Home » My painful journey through hyperemesis gravidarum: The Kenyan mum

My painful journey through hyperemesis gravidarum: The Kenyan mum

by Wanjiku Wanderi - Jorgensen


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, diagnosed at six weeks. I had all day vomiting, nausea and hypersalivation, until late into the third trimester.

There is the typical morning sickness which about 70 per cent of women go through; then there is the torturous hyperemesis gravidarum 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.

Not your average morning sickness

Pregnancy, as I had been told, is supposed to be one the most beautiful experience in a woman’s life, mine was the opposite. Hyperemesis gravidarum 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) 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 and I decided that I needed to return to Kenya. I needed a familiar support system and food. Also, my mother gracefully nursed me back to health.

This move helped me get on a local diet that saw my failing weighing stabilise. However, having a long distance relationship coupled with hyperemesis gravidarum had a reverse effect on our relationship, and took us through a true baptism of fire.

Hyperemesis gravidarum emotional upheaval

The monstrous hyperemesis gravidarum 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.

Support system

Desperate for an extended support system, I turned to Jasmine, an online friend, who had gone through hyperemesis gravidarum with her first pregnancy; she made for a very good counselor and listener during my dark days.

A hyperemesis gravidarum Facebook support group for pregnant women also provided a 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 hyperemesis gravidarum. 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! I am taking care of him, dealing with the tear-jerking effects of improper latching.

Engorged breasts. Sleepless nights. Sore nipples, and unsolicited advice, and the bewildering world of first-time motherhood has all been a breeze in comparison.

The chances are that I will go through hyperemesis gravidarum 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*




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Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 3:56 am

That's exactly what am going thro right now. Woooooooi

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 4:52 am

Went throug the same thing from 4 weeks to the time i gave birth..Was in hospital for the whole nine months. gave birth to a beutiful baby gal…..en now she has a sister. the pain was worth it

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 6:09 am

Thanks for sharing gal, am going through a tough emotional turmoil and i dont even know whats causing it(am very financially comfortable happily married and have a cheerful boy)…..but reading what you have gone through am determined to carry on until i conquer!

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 6:56 am

Hats off to you and thank God you made it. I almost can relate to some of the things you went through. Mine hasn't been smooth sailing either, but I also stay focused on the baby that I will soon be holding. Thansk for sharing your story.

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 7:02 am

story of my life…i went through all the symptoms written in the book till the last day needless to say she was overdue by 1 week and had to go for induction,not to mention that labor was even worse that i had to be rushed to theater immediately i cant even imagine getting pregnant again. baby gal now 8 months she is my life my everything, i love her to bits… but for now another pregnancy is a no no. i get traumatized at the thot, so was my hubby. am happy with one baby.

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 7:17 am

Waw… I also suffered from HG… las t time i vomitted was in hospital before giving birth.
It was terrible! As you said, people dont understand you…
I kept working as I have a very high responsability job but it was really hectic! I had my own toilet in office, reserved for me 🙂
I would ask all the meetings to happen in my office as I could not even sit in the car? the worst was when i vomitted while I was driving . Almost got an accident, when I stopped on the road side, people would not even help but laugh at me… As you, I was not home…. I was in africa (not in Kenya by then) and people seeing a white lady vomitting in her car is so funny, right?!?! She of coure does not need help…. she is amuzungu, right?! I ws so mad. BUt anyway, I finally made it and seeing my 2 years old boy, I'm happy…. It took me 2 years to recover!!!
I'm now pregnant for the 2nd one… and I'm scaaaared!!! only a few weeks, so I just have nauseas at the moment and i pray hard that people encouraging me by saying that all pregnancies are different are right…. WE will see… But thank you for sharing, because you are so true people don't understand!!!!

Wambui Kamau December 4, 2013 - 8:33 am

Thank you so much for this article, I have a friend who went through the same, but she had no idea that she had HG, till we advised her to go to a certain hospital. People thought that she was exaggerating her pregnancy symptoms… this will surely help many women (me as well) detect the condition.

Sunshine December 4, 2013 - 10:07 am

What a heartfelt blog! Judy write more!! And don't kill me but my wish for you is a much happier second pregnancy.. The kind that lends weight to your hips and glow to your cheeks <3:-P

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 10:56 am

waaah thats a had one we should thank God for us who had a very smooth pregnancy

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 1:28 pm

Wow am touched thanx for sharing I had no idea what HG is until now.I had a neighbour who was going through thee same thing unti the third last day,n ofcoz we could not understand coz it was the third kid. Thought she wanted attention.waa thanx alot

kenyanbridetobe December 4, 2013 - 2:14 pm

Wow! It's remarkable what a mother's love can endure for the sake of her child. I'm truly humbled..if it were me,I'm not sure I would have survived it all. I thank God for you,because someone,somewhere is reading this and will draw strength and find the will to hang in there. God's blessings to Fadhili and your entire family. Most of all,enjoy your God-given role of motherhood and treasure it. Hugs xxx

NyaGem December 4, 2013 - 2:15 pm

This is amazing!!!!!! thank you for writing this article, it only through other people that you can learn

keshi December 4, 2013 - 3:36 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience…..its been an eye opener.

lyndah kanyereha December 4, 2013 - 4:16 pm

thank you for not giving up what i can tell you is that God will never give you something that you can not handle so no matter how bad it may seem He knows you would make it.be so blessed you and the bundle of joy.

