No, Saltines Won’t Help: My Experience With Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Close up saline IV drip for patient in hospital.

Disclaimer: I am truly fortunate to be pregnant with my second baby. My heart goes out to all those wishing to be pregnant or to be parents. Please do not interpret this article as me complaining about being pregnant but as a way to educate and inform on the condition of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). 

I suffered debilitating nausea and vomiting for weeks during my second pregnancy.

It has taken me months to write this article as it was hard for me to look back at this season of life and I have the tendency to downplay my symptoms in order to not seem dramatic. It’s not like this is something I LIKE to talk about. 

I shied away from public life and didn’t even like discussing my condition because being flooded with people well-meaning comments of “Oh I was so sick when I was pregnant too! It made going to work so hard!”,  “Have you tried saltines and ginger ale?” “Make sure to keep crackers by your bedside” “Just tough it out, it will pass!” 

The fact is, the condition I had, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is NOT just your typical morning sickness.  

Some facts for those that know nothing more than “that thing Kate Middleton had”:

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a rare condition, with fewer than 200,000 cases a per year. It is a severe type of nausea during pregnancy combined with endless vomiting, weight loss, and malnutrition. I was lucky that my symptoms dispersed around 17 weeks. Some women experience HG their entire pregnancies and some are admitted for long stays in the hospital until the birth of their child.

Distinguishing between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum:

Morning Sickness: Hyperemesis Gravidarum:
Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
Nausea that subsides at 12 weeks or soon after Nausea that does not subside
Vomiting that does not cause severe dehydration Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
Vomiting that allows you to keep some food down Vomiting that does not allow you to keep any food down

My Story:

I found out I was pregnant mid-January. It came as a little bit of a shock, we had just started trying for baby number two and were expecting another year or so long journey. But there were no denying those two pink lines on the pregnancy test I took on January 16. 

With my first pregnancy I started feeling nauseous around week 5, so I braced myself to feel sick around that same time with this pregnancy.  5 weeks came and went and I crossed my fingers that maybe this pregnancy was going to be different and I would be one of those lucky women that never get sick. 

Boy was I wrong!

On February 10, at seven weeks, the nausea struck! And then a week later the vomiting stuck. And then it struck, and struck, and struck. I could not stop vomiting.

I tried crackers and pretzels – they instantly came back up. I’d take a sip of water and vomit it up a few minutes later. Any thought of food would have me dry heaving.

I called my doctor and got a prescription for Dicligis – a safe medication that I took while pregnant with my first-born. It was all I needed to help relieve my nausea and vomiting that first go around. 

I stayed optimistic but the vomiting did not stop. 

I tried to brave it out for another day or two, but after two days of non stop vomiting my body and my soul were worn down. 

I was extremely weak and dizzy and could barely stand on my own. Taking care of my 18 month old was out of the question and I leaned heavily on family for support. Those two days felt like eternity. 

I finally called my doctor. I had held off because I know that vomiting is a part of pregnancy. I didn’t want them to talk to me condescendingly or think I was exaggerating and being a crazy hypochondriac. But as I explained my symptoms to the nurse she told me to get into the ER triage as soon as possible. 

I was admitted to the hospital for the day and got hooked up to IV fluids and Zofran. I started to regain some color and feel a little more human after 4 hours. I was given a prescription for Promethazine suppositories (fun!) as the Zofran can be linked to birth defects.  

I went home hopeful that I had found the solution and I could live with just being nauseous and vomiting once or twice a day. On the first night the suppositories caused incredibly painful cramping and abdominal pressure. I was up all night in pain and still vomiting. I continued with this for another day or two before calling my doctor back. 

She was not happy that I was still unable to keep any nutrients down and was sent back into the hospital for more fluids and rest. At this point I was 9 weeks pregnant and unable to do my work from home job. It was impossible to explain my symptoms to my male boss. 

