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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Pregnancy Journey with Hyperemesis Gravidarum


First I must be apologetic, on one hand this subject is still hard for me, but on the other hand I feel like I've had to explain or share this story so much that sometimes it doesn't even feel real anymore, like I've kind of detached myself from this experience and it's just become a film or book that lingers in my mind. But in light of recent events and hearing more and more about this terrible disorder I feel like this may be a good time for us to share the journey, the battle we went through to get our little angel. I hope this brings some comfort to those battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) or helps those who've never been there but know someone and are trying to understand it a little more. As The HER Foundation (Hyperemesis Education & Research) puts it "...know that only HG survivors truly understand how you feel."



A Word from Dereck (the husband):


My wife and I were trying to pregnant for several months and when we found out we were expecting. We were both so happy; everything was fine for a few then she started to get morning sickness. We both thought it was normal then the morning sickness lasted days and nights, then days turned into weeks. The doctors told us about Hyperemesis it was severe, debilitating and I felt helpless. The nausea and vomiting took us to the emergency room more then dozen times, it became so frequency that some of the nurse knew us by face. We got a prescription for Zofran which is for anti-nausea and that helped slightly but nothing really helped just IV fluids. I felt helpless. Your wife should not lose weight when she is pregnant, it got so bad the doctor recommended an abortion because my wife was always sick and dehydrated, whatever your beliefs are, those are your own. It was not an option at all for us. I thought that this might pass after a few months, but it did not, it lasted her whole pregnancy. Looking back at those months it was hard and scary. I would come home for work and see my wife so sick I would have to practically carry her to the car. There were good days during this time but not many. My advice is to any anyone with this problem is when she can eat give her what she wants and stay strong.



My Point of View:


September 15th, 2007, after months and months of trying and a few off days of emotions and little extra tiredness I had a feeling this was it! So my birthday morning, doing as those wonderful pregnancy tests instructed, I took the test with my first bathroom trip of the day, 6am...immediately another line appeared, and though my husband had already told me not to tell him if I did take the test and he was still asleep I still had to... "Are you sure you don't want to know?" "Well I'm up now." "I'm PREGNANT!!" Boy, was he up then! He went straight to the living-room and dived into video games thinking how his, our lives have now been forever changed, while I went happily back to sleep.

We had everything all pre-planned, work till my due date and SAVE, SAVE, cause daycare for a newborn wasn't going to be cheap even if I could convince Great-Grandma, Nana to watch the little bundle when I returned to work. I had a comfy desk job as a receptionist at a auto dealer. Nothing crazy, it all sounded how it should be.


Two days later I had appointment just to make sure all was right (I had a previous miscarriage very early on so my Ob/Gyn wanted a check). All was well and I was defiantly pregnant with our "Little Speck" and I was very early, 4 weeks along. Everything was going fine, no extra bathroom needs, no morning sickness, just a few queezy moments here and there, plus lots of cravings!!! Oh, and more tiredness, but nothing out of control or bizarre, all was wonderfully normal and very easy going.


A few more weeks and another check just because "Little Speck" was still going strong since the first appointment was so early along. Nothing abnormal, a few more queezy moments, but that was all. It was still easy going. The appointment went well, it was looking very positive to be a "singleton pregnancy" (all my cousin's seem to have twins so we were worried, bullet dodged). Baby Speck was measuring right where it should. I even got a stamp of approval to go ahead with my plans to travel. I had pre-prego planned and bought tickets to fly to Hawaii to visit my bestie. Still was going to do that, just had to remove the idea of drinking by the beach. 


