Being completely honest, before I go any further in this series I have to let you know that I do not remember everything perfectly. My first pregnancy was over ten years ago, and the good Lord granted me a certain degree of “amnesia” to help me deal with it. Otherwise, there is no way on His green earth that I would have gone through it again – and yes, spoiler alert, my baby and I did survive the first one, and I went on to have a second one, with virtually the same experience yet again.
I tell you this so that you will understand that I know I’m leaving out big parts of my story, and possibly getting some things out of order. I know this because as I’m posting it on my blog, I have friends and family who were by my side during it all now reminding me of some things that I had totally forgotten – some good and some bad. I truly wish I had written it all down, kept a diary of it all. Hindsight is 20-20, as they say. At the time all of this was going on, though, I just wanted to survive it and keep my baby alive. That is all I could think about, and some days I couldn’t even think about that.
But back to the story: Once I arrived home from my week in the hospital, I settled into bed with my Zofran pump and IV fluids. Again, these measures were not alleviating the constant nausea, nor were they completely controlling the vomiting. However, they were keeping my baby and me alive in that they helped to decrease the vomiting episodes to less than 20 times per day.
The weight loss continued. I was losing an average of 1 to 2 pounds per week now. I was still unable to keep anything down, including water. Friends and family were bringing me every drink under the sun in the hopes that we’d discover something that would stay down. We really wanted to be able to get off the IV fluids. Being hooked up to the IV 24/7 was completely debilitating, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But then again, so was being nauseated 24/7.
Eventually we found that I could tolerate citrus Gatorade better than anything. Did you know that it is the most difficult flavor of Gatorade to find? My husband became the ultimate hunter/gatherer of citrus Gatorade, though, and kept me stocked up. However, the strange thing is that even when I was eventually (many weeks into the pregnancy) able to keep down a significant amount of this liquid, it was still never enough to keep me from becoming dehydrated within 30 minutes if the IV fluids were removed (this strange thing has never been explained). Therefore, I continued with the IV fluids and the Zofran drug pump throughout the rest of my pregnancy. This means anytime I left the house, which was pretty much only for doctor’s appointments from this point on (except for a couple of cases which I’ll talk about later), it involved traveling with the wonderful IV pole and fluid pouch and wearing the lovely Zofran drug pump like a fanny pack around my waist. Stylish, but it has yet to catch on with the hipster pregnancy set.
Once I had settled in after the first hospital visit, the cycle persisted, but at a lesser rate for the most part. I was hospitalized a couple more times for dehydration before we worked out the best ratio of everything, though. When I was home, I was bedridden due to the extreme nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Since James and my mother both worked, I was often alone for long hours during the day. I rarely had to get up to go to the bathroom because I stayed on the verge of dehydration, even with the IV. Frankly, there just wasn’t anything left to eliminate that way. However, when I did go I had to use ketone sticks to check my urine. If the “pH” of my urine reached dangerous levels, this would mean that I was not obtaining enough fluids. As long as we kept the IV fluids going, this stayed at an acceptable level. If the IV was removed, or even slowed down too far, this marker would immediately show dangerous levels of “ketones” in my urine, and we would have to do a “bolus” of IV fluids, or I would have to make a trip back to the hospital to get it all balanced again.
So, I stayed in bed for hours on end. For the first couple of weeks I didn’t have a television or computer in my bedroom to keep me occupied, and I really didn’t care because I was still too weak to even sit up or keep my eyes open for long. Instead, we kept the CD of “Pachelbel Canon in D with Ocean Sounds” playing over and over and over all day long to keep me as relaxed as possible. Weird, yes, but it worked somehow. And, I prayed…a lot. If I was awake, I was praying, or in some cases, crying out loud to God.
And He was with me. There was a book that I had that I had purchased on that very first week after I found out I was pregnant. It was called “For This Child I Prayed” by Stormie Omartian. (This book is pictured below and available at: http://stormieomartian.com/product_details.html?product_name=.Christmas+Special.%3Cbr%3E%3Cbr%3EItem+M06-CHLD-GB%3Cbr%3E%3Cbr%3EFOR+THIS+CHILD+I+PRAYED%3Cbr%3E) The prayers and the pictures were incredibly soothing to me, and whenever I was able, I read and prayed the words of this book for my baby over and over and over, almost every day throughout my pregnancy. It brought me such comfort, and I knew, deep down in my soul that the Lord was looking after my baby. I am being completely honest with you here when I tell you that I had a very deep peace about this. I believed whole-heartedly that this baby would be born strong and healthy. After what had happened to me just before I found out I was pregnant (read Part 1), I knew that God had a PURPOSE for this child, and was looking after him (or her – I didn’t know which at the time). Honestly, I believed the baby would survive, but I wasn’t sure that I would.
However, even with the calm I was experiencing for my child, it did not prevent worry and despair and depression from creeping in from time to time. Actually most days I felt some form of mental and emotional anguish. Again, there was no explanation offered at this point for what was happening. Though my doctor was very kind, and was very concerned, I still felt that he was questioning my sanity a bit. Some of the medical workers I was around actually treated me like it was my fault, and I could not understand this. I knew that this was completely out of my control – so why would anyone treat me this way when I was suffering so much and still worried about the overall health of my baby?
