I never looked it up before a few months ago..
I knew it was Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I knew I had it. I knew my mama and my Aunt Paulette had it (before “it” had a name).
I had been banned long before of googling anything related to pregnancy. So I just left it alone.
Princess Kate changed that for me. I just couldn’t bear it for her. First Gawker made some offhand comment about her being a delicate flower and then the WOMEN of The View dismissed it passively. (I will now resist the urge to rant about how much damage women to do each other.)
I came out swinging. I was ready to hit every message board from here to Timbuktu in her defense. So I logged on, I searched, and I started reading. Then I started crying.
My people had already been there. I cried as I read their stories. Each so different and so personal and yet so like my own. I have moderate Hyperemesis, which means that I have a string of days in which I will throw up 15-20 times a day. Nothing will stay down. Then I might have a day or two of just intense nausea with no puke. On the occasional bright shining day I can actually be laying in the living room when my husband makes dinner. Mine faded at around 24 weeks with Ava and only slightly lingered in my third trimester. I’ve been blessed that mine ends. My own mother was sick with me on the delivery table.
And I remembered my own long months of desperate isolation, taking the illness not day by day but hour by hour. Minute by minute. Clock tick by clock tick…
Words that spoke to me.
My skin was gray. My lips were pale and peeling. If I bit into the top of my lip, I could feel the ridges of my teeth through the other side. The nausea fed the dehydration, which fed the nausea and birthed its bastard children, headache and constipation (about which no force shall make me say more).
Descriptions that almost caused pain they were so familiar.
I gained weight. And in my eighth month, by some miracle of forbearance, I didn’t throat-punch the person who asked me if I’d tried soda crackers.
I laughed because it was true.
If not, if she is wrapped in the morass of intractable nausea throughout the pregnancy, if she’s vomiting even in the royal birthing chamber, a silent sisterhood stands watch.
And we won’t let anyone call it morning sickness.
And then I cried because it was true. Because she struck a truth about Hyperemesis that is the most painful.
It’s not the puking, the pain, or the IV’s.
It’s the psychological warfare. It’s feeling lonely. Guilty. Anxious. Terrified. And feeling all that while people seem to just want you to toughen up. They threw up a few times a day in that first trimester too, why are you making such a big deal. You’re not Eve. You’re just not handling this well. You’re not trying enough remedies.
It is hard for me to have perspective on this because of course we all think we are strong. I suggest to you though that I really am pretty tough when it comes to handling illness and pain. I didn’t even know I was in labor with my first child until she was born for Heaven’s sake!!!!
When you have Hyperemesis they treat you with the same drugs that they treat people who are undergoing chemotherapy. (They don’t work.) I can’t imagine why anyone would try and diminish the power of a sickness that strong.
But it was the common thread.
We aren’t just fighting for every bite, we are fighting the guilt of malnutrition. We aren’t just fighting dehydration, we are fighting the anxiety of how this might affect our baby. We aren’t just fighting to get out of bed and have a normal day, we are fighting a world that doesn’t understand how sick we are.
It’s not that we can’t survive the sickness. It’s just that its almost impossible to survive psychological beat down.