I am so excited to announce that I am pregnant with baby #4 and while this journey was not easy I believe that I need to share my story in order to bring awareness to something called, Hyperemesis Gravidarum in pregnancy. You can see more about my pregnancy announcement in that post including how we celebrated me feeling a bit better. I know I am so incredibly blessed to be pregnant and am excited about the little one, I want to also share the harder side of pregnancy that isn’t talked about and is not as common as the blissful side. I went through a lot of pain and suffering these past few months.
Please note that this post is very long, very honest, and does not showcase the beautiful side of pregnancy. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is part of my journey as a mother and a woman. It was this part of my pregnancies that helped me become Fun With Mama and so I embrace it. That journey allowed me to touch and help children, parents, and teachers around the world.
I have been very scared to be this vulnerable and share my HG pregnancy story, but I think it is so important to know that there are woman who suffer from HG and to give you a perspective on what it feels like. While I may have mild Hyperemesis Gravidarum in comparison to some, mine was still a life-changing condition that rendered me unable to do basic daily actions and look after my own self.
Please read this with an open mind.
What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
HG is a pregnancy disease that may cause weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, and debility due to severe nausea and/or vomiting. It can be life-threatening for some woman and should be carefully watched by a doctor.
You can learn more about the differences between Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Morning sickness here.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum Symptoms
- Constant debilitating nausea
- Excess saliva production
- Loss of appetite
- Losing weight (5-15% of body weight)
- Inability to keep liquid down
- Vomiting often
You can check out my pregnancy announcement video here:
Deciding to have a fourth child
I’ve debated throughout the years whether we should add one more child to our family. Living through Diyanah’s last’s was so hard. The last bath in the baby tub, the last time breastfeeding a baby, the last time we’d co-sleep, there were just too many lasts. As each last time came my heart would think, is this really my last?
I absolutely loved every single part of watching my children growing up. From the beautiful scent and cuddle of a newborn, attachment parenting, babywearing, doing kids activities with them, and now seeing them transition into teenagers.
The reason we debated so much on having another child was not because of financial reasons or finding difficulty in actually raising a little one. It was because of my extremely challenging pregnancies that come with something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This renders me useless and fighting for my life, health and sanity throughout my pregnancy.
When Diyanah turned 3 (she is now 7), this is when I really began to wonder if I should have another. I love big families and busy households. I love when everyone is in and out of the house all day with the laughter of cousins playing together. I enjoy the magical sounds of a little one singing in the background echoing throughout the walls and halls of my home. There is nowhere I would rather be than sitting at home with my children, cuddling them, and spending quality time with them.
For as long as I could remember, I always wanted to be a mom. In High School, we had to stand up and say what we wanted to be in class… I proudly stood up and said, “I want to be a mom.” While I do have a degree in financial management and believe education is important, that’s not what my heart called to. It called to be a mother. This is where my happiest moments are found.
We debated throughout the years, should we? Shouldn’t we? Why do we always come back to this every few months? My heart constantly told me to have another one even when the logical side of my brain told me about my hardship.
If it wasn’t for hard pregnancies, I’d definitely have one more. If we were still living in South Africa, I’d have one more. It’s easier to raise children in South Africa because you can always hire help. These were the things we told ourselves, but living in America was not a good enough excuse or going to stop me from having another child to love, nor is my hard pregnancies.
My husband and I discussed this so much throughout the years and finally came to a realization. Diyanah’s pregnancy was by far the hardest. I threw up multiple times a day and suffered a lot during my pregnancy, but I received far more than 9 months of joy after she was born.
So far, I received 7 years of absolute joy. Diyanah is such a little diva, a fashionista, a bucket full of smiles and laughter and if you ask me today if her pregnancy was worth it, I’d tell you YES, every single second of it. My first and second child are also worth every single second of my pain. But that’s the beauty of hindsight, right? You know exactly who and what you are fighting for.
Deciding to have another child was something I needed to talk to my husband about. Living in America, it’s not easy to find and hire help here. If I was to fall pregnant, my health and my daily responsibilities would fall on my husband who already had a ton of responsibilities himself.
