I have to apologize that it has taken me so long to finish writing this series on my pregnancy experiences with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The truth is, writing it down took quite a toll on me, emotionally. As I began writing, it felt very cathartic at first. However, as the memories came rushing back, it became very disturbing to live through some of those feelings again. I had to put it aside for a while, let it go, and even go through a type of “healing” again. But I’ve received so many requests to finish the story, so I am going to attempt to do so now. Again, I apologize, because I realize that this may not be the best “finish” that I owe this story. Honestly, I just don’t have it in me to return to those feelings again. As I realize this, I am reminded of the reality of the pain and fear that so many women are going through at this very moment as they suffer the ravages of HG. My heart goes out to them, and I will continue to pray for them daily. Also, I am happy to report that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and future Queen of England, is enjoying a much healthier and happier pregnancy at this point. Her Hyperemesis Gravidarum, if that’s what it was, seems to have subsided as she has moved along. I am so happy and relieved to hear this incredible news, and wish her and the future heir all the best! Back to where I left off…. I was excited about the opportunity to visit a perinatologist. I hoped for some answers, such as what in the world could have caused this? Was it something I had done or not done? And most of all, was my baby going to be born healthy? James and I were a little nervous as we arrived. We were soon taken back, and the doctor came in the room. His attitude was dismissive from the very beginning. I was growing very confused as he continued his examination, and we answered his abrupt questions, expressing our worry and concern. Finally, he looked me in the eyes and said, “So, you wanna know what I think? I think you are doing this to yourself. I believe that, subconsciously, you do not really want to be pregnant, and you do not want a child. That occurs to me because obviously you’ve waited so long to have a baby – you tell me you’ve been married thirteen years. I think that your subconscious mind is trying to abort the baby and you are bringing all of this sickness upon yourself. If it were up to me, if I were your ob/gyn, I would take you off the IV’s and the drug pump and put you on an anti-depressant.” In other words, “I think you’re crazy, lady. And you disgust me.” I sat there, stunned. Stricken. Horrified. James was turning beet red, and his hands slowly tightened up in to two huge fists. I believe he was about to take a swing at this man, when I finally found my voice and forced myself to speak. Shaking, I said to him, “I don’t know who you think you are to say such a thing to me. You don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me. You don’t know how we have prayed for this baby, for a child. You don’t know that we are Christians and that we would never consider giving up this child, any child. You know nothing about me, and frankly, I don’t think you know too much about perinatology, and certainly nothing about Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I suggest you get online and read as much about it as possible, because I’m pretty sure you will run across it again if you continue to practice medicine. However, I hope you don’t. I hope you get out of the practice of medicine, because I would not entrust you with my pregnant dog.” And without another word, we walked out of the office. And I had to stop to throw up. Of course. At our next appointment with my ob/gyn, we had a lot to say. We told him our story, and he apologized for the treatment we had received. He told me that he was doing as much research as he could into HG, and that he would do everything within his power to help us through this pregnancy. I was also very relieved to know that my ob/gyn was a Christian, and I believe he prayed about this, and that he trusted God for guidance throughout the rest of my pregnancy. So, the rest of my pregnancy continued in much the same manner. Hooked up to the IV and drug pump, my home health nurse visiting every three days to change out the IV site. Still throwing up on a regular basis, still trying to find some type of food and beverage I could keep down. I did find that I was able to eat small pieces of chicken with some cheese and marinara sauce, with the ever-present citrus Gatorade. I continued to lose weight, and by the end of the pregnancy was down forty pounds from where I began. Other problems occurred. My skin became very sensitive, breaking out in rashes in small bumps, especially all over my face. This remained until after delivery, along with melasma, the “mask of pregnancy,” as they call it. This is a darkening of the skin pigments, which occurred in areas on my face. It has faded somewhat over time. Also, I developed severe GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), and had to take medicine for that. My veins became very difficult to stick for the IV’s, and the nurses struggled every time to find new places to stick me, even my ankles, feet, and head. Once, a substitute nurse tried to stick the IV in a vein on the inside of my wrist. She missed and hit a nerve with the needle and the pain almost sent me to the floor as I cried out. James was there watching, and when he saw the pain I was in, he nearly fainted himself and they had to break one of those ammonia sticks and wave it under his nose to revive him! So, I guess there is something to that whole “sympathy pain” theory. The drug pump for the Zofran was administered in my thigh. I was able to change those sites myself – until my legs became so