I had already lost 8 pounds. I never thought I would look forward to going to the hospital, but those IV drips were the only thing that made me feel like I wasn’t going to die. This time I was sent home with a prescription to Zofran – the chance of birth defects were lesser than the side effects of me vomiting non stop. 

The Zofran pills were not as strong as a Zofran IV drip and I ended back up in the hospital the following week.

At this point I felt like a shell of my former self. I was in a deep depression from being so sick for so long and not being able to function normally. I couldn’t parent my son or be a wife or friend. I felt completely isolated from the outside world and helpless. The pregnancy became a problem rather than something to celebrate. 

This time, the doctors discussed getting a PICC line put in so that I could have a constant supply of medicine flowing into my system. Sadly, I was a little excited for this type of relief, however inconvenient it may be for the next few weeks. There was no telling when my Hyperemesis would ease up, and I would give anything to be able to read to my son again and function at half my capacity. 

I got lucky.

Within the next few days my vomiting slightly ceased and I did not have to get the PICC line inserted. The Zofran medication was finally enough to get me to stop vomiting everything I digested. I was still getting sick 3 – 4 times a day, but I was able to hold in water and some food.

Online support groups were everything to me during these long weeks. There is no more lonely feeling than being sick non stop and having no one understand. 

The most helpful was HER, Hyperemesis Education and Research: 

I FINALLY started to feel mostly all better by 18 weeks. That’s when I stopped vomiting all together. However the depression, anxiety, and overall fatigue on my body stuck around. In some ways I still feel like I’m recovering. This sickness was a deciding factor in quitting my job this past May so I could focus on my health and spend time with Wyatt. 

I lost a total of 11 pounds, a lot of confidence, and time. My depression was in full swing. I’m sure this is my last pregnancy because there is no way I’d voluntarily go through that sickness again. 

I stopped taking Zofran around 20 weeks and have had a normal and healthy pregnancy since! I’m very fortunate as some women suffer until they give birth. Fellow sufferers, the end will be in sight! 

I share this story not to complain but to raise awareness of Hyperemsis Gradiverdum. I want to educate that it is not JUST morning sickness and that you can find support and help. I would have been lost without the support of my family. I have no idea who I would have found to watch my son while I was sick all those weeks and will forever be grateful for their support and love. 

If you come across this article while googling HG symptoms as you are lying on the bathroom floor, please feel free to reach out to me! You are not alone. 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Weeks with Baby Mac 2

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I’ve gone back and forth a lot on whether I should keep this space open.

Back when I was pregnant with Wyatt I posted weekly bump dates as well as several other blog posts a month.

Back then, blogging was a great resource for me to get in touch with other new moms and pregnant ladies as none of my close friends were at the same stage. It allowed me to connect with women from all over the country – we traded tips and fears and I’m so thankful for that.

Back then, Ryan worked long days and went to school at night. We barely saw each other. Blogging filled up my time and gave me a social outlet. 

Flash forward two years and I’m now a full time stay at home mom with our own house and a 20 month old boy to keep me busy. This blog was the last thing on my mind. 

But lately I’ve been missing having a place to document our life. I’ve been checking back on my weekly bumpdates throughout this pregnancy, comparing and remembering and I got a little sad that I haven’t given this pregnancy as much attention as my last. I want to be able to look back and remember it well and allow my baby girl to read about it to one day. 

So here I am! Trying to remember my WordPress log in and how to work this old blog again. Hello!

I can’t believe we are already halfway through this pregnancy. Wait…yes, I can. It’s been a long one already. I’ll get around to doing a first trimester recap one of these days but I don’t think I’m ready to relive those days yet.

So here we are:

How far along: 20.5 weeks! Halfway!

Due Date: September 25

Gender: Girl!!! We are both very excited to experience both a boy and a girl. And I can’t wait for all things girly and to relive part of my own childhood, however selfish that may sound!

Baby Size: About the size of a banana – 10 inches and 10.6 ounces. 