Whereas, when I was living in South Africa I could hire extra help for myself, for my house cleaning, and as a way to entertain my children while I was not able to. Add in extra responsibilities placed on parents in a COVID world and this would make the challenge harder. Being pregnant during the summer would be good since the kids wouldn’t need me for their schooling responsibilities and help.
We knew to expect Hyperemesis Gravidarum in my next pregnancy since I had it in all my pregnancies. The first three-four months of all my pregnancies were generally spent with me throwing up a lot and bedridden most of that time.
Due to COVID, my husband was able to be home a lot more and that would be the right time to have another if we chose to. We hired a housekeeper to help with the load and the potential pregnancy and once my husband was ready, we jumped at the chance, left it in God’s hands, and fell pregnant quickly.
I prayed so much that the sickness in this pregnancy would be less and that I would get to enjoy the bliss of pregnancy that so many talk about.
I also braced for impact. I tried to prepare and pre-cook foods to make the potential Hyperemesis easier on my family.
I truly wanted nothing more than to enjoy the beauty of being pregnant. I wanted to enjoy having that special bond with my child living inside of me, hoping I’d be able to exercise, stay fit and be as normal as possible too.
You can find our dresses here:
Hyperemesis Gravidarum began
I found out I was pregnant at 10DPO (10 days post ovulation) and I told my children about the pregnancy really early. I would have preferred not to tell them until later, since I know the first trimester of pregnancy is filled with uncertainty. However, I knew that my sickness would automatically reveal my pregnancy to them and I wanted to prep and get this special time with them. Here we are the day I told them about my pregnancy:
At 5 weeks I was celebrating the high of pregnancy, the excitement, the dreams of an exciting future with another little one to love. I remember singing, dancing, and celebrating that I hadn’t gotten sick yet. I felt completely normal. Would this be the first time that I wouldn’t have Hyperemesis Gravidarum? I mean, I was older now and living in a different country. The water was different. I clung to any hope that maybe I’d finally be okay!
Then, 5 weeks and 1 day happened. I woke up that morning feeling weird like I was a little off, I could no longer stand for more than a minute or two and intense nausea would engulf my entire being. Words and speaking made me nauseous and feel terrible. I threw up in my mouth constantly and acid reflux started. Walking made me feel like I was going to pass out. I felt like my heart rate would suddenly shoot up and I’d quickly have to sit otherwise I’d see stars. Suddenly, it was as if I was living all my past pregnancies first trimester again and that I was deep into a year of nausea already. I almost hyperventilated.
It felt like I was nauseous for weeks even though it had just begun. Panic ensued and my anxiety started (I think I had PTSD that resurfaced from my previous pregnancies.)
From this moment until around week 17 I spent almost all my time laying in bed or sitting on the couch, miserable.
Do you know what it feels like to wake up in the morning sad and with anxiety that you have to get through another day? I wish I could have slept away my world at that point until delivery day. I would try to sleep in each morning as much as I could but there’s only so much time that you can spend sleeping. Every second awake was torture. Sometimes I’d escape in my dreams and feel like I was normal in my dreams. Other nights, I’d be woken up by nausea and acid reflux.
I stopped driving from week 5 until week 17 too. I didn’t have the ability to stand, walk, carry conversations, think, etc. so there was no way that I was going to get into a car and attempt to drive. My husband had to take over EVERYTHING. I was literally now a person who needed looking after and was completely unable to look after anyone else, even myself. Luckily, with COVID we weren’t leaving the house much anyway.
By 6 weeks my scent began to overpower my whole being. I could smell tomatoes or onions being cut or cooked from downstairs and it could immediately send me running into the bathroom throwing up. Popcorn (my son’s favorite) could no longer be made or eaten in my home. I could no longer eat the foods I liked and only wanted to eat bland foods with no spice and minimal taste. I was not hungry, although my stomach ached for food. Bland chicken appeased my stomach. My kids diets had to change because there could be no scent of food at all in my home.
Worst of all, I couldn’t stand to be around people too. The scent of people including my children who, even though had just showered, would make me feel like I was smelling flesh. Apparently, flesh has a smell and it can make you throw up too.
As a mother who is CONSTANTLY cuddling and hugging my children, this was a very emotional hardship for me. I needed their hugs and their love, yet my body was rejecting anything and everything possible.
