If people ask me what sort of pregnancies I had, I say good. I was lucky. Bar the odd trip to the hospital to check tricky baby heart beats, and a fall that meant everything needed checking, I felt lucky. Very lucky.
I had long and difficult labours, but still, I have always felt lucky. When millions of women must have been experiencing baby loss at the times I was pregnant I was lucky.
I still feel incredibly lucky, every day. Lucky to have my brood. They certainly made me work hard for them, but no one ever said it was going to be easy – nothing worth it ever is.
I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum in all four of my pregnancies, a severe form of pregnancy sickness. It’s not pleasant I’m not going to lie, but you can learn to manage it.
There was a huge irony in me having this during pregnancy, because as a child I had a phobia of being sick. I would do anything not to be sick, and I rarely vomited as a child. In one week of my first pregnancy I had already vomited more times than I had in my entire life!
What was difficult
Like after pains during breastfeeding my sickness got worse with each pregnancy, starting earlier and lasting for longer with each baby. With my first baby the sickness lasted to around 23 weeks. The second around 26 weeks, the third around 30 weeks and with the forth I vomited from 6 weeks through to 34 weeks.
The times of the day that were problematic were also different with each pregnancy. With my first baby I was bad first thing in the morning and then from about 6 PM on wards in the evening. The middle part of the day was easier. With my second it was much more random during the day and then again at night. With my third and forth babies it could be any time of the day and sometimes also at night.
I couldn’t set foot in a supermarket, everything had to be done online. I couldn’t drink hot chocolate (my favourite thing to drink). I couldn’t even look at a fizzy drink – just thinking about bubbles would set off the sickness.
My sense of smell went into overdrive and it was often smells that would instantly make me vomit. Filling up with fuel was a huge issue as the smell would make me sick, cooking was a nightmare, making packed lunches wasn’t possible without being sick during the process, any sudden movement caused sickness, a pot hole, the car being too hot, nappies, brushing my teeth, sometimes even drinking water – these would all trigger sickness.
When you are sick multiple times a day it is not only debilitating but also hugely frustrating and inconvenient. It can cause daily anxiety because when you go anywhere you are constantly in a state of panic about needing to be sick. The added complication is that this anxiety can make the sickness worse.
It’s also really difficult to explain to someone. Morning sickness for example is used by people to describe just the feeling of nausea that some women get in pregnancy. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is VERY different, but if you try to explain it to someone you sound like you are MASSIVELY over exaggerating.
I was once sick into a bag whilst sat in the passenger seat of the car on the motorway – what was the trigger? One of the children was a bit gassy and my hypersensitive nostrils couldn’t cope.
I used to have to stop on the side of the road to be sick during a school run, was sick in many public toilets around the UK and abroad, on planes and trains, and other random locations. Not pretty.
There were days when it felt like it would never end. I couldn’t get through a meal without vomiting, and some days even water would come back up.
It did stop, but it seems to have left me with a heightened sense of smell. My family and friends laugh because I will often be able to smell things that no one else can!
Although my sickness got worse with each pregnancy, I also got better at coping with it.
I used to find trips to the midwife really hard as they would always ask me how the sickness was and I would always respond “horrific” – to be told “hopefully it will stop soon”.
The thing is, with Hyperemesis Gravidarum life still goes on. There is still work to do and children to care for. For me, it was about how I could best manage and still do the things I needed to.
I felt that smells were responsible for a lot of my ‘triggers’. I bought a swimming nose clip and wore that around the house and in the car. It helped me to get things done and it was the only way I could cook for the children during the sickness, or change a nappy. I needed to be able to get on and that was a big help.
Trying to avoid other triggers was also really important, so staying away from certain places like the petrol station and supermarkets was a big thing for me. There were also particular things that we couldn’t even have in the house, like fish for example, or strong cheeses.
One of the hardest things was that what helped one day would be the worst thing on another day, and there is no way of predicting it.
The primary way I dealt with it in the end though was all about mindset. I had to consciously shift my mindset from: being sick is awful, I feel so ill, this is a nightmare, I can’t cope with this, TO: I’m lucky, I’m still pregnant, I’m grateful to be pregnant, I’m excited, this won’t last forever, it’s all worth it. More than anything else, that was what worked for me. I just shifted my mindset and the story changed.
As hard as it is, I genuinely believe that challenges like this make us more resilient. Resilience is something that I’ve needed every day as a parent. It does end, and having a baby at the end makes every single vomiting session totally worth it.
Have you had Hyperemesis Gravidarum – how did you deal with it?