Hyperemesis Gravidarum (TL;DR version)

This is the “short” version of this story. If you really want to read all 5000 words of the long story, you can find that here. If you don’t really want to read all 5000 words of the big long story, I don’t blame you. Here’s the somewhat shortened version for those interested.

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).

“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.

~~~~~~~

The Beginning

 

When we found out we were pregnant, it was the first day of a 16 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!

Soon, 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.

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 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.

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 could not listen to music or books, I could not handle natural light, I could not eat, I could not brush my teeth (GROSS I KNOW!). Most of the time, I could not 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.

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.

~~~~~~~~~

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).

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

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.

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. 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.

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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 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.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Rash 

After 3 weeks, the home health 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 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. 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

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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My new PICC line, put in by the same guy.
pregnancy announcement
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 of the hand on my face.

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).

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And finally, I just want to say 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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