‘It’s A Bit Of Morning Sickness’
(Merry, merry Boxing Day!)
Greg and I had a bit of a heart to heart around the beginning of December when I suddenly realised (mid shower, it’s where I do m’thinkin’) that we were running out of time to get pregnant if we wanted to slot it in around this year’s training schedule. That’ll probably sound ridiculous to the majority of you, but it’s the dull reality of a sportsman who doesn’t want to miss the birth of his offspring.
After talking it through, we came to the conclusion we’d try for a couple of months post Christmas and if nothing happened then we’d cool it for the year. No surprises, no pressure, that was our plan. I’m sorry to say I was more apprehensive than anything; I felt rough as you like in the first three months of carrying Milo, although I wasn’t physically sick, and the thought of doing that all over again filled me with dread. But I pushed it to the back of my mind and we agreed on when to get cracking.
Two days later we found out I was already brewing one.
‘If I can stay feeling like this for the duration then that’s fine!’ I cheerily told Greg. I had the standard exhaustion and underlying grotty cloud of bleugh, but other than that could cope with looking after Milo and function like a normal mum. And then the nightmare began.
From December 7th to February 12th, I left the bedroom only to go to the hospital to be put on a drip, the doctor’s to cry for more medication or scans. I actually went through the wonderful app Push Doctor for medication in the end because I couldn’t face the doctor’s waiting room or the car journey to and from. I have never, in all my life, felt so incredibly unwell or helpless and the only positive I can take from it (of course, new baby aside) is that I now have a new found respect for anyone else who suffers with it. Hyperemesis Gravidarum for anyone who doesn’t really know, is in it’s most basic form, extreme sickness and dehydration through pregnancy. When you delve in to each and every case, it’s far more than that.
As a lot of you are aware, I removed myself from social media pretty much the entire time and that was for a few reasons. One, it’s really tricky to filter a sick bowl and I don’t even know what would be the appropriate hashtags. Two, I was pretty much comatose for around a month. Three, my mood was so low, seeing all the photos of other mums enjoying ordinary life with their children may have tipped me over the edge. Four, I didn’t want anyone suspecting and congratulating me because I had nothing but utter negativity towards what was happening to my body. I won’t try to jazz it up, I was of course happy with the thought of having a new baby but took no joy from being pregnant. I barely thought about it with excitement; no tummy rubbing, no looking at cute outfits, I didn’t care. I spent Christmas trying to nibble a potato over a carrier bag from my bed while all my family were downstairs, Boxing Day in hospital on a drip and my main gift from Greg (a 1st class trip to New York as our first holiday away together without Milo) meant he jetted off for New Years with one of our friends taking my place. My mum and stepdad moved in so Milo didn’t spend the entire week sitting in bed with me, rubbing my back with dump trucks and I hoped and prayed and hoped some more that nearing 12 weeks would bring relief.
I also had a really fun thing called Ptyalism which is essentially excessive saliva production (I know right, like… all the sexy things) and I had to have some sort of vessel with me at all times. If I dragged my body for a wee, I’d need to spit at least 5 times during the short journey. Poor Greg had to pop up to the bedroom OFTEN to empty whichever bowl/cup I’d deposited in and at times it felt like I was drowning. Milo was still breastfeeding throughout the night at this point and I’d be propped up, writhing around his body to throw up over his head while he fed and/or making sure I didn’t dribble my tidal wave of spit on him.
The best way I can describe the whole experience was that if someone had let me know they’d placed £10,000 at the top of the stairs, I wouldn’t have had an ounce of interest in crawling out of bed and along the landing. Propping myself up in bed to take medication would have me vomiting from the movement, crying would bring no relief as it would have me vomiting and any movement around me (I dreaded anyone coming to see me in the bedroom) then oh! More vomiting. I didn’t wash my hair for five weeks and when I eventually did, I spent three days in a whirlpool of misery where I couldn’t wear my glasses because everything I looked at set me off. I was happy to stink and resemble Stig Of The Dump thanks very much. I had to ask my family not to let Milo in the bedroom if he’d been outside recently because he’d ‘smell’ of outdoors, leaving my bedroom would have all my senses chiming like high pitched alarms and I had to talk at a slower pace than usual and very, very quietly to reduce the chance of yet again, vomiting.
