As of today I am 8 weeks pregnant with our fifth child. At first, I believed that I was not going to be sick….and I wasn’t. However, a little over a week ago I began feeling that old familiar feeling…that swampy, greenish, and stagnant gurgle in my tummy. Beloved morning sickness I have not missed you one bit, but if you are the price I must pay for another beautiful baby, then I will gladly suffer you one more time. I must say that I hate the term morning sickness. This kind of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy can happen at any time; morning, noon, or night. And often times it happens all day and night for sufferers of severe NVP (Nausea & Vomiting in Pregnancy).
I tried really hard to avoid another yucky first trimester (although with my last pregnancy the monster sickness stuck around until my sixth month). I have tried magnesium, milk thistle, dandelion, protein every hour to two hours, naps, B6, stomach enzymes, no sugar, no fried, no simple carbs, swimming, and mind exercises. Although I would like to try acupuncture, I am also a little reluctant. Maybe I should. I think after six pregnancies, (our fourth pregnancy ended in miscarriage) I have finally made peace with the fact that I just get extremely sick when I am pregnant. It could be worse though. I read a horrific story about a woman who terminated her pregnancy at nine weeks because she could not take it. Her condition…. hyperemesis gravidarum. This type of NVP is debilitating, and I have been there. I sympathize with this woman’s pain, and I do understand her torment. I can only imagine her desperation, and it brings tears to my eyes.
Walking, moving, light, touch, smells, noise, pictures of food, thinking about what I could eat, all have made me vomit in the past. My fifth pregnancy was spent on the bathroom floor and in a dark room my husband called, “the cave.” This pregnancy is turning out not to be so bad. I am feeling horrible, but no compulsive vomiting or dehydration. So far, I have been able to eat a few things and drink in small sips, and this is a huge improvement. I will take it. Medication has been my saving grace. Zofran and Unisom do help me function. They are not a cure, but they do offer some relief.
One thing that I struggle with during this time is managing my home. Most days I am able to get dressed and at least keep the kitchen and laundry going at a snail’s pace. Some days I am unable to do the smallest of tasks. I find that if I rest and remain calm, my sickness is manageable But, I do not get many things accomplished. I cry sometimes because I am so sick and unavailable. Guilt can really get a foothold on me. My husband and children take good care of me. I know this is hard on my family, and their gentleness humbles me. Ours is a story of evolution. With the first pregnancy, I do not think my husband was prepared for the level of stress that my NVP caused. I can gratefully say, that with this pregnancy he is not trying to fix me, and he is not upset, he is just trying to be there for me. And that is all a person can do who suffers alongside someone with severe pregnancy sickness. Extreme kindness and patience is what the mommy suffering needs most of all.
Isolation, guilt, anger, and depression only intensify my sickness. Some days I wonder how I will make it to the end of the day, and the dread of another morning makes falling asleep bitter sweet. I try to stay in the moment and not project what tomorrow will bring, but sometimes it is difficult. I know that me getting pregnant again is hard to understand for those who watch me suffer. I just love babies and children, and I love them so much that I imagine that this is all worth it. Is it? Ask me when it is all over. I have four beautiful, amazing, and delightful daughters. When I watch my three year old bounce around this house, her own little great person, a whiff of happiness overcomes me. My heart is full because of my family, and I guess I have just always thought that this suffering does not compare to the joy my children bring. Each one is full of life, and the world is a beautiful place because they are here. Life is a wonderful thing.
Today, I remind myself that this too will pass, and in the end I will hold a beautiful new life in my arms, and all the suffering will fade in the light that this new human being will bring to our family.
Some Ideas for surviving severe NVP:
Do your research.
If you can manage it, find out all you can about your condition. NVP and hyperemesis gravidarum are not in your head. They are real and they deserve a serious approach. I have found that information decreases anxiety and it helps to know that I am not alone. Try these great resources.
Make sure you find a cooperative doctor.
