Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)

Content warning: There is a lot of talk about vomiting, a few kinda gross pictures, and wayyy too many words (sorry, I’m really wordy sometimes). For those who don’t really want to read all 5000 words, I’ve put in bold the “highlights” so to speak, so you can skim through. 

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“Morning sickness is in your mind.”

“If you can’t handle morning sickness, you shouldn’t be a parent.”

“I would NEVER take zofran [a nausea medication] and risk HARMING MY BABY!”

“It’s not really that bad.”

“I HAVE HG and it’s not that bad.”

“If you would even consider getting an abortion for morning sickness/HG, you shouldn’t be on this earth.”*

*Note: I did not consider getting an abortion, but going through this experience did give me greater compassion for women who have unplanned & unwanted pregnancies and go through painful and difficult complications. Please read on to understand this better. 

These, and many more, were all things I heard from other women. Fortunately, most weren’t directed at me, but things I would see women write on my pregnancy apps. ((One of the many reasons I finally just deleted my pregnancy apps.) One of the most fascinating and sad parts of any pregnancy app I downloaded was how vicious and cruel women could be towards other women. Actually, I take that back. Not just women, but mothers. These fellow mothers were horrible to other women. And often it was because they had no compassion or willingness to understand another’s experience/issue/problem/etc OR because they felt the need to angrily criticize and shame anyone who was different or did things differently.)

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The Beginning

When we found out we were pregnant, it was the first day of a 15 day cruise. The first week was great! No nausea or sickness, no headaches, no crazy angry hormones, just a little extra sleepy. By the second week, things started going downhill, and fast. The nausea hit me hard. And soon vomiting followed. After a few days, I just opted to stay in bed most of the time and try to sleep or read. Anything to keep my mind off of how I was feeling. Jordan was convinced that once we got off the ship it would settle down. Being on the ship was miserable with all the rocking. And you should know I never, ever get motion sickness or sea sickness! So this was a new feeling for me!

The nausea and vomiting got to be too much for me, so I went to go see the ship doctor. The first time he gave me a few tablets of Zofran. A few days later, I was getting to the point of dehydration, so I went in again and the doctor gave me IV fluids.

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At the cruise medical center. It took three tries to get that IV needle in. Guess they don’t do it very often. That’s the only reason both my arms are bandaged. They ended up putting the IV in my hand, which actually hurt more.

After we got off the ship and arrived home, I quickly realized the nausea was not subsiding. It actually worsened. It became so awful, it got to a point of being debilitating. Getting medication became a nightmare. On the ship, they tried Zofran and that helped. But I learned about a study that came out that recommended against it* (see note below). I tried Diclegis and that helped for a few days before becoming ineffective. I went back to Zofran, and that soon became ineffective as well.

(Note: I did look up the actual study on Zofran birth defects. It was not a particularly well done study, the number of babies with birth defects was extremely low, and the findings aren’t particularly conclusive. It just suggests that Zofran might cause birth defects. There was no control group; they basically asked participants if they had taken Zofran and if their babies had birth defects. i.e. Not a great study)

Soon food would rarely stay down. I was so nauseated that I had to coach myself through the day. I would tell myself I could make it through the next 10 minutes, one hour, 3 hours. Sometimes, it was honestly through the next 30 seconds, it was so bad. A trash can with several liners became my new buddy. I carried that trash can with my everywhere for the next several months. (Not that I went many places. Usually my doctor’s office to beg for some kind of relief.)

I remember when we got home from our trip, my husband drove me to the Air Force base (which took about 35 minutes to drive there). We waited for my appointment to have the blood test to confirm I was pregnant. We waited for 1.5 hours because they didn’t call us back when they were supposed to, and then skipped over our name. In that time, I threw up two times. And the sucky thing about military hospitals is that you can’t go talk to someone. They won’t let you. And it makes you (and your military spouse) “look bad” if you’re “impatient” (*massive eye roll*). (We switched to Tricare Standard, so I could choose my own doctor and go to someone closer to our home.)

When I finally did get the blood test, they gave me a prescription for Diclegis and told me I could get it filled at the base pharmacy. So we drove over there and waited in the wrong line for 15 minutes and then in the correct line for 20 minutes. When I finally reached the counter, I was crying. I was so sick and desperate for something. Then I was told it would take another hour before the prescription would be filled. There was no point in going home of course because we’d have to turn back around to pick it up. Unfortunately, the relief from the medication didn’t last long.

I started sleeping in another room because I couldn’t handle the smell of our bedroom. I wouldn’t let Jordan cook or sleep near me because any kind of smells would make me feel sick. I wouldn’t even let him touch me for a long time because I felt so sick & anything could set me off and I’d start vomiting.