I continued going to see my doctor every week at this point. Every week we’d go through the excruciating process of getting me ready to go out with the drug pump and IV, and drive the 30 minutes to the doctor’s office, stopping for me to throw up a couple of times along the way, usually. Every week I would step on the scale and it would show a weight loss of at least one or two pounds. And every week I’d be on pins and needles until I heard my baby’s heartbeat once again. And every week my doctor would try to reassure me, but at the same time he would almost scold me, telling me that I really needed to drink and try to eat more. I explained again, in tears, that I could not – that I was drinking and drinking tons of citrus Gatorade, but it wouldn’t always stay down. He would “threaten” me with the picc line for TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) again. But again, I tried to explain, I was seriously doing the best I could – why couldn’t they understand it? I felt like a crazy person.
One day James arranged to have wireless internet connection installed for me, so I could at least surf the internet and email people from my bed. He also installed a television in our bedroom. How sadistic was it that I watched the Food Channel obsessively throughout my pregnancy once I was able to hold my head up? Rachel Ray and Paula Deen became my go to girls! I couldn’t eat or stand the smell of food, but I got to where I could at least watch. Sick, I tell you.
I began searching the internet for an explanation of my symptoms. Surely to goodness I wasn’t the only woman alive going through this, was I? And you know what? I soon found that I wasn’t. However, what I found nearly sent me into a tailspin of deeper despair and emotional upheaval.
One day while searching online, I found a website in which women were describing symptoms very similar to mine during their pregnancies. They were posting on a webpage’s “chat boards” about their experiences. These women were, like me, searching for answers and hoping to find some encouragement, and some reassurance that they were not “crazy”, and that they were not to blame for this.
Their stories were brutal. Many of these women were describing scenarios in which their doctors and everyone around them refused to accept the severity of their sickness, telling them to suck it up and deal with it. Many described doctors and medical professionals mocking them, and husbands (abusive husbands, in my opinion) forcing them to continue to wait on them hand and foot, cooking and cleaning and performing “wifely duties” even as they were wasting away before their eyes. Many of these women confessed to secretly having an abortion, and then telling everyone around them that they had miscarried. The pain they were living with was almost unbearable. My heart began breaking. I spent hours in bed for days, reading their stories, weeping endlessly.
James became very worried when I shared these stories with him and he saw how it was affecting me. However, I reassured him that this was what I needed to hear. Even though my heart broke for these women, and especially for these unborn children, I knew now that I was not crazy and not alone. I was also completely overwhelmed when I understood the level of support and encouragement I had already been receiving from my loved ones compared to so many of these women. And, I learned there was actually a name for this condition: Hyperemesis Gravidarum. There they were. There were the two words that proved that this was not “all in my head.” I was not crazy. I felt like I could breathe again.
I devoured every bit of information I could about HG. I was disturbed to find out that not much was known about it in the United States, however Canada and Great Britain had both performed studies on the condition. At that time, they were reporting that they believed that .02 percent of all pregnancies were sufferers of HG. And of this percentage, unbelievably, 98% ended in miscarriage or abortion.
This truly did me in. I could not imagine…this baby, this child that I had prayed and prayed for…I could not imagine giving up and aborting him or her! However, I realized at this point that I had support, and I had IV fluids and a Zofran drug pump, helping me to survive this. I was able to stay in bed all day because I had loved ones who loved me and who wanted to take care of me, and a doctor who was willing to try every treatment under the sun. No one was mocking me, no one was forcing me to get up and cook or clean or do anything else. They were just there – helping me, praying for the baby and me, and literally willing to do anything to help me survive. And most of all, I had faith. I was truly blessed. I could not imagine going through this hell wearing the shoes of some of these other women whose stories were tearing me apart. I don’t believe I would have resorted to abortion, though I do not judge those who did AT ALL. It is not my place to do so. I simply ache for them. But, on the other hand, I also don’t believe that I would have been alive by this point without all of the care and support and faith I had been given.
The next time I went to see my physician, I took many of these articles on HG with me to show him. He had heard of it, and he agreed that this was what I was suffering from. I believe that he had already determined that, but probably did not share it with me for the very reason that he had come to know me so well, and he knew I would immediately go and read everything I could about it – which would only serve to upset me even more. Yes, that’s true, and I forgave him for that. However, even though it was painful to read these stories, I cannot adequately describe the relief I felt at knowing there was a name for this condition, and that it was not my fault (even though the cause is still unknown).
Still losing weight at this point, my doctor decided to send me to a perinatologist – a physician who specializes in high risk pregnancies – for a consultation. I was excited about going to see someone who might have more knowledge about this condition, and perhaps some suggestions for controlling it and ensuring a healthier pregnancy. At this point I was existing on IV fluids and citrus Gatorade, and unable to keep down the pre-natal vitamins. If you have HG, I recommend that you do NOT read all of the books and articles on how to have a “healthy pregnancy.” It will only serve to throw you further into despair at how you are unable to do the things that we all know you need to do when you’re pregnant – like eat healthful foods, exercise, take your vitamins, etc… I was hoping for some more answers.
Little did I know that when I walked into the office of that perinatologist, I would be walking into the pit of hell…