HG is already such a lonely disease and then top it off with my body rejecting my loved ones from coming near me to soothe me made it so much worse.
Weeks later my youngest cried to my husband asking him why mom doesn’t want anyone around her. Now that I am well enough, I cuddle and kiss her every chance I get, to make up for those few weeks where we were forced apart by sickness and health. The smell of human beings and flesh around people lasted until around 15 weeks. My son and middle child also found this separation from the normal version of me difficult.
I also completely stopped talking on the phone or even out loud to my children and even to my mother. I was able to converse with them through text message typing, and even then I didn’t have the patience to make sure my words were spelled correctly. My words even on text took a lot of effort so I couldn’t respond to most text messages.
When my children would talk to me the most I could say was “mmmmm….” , “MmmHmmm”, and “MmmmMmmm”. I didn’t have the energy to say more and the nausea was all-encompassing, words and conversation would increase my nausea.
I began canceling all phone calls and sending them to voicemail, no matter how important. I just could not speak or answer.
I could no longer brush my hair, it took too much energy. During these tough few weeks, if I had the ability to, I would have cut all my hair off because it just became such a hard thing to manage. I was losing clumps of hair daily and my hair was so tangled due to the lack of brushing. Who would have thought that a simple thing like brushing your hair could actually turn into something hard to do?
When you have hyperemesis gravidarum, you realize how many things you take for granted. Like conversations, talking, singing, brushing your hair, reading a book, drinking water, and just being you!
Showering proved to be a great challenge too. I made sure only to shower when my husband was back home, set the water to warm, and stay in there no longer than 3 minutes. If I felt faint, I knew my husband was there to help me. By the 3 minute mark, I would immediately start seeing stars and become nauseous and have to run out and sit down ASAP. Showering could induce vomiting.
By 7 weeks I lost the ability to drink water. It was the peak of our summer, it was so hot in the house and I remember feeling SO dry and SO thirsty, but water was an enemy. A few sips of water and I would end up throwing up anything I had in my stomach. I remember during those few weeks feeling so dehydrated that I went to bed one night unsure of whether I would actually be able to wake up the next morning or if something would happen to me in the middle of the night. Add a COVID world and the hesitation to go to the emergency room to get an IV drip was another barrier. I’d have to get an IV drip and be in the emergency room all by myself without my husband’s support with the potential of exposing myself to COVID. So I didn’t go there.
When I lived in South Africa, by this point my Obgyn would immediately put me on an IV drip for dehydration. But I wasn’t in South Africa anymore. I was in America with a new Obgyn who did not know or understand my history. I was also in the middle of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and unable to make choices and decisions. They pushed heavily on me to take medication for my nausea, but if I could fight through it without the medication why subject myself and my child to the risk of medication?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum has varying degrees of how it affects each person. Each person and each pregnancy can have it different. You have to weigh how sick you are, against the need for medication. If I was being admitted to the emergency room constantly and literally keeping nothing down and losing too much weight, I would take the medication. But because I had lost around 5 pounds and was able to hold some food down (if I didn’t drink any water) then I felt it was okay to not take the medication at this time. For many HG moms, you need to take the medication and I don’t disagree with that. Mine wasn’t severe enough to warrant the need to.
I needed to find a substitute for water and started to drink Coca Cola so that I was getting some type of fluid in me. Coca Cola didn’t work in my previous pregnancies, but for this one it did. I’d drink 1-2 cans a day. I don’t even like Coca-Cola and I think that I won’t ever be able to drink it after this pregnancy, but it kept me hydrated to a point and allowed me to eat a little too.
We tried coconut water, Gatorade, flavored water, flavored drinks, and nothing worked. Coca Cola was the only fluid that stayed down for these first few weeks.
Around week 10 or 11 I realized that I could do very short phone conversations if I had candy in my mouth while speaking. I lived on eating Gobstoppers throughout the day to get me through extreme nausea. My husband went out and bought so many different candies but I didn’t know which ones my body would be able to take and keep down. It seemed that Gobstoppers was the only thing that helped. This is also how I could answer short phone conversations that I needed to have.