One time, I woke up to a viciously strong smell that permeated our entire house. My sense of smell was so incredibly strong that I felt like whatever Jordan had made was right next to me, even though it was downstairs. And it.smelled.horrible. I was so mad and poor Jordan had no idea what he’d done wrong. He was just trying to help. I actually cried because the smell made me feel so sick. I think it was some kind of lentil soup.

I visited the ER two more times for dehydration & to get fluids. Those visits were awful. Not only was I sick, but tired and uncomfortable. We waited hours to be seen. The first ER visit, they gave me IV fluids and Reglan (another nausea med). The Reglan did nothing. Before we were home, I was vomiting again (it was a 5 minute drive back).

When I say the nausea was debilitating, I don’t say that lightly. THERE ARE NOT WORDS to fully describe how awful it really was. I always tell my clients that the only way I’d not be there for the wedding is if I’m on my deathbed. I would have cancelled all my weddings. (I was very, very fortunate to not have to do that as we had moved to Vegas and I didn’t have any weddings booked from Nov-April.) I couldn’t listen to music or books, I couldn’t handle natural light, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t brush my teeth (GROSS I KNOW!). Most of the time, I couldn’t handle any light. I slept the majority of the day. And when I couldn’t sleep, I would lie in bed desperately praying to fall asleep. Because asleep was the only time I didn’t feel so sick.

I remember praying every day, asking God to take this away. It was too hard for me to handle. I promised that I wouldn’t complain about any other pregnancy symptom. Eventually, I stopped praying for that, and I started praying for help to make it through. I knew it wasn’t going away.

I remember feeling numerous times, how am I going to do this with more than one kid? Maybe we will only have one child. Maybe we’ll adopt. Maybe we’ll hire a surrogate. ANYTHING to make this to go away and never experience it again. (Remember when I wrote above about how this gave me greater compassion to women who considered or had an abortion due to pregnancy struggles? This was why. I never contemplated it myself, but in your darkest moments, you know what’s causing all that pain. And you know what will get rid of it.)

And then the vomiting. Oh the vomiting. It comes in stages. Stage One is self-reassurance — “You’re okay, you’re okay, you are ohhh-kay. Breathe.” *breath in, breath out.* Stage Two is demanding “Don’t you dare, YOU ARE FINE!!!” Stage Three is begging, “Please don’t, just please don’t.” Sometimes while crying. Stage Four is conceding to it and running to the nearest bathroom, trash can, plastic bag — anything.

The only words I can think of to really describe what it felt like when I vomited are violent, painful, hellish, disgusting, exhaustive. Throwing up was an exhaustive experience. It was physically painful (trust me, vomiting stomach acid several times throughout the day only makes your throat burn with more severity each time). And it gave my core a good workout. Well, a really disgusting workout that didn’t do much for my body except make me feel more sick.And once I started throwing up, it was near impossible to stop until I had expelled every possible thing from my stomach (including stomach acid).

And anything that came back up tasted like a vomit version of what I had just eaten or drank. I bet you had no idea that ice could taste like vomit-ice. Well, it can. It didn’t matter if it’d only been a few seconds, that’s how it always tasted. (And in case you were wondering here’s the Top 5 Worst things to throw up:

  1. Ice Cream – I still have nightmares about it. Imagine having to force your body to throw up an VERY thick milkshake. Your body struggles getting it out because it’s so thick, but it won’t stop trying until it’s out.
  2. Pickle Juice – Yeah, that was a bad idea all around, but in the beginning, I was desperately hungry for something, and pickles & pickle juice was the only thing I got access. That burned coming back up. 
  3. Buttered toast – ew. Just …. *shudders thinking about it*
  4. Sausages – I was feeling sooo good the day I ate these. And then not 20 minutes later they were coming back with a fiery vengence. Sausages scare me now.
  5. Popcorn – Noooooo, I LOVE POPCORN. It was horrible, just horrible expelling that from my body 😦
  6. *Bonus* Hospital jello – I am forever scarred from jello. Forever. I can’t even stand the smell of it anymore.
  7. *Double Bonus* Everything. Every single thing sucked to throw up. EVEN WATER AND ICE.  The least worst were really sugary things like apple juice and sugary cereals. I ate a lot of sugary cereals those first few months.

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The Worst Weekend

On January 8, 2016, my nausea & vomiting escalated to an unprecedented level. Over three days, I vomited over 60 times (Fri-Sun). And when I say I vomited 60 times in three days, I mean I had 60 violent episodes of vomiting, where I actually threw up between 1 and 12 times per episode. That was every time. 

