My Battle with HG
My ears are ringing. My entire body is covered in that light sweat that comes just before you get sick. I can feel the nausea from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. My throat burns from the last time I vomited…and the time before that. My head is pounding as I sit before my toilet silently begging God to just cut me a break. And then, just before I get sick for the 8th time that day, a golf ball hits me in the head. Atlas has followed me into the bathroom and he’s armed and dangerous. I finish getting sick while dodging golf balls (that requires skill, my friends) and I lay on the floor to try & recover. The cold hard tile actually feels good against my back. As I lay on my bathroom floor, I remind God that I don’t have to carry this baby because in my current state, I feel He needs the reminder. I tell Him that I don’t have to deal with this sickness. If He doesn’t want to help me, I can help myself by having this pregnancy terminated. I remind God that I’ve already had HG. It’s time to give someone else a turn with it. Perhaps the girl who lives 5 minutes from her mother – she seems like a good candidate for this sickness. I am 1,000 miles away from my family and while that may only be a 3 hour plane ride away, I may as well be in Uganda because nobody is flying 3 hours up here to help me with my ‘morning sickness.’ But the reality is, I know in my heart I can’t have an abortion. I have prayed for this baby – so specifically. I want this baby. My husband desperately wants this baby. I’ve been told by doctors that since I’ve had HG for 2 pregnancies now, I can go ahead and assume I will most likely always battle this during pregnancy. That harsh reality burns in my mind. Standing between me and the baby I want is a dark road paved with sickness and isolation. And I already have a baby (the one currently throwing golf balls at me) and I can’t exactly care for him when my head is stuck in a toilet. I can’t make his meals when I feel too weak to get out of bed. I can’t read him a bedtime story if I end up in the hospital getting fluids to counteract the extreme vomiting like the doctors are suggesting. I believe in my heart God has a purpose for me and this baby I’m trying to grow, but I also believe He has given me way more than I could ever handle.
So there I was…laying on my bathroom floor, which oddly enough felt like rock bottom.
That’s where I was the last 2 months of 2014. I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) for nearly 8 weeks during this pregnancy. HG is unrelenting nausea and vomiting. It is not morning sickness. I repeat: It is not morning sickness. For weeks, I would get sick morning, noon and night (think upwards of 10 times a day). As in, I would wake up at 3am running to the bathroom to get sick. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I really couldn’t even drink water without feeling like I was going to puke. I lost 10 pounds. I stopped going to the grocery store. I stopped walking the dogs. I stopped playing outside with Atlas. I basically stopped living. And the only thing harder than the sickness was having people compare what I was going through to their morning sickness. I think HG is something people don’t understand unless they’ve walked through it, but if one more person asked me if I tried eating crackers before I got out of bed I thought I was going to blow up. When you have HG, it isn’t that certain foods make you sick. Everything makes you sick. Water makes you sick. The motion on the TV makes you sick. Noises make you sick. And that sickness isn’t confined to the morning hours. It really is so hard to explain and I think that coupled with the fact that we received zero outside help, resulted in me feeling incredibly isolated. Some of those closest to me had the audacity to question my faith in God when I opened up about just how alone I was feeling. Friends and family were quick to tell me to pray and trust in God to make me better, because let’s be honest – everyone wants to be the mouth of Jesus and that’s super easy advice to give. “Just pray your nausea away and trust God has a plan!” Very few people want to be the hands and feet of Jesus and actually take time out of their busy schedules to come watch your 15 month old while you sit in the hospital for 48 hours getting fluids because the reality is you can pray until you’re blue in the face but for whatever reason, God isn’t taking this sickness away right now so you need medical help.
Luckily, I married a really great man. When Dave saw I was really losing my grip during this pregnancy, he got me to join a support group for women who have suffered from HG. That support group saved my baby’s life. I was ready to have the pregnancy terminated before I began connecting with other women who have suffered from HG. I heard from women who suffered from HG for their entire pregnancy, but walked through 9 months of hell because they so desperately wanted their baby. I heard from women who fought HG through 2 pregnancies and when they realized they were going to have to walk through HG yet again, they opted to have their 3rd baby aborted. I wept over each story – & I rarely cry. But I could relate to these women. They all hurt. They all felt robbed in some way. Robbed of future children. Robbed of the child that should have been. While HG isn’t usually harmful to the baby, it is incredibly traumatic for the mother. It is a mind altering experience to be so sick for so long. As the stories of these women sank deep into my soul, I realized God had in fact given me a gift and while the packaging most certainly sucked (how’s that for honesty?) I wanted to fight for the gift He graciously gave me. I wanted to be a story of hope for other women…for my future baby. I wanted Atlas to know I fought hard so he could have a built-in best friend. I wanted Dave to have the second baby he deserved. I didn’t want my story to end with, “I just couldn’t fight it one more day” even though I felt that I seriously couldn’t fight the sickness one more day. So, as the weeks went on I sank further into the sickness, but as a family we somehow pressed on.
