HG Made Me a Better Mom

Art by HG survivor, Brenda Louese Wagner/
Art by HG survivor, Brenda Louese Wagner

I know I talk a lot about HG. Particularly here, here, and here. But, you have to understand, having Hyperemesis Gravidarum changed my life. It changed me. Even before I got that first positive pregnancy test, I had so many ideas about what I wanted my pregnancy, labor and delivery to be like. I was excited to have that beautiful glowing skin, exercising, taking my pre-natal vitamins, staying hydrated and having a nice round belly. I was going to be a sexy preggo. I was going to labor at home and was looking forward to easing my labor pains in a warm bath. Then I’d head to the hospital for my all natural labor and delivery, where I would listen to Iron & Wine on a homemade playlist and I certainly wouldn’t tear. I was going to walk out of L&D  into the recovery room on my own two feet. Just like Dr. Bradley touted was a perk of using the Bradley method.  It was going to be beautiful.

Then came that phone call, and I ran to the bathroom and started retching uncontrollably. Non-stop puking followed close on the heels of dizzying nausea. It had begun.

Ophelia Grace
Ophelia Grace

My first HG pregnancy went undiagnosed. In 2005, most diagnoses were made by high-risk specialists. I was going to a family doctor. He handled the situation incredibly well given that my condition was outside his realm of practice. He prescribed Phenergan, which knocked me out, but wasn’t strong enough to keep me from vomiting 24/7. I tried to work throughout my pregnancy.  I used up all my paid leave calling in and when I was there, I spent most of my time vomiting into store bags behind the safety of my stock room door (the bathroom was too far away) and when I did emerge, I was ash white and often sent home by my manager. But I had health insurance with my work, so I muscled through, thankful for my gracious HR representative. My first baby was born at 43 weeks. We don’t know why. My dates were solid, she came out with super dry, peeling skin,  clearly overdue. My labor was Pitocin induced without pain-killers, in other words, my L&D was excruciatingly painful, causing beyond average trauma. But there Ophelia was with 10 fingers and 10 toes. A perfect 7lbs 10oz. The vomiting stopped immediately. I looked up at my husband, daughter in my arms, and in that sacrosanct moment exclaimed, “I could totally do that again.”

My husband, Ben, and Mira Lorne
My husband, Ben, and Mira Lorne

In 2008, we did. After two years of fighting with secondary infertility, and one minor surgery to correct the problem, I was pregnant again. At 7 weeks along, my husband took me to a quick care facility. After waiting for an hour, faint and fighting not to vomit in the lobby, the doctor told me that it was just morning sickness again (he didn’t even do any tests) and sent me home. I thought I was just a wimp, that women went through this all the time and, as demonstrated by my first pregnancy, if I just suffered through, everything would be ok. A week later, I saw my doctor for a routine OB appointment. She immediately sent me to Labor and Delivery for iv Zofran, rehydration, and an ultrasound. I was severely dehydrated after weeks of merciless vomiting and being unable to keep down even tablespoons of tepid water. I could barely walk. They brought in the ultrasound machine and we all held our breath. They found a cute little lima bean with a strong heartbeat. I got to hear my baby’s heart at only 8 weeks along! From there on in, I was on a strict Zofran (32mg a day), Unisom and Reglan regimen. Before she was born, this baby had a 30K dollar price tag. Zofran was so expensive back then! I went into labor naturally at 41 weeks. It was a very fast labor, managed with iv painkillers. They laid Mira on my chest and I held her, in awe of what had just taken place. She lifted her head and looked me in the eye before glancing around the room. “Hey world!” she seemed to be saying. She was 7lbs 12oz, 10 fingers, 10 toes, and at 2 weeks old, she was rolling over.

Jude Bennett
Jude Bennett, born November 13th 😉

In 2010, my husband took me on a date for Valentine’s Day. We had fajitas, margaritas and a very good time. Despite that day being “safe” by NFP standards, that Valentines’ day memento lasted for the next 9 months. I prayed and prayed and prayed that this time, my pregnancy would be normal. My husband was several years into his career, we owned a snazzy, 2 bedroom condo in a good area and I wasn’t ready for another pregnancy. We didn’t have space, the time or the energy. But God had a better plan and nausea and vomiting cycle started, more vicious than ever. I was too sick to watch Ophelia and Mira this time. They weren’t safe in my care because I couldn’t get off the sofa. Ben’s mom flew out from Idaho to where we lived, in Maryland. We had decided that moving back to Idaho where we could be near family was the best option. Mom C accompanied the girls and I back to Idaho where we stayed with Ben’s parents for several months while Ben wrapped up his contract at work and packed up our lives. We ended up losing our condo in a short sale. Before we left Maryland, knowing we probably wouldn’t have insurance for the rest of my pregnancy, my OB loaded me up with 8 months worth of prescriptions for Zofran and orders to continue with Unisom and add Benadryl to my daily medications. She taught me how to monitor my ketones at home and gave me strict instructions to go the ER if things got bad.  We had a midwife for the rest of the pregnancy. I was responsible for the HG aspect of my care. Midwives are perfect for uncomplicated pregnancies, but this was wasn’t normal at all. I was so thankful that my previous OB had taken care to diagnose my condition and set me up with what I needed to sustain the pregnancy. Jude was born at 41 weeks, after an all natural, overwhelming, 1-hour long labor and delivery. Despite his pregnancy having been my most hyperemetically severe, he was a chunky monkey weighing in at 8lbs 11oz.

Liam Daniel Baines and I
Liam Daniel Baines and I

My husband and I weren’t sure if we should have any more kids. HG had taken its toll on my body and my mind. I had started developing symptoms of PTSD during Jude’s pregnancy. We were counseling with our pastor. I got on the pill and doubled down by using barrier methods as well. In 2011, we went to our family church camp where we rented a cabin. Jude was only 7 months old and I was still breastfeeding. We were relaxed and happy. I came home pregnant with our fourth and final child. It was scary.  I wasn’t ready to go through HG again. I was at an all time low of my adult weight. I hadn’t recovered from the last pregnancy yet. The then nausea and puking started all over again, worse than ever before. I dipped far below a healthy weight long before my first OB appointment. I saw a high-risk specialist this time and he knew exactly how to manage my care. It was such a relief not to be responsible for that aspect of my pregnancy. I was on bedrest the whole time, my family was taken care of by generous friends, family, and our church. I was hospitalized for pre-term labor in my 3rd trimester. Apologetically, my OB prescribed more medications to keep my son inside me until he was strong enough to live outside me — even though that meant the NVP would continue until then. Liam was born at 38 weeks. I had a blissful epidural, slowing my labor down a couple hours. He was 8lbs 3oz and was, just as all my other children were, perfectly happy and healthy.

It’s been four years since I experienced Hyperemesis Gravidarum. While my body will probably never recover from the toll my pregnancies took on it, I’m stronger than ever before. Being weak has made me strong. Hyperemesis has made me a better mom than I would have been.

HG has made me a better mom by teaching me:

  • To hold my ideas of motherhood loosely.
  • To not to be afraid of suffering, sickness and the unknown.
  • How to have peace in the midst of a storm.
  • That our plans don’t guarantee a good outcome.
  • That being all natural isn’t always a good idea.
  • That the doctors are rarely “the enemy”.
  • That our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • That every pregnancy, every heartbeat, every baby is a gift.
  • I’ve learned that even the best-laid plans will not derail God’s better plan.
  • That God is good.
  • I am certain that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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