10 weeks...and some days! Starting to feel a little puffy, but defiantly not big enough for real maternity clothes and it was time to spend 9 days in paradise! This is where it all got a little tough. Upon arriving I was a tad over pack and all to determine to pull my heavy luggage myself, not that my friend didn't try to stop me. Well I spent the next couple days spotting! Complete fear. So we put our sight seeing plans on hold and put my legs up. Defiantly time to make a long distance phone call. I talked with my Ob/Gyn. She said just take it easy and take a stool softener just in case so no extra pressure would be put on the womb and Little Speck. Eventually all was normal again and that scare was gone, no more spotting. The vacation got to return to schedule. We got to do lots of the fun that was planned, Dole plantation, North Shore, snorkeling, sight seeing, and Pearl Harbor, but I noticed that everything had a even stronger smell. I could smell the shower like I was bathing in salt (granted I was on a island so there probably was salt in that water). Everything had a weird nauseating edge to it, nothing I couldn't push through, but way more intense then before. (For awhile just the memory of Hawaii would make me feel sea sick.) Well 9 days later the trip was to the end and it was time to return to reality and my husband. Before our last goodbye, we ate at a local diner and decided one last trip to the mall for extra souvenirs, oh big mistake! Upon entering the mall I felt the most crazy nausea ever. Needless to say even with running, my lunch of just a small salad with Italian dressing left at exorcist speed. Half missed the trash can I was running for, while the other half made it. I finished just in time to walk away and see the poor janitor doing his rounds and looking at my mess with utter dismay, at least I was far enough away that he didn't know it was mine, though guilt could had burned me alive. I was 12 weeks to the day! The exact point morning sickness is suppose to leave and the glow is suppose to be appearing :/ ....did I mention that this little incident almost made me miss my airplane home!? I had to beg! Man, I would had been fired if I missed that last plane leaving the island heading back to San Diego!

Back at home the hell had just begun. Nausea was a nice term for what I was going through. At my now monthly appointments it began to be noticeable that things weren't so normal with my pregnancy. There was some weight loss, just enough to raise eyebrows but nothing to out there, yet. My doc made sure to tell the hubby to let me eat whatever I want, anything I wanted, even if it was a milkshake a day. Sadly, I never got to take him up on that. My cravings were gone and replaced with the utter repulsion of the thought of eating or even looking at food.

The smells were all still there, no longer salt laced but just as disgusting. Taking my prenatal vitamins almost always resulted in losing everything I had. We tried every brand out there hoping for some change. I would try any and all the tips suggested, water with crackers, ginger anything, peppermint tea, no spicy or fatty foods...not that I even wanted anything. :( Worst yet I was starting to feel more and more dizzy. I felt like I was driving to and from work in a daze and spending my time at the desk either in a fog or running for my life to our bathrooms. 

One day my husband and I decide to join up for our lunch breaks and meet at Denny's. I still remember it vividly, I ordered a bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup, he ordered his random normal but with a piece of Garlic Toast. Mid way through the meal that all to familiar feeling returned. Mad dashed to the Ladies room. :( I didn't make it in time, ended up puking all over the bathroom floor...as well as myself, covering my work clothes in a not so pretty way. Returned to the table to tell my husband what happened and we quickly got ready to leave, but this time I felt like I had to seek out the Manager. I wanted to warn him what happened and that "I am pregnant not sick, I don't have a flu...soooo sorry." He looked confused, but I'm sure as soon as he saw the horror scene he probably understood to well. Clearly after this I was in need of home and a shower...well my work denied the request and said "return after changing." Apparently they weren't into the Felicia's prego and very ill deal.

Along with all the vomiting I began to get weaker and weaker, tired didn't even cover it. Dehydration was the biggest side of effect of HG, but worse of all was the dizziness and migraines  Thanks to the latest two side effects from the HG my Ob/Gyn referred me to a Neurologist to help tackle the problems. Sadly, there isn't much you can do or test a pregnant women for so it was just fight through it. Fighting through it sometimes looked more like laying at my mom and grandmother's house to puke with assistance. It was becoming a worry for me to be on my own and also being at my mom's place meant that I could be force feed Pedisure, Gatorade, and Jello. The last two were pretty much my only meals for months, the Pedisure was really a no go from the first attempted sip.