Weight gain: Well I lost a little over 11 pounds in the first trimester, so right now I’m the same weight I was when I first got pregnant – the weight it just positioned differently. I’m also carrying so much different than I did with Wyatt. This time the baby seems to be spread out all across my waist, not just in a little ball. My hips are much bigger this time too. 

Movement: Not feeling much movement yet. Like with Wyatt, I have an anterior placenta, so there is a little bit of extra padding between me and the baby. I feel some light fluttering every now and then. 

Best Moment Lately: Finding out we are having a girl! Truly, my first trimester was so complicated and hard. Knowing what sex the baby is allowed me to bond with it more. I now feel more connected to this pregnancy and can picture an actual human at the end. We also had a wonderful little getaway, just Ryan and I, last weekend. We visited Deep Creek Lake, MD and had fun sleeping in, reading, and simply relaxing. 

Looking forward to: Feeling the baby move. Hopefully soon! I worry so much when I can’t feel anything. Those mom fears never go away. 

Food Cravings: Ice water with a little bit of lemonade, chex mix, pimento cheese dip, anything salty and savory. 

Mood: Tired but excited and so grateful to have made it this far!

Symptoms: Tired. Sore hips, especially at night. When we moved last November, I threw out my pregnancy body pillow that I used while pregnant with Wyatt. It was all dirty and flattened and I didn’t expect to get pregnant so soon. I held off on purchasing one until this weekend. It should arrive today and I hope it allows me to sleep better. 

How were you second pregnancy’s different from your first? How did you maintain your energy with a second child to look after?

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First Days Of Life

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Wyatt turns one month next week, I can’t believe it! I’ve been so busy soaking in his newborn days and also learning how to adjust to motherhood that I haven’t been able to document via this blog as much as I like. He has been changing so much so quickly that I wanted to capture it all. So here is a glimpse at Wyatt’s first few days in our world and our stay at the hospital. 

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He was born on Monday September 7 (you can read is birth story here) and we left the hospital on Friday September 11.

Those first few days are a blur of emotions! We felt an overwhelming sense of love, to the point where it was almost hard to comprehend that this sweet baby boy was inside of me just the day before and now was part of our world for the rest of our lives.

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We had plenty of visitors every day. This is the first grandchild for both my family and Ryan’s family, so the excitement is a little over the top! 

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Recovery for me was a little rough, but honestly much better than I was anticipating. Holding Wyatt made it all worth it. 

What I want to remember: (and yes these are melodramatic, but I believe this will be the most emotional moment of my life, so here we go)

  • Ryan being an awesome husband and father. I fell in love with him in a brand new way. I couldn’t get out of bed to attend to Wyatt’s cries or to change him and Ryan was on top of it and loved doing it. I could stare at him holding Wyatt all day.   wyattweek1.15
  • Every night Ryan and I would play music and sing to Wyatt. It was the sweetest thing. And then I’d cry. Remembering Ryan sing “Sweet Baby James” to Wyatt will always tug on my heart strings.
  • The faces of our parents when they entered our room and met Wyatt for the first time right after his birth.
  • How complete the world felt with Wyatt sleeping on my chest. image1 (2)
  • The feeling of extreme exhaustion and extreme love but how looking at his face changed everything. 
  • How soft his skin is.
  • How he calms down instantly when we do skin to skin. wyattweek1.17

I cannot say enough amazing things about our experience at Women’s and Babies Hospital in Lancaster. The nurses were all fantastic and provided us with such good care and attention. Being new parents we were anxious and clueless regarding newborn care but each day the nurses took time to teach us something new. 

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While I was slowly recovering from surgery (and could barely get out of bed on my own) they assisted with skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, diaper changes, and middle of the night feedings and fears. A lactation consultant visited every day and nurses assisted with almost every feeding. It was immensely helpful and encouraged me to keep trying when breastfeeding got tough. Now, Wyatt is a pro!

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We felt right at home in our large private suite and dined on excellent food (did not taste anything like typical hospital food) The crab cakes and peanut butter pie were my favorite dining options. 