Honestly though, I say this was the worst weekend because it’s the most graphic to describe, and it was a visual manifestation of what I had actually been feeling for what felt like an eternity.

I lost 8 lbs (which frankly, I didn’t have a lot of weight to lose). I didn’t even look like myself, I was so dehydrated. 

By that Monday when the doctor’s office open, I was there as soon as I could get in. The nurses tried to tell me I should go to the ER and get more fluids. But when my OB heard about my weekend, he insisted I go to the ER and be admitted to the hospital (which was the fastest way for me to be admitted).

From the Dr office, we went directly to the hospital. Fortunately, it wasn’t terribly busy, so we got in pretty quickly, but we waited a long time to be admitted. About 6-7 hours after lying in the ER hallway on a bed (not enough rooms) and two IV bags later, I was admitted. Jordan stayed with me that night and I was so grateful to have him there.

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Waiting to be admitted to the hospital. Look at my hair. Just wait till you read further

I didn’t really eat much the first few days. And then they started letting me have clear liquids. All I took was apple juice though (well, and the jello that promptly came back up and I never ate again). So basically, I didn’t really eat anything while I was there.

After a few days, a guy came in & put in a PICC line (I don’t know what PICC stands for, but it’s basically a permanent IV that is put in the upper part of the arm & it leads directly to the heart, where it then distributes medication/fluids/etc to the body). It’s really cool, but can also be really scary if it gets infected. The man stressed repeatedly NOT to let it get wet & that this was how infections were spread.

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My PICC line. That red blob on the top left was actually a little heart the guy who put it in drew on there. He was really nice.

I was okay for a few days at the hospital. The vomiting & nausea had calmed down a little bit. But soon it returned with a vengeance (probably that stupid jello I tried eating). So they had me try a new medication called phenergen. I can’t really remember a lot of details about this experience, but they start the medication around 2:45 am (yes, A-FREAKIN-M, like, in the morning!). It spread through my body quickly, and about 30 minutes later, a nurse came in to check my vitals (they did this every 2 hours, I never got a full night’s rest there). She went to take my blood pressure, but I could not keep my arm still. I told her I was very uncomfortable and she said, “Well, if you’d just hold still…!” After another minute of waiting for me to stop moving, she gave up & took off the blood pressure cuff and left.

About 10 minutes later, I woke Jordan up and told him something felt wrong. I could not control my arms or legs. They were moving and spasming all over the place, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I immediately called the (same) nurse back & she informed me that I had restless leg syndrome (although it affected both my arms and legs), probably from the medication, and that I’d have to wait for it to wear off. (And she totally didn’t apologize for scolding me!!) It was really frustrating and uncomfortable to have no control over my body. I hated it. I hated that I couldn’t control what my body was doing.

The muscle spasms took hours to wear off, and since it was the middle of the night, I didn’t sleep at all. And Jordan had to sleep because he still had to go to work the next day. In the morning, my OB came to talk about my options. Phenergen & compazine (which would elicit the same reaction) were now out of the question. Reglan didn’t help, Zofran was only semi-useful. He decided to have me try a scopolamine patch. It’s basically a seasick patch that you can wear for up to three days. It goes behind your ear.

**This is probably TMI, but I’m obviously about to share it anyway** The whole weekend leading up to the hospital stay & the whole time I was in the hospital, I pretty much stayed in bed. So for 10 days, I didn’t shower once. And by the time I did, my hair was so tangled & knotted that it took SIX HOURS of showering, conditioning, and brushing it with both me and Jordan working on it. I cut out several large clumps of tangled hair that wasn’t going to be brushed out.

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My hair after 10 days of not washing it or showering. No, there’s not a hairtie in there. It’s so tangled, it stayed up like that by itself
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SIX FREAKIN HOURS, A LOT of hair loss, and lots and lots of patience later, my hair returned to normal

 

I was finally able to leave the hospital the following Monday. I’d been there for about a week. I left the hospital feeling better, but not 100%. I took the scop patch, PICC line, a zofran pump, and IV fluids at night; those became my life. The patch has a 3 day effectiveness before I had to put a new one on. They went behind my ear & I would alter which side I put them on every 3 days. It worked fairly well, but after a few weeks my skin started getting irritated by it and it began to burn my skin. Unfortunately, I was really out of options, so I kept using it and tried to move it around so it wouldn’t overlap another burn.

