After returning home that evening from the emotionally exhausting trip to and from Nashville, l fell into bed for a deep sleep. I woke up the very next morning, still feeling exhausted, but my husband and I had plans to go to a seminar at church. I remember I didn’t feel like eating that morning, but I drank some orange juice, which I regretted for the next few hours. I had a horrible burning sensation in my stomach and chest. I had never experienced heartburn before, but I imagined this was what it would feel like.
By the end of the seminar, I was hungry, yet feeling nauseated, had “heartburn”, and was extremely tired. I asked James to pull into a drug store and go grab me some crackers and some anti-acid medication….and then, I had an epiphany. I said, “And um, would you pick up a pregnancy test, too?” James looked at me like I had just grown two heads, and then said, “You know, if you need those first two items, I don’t really think there’s a need to get the third!” But, he came back with not just one, but two tests.
We were both nervous, and couldn’t even talk about the possibility of what might be happening. Wasn’t it less than 24 hours ago that I was pulled over in a parking lot, sobbing and praying about wanting to begin a family? Could it really be?
Even though home was less than a thirty minute drive away, we were both too anxious to wait another minute. We passed by the road turning off to the home of some close friends who lived along the way, and decided to make a “pit stop.” They were surprised to see us, but welcomed us in. I excused myself to their powder room, and emerged a few minutes later with an incredulous look on my face. James knew immediately what was going on.
It was positive.
No way! This couldn’t be! Could it? There was no possible way! We had not been “trying” for long, really. We wanted this, but we weren’t really ready, were we? I mean, I had not read even one “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, ever!
But it was real! We confirmed it a few hours later with the second test, and then Monday morning I scheduled a visit to the OB/Gyn to officially confirm it. It was really real! I was just barely four months pregnant for the first time!
Dazed and confused, I pretty much recall this time as a “foggy time.” I was in a state of bliss and immediately began reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and babies. I was so excited! Of course I had to make a couple of trips to the local “baby superstores” to begin making lists, and buying baby nursery decorating books! Oh, and I had to start those pre-natal vitamins, and make sure that I was eating the healthiest of health foods and walking every single day!
I had gained some weight recently, and was the heaviest I had ever weighed in my life at that point, so I was concerned about gaining too much weight. Diabetes runs in my family, so I was a little anxious that if I gained too much I might be at risk for gestational diabetes, or have a higher birth weight baby, which I had been reading was not healthy for the baby and could lead to many health problems for it later, if not sooner, in life. These were some of the concerns that were running through my mind that very first week.
We also had a vacation planned to Hilton Head Island that week. The plan was that I would be going down with my parents, my sister, her husband, and two children early in the week, and James would join us a couple days later after he finished some projects at work. We had delayed going by one day so that I could make the trip to the doctor, but once that was done and we had shared the news with the rest of the family, we were on our way. On the drive down, however, I found myself feeling extremely sick. We attributed it to some pregnancy nausea exacerbated by the winding roads on the “shortcuts” my dad insisted on taking. I had to lie down in the car the entire way, and once we arrived at the beach, the “motion sickness” never went away. Oh, and the “heartburn” persisted, which was painfully annoying.
I tried to walk on the beach some that week. Desperately trying to distract myself from the nausea, I busied myself by shopping in some of the beautiful baby stores on the island and making a few purchases of generally useless but irresistible baby items such as books, outfits, and bibs that cost entirely too much. But, it was my first pregnancy, our first child. I was determined that everything would be “practically perfect” in every way. If only this blasted nausea would go away! We were sure it would. My mamaw, mother, and sister had all experienced pretty horrific “morning sickness,” but it had subsided within a few weeks, they assured me.
The trip to Hilton Head was soon over, but the trip home was even worse than the drive down. A couple days later at home, I threw up for the first time. I remember thinking, “Oh no…and so it begins!” I did feel a sense of temporary relief after throwing up. However, this was extremely short-lived. The nausea came back with a vengeance only a few minutes later, and stayed. The cycle had begun: vomiting, a few minutes of relief, and then the return of severe nausea, heartburn, and even dizziness settling in until I finally vomited again. I was throwing up several times a day at this point, and even during the night. So much for so-called “morning” sickness!
