The media is so hyper-focused on our post-baby bodies that it is so hard not to buy into what they are selling. The whole notion of “get your body back” after pregnancy is BS for so many of us for many reasons be it exhaustion, genetics or you just don’t want to! In this week’s episode, I discuss my issues with this push to “get your body back” quickly or at all post-pregnancy and how I deal with the “get your body back” mind trap.
Today is HG Awareness day, so I think it’s only fitting that this is my first blog in over a year so here it goes:
Oops, I did it again…
Meet Miles Joseph Beljo.
Ok, ok, I know it’s been 3 months since he was born but after my hellish pregnancy things got more complicated when Miles started having some struggles of his own making it pretty difficult to do anything but care for him, but I will get to that another time. (maybe by doing my first vlog in 2 years!)
And I know, I said I was part of the “One and done” club and I truly thought I was, but personal experience as an “only” over the last 2-3 years made us re-think that position and now here we are proud members of the “Two and through” club and this time I AM DONE!
My last post was around this time last year, it was about my struggle with mild HG, and I never thought a month later I would be pregnant and battling that beast once again except this time, it was far worse.
Miles was planned…kinda.
We knew we wanted a second child but we thought we would have more time to “practice” and put a plan in place for my possible struggle with HG again. I had it all planned out in my head. I would find a doctor that understood HG, was supportive and open to the proper medications. I would stock up on books and prepare friends and family to help with Henry or me in case it got bad but none of that happened.
We got pregnant right away and for the first 5 weeks, I thought we were in the clear. With Henry, I was sick before I even knew I was pregnant but this time I had a fluffy 5 weeks and tried desperately to just find an OB, let alone one that would be able to support me with HG.
With Hyperemesis Gravidarum you need to get an OB almost right away, factor in that I was also 40 and had to get genetics testing between 8-10 weeks well the race was on. Unfortunately, there was a shortage of doctors in Durham and the earliest appointment was at 20 weeks!
By this time, the nausea started. I tried to be optimistic hoping it was regular morning sickness, but it became clear very quickly that it wasn’t and things were going downhill and fast!
Can I get a doctor?
I was finally able to get an appointment with an OB in the GTA, but it wouldn’t be until I was 11 weeks which was better than 20. Until then I was on my own or at the mercy of walk-ins and Hospitals which in my case was *not* a good place to be in.
By 7 weeks, I was maxing out my daily dose of Diclectin, I was barely holding down water, I had lost 10lbs and my son Henry was asking if I was going to die. This was when I made my first trip to Oshawa General.
Dehydrated and dry heaving into a vomit bag I waited in the waiting area for 6 hours to see a doctor and when I finally did he chastised me for waiting so long because I was “severely dehydrated” and told me I need to “take better care of myself”. When I asked him for Zofran, a life-saving medication for HG, he ignored the history I just spent 10 minutes giving him on my current condition and my previous pregnancy, told me I just had “morning sickness” ordered one IV bag with Gravol and sent me home. I was back 2 days later worse than before and this time I had to beg for a 2nd IV bag and I was once again refused the medication I knew I needed.
This is one of the worst parts of HG. Many healthcare “professionals” treat you as if you are overreacting to a “natural” part of pregnancy. They dismiss you. They discourage you from getting medical intervention and sometimes, like my second ER visit, they treat you as if you are a drug seeker. Last time I checked, anti-nausea/vomiting medication was not a narcotic. Nonetheless, I was made to feel like a horrible person for wanting to get medical intervention because “what about the baby?”
Which by the way is a great question, what about the baby? Is it good for the baby that I cannot give it nourishment or stay hydrated? How will my baby grow and thrive inside my body when my body is at war with itself? By this time I was down 24lbs.
Emotionally and physically drained
I cried a lot between 8-10 weeks. I had trouble working, I couldn’t sleep, and I was barely functioning. I started to think that I was not going to survive and neither was my baby. At this point, I was down 25lbs. I was filling my fridge with different juices and drinks, hoping to find something I could keep down. Nothing was working. I forced myself to eat small things just so I had something I could vomit up because the alternative was far worse. I knew I needed to go back to the ER, but I didn’t have the energy to move let alone face their judgement.