hardened from the drug that they actually turned black and were hard as rocks. The needles would not go in. So, the last couple months of the pregnancy we had to administer that into my stomach. And yes, it soon became black and hardened from all of the sticks and the buildup of the medicine. It took months for all of that to heal. We went in every other week for ultrasounds throughout the rest of the pregnancy. I believe we had a total of eighteen ultrasounds by the end of it. This was to ensure that the baby was continuing to grow, despite the fact that I was continuing to deteriorate. It seems to be true, that babies will take what they need to survive in utero, thankfully! Little One continued to thrive and grow, and I continued to remain at peace about his health, resting in the assurance that God had given me. I just knew he would be fine. The support we continued to receive throughout it all was phenomenal! Friends, family, church members…everyone supported us with prayer, visits, gifts, and many meals for James. I learned so much from this experience. I learned how important a phone call is, just to check on someone when they are sick. I learned that in difficult times it is best to just do something – send a card, call, visit, send a meal, or even just a note to say that you are praying. EVERY SINGLE CONTACT meant the world to me. I knew that we needed prayer – and that was what I coveted most. We were blessed with an abundance of love and care from others, and I will NEVER forget it! As we were finally approaching the end of the pregnancy, I was becoming very weak. It seemed like new maladies were happening to me every day, and it was getting difficult to find ways to safely treat each one without the worry of how it could affect the baby. So, my ob/gyn made the decision to induce the delivery one week before my due date, which was December 11th. So, on December 3rd, we drove into the hospital parking lot, nervous and excited. This was the day that we would meet Little One, Aaron Marshall Holmes. I could not wait to hold that child in my arms and never let him go! My ob/gyn wanted my delivery to be perfect, after all that I had been through, so he made sure that everyone that he wanted was available and in the hospital that day. He even called in his favorite nurse of all time, who had just retired, to be my nurse throughout the delivery. And she was an absolute saint! She was with us every step of the way, reassuring me, tending to every need. The only bad spot of the day occurred when I met with the nurse anesthetist for the epidural. He had no bedside manner whatsoever. He wouldn’t even look me in the eyes as he explained the procedure. His attitude was “cocky” and uncaring, and I could tell that James didn’t like him immediately. After all of the excellent care we had received up to this point, this guy stood out in dark contrast. We tried to explain to him about the HG, about how I had remained extremely dehydrated throughout pregnancy and had lost so much weight, but he just waved that off with a “yeah, yeah” wave of the hand, not listening. I’m sure he was thinking, “Whoopie, morning sickness, heard it before lady.” The final straw was when he pulled out a piece of paper and said, “You’ll need to sign this because there is always a risk that you could die under anesthesia.” And then he actually tossed the piece of paper onto my stomach. The nurse standing by my bedside stood there with her mouth open, obviously mortified by his behavior. Again, James’ fists clinched up, but I just shook my head at him…let’s just get this over with, I thought. The epidural was heavenly for a while, as the pain of the contractions became pretty much nonexistent. However, something strange started happening. My arms began to get tingly. Then, I couldn’t feel my legs. I was unable to move or speak, and the next thing we knew, the nurses were going crazy. All of the sudden there were about ten workers in my room. My blood pressure was dropping, my heart rate was extremely low. I heard them call for a crash cart, and then someone said they needed to take the baby immediately. They began to prepare the OR for an emergency cesarean. I couldn’t focus on anything, everything was going black… My nurse, my wonderful nurse, jumped up on the bed with me and screamed for another nurse to help her. She kept flipping me back and forth, over and over. I think they administered something via the IV or by a shot… Suddenly, everything began to reverse. My heart rate and blood pressure started rising, and I started coming around…the emergency surgery was not necessary. Apparently, the nurse anesthetist had given me too large a dosage of the epidural drugs. He had not taken into account my severe dehydration and everything I had been through. The actual anesthesiologist was called in to make sure everything would go smoothly from that point on. The nurse anesthetist completely changed his tune and came in to check on us about every fifteen minutes from that point on. He was completely apologetic and humbled, and I actually felt very sorry for him. I think he learned a huge lesson that day, and I can only hope that it served to make him a better health practitioner in the future. So, moving right along, Baby Aaron didn’t wait too much longer to make his appearance. And when he decided to finally come, he did so quickly – my mother and mother-in-law left the room when it was time to push, and they had not even made it down the hallway before they heard him crying! And he was perfect! This beautiful baby boy, who had been through so much, who had put us through so much – he was here and he was perfect! I just couldn’t believe it! And yet I could. God had given me His perfect peace throughout the pregnancy, and He continues to do so today, ten years later.
