I was about halfway through my first pregnancy, having a miserable time. I had just come back to work after 3 months of leave, bedridden with fatigue between bouts of vomiting. I was working for a magazine publisher at the time & all of a sudden there was a massive "hullabaloo". Excitement, people rushing about, lots of noise. In the world of tabloid news, the biggest story you could get had just been broken - the Duchess of Cambridge was pregnant! And not only was Kate preggers, but the poor lass had to announce her news early because she'd been hospitalised for symptoms of this strange unheard of condition Hyperemesis Gravidarum, AKA HG.
Hyperemesis gravidarum: 'Kate Middleton's ongoing condition is much worse than just morning sickness'
Hold the presses! Let's release a special early edition! There were urgent meetings called, the logistics of going to press early needed to be worked through, a whole lot of filler information & pictures needed to be found. It was the most exciting & pressurised week in a long time.
"Poor Kate", "What an awful thing to have to go through", "She's really sick, it's quite serious". The editorial team were fascinated by the story. Not only was Kate pregnant with our future heir to the throne, but she was so sick! And then, in one of these crisis meetings, our HR Manager said: "You should just talk to Annamarie. She has that, she's just come back to work, she's been bedridden". And suddenly things changed. I was no longer someone who just couldn't handle "a little nausea". I was someone with a serious medical condition. And the sympathy was outpouring. All it took for people to understand this awful condition I had was for the most famous woman in the world to get it too. Kate Middleton's misfortune changed the landscape for women unlucky enough to suffer from HG (sorry Kate, but thanks).
My experience during my pregnancy with Sam and my consequent birth experience made me very wary of willingly signing on to have another baby. But in the end, I did agree, knowing full well that I would have HG again and that I would likely suffer for 9 months and put my own health at risk.
I actually had the Dr's appointment to confirm I was pregnant on Sam's 3rd birthday. As apprehensive as I was about what was to come, I was thrilled. I think that might actually be the last time I've felt extreme joy in the last 18 months. In those early days, with no symptoms, you just have the excitement of what's to come, what kind of person you'll create and the adventures you'll have as a family. The symptoms kicked in about week 6, and from week 7 I was taking Ondanestron (AKA Zofran) for nausea (it did nothing FYI) and was bedridden, unable to function. Within a few days I was vomiting multiple times a day, unable to keep any food down.
But I still had hope. And I was so positive. I was working for a pregnancy spa at the time, and I wrote a guest blog post that didn't end up getting used about my nausea experience. Reading back over it now I think about that person who had no idea what was coming. That person who thought that the worst that could happen was some bad nausea.....
Home Truths from the First Trimester
Well, it turns out I'm definitely pregnant again... if the positive test didn't tell me, the nausea that has started this week has confirmed it. And it has me wondering why I agreed to do this again! I mean, I did wait three years, and honestly, there is no way I could have done this before now. At least now my son has his 20 hours childcare and is well on his way to being toilet trained - what would I have done a year ago, or even six months?
I think back to my first pregnancy when at this stage - 7 weeks - the nausea was amping up and the vomiting was beginning, and I was still trying to work full-time and pretend to my colleagues I was fine. I had to give that up at 9 weeks when I was hospitalised for dehydration and bleeding from my oesophagus from the acid when I threw up again... and again... and again. And for the record, I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum a good 5 months before the Duchess made it 'de rigeur'.
So this time, I'm petrified that the awful nausea I'm already feeling is going to escalate and I'll be unable to cope. Last time I was forced to take leave and undergo bed rest from week 9 to week 18. Turns out you can't really function without food. The little bean was fine though, continuing to grown into a healthy tiny human, continuing to suck any meagre nutrients still found in my body.
I know I sound a little dramatic, and certainly I don't paint a pretty picture of the first trimester. It's not like this for a lot of people, and hey, it may not be that bad for me again this time. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best... But I did find that no one really speaks about how awful the first trimester is. I say being forewarned is far better struggling for weeks with everyone assuming you just can't cope with a "little morning sickness".
This time I have so much knowledge that I didn't have last time. Like choosing a midwife. I did this at 5 weeks because I wanted to find the best person who would support me with a potentially traumatic pregnancy and someone who would understand my desire to birth naturally despite my previous c-section. I need someone who makes decisions and is no-nonsense. My last midwife was so wishy-washy and wasn't there to make the hard calls, leaving them to the awesome team at the hospital, one of which I initially thought of us as "the dragon", but who actually became the biggest support for me through my induction and eventual emergency caesarian.
So, from a jaded but hopeful newly pregnant mama, to all other mamas in the same situation - I hope you've enjoyed my post.
Just a couple of thoughts to add from the Chief Spew Bowl Washer.
Firstly, although the Kate Middleton thing has definitely increased the profile of HG, I have found (at least in my circle of friends and colleagues) that most people still greet you with blank stares when you try to explain it. It's more well known now, but people have short memories and now the celebrity hype is over I find myself having to talk it through more and more.
Secondly, the ignorance about HG is unfortunately not limited to "normal" people - it extends to the medical profession. Many doctors and nurses we spoke to either weren't aware of HG, or had very little experience with it. And hey, that's fair enough - it's a rare illness. But we also found there was a general lack of interest in the medical institution around pregnancy conditions, or at least those that impact the mother and not the baby. We were told there is not a lot of research out there on stuff like HG, in part because it isn't really ethical to do testing or research on pregnant women - but we suspect also in part because it is seen as a "temporary issue". If you're a doctor dealing with it, you know what the "cure" is - have the baby, problem solved. That is all fine and well, but of course it doesn't help the poor woman who is suffering through hell, nor does it fix the long-term damage that such an experience can to do that woman's physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. And look, I get it - it's not an easy problem to solve. But it is a problem, and I think as a society we need to recognise that.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that we've all rolled our eyes at illnesses or issues that seem silly or made up. If it's not inside your sphere of experience, it's easy to be cynical. It is difficult to summon compassion for something you may not fully understand, or even believe. I felt that way at certain points in our first pregnancy, but I had a pretty stark reminder living with me every day. If this blog achieves anything, I hope it's that you'll think twice the next time you go to dismiss someone's suffering (even if it's just in your own head), that you'll stop, take a moment - and think of Kate Middleton.
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.