Eventually, the weight loss became out of hand and I was put on Zofran, an anti-nausea that they give Chemo patients so they keep their food down. On a whole it didn't work, but it did make my vomiting sessions less intense and I was able to cope with it on board as opposed to without. Still my situation was like living with severe food poisoning, eventually I was instructed to give up the prentals and try my best with real food. It seemed that every appointment, routine or emergency all ended the same, more weight-loss, go to the hospital to get some IVs and lets check that the baby is ok. Every stress test our Little Speck was doing AMAZING! Attacked the monitor and had a great heartbeat, it was only me in danger. All I remember was everyone fearing for me, though it was only what I could over hear being told to the husband, no one would dare tell me.

At least the nurses were always friendly...it made our IV trips a little more enjoyable. I just wish they didn't make all their guests fill out a "Are you a Domestic Violence Victim" form every time (it was a woman's hospital so I guess it was a thing). I probably could had filled that form out with my eyes closed. Thanks to the frequency of our IV trips, being attached to a IV and with a belly was able to get a "catch" aka pee sample like a pro, even one handed.  I learned a lot about ketones and that I was making a ridiculous amount of them.  Side note, they also screen urine for ketones if you are a Type 1 Diabetic. The worst lesson was if you have deep veins it's already hard to locate them, then you add in dehydration and it becomes crazy hard to find the suckers. Often I was poked a few times and sometimes they would give up and just use a hand...or wrist, let me tell you, not the most comfortable places, but it works.

As the days continued I became more and more depressed. Feeling extremely alone in this and worried with our Little Speck and I's situation. At this point I even stopped filing out my pregnancy journal because everyday was the same story, sick, sick and sick. Not at all something I wished to remember or even pass down to my child. An although Zofran was my only life line we started to do some serious research, just worrying about what could happen since I was on it so long. Luckily it seemed to be a very safe drug, but it still took a lot of research to convince us. There were just so many extra things we were now worrying about other then the typical hopes and fears at play.

On top of it all, I was no longer able to really function at work. It was a battle just to get the new hire to take my seat. I was put in the position of training my replacement, holding a trashcan to my face and pausing long enough to answer the phone in the happiest voice I could muster. Too bad that new hire didn't learn dedication from me, cause that may had given her a chance at lasting. Well they attempted to move me to our main office, out of sight so if I was green it wouldn't matter so much, but I was severely unproductive even there and completely on survival mode. One of my biggest worries with the new position was that though good for them, that I was out of sight, the spot meant if I fell I was on my own till one of my friend got to work. She was great at coming in when her shift started to make sure I was still alive in my little room of boxes. Also, getting to and from that little room meant stairs, good for exercise, bad for a pregnant woman with serious dizzy issues. Really I was terrified.


Sadly, I didn't photo document my little bumps growth to well. For a long time I looked more dead then pregnant. I honestly don't have a photo of me from my last day of Hawaii, mid October till December 1st (the photo above). It didn't help that I/we would run into people and half the time they were so busy asking me if I was "alright" "what was wrong," that they completely forgot that I was even pregnant. In attempt to make our annual Christmas card I went out and bought my first real maternity outfit and plastered on as much make as I could to look some what human again. I also stuck out my belly a bit more. My hand is one of the items that I went out of my way to hide and of course forgot all about while the camera was flashing away. The IVs left their own reminders. The photo above is one of the few images that I still have. We were to busy goofing around with our Godson for me to think about it.

Mid December had finally arrived and at this point between all the looks my doc gave the husband and me at every appointment, I was ready for this pregnancy to go on our terms not her's. She had already discussed how far I can go and get a "abortion" needless to say I didn't go for it then and no matter what my child had, it was our child. So we declined the Triple Screen test. Still had to do the Glucose, but with my intake problems that was clearly not a issue. Her response to our decline was, "Well would you a least do me a favor and have a ultrasound so I know if I'm delivering a child with a extra limb or something?" I agreed saying, "Of course, I wanted to know if it's a boy or girl anyhow!"


