It Happened To Me Contest Entry: I Had Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I threw up for three straight weeks. Multiple times a day. All day. Every day.
Publish date:
March 11, 2013
pregnancy, family drama, ihtm contest, hyperemesis gravidarum

[If you like this IHTM contest entry, comment to that effect below and that will help the writer win big money. Feel free to critique below too, so we can weigh that in our decision. -- Jane]

By Amanda Williams

I always said I wanted a baby by the time I was 30. I married at 23and felt too young for children. I told people that I wanted time with my husband first and that I would definitely have a baby by the big 3-0.

In late July 2009, I realized that my 30th birthday was knocking on the door and after six years of marriage, the hubby and I got down to the business of making a baby.

Not one to fool around, I bought an ovulation kit and took the test. My periods were always slightly irregular, and I wanted to be sure that we had a good chance of making a baby.

Early in the morning of August 1, 2009, a Saturday, I got a little smiley face that let me know I was ovulating. I started to shake and jumped in the shower to calm my nerves. Placing my hand on the wet tile wall I looked down and spoke to the little egg that was lying in wait deep inside of me.

“You’ve done your job,” I said. “Now I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I do mine.”

The next two days were full of sex and fun before the weekend ended and real life came roaring back. I kept pushing the idea of pregnancy to the back of my mind, not wanting to jinx it. But 17 days later, I was staring at another pee-stick, and this time the two pink lines made me even shakier than the ovulation test had. I was pregnant.

The first few weeks were normal, though I suspect I was slightly neurotic. I couldn’t get used to the idea of a baby inside of me. I read about how placenta attached to the uterine wall and imagined a tiny spider inside of me, weaving a web. It was mysterious and strange, but I was excited.

My husband was sick with swine flu, but also excited, though distant in order to keep me healthy. Those first few weeks were just me and the developing baby. It was a strange time because I was different and yet, everything around me still remained the same.

I expected morning sickness. In fact, the first morning I threw up I felt somehow proud of the fact that I had some sort of confirmation (other than multiple pregnancy tests) that there was a baby inside of me. It was the first day of my sixth week of pregnancy.

I went on to throw up four more times that day, holding nothing down, not even the water I tried to drink to clear my mouth. It was a Monday morning and I was at work. The small bathroom we all shared was far from my office but I made it each time. Later in my pregnancy that was not always the case.

I threw up for three straight weeks. Multiple times a day. All day. Every day. Sleep was not a release because I would wake up to retch and I kept a small trash can next to the bed for convenience. Everyone I talked to said it was normal, that it would pass. They told me all the "remedies" that had worked for them: crackers (everyone said crackers), sour lemonade and salty chips, sea-bands, milkshakes, eating something before my head left the pillow in the morning….the list went on and on.

And I tried each with the hope for a miracle cure. But nothing helped.

I called my doctor’s office and spoke to the nurse. She suggested an OTC drug that was sickeningly sweet. I spent two days throwing that taste up. After that I called back and was told that morning sickness was normal but that I could try half a Unisom and B6. One particularly helpful doctor in the practice told me that I needed to ‘embrace the pregnancy into my life’ or that I was going to lose it. As if I had brought the vomiting on myself.

I was losing weight. My eyes were practically black. All I could manage to keep down was a salty green apple, and even that came back up some of the time. Later I learned that apples have pectin in them and that pectin naturally helps to prevent vomiting. It made me realize that my body knew what was good for it even when I didn’t.

I drug myself in for my ultrasound and nine week appointment. I had lost nine pounds, but there was a tiny baby inside with a fluttering heart and tiny little stumps for limbs. But I’m not sure which made me tear up more: the ultrasound or the script I was given for Phenergan.

Phenergan was awful. I couldn’t function on it. I couldn’t work or think. I was in a constant haze of being half-asleep and as soon as a dose would wear off I would be back in the bathroom, puking.

After a week, I had to call the doctor’s office back and tell them that it wasn’t working. They once again suggested that I try the Unisom and the B6 before any alternatives. I hung up the phone and cried. I cried so hard that I puked all over the bed and then I sat in my own vomit, crying harder and harder until I had no tears.

I was so sick that in that moment I wished for a miscarriage so that that my life would go back to normal. The second the thought went through my mind I felt ashamed and cried harder, cried until my eyes hurt. My husband came home from work and cleaned me up, hugging me and telling me it would all be okay. He was a rock, my husband. He cleaned up vomit like a champ, even managing to get the stains out of our rugs.

The only thing that kept me going was the tiny ultrasound picture. I was living for the baby, terrified that it was not getting the nutrients that it needed to grow. I had nightmares of malformed infants and imagined a tiny baby that could only cry feebly. Somehow I managed to make it through the next few weeks on popsicles and my salty apples.

Popsicles were hard to eat because of my gag reflex (I couldn’t even barely brush my teeth) but they, at least, seemed appetizing. I couldn’t watch commercials on TV. The ones for fast-food would have me hanging over my portable trashcan.

At 13 weeks I was 20 pounds lighter than when my pregnancy began. I was dehydrated and in dire need of help. My doctor took one look at me and hooked me to an IV. Afterward he wrote me a script for Zofran.

The miracle I had been waiting for. Zofran stopped the vomiting. Not altogether, but stopped it enough so that I could function. I was given 12 pills. After a week I needed more, but insurance wouldn’t cover them. When the doctor told me that I couldn’t have more, I cried. I told him that I couldn’t go back.

He must have seen the desperation in my eyes because he sat there in the office and called my insurance company explaining that I needed Zofran or he would have to hospitalize me.

They paid for the Zofran.

The next few weeks were rocky, even with my new script. The major side effect of Zofran, for me, was severe constipation. I was miserable on another level. But then, the light. I was one of the lucky HG sufferers. Some suffer it throughout their pregnancy and others seem to pass it by the twentieth week. That was the case for me.

I didn’t feel anything approaching normal again until I was 30 weeks pregnant but weeks 20 through 29 were a picnic compared to what had come before. And I found out that I was having a little girl. She was perfect in every way -- she even measured on the large side at my 20-week ultrasound.

The rest of the pregnancy passed as normal and in May of 2010 I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. She’s a busy two and a half year old today. In the ninety-fifth percentile for height -- my girl’s an Amazon! Beautiful and smart, the rough weeks of my pregnancy seem to have had no effect on her. And as I wrote in her baby book, I would suffer it again to have her.

But the experience changed me. I used to want more than one child, but now I am gun-shy. Going it again to have my daughter is one thing. But for a child I don’t know and can’t miss…well, that’s another. I survived HG and was given quite the reward at the end. For now, that’s good enough for me.