After about 2 weeks of wearing the patch, I took it off, thinking that I must be doing better by now! Unfortunately, before even an hour had passed, I was back to violently throwing up (I threw up 3x in an hour). I immediately put it back on after the first time I threw up, but it takes 4 hours to become fully effective. Sometimes I would try to hold off changing the patch as long as I could stand. I never made it more than 4 days before putting a new one on. (And btw, these suckers were pricey! It was $100 for a 24 day supply, and that’s with insurance coverage. I guess it could have been worse.)

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Home

After arriving home from the hospital, things started getting a little better. The scopolamine patch helped immensely. I went from feeling less than 0% all the time to about 85% most of the time. Some days were a little better, some were a little worse. I was able to move back into our room and stand the smell and touch of my husband once again (poor guy, he really was such an amazing support the whole time). Even though I wasn’t at 100%, it was amazing how my life became more liveable and manageable after starting that medication. I could actually do things like breathe without too much fear of vomiting (though there were somethings that made me sick the entire pregnancy, like opening the fridge or pantry). I could go to the grocery store. I could do more than lie in bed and sleep! It was like a miracle!

When I got home, I was on a 24/7 zofran pump and nightly IVs. My daily routine became filled with making sure I stayed hydrated, medicated, and my PICC line stayed clean. Setting up the IVs were a bit of a process. I had to make sure that the lines wouldn’t cause an infection (remember, that PICC line goes directly to my heart. It would be sooo bad to get sick from an infected line). Every morning, I’d wake up, unscrew the IV line, flush the line with saline & heparin. Wipe the ends with alcohol and put a sterile cap on it. Make sure my hands were clean.

My zofran pump only came off when I showered. I stopped the pump, and then carefully wrapped and taped my PICC line. Removing that tape was … not fun. Usually, I just ripped it off as fast as I could. The pump resided in a small black fanny pack. I usually slung it over my shoulder, like a purse (ˆsee above photoˆ). That combined with my daily lack of makeup, unkempt hair, and loose baggy wardrobe (aka my husband’s clothes), I looked like a regular hobo, lol.

Every week, a home health nurse came to our house and changed the dressing on my PICC line. It was a process to change it because they didn’t want to get it infected. I couldn’t even breathe on the site after they had taken off the dressing.

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The Rash (Feb 11, 2016)

After 3 weeks, the nurse came again as usual to change the PICC site dressing. That was on a Thursday. I told her I’d had some mild itching, so she put on a skin prep. She hadn’t used this particular stuff before. That was the beginning of a new kind of hell.

Soon after she left, it began itching even more than it ever had before. After 2 days, it was unbearable. I called the company and they sent a different nurse to change the dressing. I later learned that the nurse who came to change the dressing just thought I was being a overdramatic because she couldn’t see any redness (she told me that). Since the top of the dressing is clear, you can see a lot of the site. But there are several white portions you can’t see under. When she removed the dressing, and especially the white parts, a very red angry rash became visible. She was pretty shocked (and realized that my complaints were legitimate!).

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The rash. 😦

She changed the dressing, but couldn’t do much else. She didn’t have the authorization to remove the PICC line, so all she could do was move it a little bit. Unfortunately, it didn’t help much. And less than 24 hours later, the rash started weeping (which basically means it was oozing rash-stuff trying to heal, but because it was covered up, it couldn’t heal). Paranoid about getting an infection, I called them up and had them change the dressing again. I was really trying to make it to Tuesday when I could go see the doctor. This was Sunday when she changed the dressing again.

!!!!!WARNING: KINDA GROSS IMAGE BELOW!!!!

 

 

 

 

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Here you can see some of the white parts of the dressing that the rash was initially hiding under, the angry rash itself, and the “weeping” of the rash, right by the entry site.

By Monday night, the itching was awful. I couldn’t fall asleep, so I attached an ice pack to the site (wrapped in several layers of cloth so it wouldn’t get the site wet). I woke up several hours later to horrible itching, and noticed that my PICC line site had moisture in it from the condensation of the ice pack! This was about 4 am. We quickly drove to the ER to get the dressing changed. They couldn’t do anything else until they spoke to my doctor. Fortunately, (hours later of course), they got the go-ahead to take out the PICC line and put a new one in on my other arm. 

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Once they took off the dressing, this is what the rash looked like
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My new PICC line, put in by the same guy.
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The same day we went into the ER for the rash was also the day we shared our pregnancy announcement. You can barely see the PICC line coming from the sleeve on the hand on my face

It took a little while, but the rash slowly healed. Even at the hospital though, I kept telling Jordan, “It’s better than the nausea & vomiting.” And it’s true. I’d take that rash any day over the nausea.

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Slowly but surely, it began to heal. Our bodies are really amazing!

