Monday, December 29, 2014

What is Hyperemesis?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Have you heard of it? Simply put, it is extreme morning sickness. It's not the food aversions, waves of nausea that come and go, or occasional vomiting in the first trimester like "average" morning sickness.
It is non-stop, debilitating nausea to the point where you're afraid to move, speak over a whisper, burp, hiccup, sneeze, cough, or exhale with too much vigor because it very well may trigger a bout of violent and uncontrollable vomiting or dry heaving, no matter if there's a single drop of food or liquid in your stomach.
It is a feeling of extreme dizziness like motion sickness where the slightest movement(either your own body, your head, a TV, computer screen, or creature in front of you) triggers intense vertigo and nausea to the point that you sometimes just sit with your eyes closed and try not to move while breathing very shallow and slowly for what seems like hours just hoping to hold it together.
It is being triggered by the slightest smells no matter how good or how bad into instant and uncontrollable vomiting and heaving, no matter how full or empty your stomach is.
It is being constantly so physically weak from the exhaustion of all the fore-mentioned that you literally shake uncontrollably due to fatigue, and fall asleep mid-sentence if you dare to speak while sitting down, and your memory is non-existent because your brain is overwhelmed and struggling just to function much less remember anything. Nearly every day you want to just collapse and sob at how awful you feel, but you force yourself to hold back because the tears and snot rolling down the back of your throat will trigger more forceful vomiting and heaving episodes.
In short- every day is a literal struggle to survive. You don't know nausea until you've had HG, and most people(thank God) will never experience this debilitating level of it. With my last pregnancy I was in literal kidney failure by 9 weeks pregnant from the constant dehydration due to the constant vomiting and heaving.
The treatment? Giving birth. Don't suggest ginger ale, crackers, Emetrol, or fresh mango to some one with HG. If they have the energy they may well punch you. Don't think we haven't tried every single thing repeatedly in hopes of getting some relief. The one remedy that helps some: Zofran. A medication made for chemo patients to make them physically unable to vomit. It works, but it does nothing for every single other bit of the HG symptoms, like the debilitating nausea, vertigo, headaches, etc, and it has a boatload of horrible side effects it adds to the party.
For some with HG there are bright spots. The occasional hour or two in a day where the symptoms are not completely overwhelming and debilitating, and they can get up, move, and struggle to do everything in their face that is screaming for attention in the art of survival. Those brief moments, if they happen for HG sufferers, are filled with dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, pay bills, or popping their head into email or the like and saying, 'Hey, I'm alive!' because the minuscule human connection makes us feel slightly further from deaths door step. Or maybe they take five minutes while listening to their six-year-old reading from his history text to write a quick blog letting others know exactly what hell they're enduring, in hopes that some day, somewhere, some one might stumble across the post and it will give them some compassion and patience for some one in their life dealing with HG.
What we most often DO NOT think of are weeks-old commitments we've failed to fulfill, phone calls we should have made to honor birthdays we forgot in the hellish haze, or anything else people around us may think seems obvious but have completely dropped by the way side of survival for us and our families, even in those bright spots.
So if you know some one with HG, be kind. Be understanding. Be compassionate. Maybe even mentally acknowledge that you have no concept of what they're actually dealing with, and give them some extra grace. This is not 'bad morning sickness.' This is like extreme motion sickness and food poisoning all rolled into one that lasts anywhere from 4 to 9 months straight, 24 hours a day.
If you're one of the few who knows an HG sufferer and HAS been that sweet, grace-filled, supportive, loving, patient presence in their lives, we thank you more than we have the strength to say in a year. You are few and far between. Just don't ever tell us to try ginger ale, saltines, or protein. Ever. Because we've done it and thrown it all back up a thousand times over.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spilling the Tiny Beans