Getting up every morning and getting Henry to school during that time was an exercise in pure willpower and a miracle. It was instructions in between vomiting; it was carrying vomit bags and pulling over multiple times during a short 7 min drive to vomit or dry heave because there was no one else to do it, and keeping him home was not an option because I could barely care for myself let alone him all day. So, as many in my position do, I did what I had to do, how I had to do it.
The semi-light at the end of the tunnel
Just before week 10, I was able to hold down some Fruit Punch Gatorade for a day or two and I had run out. So, after dropping Henry at school I made my way up the street to the gas station to get a new bottle and I looked up and saw the Courtice Urgent Clinic across the street.
It was like an answer to a prayer.
I walked in, I was seen right away and the doctor took one look at me and without question or judgement wrote me a prescription for Zofran.
She saved me.
Driving to fill the prescription, I had to pull over to the side of the road, not just to puke, but to cry tears of relief and joy because I could see the “end of the tunnel” again. I had a better chance now to survive and beat this disease (again) and walk away with my baby. I wasn’t going to let it break me but there was still a long battle ahead.
The long road to labour
Even medicated, it was a struggle. I threw up a lot but I wasn’t nauseous; I was mentally drained but functioning. I had more complications this pregnancy, more aches and pains, less sleep and more to do with a 5-year-old, but I managed.
My goal was just to manage and I achieved that.
There were days I was so violently ill I thought I was going to pop a blood vessel. There were days I could barely make it from my bed to my couch. There were days I just cried and cried because I knew I was failing as a mother to my oldest because I was too weak and too sick to function, that was one of the worst parts.
I also had all the fears that many who suffer from HG have, the most terrifying being – am I getting enough food down for my baby to survive?
There was one night, I thought I lost him. I spent 45 minutes uncontrollably sobbing, trying to make him move and when he finally did I got violently ill from the stress of it all.
What many people don’t realize is that 1 in 3 HG pregnancy ends in a loss. So you go through all of this struggle for this little bundle and there is a great chance you will not bring a baby home. Even though I was medicated this was not going to be over until he was in my arms.
By the time I gave birth I had lost a total of 30lbs and only gained back 14lbs through my entire pregnancy.
There is so much that you lose on your journey through an HG pregnancy such as friends, sometimes your marriage, in the worst cases your child or your own life. But there is one thing I gained, my Miles.
I am not mad at the friends I lost. Until you experience this disease up close it’s hard to understand that even though there is joy at the end, the struggle to get there is debilitating.
I am also not mad/hurt at the friends/family who are reading this now who think “I should’ve”… let me tell you now, you couldn’t. I was in no place to receive your love and support. In fact, it would actually cause me to have to exert some effort that most days I didn’t have. When I could, I posted on Facebook what was going on, I saw your comments there, and that was enough. And you know me, if I needed you, I would have called/texted/messaged. Just knowing you were out there doing you, made me happy when I needed every ounce of happiness.
You see, there is an amazing support group on Facebook for HG that I was able to find through a life-long friend, my sister from another mister, Cindy and from there I joined a subgroup of women who have become amazing friends. These women understood every aspect of what I was going through and that is what I needed. These women, who are now also my friends, gave me so much love, support, understanding and advice. They took care of me.
And Cindy, her support and guidance saved me twice. I love you forever and always! Oh, and the thoughtful books she sent including one for my Henry to help him understand that Mama was just sick for a little while – she is simply the best!
My work colleagues, thank you for making me laugh after you caught me vomiting in the bathroom, for being so kind and non-judgmental. For understanding when some of my pieces of the project were a little late and for not making a big deal out of my odd hours some days.
My new “village” in our new community, thank you for checking on me and making sure I could get out with other adults even if it was only for a little while.
My doctor, Dr. Logaridis who listened to me and made sure I was well taken care of.
Then there is my husband who was so supportive and picked up my slack, I would have been lost without him.
As always, if it weren’t for my parents’ love, concern and support I don’t know if I would have survived, because there were some dark times.
Lastly my son, my bug, my Henry. No child should have to sit outside a bathroom door day after day listening while you vomit to make sure Mama is ok. He shouldn’t get up to “check on her”. He shouldn’t have to pause his childhood because Mama is so sick. However, my Henry did. This child has so much love, empathy and patience, he is the reason I wanted to do this again.
I am grateful every day for all of these things and more, but most of all I am grateful that I survived and now our family is complete.
If you are so inclined please consider donating to Helpher.org