During my first 17 weeks of pregnancy I was very strict on my family staying home. We practiced very strict COVID precautions and we did not see anyone during those first few weeks, not even my parents. The reason for this was that I truly believed that if I got COVID during the time I was sick with HG, I would die. I just didn’t see how I could take on anymore sickness. The coughing would definitely make me throw up and I knew to protect myself, I needed to make sure we didn’t add any other health problems. This was very lonely for my children to be secluded from my family and also to not have me.
I lived during those weeks to get through each hour, then to get through the day.
When you have HG you feel trapped, claustrophobic, and suffocated. I wore a lot of loose clothing to help me feel less constricted. I cried a lot thinking I would never get through it and that nausea would never go away. My husband constantly reminded me that it would go away after the pregnancy and that I’d be back to normal.
My kids became a bit more responsible and started helping each other out more. My 11-year-old daughter completely took on helping with my 6/7-year-old daughter to ease my load.
Around 15 weeks my insurance company finally approved home health meaning that I could finally get a home IV drip, but on condition that I take the medicine that my insurance company wanted me to take. This would require me to inject something into my stomach daily but at this point, I knew that my nausea would begin to ease, that I was just 2-3 weeks away from getting through the worst of it. I didn’t want to get stuck on medication for the rest of my pregnancy (because it can be hard to come off the anti-nausea medication once you are on it) so I didn’t take the home health. My out of pocket for this would have been $2,500 and I would lose the ability to decide which medicines I do and don’t take.
During my pregnancy, I realized that healthcare in America is really not good. Everything is dependent on insurance companies and doctors here are so overworked that they cannot provide support to you when you really need it. I do believe my health care in South Africa during my pregnancies was A LOT better. I had a doctor I could call when I was scared of dehydration and I wouldn’t have to wait hours or days for a response. I will be honest, I felt like a nuisance to my doctor. They wanted me to take medication and if I didn’t take the medication I was seen as a problematic patient who was giving them more work than was necessary.
In South Africa my doctor was always willing to discuss what I was comfortable with.
If I wasn’t comfortable with something, my doctor would quickly adjust and find a different solution. Unfortunately, that just was not possible here in America.
Around 17 weeks my nausea began to lessen. I am currently 23 weeks and while I still battle with daily nausea and acid reflux, it is nowhere near as terrible as what it was those first few weeks. Each day it eases off a little more, but I know that for me… I will feel this way until I deliver my baby.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Guilt
The heartbreaking guilt from having HG in pregnancy will last far longer than just during your pregnancy.
You feel guilty for not being a good mom to your children during that period of time, at not being able to offer your usual comfort, at needing to be selfish about what you can and can’t do in order to just survive. There’s guilt because you no longer can kiss your children goodnight and tuck them in at night, nor attempt to do your share of your daily responsibilities.
You feel guilty for not being a good spouse by no longer providing comfort and support in conversations. You feel like a bad daughter to your parents because you disappeared and a terrible friend because you can’t reply to text messages.
You also feel embarrassed as a woman because your body is not handling your pregnancy well. Those around me told me that even thinking that is nonsense and not true, that nobody thinks that… but in your heart you feel judged.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum Support
Your support structure is so important when you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I would not have survived without my support structure (in the literal sense). I am tearing up just writing this and reflecting on the people that were there for me extra while I went through so much hardship.
My husband, my love, my rock, my strength, my arms, my hands, my voice, my masseuse. He was all of that for me. My husband, he did EVERYTHING. He would help me stand and he would help me walk. He made sure I had food in my stomach and catered to what I could and could not eat. He did all our grocery runs while making sure he showered and cleaned any germs from our COVID world when he returned. He even learned how to cook at this time and he even cooked outside so as not to cause me more vomiting and sickness. He also became mom and dad to my kids during this time and I realize how lucky I am to have such a supportive spouse. During my baby delivery, I cannot wait for him to hold our little one first because he worked so hard to bring her into our world.
My son would come to my bedroom each morning asking me if there was anything he could bring me to eat before I stood up. He made sure I had fluid in me by bringing me Coca Cola and trying to figure out different drinks I could try. He also made sure to rub my legs all the time, which is where I felt a lot of pain from being in bed so much.
My 11 year old daughter took on a lot of the responsibilities of my 7-year-old daughter including helping her get ready each morning, reading her books, and basically being like a mom to her with hugs and extra doting. She also provided a lot of emotional support. My girls became even closer.