And for weeks, HG stole from me. It stole precious time that should have been dedicated to my husband, baby boy and dogs. It temporarily took some joy out of our home, which was increasingly difficult during the holiday season. Although, we ate Thanksgiving dinner in our pajamas due to my sickness and I think that is a tradition we will keep around forever.
The Bible says, “The thief does not come except to steal, kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and they may have it more abundantly.” I recited that verse several times during my fight against HG. That terrible sickness almost robbed me of my baby, but I believe God’s desire is to make my life more abundant by the addition of this precious child into our family. I pray the lives of others are made more abundant by knowing the person I hope my baby grows up to be. That thought fueled me to keep fighting. I’ve never had an abortion. I don’t even pretend to know the size of the hole that would have left in my heart. But since I have given birth to Atlas, I do know the love that is in my heart for him is bigger than anything I could imagine or express. The thought of forfeiting that kind of great love made me sick to my stomach and while the main reason I even considered an abortion was because I wasn’t able to care for Atlas, the driving force that kept me going through the blinding nausea was my love for Atlas. That makes total sense, right?
If we’re being honest, I don’t think I learned a lot from the weeks I suffered from HG. I’m not sure why I walked through that sickness with both my pregnancies. No big epiphanies happened. I learned I could do hard things, but delivering Atlas taught me that. I was reminded I married my perfect match when I married Dave and my love for him grew during that time. I was reminded what a wonderful gift health is, but the common cold may have been a sufficient teacher of that lesson. I never thought I would be the kind of person who would consider an abortion. I had that act reserved for the desperate teenager who wasn’t quite smart enough to foresee the consequences of their actions – not a happily married woman who wanted a baby. I used to judge women who got abortions. Not in a nasty “You’re going straight to Hell in a hand basket” sort of way, but in a “How could you do that?” sort of way. While I’m so thankful I fought to keep this baby I’m carrying, I hold no judgement for the woman who opted for a different route. Perhaps she didn’t have a husband cheering her on. Perhaps she too fought for her baby, until that last spark of hope burnt out and her world became too dark to see. Whatever a woman’s reason, it is now something I hear about and my first reaction is deep sympathy and then grace. And maybe that’s what God wanted to teach me through this? To give a little more grace? To others. To myself. We are all trying to live this life the best way we know how. Some of us are trying to live it perfectly because we are OCD and psycho. Sometimes even the cruelest actions can be fueled by sincere and good intentions. Maybe if we all judged less and loved more, people would be more open to seeking help when they find the light growing dim in their world.
I’m currently on a cocktail of prescriptions that my wonderful doctor prescribed me and those meds have been nothing short of a God send. I came off the medications about 2 weeks ago and ended up getting sick multiple times that day, so for now I am sticking with western medicine. The second trimester brought with it more energy too. It also brought with it all the same side effects of puberty. You know, acne, rabidly changing body, etc. But whatever. I’ll take the good with the bad. I’m walking dogs, laughing with my husband, chasing Atlas around, running, exercising and making meals again (I’m actually shoveling cookies in my mouth as I type this) and I couldn’t be more grateful. I honestly thank the Lord every time I get out my vacuum because I’m so grateful that I have the strength to serve my family by cleaning our house. When you are on bed rest for weeks, you miss the mundane chores of life. I know it sounds crazy, but I missed changing Atlas’ diapers (although, I could have done without the last one I changed tonight – like, whoa). I missed doing the dishes. I missed it all. Because those little tasks that I so often complain about actually make up my life as a wife and mom. Those little chores are some of the ways I let my family know, “I love you and I love caring for you.”
I can feel our baby move now and that is a gift that almost brings me to tears (but seriously, I rarely cry). The baby has a name, as we know the gender now, so in an amazing way our home already feels fuller. The movement of this baby is a daily reminder for me that we were meant to have life and have it more abundantly – but sometimes we have to fight tooth and nail for that life.
I wasn’t sure I would ever write about this because I am not proud of my reaction to HG. Admitting I considered an abortion isn’t something I care to broadcast. However, God has been leading me to share this for the last several weeks and I hope it is because this story can help someone out there. Maybe you are pregnant and suffering from HG and reading this and thinking, “I can’t do this.” I’ve been where you are and I’m here to remind you that God is seeking to give you life more abundantly, and while the packaging may look all wrong, I encourage you to fight for the life you’ve been given. Be a story of hope. Maybe you’re reading this and you’ve been judging a lot of people for things you can’t even begin to comprehend. I hope this encourages you to try a different approach – one that includes a lot more love and a bit more humility.
If you or someone you know is suffering from HG, I highly recommend you check out this for help and encouragement! And if you know someone who is suffering from HG, don’t try and comfort them with stories of how you survived your morning sickness. That will only lead to them visualizing ways to torture you.