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It was so great to have 5 whole days to just recover and be with the baby with no outside distractions. We took that time to really take in the whole experience and study all the bits and pieces of our new son. 

Our stay was so wonderful that it made me anxious to leave and go home where we’d be left to survive with Wyatt on our own. It almost felt like we were returning home after a vacation, which is NOT a feeling I was expecting postpartum. 

Nothing can replace those very first days with Wyatt. Each day brought new feelings of love. Yet, we were very excited to bring Wyatt home on that Friday and really begin our life together as a family.

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Birth Story: Wyatt Stirling

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Birth Story: Wyatt Stirling MacDonald   –    September 7, 2015   –    4:45 a.m.

Wyatt Stirling entered the world swiftly in the middle of the night. He decided to show the world his sense of humor by skipping out on his scheduled C-section delivery and arriving two days early on Monday, September 7, Labor Day.

The Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend found me running all over town in a bustle of nervous energy. I was emotionally preparing myself for my C-Section scheduled for that Wednesday, September 9, at 10:30 a.m.

Shopping was my form of nesting. It’s like I thought that once baby arrived I would never be allowed out in the real world to do things like buy myself shoes or stock up on some new fall clothes. (Yes, the shopping was for myself. I was all set for the baby.)

Despite my aching hips and back and extreme tiredness felt this intense need to stay busy. So on Saturday, we made a day of it. We went suit shopping for Ryan and shoe shopping for me. I waddled around the mall with determination as if this were my last task on earth. Ryan was a good sport. We scored two suits for him but nothing for me, which caused me even more anxiety. I felt like I couldn’t relax until I had found the perfect shoes.

On Sunday I woke up early and headed out to continue shoe shopping on my own. A salesclerk at DSW gasped when she saw me and said, “I sure hope you don’t go into labor in the store!” I managed to give her a smile as I continued bending up and down trying on pair after pair of shoes.

I made it back home empty handed around noon and felt so incredibly sick. I was hot, dizzy, and breaking out in a sweat. I crawled upstairs and attempted a nap. 

A grumpy mood took over the rest of my day. To try to brighten my mood I suggested we go out for a walk to enjoy the beautiful weather. I figured this would be our very last walk as a family of three. As we slowly made our way around the neighborhood we talked about our fears about having a C-Section and our favorite topic, what our baby boy will be like.

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Once we got back home we parked ourselves on the couch for a bit. I received a few emails, texts, and calls from family and friends wishing me good luck with the birth. Which I thought was a little odd since it was still three days away. It’s almost like they knew…

Ryan was deep in the middle of binge watching Brooklyn 99, but I was such a ball of nervous energy that I couldn’t relax and enjoy the night. I honestly felt like something was up and perhaps I would not be waiting until Wednesday to meet our sweet baby boy. I requested a foot massage before deciding to head up to bed early. I still really wasn’t feeling well. I tried to sleep but could not relax. I attempted to read but ended up on my phone Googling C-section birth stories and recovery tips.

Around 11:30 p.m. my symptoms got worse. I was very hot and sweaty and felt like I could pass out. I did what any pregnant woman would do when she’s feeling off and Googgled “39 weeks, hot and sweaty, labor symptom?” Of course the results were all over the place. I went downstairs and pumped up the AC and directed a fan right in my direction. Ryan was fast asleep next to me. This is when my instinct was telling me that something really was happening. I lied in bed and tried to relax.

Just before 12:30 a.m. I heard and felt the smallest pop and then felt a trickling of liquid running down my legs and onto the bed. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom, leaking the whole way there. My water broke! I sat on the toilet in disbelief. The same toilet I sat on in disbelief when I finally received the positive pregnancy test way back in January.

Ryan woke up and came to check on me. Half asleep he said, “Well, now what?”

I was surprisingly calm at this point; perhaps I was still in disbelief. I responded that I guess we’d be goI ng to the hospital shortly, but I needed to shower first.