My 7-year-old always made sure to rub my belly each night with oil to keep the stretch marks away while I could not do that for myself. She also makes sure to put lip balm on my lips to alleviate my dry lips in pregnancy. She also made sure I was stocked with hair ties whenever I’d throw up or hold my hair back when I didn’t have one as I threw up.
When I look back on the time that I was at my worst, I appreciate my family and my kids so much.
You truly realize who is there for you as a person when you have nothing to give back and when you are in need. You also grow closer to these people who have supported you through thick and thin.
Why I started Fun With Mama
Did you know, that the reason I started the Fun With Mama blog was because of my intense guilt from my pregnancy Hyperemesis Gravidarum after the birth of my second child? I had a lot of mom guilt that I wasn’t able to be my usual mom self to my son (first child) during my pregnancy with his sister. He was used to having a hands on mom that could read him books each night, cuddled him, babywore him, and then suddenly his mama had suddenly changed and became sickly. So six weeks after my daughter was born, I began Fun With Mama. I started doing fun activities with him as a special just me and him time so that he had my undivided attention and so that I could make up for the time that I was sick.
We do not choose to feel sick
I remember how terrible I felt when a friend once told me (in my first or second pregnancy) that it was all in my mind. That I am choosing to look at my pregnancy like this. Trust me, in my subsequent pregnancies I went in even more positive and determined to be positive… but alas, the Hyperemesis Gravidarum kicked in and there was nothing I could do.
A comment like that is rude and really makes a woman with Hyperemesis Gravidarum feel like less of a woman. We all want happy blissful pregnancies, we want to enjoy the miracle of growing life within us. The sickness is NOT just in our minds. Why would we want to be sick? Why would we tell our bodies to get sick? A comment like this is really ignorant.
Sure, you may have had morning sickness and ginger and crackers helped you, but that’s not going to help me.
HG cannot be solved by having ginger and crackers. If it were that easy, we’d all be stocked up on ginger and crackers and our husband and children would be making sure we get those crackers down.
How I am right now
I am a lot better than I was, and while I still suffer with nausea and acid reflux. I am now able to walk around, I am able to converse, laugh and giggle with my children. I am able to cuddle my children and watch movies with them. They can read books to me. I can drive again. I can sing in the car again.
I can pick up the phone and call my mom, brother, and friends to touch base and talk. I can have conversations again with real words!
I still have food aversions (I cannot eat my normal indian food nor smell it being cooked). I still battle with acid reflux, nausea, and weakness. I am still unable to fulfill most responsibilities but I am trying each and every day. I am able to organize in bits and pieces. I can now brush my hair again and even put on makeup! (I enjoyed the Sephora sale!)
I will return to complete normal once my pregnancy is complete.
Now that I am feeling a bit better, I get to appreciate the brighter side of pregnancy. I get to feel my little one kick and enjoy these pregnancy moments a little more. I can dance around a little as I rub my belly letting this little one know how much I fought for her to be in my life and how much I am looking forward to meeting her.
Pregnancy is the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, each day is a battle. I have had 3 C-sections and another one is planned for this little one. Does the C-section scare me? No. My C-section means that in a few hours, I will begin to feel normal again. I can handle the physical pain of a C-section. That pain is just body pain. The pain of Hyperemesis Gravidarum isn’t just physical, it is emotional, it is health wise, it’s in your stomach and lives in your mouth, nose, and throat every single second of every single day.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum doesn’t just affect the pregnant woman going through the pregnancy, it affects those around her too. It is something that requires a lot of support and a lot of help for the pregnant woman and her family.
I am a warrior.
I made it through a very difficult and dark time of my life and while I haven’t passed the finish line yet, I am almost there…
I chose to have another child knowing that I would go through this pain. Children are a blessing and I cannot wait to meet my little one IA.
Did you know that over my adult lifetime I have spent a full year on complete bedrest with extreme nausea/Hyperemesis Gravidarum? (3 months of each pregnancy x 4.) I am strong, so very strong even though I may not feel like I am.
Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers.
And to my unborn child, we already love you so much. We cannot wait to meet you iA and I know that you are worth every second of the challenge to get you here. You are so wanted and so very loved.