Yes, I’m pregnant again. This may come as a surprise to those who don’t know me personally, but have read my blogs on having an only child. And, yes, there’s a lot to say on the path that led to us going again. But today I wanted to write something that might go some way to explaining why I haven’t been writing more this pregnancy.
This week, at 15 weeks pregnant, I had my first appointment with the hospital. After chatting to the midwife about how awful I’m feeling, about how every day is a vomit day, about how I can only get through the day with the help of the Ondansetron my understanding GP has prescribed me she asked me, “What was your first pregnancy like”. I laughingly told her about being sick for nine months, and shared with her how I was given a really hard time about not putting on any weight. “I think you have HG,” she said. “And it sounds like you had it in your first pregnancy too.”
Now, for me, HG equals hospitalisation. I was never hospitalised for dehydration. And sure, I had days where I did nothing by vomit, but I still didn’t think there was any way I had HG. I didn’t miss a day of work, and I managed to still do things. But here’s the thing. In seven years I’ve been working more on the art of self-care. I’ve learnt to listen to my body more. And this pregnancy I’ve realised that if I push myself, I make myself sicker. I’m not vomiting as much in this pregnancy (still daily, just not upwards of 10 times a day), but that’s because I’ve learnt to listen to my body. I’m aware now that a simple picnic can render me useless for up to two days. And with that understanding comes the realisation that maybe I just pushed myself more than I should have in my last pregnancy. I was living with HG and trying to do it all.
So, here’s what life is like with HG when you are listening to your body.
Even the simple things are hard
This morning I walked upstairs in my trainers. I saw my hubby glance at my feet, but he said nothing (he knows better). We live in a shoe-free house, but the last few weeks I’ve taken to putting my shoes on when I go to get coffee in the morning, and not taking them off all day. Why? The act of taking my shoes off makes me feel sick. The idea of putting them back on again makes me feel sick. The effort it takes to try to find socks cosy enough to keep my feet warm without shoes feels too hard. You get the idea. The pure act of movement is the hardest thing in the world at the moment, so I do everything I can to avoid having to do the unnecessary. The shoes stay on.
Staying still is the only thing that makes me feel OK
I think if I moved from the couch for long enough you’d see an indent that perfectly matches my body. I spend most of my time outside of working hours horizontal on the couch. Why? Because I constantly feel like I’m experiencing motion sickness, and the only thing that helps is stillness. Of an evening as I get ready for bed, I feel like it’s a race to get horizontal before the vomit rises. Often I’m too nauseous to brush my teeth, and the act of hanging up my clothes at the end of the day fits into one of those simple things that is just too hard to do at the end of most days.
Work is a distraction
People keep asking me if I’m taking sick days. The thing is, every day is a sick day. If I called in sick every day I felt unable to work I’d never work. And the thing is, work is a distraction. We are living in lockdown so work is at home, which is so much easier than going into the office. And somehow, even when severely nauseous, work is one of the things I can achieve – while staying still! Having the anti-nausea medication has made the working day easier, and it’s probably the only time I feel useful so I’m not giving it up any time soon.
Any exercise wrecks me
Everything I read tells me I need to be exercising 30 minutes a day. The trouble is I feel like I need a nap after I collect my morning coffee, which is maybe 200 metres from my house. Thirty minutes of exercise a day would set me back in a big way. This week I met a friend for a picnic. It was a five-minute walk, a couple of hours of lovely conversation, followed by a five-minute walk home. I spent the whole day the next day on the couch and nauseous. No amount of medication could help. Pre-pregnancy I was running 5km three times a week and cycling everywhere (and occasionally roller-skating). It’s so hard to live like this.
My mental health has been suffering
Now, lockdown does not help this situation, but living with HG (yup, I’m owning it now) has led to some really dark periods. There are thoughts I’ve had that I can’t put in writing. And with those thoughts can come sadness, guilt and shame. I feel like I’m coming out of that period now, but it’s only because my GP has helped me manage the nausea. There are still days that are hard. Days where I feel so sorry for myself I can’t stop crying. But it’s progressively getting better.
I’ve had to learn to ask for help
I’ve never been able to ask for help. It’s something I’ve been working on, and HG has fast-tracked that. My poor hubby is like a pseudo-slave. He knows the act of movement is hard for me so he’ll get me the water, he’ll do the occasional additional bedtime for missy, and he pretty much does all the housework now. There’s a lot of guilt that comes with asking for – and accepting – help, but I’m working on it. I’ve also learnt to ask my Mum for help (something I’ve never been able to do) as looking after a child while incapacitated is proving difficult. And hubby can’t do it all. We still want him functional when the baby comes.
“Do you think you can cook without creating a smell?” I asked my hubby last night. It was a joke, but it was a joke that stemmed from a real need. The smell of last night’s jambalaya cooking had me wretching in the toilet until I could escape the smells by moving downstairs. This morning, hubby came into the bedroom after his shower and the smell of his clean body (usually something I love) made me feel sick. And, sadly, it’s not consistent. One day I love the smell of beer, the next it makes me wretch. It’s not even limited to smell. Sometimes just repetition of sound (like someone clapping) makes me feel nauseous. As I type, someone is walking across my neighbour’s roof, and the sound is making me feel sick. This morning, just seeing a dirty cup in the sink made me wretch. Yeh, it’s super fun.
I can only eat crap
So some of the HG sites I’d read talked about not being able eat. This is another reason I thought I couldn’t have HG. It seems it comes in many shapes and sizes. For me, I can eat (sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t), but I can only seem to stomach certain things. I’m incapable of eating most vegetables, and when hubby proudly made beef bourguignon I started wretching at the mere mention. What I can eat are things you would give a fussy child. Plain rice, crackers, toast … I’ve progressed to eggs in the morning, which seem to help with the nausea. For weeks I’ve craved the cheeseburgers my Dad made us as kids (I wish he’d come around and cook them for me). For a while there chocolate was doing the trick, but even that’s started to make me feel unwell.
So, it’s a barrel of laughs as you can see! So, my advice to anyone who does suffer during pregnancy is to talk to someone. To find an understanding GP. I’ll be scheduling an appointment with mine next week to up the repeat nausea medication. It was only ever intended as occasional, but since being told I probably have HG I’ve given myself permission to take it daily … because when I didn’t I wasn’t living.
Know that you’re not alone, and having dark days are OK. Personally, I can say this is definitely my last baby. Because I can own the fact that I can’t put myself through this again. At the same time, I do know the moment my little boy comes out of me I will feel normal again, and he will be here, in my arms. That’s a pretty nice thought to end on.