The sixth week of pregnancy James and I were scheduled to take a dream vacation to California. James planned to attend some legal seminars for a few days with some attorney friends, and I was to accompany them. We would be staying at some lavish resorts in San Francisco, Carmel, and all along the coast, and I would get to spend my time shopping, going to spas, and sight-seeing to my heart’s content. I had been looking forward to this for such a long time!
However, by the day we were scheduled to leave, we knew that there was no way I could make this trip. We knew that my “morning sickness” was something a little out of the ordinary, but we still thought at this point that we’d find a way to manage it and it would get better within a few weeks. However, I was definitely in no condition to make the flight or enjoy the special vacation we had planned.
James, who had been waiting on me hand and foot, however, had spent a lot of money on the reservations for this trip and on the legal seminars he would attend. He also needed the continuing legal education credits he would earn. So, we decided that he would go without me. I was incredibly sad, but I had my parents, sister, and some friends who would check in on me from time to time.
By this time, the “morning sickness,” which was lasting all day and all night, was becoming ridiculous. To add insult to injury, I became sick with the worst sinus infection and case of bronchitis I had ever experienced in my life. While I lay in my bed, puking my guts out constantly and struggling to breathe, James was sending me pictures of himself and his lawyer friends at these incredible resorts, five-star hotels, and fabulous restaurants on the gorgeous West Coast, living it up. I wanted to die, literally. I felt that bad and that sorry for myself at that time. Despite the fact that I was experiencing a deep joy like nothing I had ever known with the knowledge that I would be holding our baby by the end of the year, I was also the most miserable I had ever been in my entire life.
I remember that week was very dark, very lonely, and VERY scary. I could do nothing but lie in bed, day and night. I remember I listened to the soothing sounds of a CD of Pachelbel Canon in D with ocean and seagull sounds mixed in, over and over and over. It was almost hypnotic, and it helped me to relax a little as it lulled me in and out of a very restless sleep. I kind of remember people coming in and out of the house to check on me from time to time that week, bringing me drinks and food which I could not keep down. I remember praying for my baby, begging God to please protect my child even though I was sorely inadequate and apparently too “defective” to do so myself. I remember alternating between feelings of hope and hopelessness, guilt and anger, confusion and depression. And I remember continuously drifting in and out of semi-consciousness. It was like a fog, some kind of crazy dream – but the dream was becoming a nightmare.
When James returned home, he was distraught to find me so sick. It was obvious to him how much my condition had deteriorated after being gone a week, and I could see in his eyes how worried he truly was. At this point, I was losing weight rapidly, and I couldn’t keep anything down, even water. Well-meaning people kept advising me to “eat crackers” and “drink ginger ale” and trust me, I had tried everything. But nothing, absolutely nothing, would stay down. We were beginning to become really concerned about the baby’s development and how it might be affected due to my inability to provide adequate nutrition.
A few days later, the beginning of week seven of the pregnancy, James came home from work to find me talking out of my head. I couldn’t speak well, and when I did nothing coming out of my mouth was making sense. I was wild-eyed, freezing, twisting my hair into knots, and scratching my skin to pieces. Something was wrong, horribly wrong.
James called the doctor and was told to immediately bring me to his office. Once the doctor saw me, he admitted me to the hospital immediately. I was almost completely dehydrated. I had nothing in me, and had lost 26 pounds since they had seen me less than two weeks before. Before I could even realize what was going on, they began pumping fluid into my veins intravenously and trying to get my blood pressure and heart rate normalized again. All of this craziness was going on, I had been unable to keep food or liquids down for days, and yet I continued to dry heave – over and over and over again. The severe nausea and intense contractions of my digestive system never subsided and I was not feeling any relief – not even for a moment. It was as if my body was violently trying to purge itself of something foreign. What was going on? Little did we know that this was only the beginning…