Lydia N. December 4, 2013 - 5:53 pm

ooooooh my god…this is exactly what i went through…exactly…only i was in norway and had to go back home to kenya…my pregnancy was horrible…worse still i was judged for hating being pregnant…we were overdue…so i was induced and we had shoulder distortia because my son was heavy that in itself was a horrible experience..the birth plan we had in place went out the window…i went through depression…once my son came he slowly but surely pulled me right out of that black hole…he is worth it…im glad someone else can identify with what i went through…you are awesome….thank you and baraka to your houshold

BLN December 4, 2013 - 5:54 pm

Hi Wanjiku, Connect with us at http://www.babylovenetwork.com

Lyse N Debruyne December 4, 2013 - 5:55 pm

Hi wanjiku,i am soooooooooooooooooo happy to read about you story, i went through the same but without the support you get,only from my husband,but i can tell with the peopple talking somedays he was wondering if he where right to support me. Even my mother who got 9kids couldn't understand. By the time i was leaving in ivory cost like you i went back home. Unfortunatly didn't get the support i needed,expecteed from both my mother and friends. My depression become worst and worst… Thank God when i was 7months my husband got a job in my country and come joining me. Can i please have a copy of your story to share,to tell my friends i wasn't crazy!!! God bless u abondently and bless you mother,son and partner

Mumbi Stafford December 4, 2013 - 6:15 pm

Wanjiku, this is my story.everything you wrote was what I also went through and the same time with Kate as well.the boiling potatoes and carrots was what I did too.the only difference is that you were lucky to go to your mum.was so hard for me to think I would sit in the plane for so many hrs from Australia as I always locked myself in the bedroom unless I was going to the hospital.I like the way you say,we might go through it again but yes with the angels to see and call us mums,it's all worth it!thanks for sharing as I know I was never alone.hugs to you and baby

Susan H. December 4, 2013 - 6:17 pm

Wanjiku my life story just different names! I had it for both my pregnancies and for my second I had to go on bed rest at 29 weeks for 5 weeks and then he was born at 34 weeks weighing 4 pounds! It was an emotional roller coaster especially when you are far way in a foreign land! But I thank God for my kids and I would do it again! Bless you and your precious family!

Solange Fonfo December 4, 2013 - 6:51 pm

I can so relate with you . My pregnancy was a tough journey till i was 9 months and the birth i will never forget …am recovering nicely now though and enjoying every minute of it !

Shabirah Berntsen December 4, 2013 - 7:18 pm

Oh my dear that was too much. But you made it and i can imagine the joy you feel every day looking at your baby. My first pregnancy was close to that as I lost 10kgs. The 2nd pregnancy was so peaceful but made me worry every minute of it thinking I was going to loose my baby because I kept on having my menstrual cycle every month until 8 months. But by God's grace, the baby is a 3 months old healthy boy now

Anonymous December 4, 2013 - 9:28 pm

So glad to read this. I had a difficult one as well. Difference was I never wanted to be a mother so I just couldn't understand why I was going through all the torture. Worst still I had to pretend about all the excitement. Too many people (especially women) saying it's not a disease..I felt like crap! Decided to carry the pregnancy to term because of my love for my God who I felt, had abandoned me to the very last minute. Was induced on Saturday evening, laboured till Monday 4p.m. Then came my boy…I am so happy….it's unbelievable!

Anne Jones December 4, 2013 - 10:14 pm

Back in 1968 I too suffered HG with my first pregnancy. Like you, it lasted throughout the whole pregnancy. My weight dropped from 119 lbs pre-pregnancy weight to 110 lbs at 39 weeks and I was so anaemic that I had to have iron infusions. I was eternally grateful that my daughter decided to come just two days after my due date. The thought that I could have gone two weeks over the predicted date fills me with horror. She weighed in at a healthy 7 lbs.0 oz. . . none the worse for my experiences. They say that the memory fades but I didn't find that to be the case. The thought of another pregnancy filled me with horror and yet I couldn't bear the thought of my daughter being an only child. I conceived a second time . . . and this time had no sickness. Unfortunately, the pregnancy failed at 8 weeks. My next pregnancy in 1971 was plain sailing . . . totally trouble-free. I didn't have a single day's sickness throughout the whole pregnancy. I delivered another daughter . . . this time weighing in at a bumper 8 lbs 5 ozs. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with your first pregnancy. I hope you, like me, will have a better experience next time.

Anonymous December 5, 2013 - 12:41 am

Could we see the baby ? 🙂

Anonymous December 6, 2013 - 6:49 am

Wow! I can relate with you every step. Only difference with mine I had kidney failure due to dehydration. Were it not for my supportive partner, I dont think I would have pulled through it alone. It got to a point I was begging my doctor to terminate the pregnancy after convulsing for two days!! Am blessed to have had friends and loved ones who understood, though most did not quite understand what I was going through. Am due in two weeks and still vomiting, but cant wait to hold my girl in my arms. Thanks for sharing and I hope one day HG will have a known cure.

Margie December 8, 2013 - 9:24 am

This is the first time I have ever heard of HG. I have never been pregnant but hope to have kids of my own some day. I hope one day to hold your baby as he looks so beautiful and full of life. This is a true inspiration!

Anonymous February 11, 2014 - 8:32 am

The first time i read this i brushed it aside. I am now seven weeks pregnant and i am so miserable. I am so sick and weak. I sleep through out the day

Salome August 17, 2014 - 9:37 pm

Thank you for your cover story on depression during pregnancy. I am also curious to read more about post-partum depression. I am sure it affects a lot of young mothers, yet we do not hear a lot about it.

jane wambui February 26, 2015 - 3:50 pm

a good read and inspirational. no one should ever be embarrased of motherhood.

Benon January 22, 2017 - 4:04 am

Today, codnsiering the fast chosen lifestyle that everyone is having, credit cards have a big demand in the economy. Persons coming from every area are using credit card and people who are not using the credit card have prepared to apply for even one. Thanks for spreading your ideas on credit cards.

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