Motherhood Mondays: Navigating HG When You're Not a Duchess

Monday, September 7, 2020



When pregnant with both of my kids, I experienced hyperemesis gravidarum, which is both Greek and Latin for "you will be confined to your bed for at least the first 4ish months of your pregnancy."  It's also known as "Kate Middleton disease", as my mom refers to it.  It's most commonly known as "HG."  You can call it any of the above, but do not call it "morning sickness."  Otherwise, I will be tempted to physically harm you.

That is to say, if this type of nausea relegated itself to the hours of 6am and Noon, I would have 100 more children.  No, really, we would be a non-Pentecostal Duggar family, and we wouldn't shame our daughters for showing their knees and shoulders, and our sons would grow up to make the word a safer place, not a scarier one!

I'm getting side-tracked here, huh.

The point is: it's not 'morning sickness' that's the issue.

It's the nauseous-24-hours-a-day, wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-vomit part that feels impossibly miserable.

And if you're wondering what causes it, don't ask me.  I thought maybe it was genetic, but after polling my sisters and mom and hearing their responses ("When I was pregnant with my first, I ate a Pop-Tart and threw up" or "Just eat a graham cracker, you'll be fine"), I realized there were no familial parallels to be drawn.

I was going to have to find solidarity outside of my family circle, in that case.  In talking to a small handful of friends who also experienced this in their pregnancies, as well as my own doctor, I quickly learned that most doctors won't prescribe you with anti-nausea medication until you're outside of the first trimester.  And that even when you can get access to drugs, "they'll take the edge of, but....they won't do much."  When I first realized this when pregnant with my oldest, I naively asked my doctor in response, "So, will I just go straight to the hospital to check in?"  It was a statement, not a question, articulated in the same tone as Phoebe Buffay when she asks Monica in Barbados, "Are you leaving the Supremes?"

I was, of course, mentally citing Kate Middleton's hyperemesis hospital stays as precedent.  She had to cancel all of her first (and some second) trimester appearances with at least one of her kids, I recalled, because she'd been hospitalized with HG.  I reflected on this and thought to myself, Well, at least there's some kind of relief there.  I won't have to go to work, and I can just lay in a hospital bed all day and have help standing up when I have to walk to the bathroom. Imagine my shock and outrage, then, when my doctor's nurse replied, "We can send you over there for an IV as much as you'd like, but it won't be an in-patient stay."  I've never regretted my commoner status so much as in that moment.

Worse than being withheld royal treatment, however, was the unexpected total deprivation of joy during those months.  I remember, during a particularly low point, Googling the terms "prenatal depression" and more specifically, "HG depression."  I stumbled upon a blog post about HG and quickly felt such camaraderie with the author, who had also been afflicted with the condition with her most recent pregnancy.  She described herself laying in bed one particularly bleak Easter afternoon, a 'throw-up bucket' atop the covers, while her 3 children squealed with giddy delight outside; they were hunting eggs with just their dad, as she was wholly incapacitated.  I specifically remember she wrote in the post, "Under no other circumstances would I ever miss an Easter egg hunt with my children.  This was so unlike me."  I was oddly comforted by this, immediately recalling a dozen recent memories in which I had behaved in a way least like myself; yelling at my nieces for waking me up too early from a nap, dreading my own toddler's wake-up from a nap, trying to enjoy a glass of water and having to choke back vomit just at the taste(lessness) of it.

With both of these pregnancies, I consistently vowed: never again!  It's not worth it!  It's too much!  I can't go on! Whose idea was this anyway?

Or, in the words of George Bailey a la It's a Wonderful Life: "Why do we have to have all these kids?!"

And then it happens, usually the instant they're born.  They are placed upon my chest and all memory of suffering escapes me.  It is so wondrously quick, it's almost comical.  Adversity?  What adversity?  Who said anything about mental anguish and physical torture?  When can I get pregnant again, anyway?  George Bailey had 4 kids - we probably should, too.

A single instant is all I need to erase those long, dark months.  To strike all memories of depression and hopelessness from the record.  To negate any recollection of doom and gloom.  To nullify any boycott of future pregnancy, once campaigned for with the utmost of sincerity.

If I ever get pregnant again, may I land myself on this page, and rest assured in the reminder of this truth: it is worth it.  It's all worth it.



The months of darkness and tears and wanting to die, are totally, completely, 100% worth it, because they lead directly to this blissful moment, and all the moments thereafter.

They lead to Motherhood.

Maybe we'll end up with a Duggar-number of children after all....

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