I hopped in the shower as I was still leaking amniotic fluid and knew I wanted to clean up before heading to the hospital. I was still feeling hot and dizzy and having mild contractions, which basically felt like light menstrual cramps. Ryan worked on cleaning up the bathroom floors and waking up.

Once in the shower it began to set in. I could barely stand up straight in the shower I was so nervous and excited. I was in labor! I couldn’t believe that I went into labor on my own. We were going to be meeting our son today! I scrubbed down with the special surgery soap I was saving for Wednesday and washed my hair.

At my last doctor appointment I was told that if I happened to go into labor before September 9 to simply call the doctor and tell them and then I’d be fit in later that day for a C-section. So, before I called the doctor we called both our parents, waking them up with the great news. I then called the on call triage nurse and awaited the call back from my OBGYN. The doctor called me within 5 minutes and had obviously been woken up from a very deep sleep. She went over my symptoms and said she’d see me at the hospital later that day.

Since there didn’t seem to be a huge rush, we took our time getting ready, making sure we had everything we would need for a 5-day stay at the hospital. We then made our way over to my parent’s house to drop off Maggie. At this point my contractions were 9-10 minutes apart.

We left my parents house around 2 a.m. The drive to the hospital felt surreal. The roads were empty and I had a hard time believing that I was truly in labor. We didn’t say much because I think we were both wrapping our minds around the fact that our world was about to change.

Thankfully there was only one other couple at the birthing hospital’s triage and I was taken back immediately. I changed into my hospital gown and was then hooked up to a non stress test that monitored the baby’s movements and my contractions. The nurse went over my health history and asked me a billion of questions. All I could think about was how terrified I was of the spinal block and if everything was okay with the baby. The nurse, Eleanor, was very sweet and did her best to keep my calm.

My contractions were still about 8-10 minutes apart at this point and only felt like menstrual cramps. I felt them mostly in my lower back and thighs. My entire body began to shake uncontrollably during this time, whether from the anxiety of what was happening or from the process of labor. Little did I know that this shaking would continue for the next 20 hours or so.

They administered a test to make sure it really was my membranes that ruptured and not just discharge. I couldn’t imagine it was anything else. My experience with my water breaking was exactly what the doctor’s and baby classes told me would most likely NOT happen. They said big gushes like that typically only happen in the movies. Ha!

But they had to administer the test anyways and Ryan, thinking of his parents who were making the drive from Philly, asked, “and what if her water didn’t break?”

“Well then we’d send you home.” No thank you. I was pretty confident it was my actual water that broke. Ryan and I sat anxiously and he texted with both sets of our parents.

A few minutes later it was confirmed that my water did break and then everything started to move very fast. When I had spoken to my groggy doctor earlier that morning and she had mentioned that the surgery would be performed later that day, I was assuming that meant sometime in the afternoon. Knowing how slowly things can move at hospitals and the fact that I was not a true emergency, I was expecting to be siting around for most of the day.

But, when I asked the nurse when I could expect to go into surgery she casually replied, “In about 45 minutes.” Reality began to set in. It was go time! I was going to meet my baby within the hour!

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My uncontrollable shaking grew worse. I was getting very scared. They quickly administered the IV and soon the anesthesia doctor came in to see me and go over my medical history and talk me through the steps of the cesarean.

The anesthesia doctor was overly calm. He explained the steps and the precautions and had me sign papers documenting the risks involved. Tears started to accompany my shaking. I explained that I was terrified of the spinal block and he assured me that he has done thousands of them and never had an issue. Did this calm me at all? No.

Ryan was handed his sterile OR suit and was asked to suit up and the nurse put on my surgery cap.

We asked if our parents could come back and see us before I was taking to the operating room. Since triage was pretty empty and no one else was currently having surgery the nurses obliged as long as only two people came back at once. My parents came back first and said their well wishes and gave their kisses and hugs followed by Ryan’s parents. Everyone was very excited and nervous.