Amazingly, AS SOON as Aaron was born, I was back to my old self… a “self” I hadn’t known for almost ten months! I was finally able to eat anything I wanted, and I wanted a salad right away. Healing took some time, but it didn’t matter. I was totally absorbed in learning to care for this small human being that God had entrusted to us. We were scared to death as we took him home, of course. Why were they trusting us with this baby all by ourselves??? But again, God provides – somehow He just equips parents, especially those who seek Him and His guidance.
So, it took five more years before we were willing to attempt to go through pregnancy again, and even at that point we weren’t really “trying” – it was a surprise! I had recently been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and was seeking treatment from a reproductive endocrinologist to deal with that, hopefully to reverse the symptoms in preparation for another pregnancy. One of the treatments they try on you is metformin, to help with metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic state). It turns out that metformin is also given as a fertility drug. So surprise! And we were happy, because truth be told, after all we’d been through with pregnancy number one, I’m not sure I would have ever really made the effort to “try” again on my own. God just moved things along for us, thankfully! And yes, I had HG again. And yes, it was horrible, just like the last time. I lost 40 pounds, again. I remember thinking at the beginning of my second pregnancy that at least I knew that this baby would probably also turn out completely healthy – it was in God’s hands. However, what I hadn’t anticipated was how emotionally difficult it would be to miss out on almost an entire year of Aaron’s life… while he was four, turning five…his wonderful pre-school year, I missed almost everything. It was incredibly difficult, and it sent me into a state of depression at times throughout the year. I believe that was even more difficult than the physical sickness I was going through. But, again, the Lord saw us through, and we were blessed once again with a very healthy, perfect baby boy, William Bryant Holmes. And he is Aaron’s complete opposite…funny how that happens.
But, there would be no more children after Will. I am also Rh negative (yeah, the weirdness never ends), which means that I had to have the Rhogam shots after each pregnancy because my boys were not. I don’t understand all of the facts about this, but apparently the risks increase for each pregnancy if this happens, and the doctors told me that chances are if I became pregnant again, that baby would most likely have to go through blood transfusions in utero, because our blood systems would be incompatible and my body would reject it and not be able to support it in pregnancy. I have a friend that had this happen during her third pregnancy. The doctors had warned her it could happen, and had advised her not to risk another pregnancy. But they did, and they had to travel to Duke several times throughout her pregnancy for in utero blood transfusions. It was a very scary process, very high risk. There was simply no way we could go through this, take this risk. The chance of survival for the baby would be minimal, especially if I were going through HG again, too. We’ve discussed adoption over the years, but William has been a much more, shall we say, “demanding” child than Aaron, so we’ve had to focus our energies on raising him and Aaron. And, we aren’t getting any younger – we’re both in our mid-forties now. Adoption isn’t always an option for “older” parents. However, we are open to whatever path the Lord leads us on!
I’ve shared this story because I remember how terrifying this experience was, and I remember what it was like to feel so alone, so helpless, not knowing or understanding what was happening. I hope that this story will maybe help someone else who is going through Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or anything that is “unknown” or “scary”… I hope that it will give them hope, and that they will realize that they are NEVER alone. The Lord is with you always. No matter what the circumstance. No matter what the outcome. God is with you. There is hope. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7