It is difficult to maintain a smile when you spend days hugging the porcelain bowl, puking your guts out. That is how life was during my pregnancy. I had a severe case of the rare Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) condition which was diagnosed at 6 weeks, meaning that I would have all day vomiting, nausea and hyper-salivation, until late into the third trimester.
There is the normal morning sickness which about 70 per cent of women go through, then there is the torturous HG which only about 1 to 2 per cent of pregnant women are afflicted with. Unfortunately, I happened (together with the Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge) to fall into this minority.
I spent days curled up in bed sick. If I wasn’t crying, I would probably be lying on the bathroom floor throwing up violently. I willed myself to die.
Pregnancy as I had been told is supposed to be one the most beautiful experience in a woman’s life, mine was the opposite. The sickness had turned my life into a complete nightmare. I was living in Denmark, away from the familiar Kenyan food that could have worked for me during this crazy phase. I only had my partner to look after me, and there was only so much he could do; between dashing me to the ER, rubbing my back as I violently threw up, bearing the brunt of my emotional outbursts, boiling potatoes or peeling raw carrots to snack on (those were the only two things that I could chow).
HG had a snowball effect on my emotions, taking me through prenatal depression, misophonia, hallucinations and reclusion. I was unpredictable, depressed and very unhappy. My pregnancy seemed to last forever with very little reprieve from the crazy illness that was slowly driving me over the edge. My social life and career had also come to a standstill. HG meant that I was unable to perform my regular, daily routine(s) due to the exacerbated nausea and vomiting.
People often told me that pregnancy is neither a disease nor is morning sickness. Others demised the experience as something that could be relieved by licking ash, snacking on ginger biscuits, relaxing or drinking water. Obviously, they had no idea how it felt to be pushed to the wall by an illness that I could not understand or control. I was slipping fast into severe prenatal depression. My Partner was desperate to do everything and anything for my well-being. I remember crying so hard, wishing that somebody out there would understand, empathize, or reassure me that I wasn’t crazy, feigning (hallucinating) a sickness in the hopes of building up a pity party. I had lost 10 per cent of my body weight and was borderline anemic, and dehydrated.
Inevitably, at the end of my First Trimester, my partner (now husband) and I decided that I needed to return to my mother in Kenya, surround myself with people and foods that were familiar, and let her nurse me back to emotional and physical health. This move helped me get on a local diet that saw my failing weighing stabilize. However, having a long distance relationship coupled with HG had a reverse effect on our relationship, and took us through a true baptism of fire. The monstrous HG had distorted my perception of life and turned me in this mean, depressed, angry and sarcastic woman. Those dealing with me had to do so as if they were walking on eggshells. I was unpredictable and totally recluse. I hated the depression, it felt like however hard I tried to fight it; I would just sink further into its dark abyss. There were days when I would not draw the curtains or leave my bedroom. My emotions were made worse when people I considered as confidants literally turned their backs on me. Perhaps I had become unbearable and hard to deal with. Not many people are aware of HG and how easily it can lead a pregnant woman into prenatal and post-natal depression.
HG also meant that I was overly sensitive to smell and scent, and could not bear stepping into the kitchen to fix myself anything to eat. The smell of frying onions would drive me over the edge. Nevertheless, my mother selflessly ensured that I always had something to eat, and would feed, wash my face or feet whenever I was too weak to do it myself.
What got me through the tough days was focusing on the fact that ‘this too shall pass.’ It surely did, by the 8th month of my pregnancy the HG had begun to ebb out and I could enjoy the things that once made me happy, like eating without having to throw up. I had read of women who had terminated their pregnancies due to the unbearable effects of HG, the thought never crossed my mind because in spite on the dark days I knew that motherhood was my destiny. I had to brave on to the end.Desperate for an extended support system, I turned to Jasmine, an online friend, who had gone through HG with her first pregnancy; she made for a very good counselor and listener during my dark days. A Facebook support group for pregnant women also provided good distraction when I was feeling particularly low and out of touch with reality. Reading and interacting with mothers who had gone through similar or different, but equally challenging situations helped me to slowly come out of my shell, and fight prenatal depression.
Thankfully, labour and birthing our Son wiped away all the nightmares of HG. I chose to develop selective amnesia for all the dark days that I went through with my pregnancy. Holding his newborn fragile body in my arms made up for all the torment. I didn’t sleep much either on our first night because I stayed up, staring at him, in-love, wondering is he all mine! Taking care of him, dealing with the tear-jerking effects of improper latching, engorged breasts, sleepless nights, sore nipples, receiving unsolicited advice from friends, family, or strangers , and the bewildering world of first time motherhood has all been a breeze in comparison. Chances are that I will go through HG with any other pregnancy that I carry, but the beauty of seeing the life that comes from this experience is worth all the pain, all the agony.
This Story was published in the Daily Nation *hard-copy and online version*
Powered by Facebook Comments