They were soon ushered out as my doctor had arrived at the hospital and needed to talk to me and have me sign more papers before starting the procedure. She was in and out. The nurse asked if I wanted to walk or be wheeled in the wheel chair to the OR room, I opted for the wheel chair. I was shaking so badly I don’t think my legs would have been able to hold me up.

I made one last quick nervous bathroom trip and then we were off to the OR. It was game time! I was about to become a mother!

Now was the part I was dreading. Ryan had to wait outside of the OR room until I was completely prepped. I hated that he couldn’t come in and sit with me while I got the spinal block. I was so scared of getting that needle in my back. Ryan wished me luck and gave me one last kiss before we were momentarily separated.

The OR room was freezing and so bright. I remember feeling so overwhelmed by all of the medical equipment and the frenzy of nurses all about. The super calm anesthesia doctor was there and explained how I needed to sit hunched over on the side of the bed, arching my back, for him to administer the spinal block. Three nurses helped me get into position. I wanted to cry but I remember telling myself to just stay calm. That this was all for the baby. The nurses held my hands and said that it was just like a little bee sting.

And it was. It honestly felt just like a bee sting and was over before I knew it. The IV was worse than the spinal block. All of that anxiety and worry for nothing! But perhaps I was focusing so much on what that was going to feel like so my mind wouldn’t drift to the fact that I was about to have major abdominal surgery and that my world was about to be rocked by the birth of my son.

Now that the spinal was over I really began to lose it. I began crying softly and the body shakes got worse. The loss of feeling in my legs began immediately. It was the strangest thing, not being able to feel anything below my chest. I kept asking when Ryan could come in and the nurse said shortly. She kept holding my hand and explaining everything that was happening.

They quickly lifted the surgical drape above my chest. It was much higher than I was picturing. The nurses began to prep my stomach and began rubbing it down and I was given oxygen. The doctor explained how she would be testing to make sure that I was completely numb. I was so scared that maybe I would feel some bit of pain. But the nurse said they were really pushing on me and that I would be crying out if I could feel what they were doing.

Finally, Ryan was allowed in the room. He was quickly seated by my head, gave me a kiss and the surgery began. Ryan looked both nervous and calm. I still could not stop shaking and crying. I couldn’t believe the moment I had been waiting for for the past nine months, no, for my entire life, was about to happen!

A nurse was seated on the other side of my head and tried to help keep me calm. She explained that they would be pushing on my upper abdomen to make contraction like movements in order to push the baby out. I felt some very minor pressure; I was just so focused on the moment when I would meet my baby.

It felt like 30 minutes but I was told it was only about 10 minutes later when she whispered, “They’re about to pull him out!”

Oh, all the tears! My throat closed up and I held my breath. A few seconds later the room was filled with his screams. I took a large breath and just felt the tears streaming down my face. That was my son! I was a mother!

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I’m still jealous that Ryan was able to stand up and peek over the curtain to get a look at him before I could. “Let me see him! Let me see him!” I kept yelling out. I was given a quick glance before they whisked him away to the warmer to have him checked out.

He was beautiful and absolutely perfect. I was told I was having a 10 plus pound baby and was expecting huge chubby chipmunk cheeks, but this baby was so much smaller than I pictured in my mind and just perfect because he was mine.

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I could turn my head and see him being worked on about 5 feet from my head. Ryan stood with him and a nurse took a bunch of photos of the umbilical cord cutting process. The nurses announced that he was perfectly healthy and was 7 pounds 13 ounces and 20.5 inches long.

After what felt like an hour, Wyatt was brought over to me and placed on my chest. Meanwhile the nurses and doctors worked on stitching me up. I didn’t feel a thing.  birth8

Every cliché of motherhood is true. On the moment we touched skin-to-skin he looked up at me with his freshly opened eyes and I felt my heart grow. It was so much more than I thought it was going to be. My whole world shifted in that moment. Nothing else mattered. I looked at Ryan and back at Wyatt.

This was love.

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