The Duchess of Cambridge recently announced her second pregnancy. Earlier than I imagine she wanted to but she has Hyperemesis Gravidarum so it’s impossible to hide. I recently read an article about it and was flabbergasted by the amount of misinformed people who saw it as an opportunity to call her names and say she is using it as an excuse not to do her royal duties.
The truth is if you have not experienced this debilitating illness then you cannot possibly begin to understand how it makes you feel. It takes over your life, you can’t eat, you feel nauseous constantly, you can’t keep water down, you become dangerously dehydrated and scared for the health of your baby (and indeed yourself). Most women suffering from it end up in hospital a few times during their pregnancy to rehydrate on a drip.
When I fell pregnant in 2010 I was surprised and delighted. I had no idea what lay in store for me over the course of the following months.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 5 weeks pregnant and very suddenly felt sick. Things I usually loved tasted funny and I went completely off food. Sounds like normal pregnancy sickness I hear the doubters saying to themselves as they read this but it doesn’t stop there. Another couple of weeks in and I couldn’t even drink water without throwing up. Add in a huge amount of catarrh that was constantly blocking my nose and throat and the result was unbearable. It was difficult to concentrate on anything else and I felt weak and constantly exhausted.
Another week in and I had been sick so many times I ripped my oesophagus. I remember panicking the first time I threw up blood. I can’t imagine there is ever a time you throw up blood and don’t worry but when you are pregnant it sends all sorts of scary messages to your brain.
One of the worst things about Hyperemesis Gravidarum is the number of people who don’t understand the illness and think you are over reacting. “you are pregnant, not ill”, “my friend had morning sickness and she just got on with it”, just a couple of the highly irritating things that people say to you. In particular it seems to be women who have had babies and breezed through their pregnancies.
By week 9 I was admitted to hospital to be put on a drip as the level of ketones in my urine was too high (when your body breaks down fat, rather than glucose, for energy your body produces poisonous acidic called ketones). I remember lying in the ward wondering if it would ever end. There was no space for me in the regular wards so I was in the labour ward listening to lots of women going through labour. I felt like a fraud. I didn’t even have a bump yet.
I had an early scan at 9 weeks to see if it was twins. Apparently Hyperemesis Gravidarum is statistically more common in twin pregnancies. Now don’t get me wrong, twins would have been a blessing but I was already scared about bringing one baby into the world and full of worry about how to properly look after a newborn. All the normal anxieties of a first time Mum – on top of throwing up every 2 minutes. Thankfully it was just one baby.
My Mum and Dad came to visit me in hospital and before they arrived they asked if I wanted anything. I remember distinctly craving tropical fruit juice and asked them to bring some. I thought about drinking that juice from the time I spoke to them on the phone until the moment they arrived. I was so dehydrated, tropical juice sounded like the best thing ever. I took that drink and downed the whole bottle. For about 30 seconds it was wonderful, such a relief. Cold, refreshing and tasty. Of course, it promptly came right back up again, however that brief relief from the relentless feeling of sickness was very welcome. Short lived but good.
After being released from hospital I continued to struggle day to day. I carried a bowl around with me everywhere I went as the overwhelming urge to be sick could hit me at any moment. It didn’t take long for me to be dehydrated again and I ended up back in hospital. This time it was New Years Eve but celebrating was the last thing on my mind.
I remember being advised that the sickness would go away at week 12. This came and went and every single day I would wake up hoping that that was the day it would ease. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is like an endurance test. Everyone I knew recommended different things to help ease the sickness. Ginger tea, fresh ginger, rich tea biscuits, ginger ale, boiled sweets, you name it I tried it. The truth is absolutely nothing actually helps but you try anything and everything because you are desperate. The doctors prescribed 2 lots of anti sickness tablets for me, which I took every day until the day I gave birth.
Fortunately for me this was my first child and so I did not have other kids to look after at the same time. I do not know how mums cope. I could get straight into bed after work and sleep as much as possible. The only time I didn’t feel sick was when I was asleep so I would lie down every opportunity I got. I guess the Duchess of Cambridge will be lucky this way. I am sure she has a whole team of people to help with George while she rests.
I woke up one day (around week 19) and felt marginally better. I was still sick every single day but not constantly and I was able to keep some of my food down. This got better as the weeks rolled on and then the cravings kicked in big time and I wanted to eat carbs all the time. I think my body began to make up for lost eating time. In the first 5 months of my pregnancy I lost 2 stone and by the time I was due I had put that back on plus an additional 3 stone. It really was a physical (and mental) rollercoaster.
People tend to say to you “It will all be worth it in the end” and “just remember this is all for a reason” and its sounds clichéd but it’s so very true. The moment my daughter Elodie was born I felt a tremendous amount of love for her and all the sickness and suffering I had felt drained away. Physically, as soon as the baby was out the nauseous feeling that had hovered over me for 9 months completely disappeared. It was a difficult and sometimes unbearable journey but the result was worth every second.
I hope by writing my story I can shed a little light on severe morning sickness. It will be worth it even if it makes just one person stop and think before they write something unfounded (and well down right mean) about the condition. I for one hope the Duchess of Cambridge feel’s better soon and can enjoy the rest of her pregnancy.