We had the great news, we were expecting a Baby Girl!...an based on the ultrasound, no sign of downs, not that it concerned me. She was hanging out upside down, but was developing perfect in every way!


I may had lost weight, but my belly defiantly got bigger and the baby-to-be was getting stronger. Now it was no longer just that myself that was annoyed with the puking session but my little one on board was just as angry. So angry in fact, that after every vomit there was a assault from her, apparently trying to warn the walls not to cave in on her, like I could control it. I guess she wasn't a fan of losing her potential meal, that makes two of us.

On February 14th, 2008, Valentine's Day, my doctor and a referred specialist agreed that it was time just to have me go out on Disability Leave. I wouldn't ever return to work. Not being at work did help the little bump, A LOT. I was able to move as slow as I wanted and lay down when needed. Also nice was that those who knew the problem were always around and they were great at understanding when I needed a extra break. Leaving work also gave me a leg up on the weight-loss that had reached a total of -30lbs. I started to finally have a some what typically looking belly. Although this added financial stress on us, without leaving work I'm really unsure how the pregnancy would had ended. 


Really the whole thing seemed like a progression of a nightmare. Being home though finally did give us a up on this roller coaster. It bought us a few, not total good days but close enough. I still was dizzy like crazy so couldn't ever really take my steps for granted. I still wasn't really trusted to be on my own, mostly just when out of the house, so after my stomach battle sessions I would try to exercise in our apartments pool and make trips out to get out, like Sea World or whatever park with whoever was free. Having those outings gave me a lift that was much needed. I was almost always with someone I loved. I have to admit that I am fortunate to have such awesome people in my life. My bestie moved back from Hawaii and stayed with me and even helped after the baby's arrival. My other "friend," I really should say family, well she would spend all her off days with me. A few others were there whenever they could and it was very appreciated  They all made a really great support system. One of the best days was with my two closest friends and the husband, we made a final trip to the Safari Park, then Wild Animal Park. It was fun and it really helped with my goal just to walk the kid out, I was so over it all.


Labor came finally after the typical first baby false alarms. Not to get gross, but let's face it the birthing process is kind of gross, I lost my mucus plug at the hospital and was still turned away, so I went home and tried to make the best of labor pains in our pool, turns out my water may had broke then but we didn't figure that out till our little girl was born, oops. Pains continued and continued and really I started bleeding so my husband arranged for a appointment with the Ob/Gyn, that's when we got the good news, I was ready, "Go eat lunch and we'll meet at the hospital." So we did. It was a long night of craziness, and let me warn you the HG was still there, so while in between pushes I would throw up and get back to work...also had some extra meds and a breathing mask to help. But we made it, at 6:43am May 20th, 2008 our Riley was born. She did swallow some meconium at a point, but other then that all was PERFECT! 7lbs 6oz 19 1/2 inches long!

I wish I could tell you I bounced back health wise, but really that wasn't the case. We are still figuring out why. It's possible that it was genetics just about to happen or that the HG just kick started the process, either way shortly after having her I had my gallbladder removed and things have never been the same. But the light at the end of the tunnel is, no more crazy everyday puking sessions, I'm not constantly dizzy and dehydrated. I understand a little more of what's going to happen and I'm no longer happening to worry what will happen to her, it's just me now. Everything is more normal, then the 9 month pregnancy nightmare. Food poisoning is just food poisoning and I don't have to worry about it lasting days on end.



We always knew we only wanted one child and our very blessed to come out of this with one little angel that is more amazing then we ever could imagine. She was a fighter from moment won and I'm glad she survived the journey.  She has inspired me and gave me a reason to not only start this blog but to keep going. Can't imagine my life without her, not that I would ever endure that experience again. ;)


If you in need of more information or a community to talk with about HG, please see my follow up post, "A Little More for Hyperemesis Gravidarum". There are books and links, hopefully enough to help.



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