(Me and my only company, the sick bowl. I got Greg to take a few photos of this torrid time to serve as a reminder NOT TO GET FRUITY WITHOUT PROTECTION EVER AGAIN)
Life was an endless cycle of needing to desperately eat specific food but having absolutely zero appetite or cravings. It’s very hard to describe but I’d be physically shaking to inhale a bowl of sugar covered Cornflakes but feeling like I was going to throw them up immediately and therefore, not wanting them. My skin was flaking off, my stomach so concave a baby would be the last thing you’d suspect was causing all the aggro and my mum and Greg would often comment about me ‘walking like an old lady’. Upright was just too, too much.
I think a huge part of the problem is how Hyperemesis is dealt with by healthcare professionals. A couple of doctors looked completely baffled when I went to see them (and honestly, I can’t stress how much effort it took to get me there in the first place) and they really dislike putting you on any medication, which I understand but it’s soul-destroying to hear. I went through three different types of antiemetic and it was only the final one which helped curb the nausea, although not the vomiting itself sadly. The main reason I was rushed off to hospital was because a wonderful lady on Push Doctor had noticed how much I’d declined and lost weight since she’d spoken to me the week before and pushed for me to get seen. As a mum, she’d had a similar experience in pregnancy. As a doctor, she said, it was something a lot of men in the business brush off.
Without forcing you to read about every inch of my miserable existence for those two months, I wanted to try and depict exactly how isolating and miserable suffering with hyperemesis can be because I know (I really do know, I hunted the internet for everything) that there’s very little support, the first site I stumbled across essentially told me the only way out was to not continue (apparently 1,000 pregnancies a year are terminated because of the condition). There’s a wonderful organisation called Pregnancy Sickness Support (they have an Insta page too – @pregnancysicknesssupport) who offer women a hotline number for advice or just a kind ear, plenty of tips and a fab online forum. When you’re spending all your time alone in a darkened room feeling like you’ve been on day one of a particularly awful stomach flu for an extended period, you need to know there are others around who understand. I had a wonderful support network in my family and Greg, but felt like a huge burden, utterly useless and well… disgusting. I had sick in my hair which had been there god knows how long, gums which would just bleed whenever they fancied it and showers were only happening every five days if I’m totally honest. The whole thing caused me to start suffering from some quite serious anxiety and my first few trips out the house were met with abject terror, I don’t say that lightly. I was terrified I’d be vomiting or spitting all over strangers in public and unable to control it.
(This is what happens to your hair when you don’t wash it for over a month. One giant dreadlock. It took Greg and myself an hour to comb out one night after two hair masks)
My experience while not the norm, isn’t rare. There are plenty of women going through this and a lot who have it even worse. I only lost around 3/4 of a stone and suffered to week 18/19; others have it their entire pregnancy and how they mentally/physically get through it, I don’t know. If you’re someone in the throes of hyperemesis at the moment, I’m with you and sending you all the healthy vibes. If you’re worried about suffering again during a second pregnancy, then all I can say is that I was told the earlier you try to nip it in the bud with meds, the quicker they take hold. Research and preparation is key I suppose, although in all honesty I don’t think I’ll be able to go through another pregnancy myself. The mere thought of it makes my anxiety rocket.
SO, not a particularly cheery blog post and I apologise about that, but I noticed I received a lot of ‘this is the worst kept secret!’ comments on my pregnancy announcement and wanted to iron that out. It was never a secret, never something to be hidden; merely it was something for me to deal with than enjoy. I didn’t want to brush this all off as ‘morning sickness’ because at times I was practically begging Greg to help me with fear I wouldn’t get through it. Writing this has actually been quite difficult actually, I’ve had to almost forget it ever happened to try to curb the anxiety and begin to embrace our new arrival. But I’m getting there, I feel like I can cope with almost anything motherhood throws at me now I’ve had my toes run over with a Little Tikes lawnmower at 5am while sicking up in to a mixing bowl (cheers Milo) and I’m here to talk should anyone need to offload how terrible they might too be feeling. You’re definitely not on your own.