About a week after getting my new PICC line, I started the awful nausea & violent vomiting again, seemingly out of nowhere. I was devastated. This meant that the medications were no longer working. I was terrified of going back to where I was. And (as usual) all this happened on a weekend (I have great luck, am I right??)

Fortunately, when I did go see my doctor, he told me that it had returned most likely because I had started taking prenatal vitamins again. As soon as I stopped taking those, I started feeling better again.

The timing of this was very interesting because up until this point, I felt zero connection to my baby. I was literally just in survival mode. Well, after I stopped taking prenatal vitamins, I was lying in bed one evening looking at my computer, when I felt gas bubbles in my stomach. And then I felt them again. And then I realized that I wasn’t feeling gas bubbles, I was actually feeling my little girl moving. I laid flat on my back and pressed my hand against my stomach, and felt moving and kicking! It was a magical and special feeling. And overwhelmingly relieving (especially since I kept hearing about all these babies that had died in the womb). I also felt very distinctly an impression of my baby telling me, “Chill out mom. I’m fine.” It made me laugh (while also crying because feeling your baby move for the first time can do that to you).

The remainder of my pregnancy wasn’t quite as excited (fortunately). I still struggled with nausea, but it had settled down. After a few months, I could take the PICC line off, but I kept the scop patch all the way until I delivered. I tried a few more times to get rid of it, but I just couldn’t handle life without it.

Although life was so much easier, I never felt 100%. I always felt a little bit of nausea. Certain smells would still set me off. And I couldn’t handle flavors that were too strong. As gross as it sounds, if I ate something with too strong a flavor, I would be tasting a vomit-version for the rest of the day. Any time I burped, it tasted like vomit. It was pretty gross, and enough of a bad experience that there was nothing that could tempt me. Not even Cafe Rio.

When I went into the hospital to give birth, I had to take off the patch. My dr and everything I read online kept saying that the nausea would go away completely and immediately after giving birth. I didn’t believe them at all. I had lived with the nausea for so long that I really felt like my whole life was going to be like this. That I was going to feel sick for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I was wrong, and my nausea did go away.

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Our puppy Watson. He’s the best.
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This photo just makes me laugh. It was right after he got a bath and the groomers took a hairdryer to his hair. lol.

Oh by the way, we got a puppy in the midst of this. It was a few days after I arrived home from the hospital. And as crazy as it sounds, he actually brought a lot of joy into our home. I love our little Watson so much. He’s such a good puppy.

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Taken right as we were leaving to go to the hospital.

 

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Look at this perfect little girl. She has stolen our hearts.

And finally, I want to end by saying to anyone who might be currently struggling with this OR who is just plain wondering. Adaline was 100% worth it. This is not something I would wish on my very worst enemy, but I would go through it again if I absolutely had to, just for her. And I wouldn’t trade her for anything, especially not to have not gone through what I went through. She is totally, completely, unequivocally worth every bit of pain and suffering and struggle I went through to bring her here. 

This experience taught me many important lessons, but two of which I’ll briefly write about here:
1) I learned to trust in the Lord’s timing. Had we gotten pregnant according to our own timeline, I would have been apart from Jordan, living with a friend, trying to sell one house and buy another, had a summer filled with weddings that I likely would have had to cancel (and probably bankrupt my business), and it just would have been horrible all around. Instead, none of those things happened. Jordan was there for me (and I really would not have survived without him), I didn’t have any weddings booked from Dec-April because we’d recently moved, and life was stable (well, till this started).

2) I learned more about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His love for us, for me. When Adi was born, I felt an overwhelming amount of love for her, and a big part of why was because of how much suffering and pain I’d gone through to bring her here. And I felt SO distinctly the moment I had that thought, “You know how much you love her and how much you suffered for her, imagine how much I love you and how much I suffered for you.” What I went through was a tiny itty bitty amount of suffering compared to what Christ went through when he suffered for our sins; for my sins. If that’s so, how much greater can His love be for me? It’s hard to fully explain, but I do feel that when we have the opportunity to suffer and struggle for another person, we can have such a greater love for them. We have to be willing though. I think that’s one of the many reasons we have children–to learn to serve & struggle for someone beside ourselves.

In closing, all I have to say is that I’m so so grateful for modern medicine, without it, I probably would have miscarried or died; for amazing and wonderful friends & family who supported us through all of this, provided meals, support, kindness, a listening ear, and so much more; for my wonderful and patient husband who nurtured me and cared for me during this ordeal; and for my Savior, who suffered far greater than I did and who loves me with an infinite and eternal love.

 

 

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