   A week ago yesterday we found out we're growing another human. Within hours we were telling the world. The overwhelming response was positive, but when people found out we were all of 4 weeks, 2 days pregnant they almost collectively gasped in surprise that we'd tell so early. It was a long discussed and purposeful choice.
   When we found out we were expecting our first, shocked doesn't quite cover how we felt. When I was 19 I'd had several procedures and told as a result there was a good chance I'd never conceive, and if I did I would likely miscarry shortly after getting a positive test. We were afraid, and everything we read said to wait until 12 weeks anyway, so aside from telling a couple of people very close to us, we waited. After a threatened miscarriage at 9 weeks that we recovered from, we started telling family close to us around 10 weeks, and the rest of the world around 12 weeks. The response was mixed. Most were very happy for us, but some in our lives were very, very negative toward us as young(21 and 22) newlyweds. Regardless, we were happy.
   When we found out we were expecting our second, our first was 13 months old, and again, we were shocked at the obvious birth control failure. This time we kept quiet until about 10 weeks for two reasons: One, we were in a very bad financial place and we felt really guilty for having such a slip-up when our finances were in such a bad place, and two, we'd had such negativity from some with number one that we couldn't imagine anything different with our second. When we finally announced the news we received joy from many, but still negativity from some, including several, "Are you going to keep it?" responses. That was shocking.
   When we found out we were expecting our third, we weren't too surprised. There'd been an 'oopsie' and I'd tested before I was even late. We waited until 9 weeks, though, because one of my sisters was pregnant and about to have a baby shower so we decided to wait until after then so as not to steal her thunder with friends and family. By the time we announced that one we started getting the, "Don't you know what causes that?" and "Have you ever heard of birth control?" lines. Firstly, I will just mention briefly here how disgusting, appalling, and rude those questions are- and yet so many seem to think they're funny or okay. Secondly, the people around us who knew us the best were thrilled with us and we chose to focus on their love and joy rather than the negativity.
   Now, number 4 was a complete shocker, even to my midwife who knows just how well we know about and use our birth control. We waited until 15 weeks to tell people except for those closest to us because one, my sister-in-law was pregnant and in her third trimester with her first, so we wanted to give her the limelight in the family. We could wait. Second, because we just didn't care to hear the garbage. We were shocked, but happy. We'd been sure our family was complete, but clearly God disagreed- and we were okay with that! When we announced #4 people either rolled their eyes and said nothing, or else rejoiced with us.

 Now let me tell you something about waiting to announce a pregnancy: It's exhausting. Like it or not, pregnant women are incredibly egocentric. We are growing a human and suddenly our every thought is consumed with this human-growing process, and all aspects of life go back to how it will affect the poppy seed-size human deep inside. When we have to hold those thoughts, ideas, musings, etc, in, as well as try to disguise the awful physical symptoms most of us feel, it is mentally and physically exhausting.
   Some would say, though, that it's worth it, because it's self-preservation. What if there's a miscarriage? Statistically speaking, one in four pregnancies will end in the first trimester. To have to say that you've lost the baby is more difficult and emotionally exhausting than keeping your human-growing obsessions under wraps. I don't disagree. But I also know a thing or two about this. Two months before number four was conceived, I had a miscarriage. We had only just realized I was late when I began miscarrying. It was a confusing situation, and difficult to emotionally process. We told no one but my two closest friends. My husband and I even had difficulty talking between the two of us. Then last December when number four was 9 months old and we'd only just moved to our new home here in Virginia, I'd had a suspicion, gotten a very faint line on a test, and two days later began to hemorrhage right in the middle of church. We hurried home and dealt with it alone. That time we talked about it. To each other, and to my family. It helped. That's when we decided that if we ever got pregnant again we wouldn't wait. We would share our joy with others, and enjoy the life we were given the privilege of having for as long as we had that gift.
   So last week, hours after getting our two positive tests, we called those closest to us, then made it Facebook official by giving #4 his first real haircut and posting a pic with a sign to see what people would notice first: the drastic haircut or the sign. Most people noticed both:

Who cares what the response has been? We're so grateful for the honor of being given another little life to cherish, no matter how long we have it here with us, that we wanted to share our joy. That said, it's gone pretty well. People are either happy for us or just internally shaking their heads in awe of our crazy. ;-) I'm not saying everyone should make the decision we made and tell the world right away. Clearly everyone's life experiences are going to shape their convictions on the matter, but we've received so many responses from people surprised that anyone would tell the world before they're 'out of danger,' so to speak, that we wanted to share why we did, in case it encourages anyone else, or just helps anyone understand our motivation.