I cannot stress this enough!! If your current doctor or midwife is not understanding, find a new one. This is crucial.
Ask for help
It is essential to stay calm and relaxed during this time. If a dirty house and unhappy children stress you, then ask those closest to you for help. A dear friend came to my house and cooked up a bunch of freezer meals. My neighbor lets my kiddos come over and play to have some fun. I find that if my kids are out being kids and not stuck in the house with a sick mommy I feel better. Husbands have to help, there is no getting around it. Its hard to let my husband do the job that I love to do, but I cannot do anything about it. Grocery shopping, cleaning toilets, putting kiddos to bed, laundry, it all falls to him at this time. Do not be ashamed that you cannot do the smallest of tasks. It is hard, but you must let it all go and just rest. If you really want some ice chips, but walking to the kitchen seems impossible, ask someone to bring you some.
Lay quietly in a dark cool room.
Light and sound can trigger nausea. This may seem impossible if you have little ones running around as I do. Call a friend and ask them to take the kids for the day. Let an older sibling occupy the littles while you hibernate. Let hubby take them out for a couple of hours. Complete quiet really does help me settle down and rest, even if its just for an hour or two.
Breathe deeply several times a day.
Deep relaxing breaths while meditating on something that makes me happy, or praying helps calm my nerves and my stomach.
Use mouthwash instead of toothpaste.
Keeping my mouth clean and free of that metal taste really helps.
Do not stress about prenatal vitamins.
Clear this with your doctor or midwife first.
Take folic acid by itself and a prenatal vitamin without iron.
If you are really concerned about your baby’s health taking the folic acid will at least ensure that you are doing something. When I am this sick I can hardly imagine that my baby is getting what it needs. My doctor reassures me that everything will be ok, but I worry. Taking the folic acid is good for baby and for my peace of mind. However, there have been times, like right now, where I do not take any supplements at all.
Drink with a straw.
This helps bypass the taste buds and cuts down on swallowing air. I find that I can sip this way pretty much all the time, tiny sips are better than no liquid at all.
Try a cold protein shake.
It is a horrible thing to be starving and repulsed by food at the same time. Again using a straw, I drink a protein shake twice a day. Sometimes I throw it up, but sometimes it stays down, and it makes all the difference.
If something sounds good to eat or drink, partake. Eat as much or drink as much of that thing as you like.
No matter what it is!!! Even junk food. Don’t let anyone (not even you) make you feel bad about eating what you can, and I stress can. If you can eat or drink it, do it.
When liquids are not an option try ice or popsicles.
I put ice under my tongue, one tiny piece at a time. This can be exhausting, but worth it. Popsicles are not so bad coming back up, so I have always thought they were worth the risk. Sometimes I eat two or three.
Avoid hot baths and showers.
This is something that I hate. I love a hot shower, especially when I feel nasty from all the throwing up. However, extreme heat can throw me into a tailspin as quick as anything. Try tepid baths and showers.
Ask for medication from your doctor or midwife.
Do not be afraid of anti-emetic drugs. I hated taking them at first, and sometimes I feel guilt about all the meds. However, my sanity is important also, and if my doctor assures me a medication is safe, I have decided to trust. Taking care of myself is important, but it is hard to think of that when all I want to do is take care of the baby.
Some may work, maybe not. Just some things to help, but not cure.
Do not be angry if none of these suggestions bring relief. It is quite possible that they will not. And expect that what works today may fail you tomorrow. Coping with severe NVP is a frustrating task. People who give you advice are just trying to ease your suffering, possibly not understanding the full scope and magnitude of this condition. I have learned to keep to myself during this time and not solicit advice from those who have little knowledge of my circumstances. This is not normal morning sickness, and crackers don’t help (but if they do keep eating them). But, I do love and appreciate my friends and family for there concern, and I feel terrible that they too feel helpless.
Cry with someone, talk with someone you trust, and know that you are not alone.