects maybe 2% of pregnancies, but I am actually really grateful for everything I learned through it.

At the end of my pregnancy, I calculated that I had gotten over 70 IVS throughout those 37 weeks, I lost 15 lbs. my first trimester and ended up with a net weight gain of 5 lbs., I found 3 “safe foods” (as women with HG call them) that I could keep down but only between 11pm-3am and these were miso broth, gluten free bread, and avocado, AND my baby came to us completely healthy and nursing perfectly.
Once I birthed him, the disease left my body and I have since been able to eat all the foods I love again. It still blows my mind, as I am sitting here typing this eating overnight oats and drinking coffee while cuddling my baby.

My experience with Hyperemesis is one I want to share in order to bring awareness and also in order to express how much support and love women who have it need. If you know anyone who is wading through the waters of Hyperemesis, the best thing you can do is hold space by listening, not by advice- giving. (Believe me, we have tried ginger and saltines and they don’t work). You can offer to help a mama with her kids by taking them on play dates or offer to come clean the house- something that gets WAY neglected when your head is stuck in a toilet. You can offer to bring her family meals, because many times having to make food for others is a huge trigger for puking. (I threw up every time I had to make my son lunch). Lastly, educate yourself on Hyperemesis Gravidarum. No mama with this condition wants to have it compared to simple morning sickness- it is serious and extremely rough mentally and physically.

Hyperemesis is an insanely debilitating and misunderstood condition affecting way too many women that don’t feel supported throughout the darkness it brings. It takes a lot to stay strong when you are sick for such a long period of time while also growing life within. It takes a lot to trust that your baby is going to be ok, when many women lose their babies during their battle with Hyperemesis. It takes a lot to keep reminding yourself that “This is not permanent”, when you are nearly certain you may die from malnourishment. In the end, I made it through, just as most of the mamas with HG do, and with beautiful new life that seems completely perfect. I have a new appreciation for food and nourishing my body after losing that for so long. I feel brimming with energy again and lastly, I get to look into these tiny eyes and truly receive the message that “It was all worth it”.

Amanda Heller is an Austin-based writer, yogi, artist and self-proclaimed love enthusiast. SkyeSpirit.com

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