I’ve had severe morning sickness (a.k.a. hyperemesis gravidarum, HG) a total of three times. During those times, no one was able to cook in the kitchen because the smell made me vomit. We ate take-out or processed food. I could only eat food that was fresh and made somewhere else. I couldn’t eat anything unless I craved it in every cell of my being. It had to be the very exact thing, otherwise I couldn’t fathom eating.
I remember when I hadn’t eaten in 3 days, suddenly all I could think about was steak and mashed potatoes from a particular restaurant; a fancy place. Salivating, I opened the container and saw that it was garnished with scallions. I nearly puked. This slivered green addition was not what I had mentally imagined and craved and there was no way I could eat it. My husband went back for another steak without scallions.
Another time, I craved a lobster roll from Legal Seafoods in Faneuil Hall. I called my husband, who was in class at graduate school. He left early to drive me (in rush-hour) because he knew that I had not eaten anything of substance – and nothing that had stayed down in my stomach – for going on 5 days. This was a moment of celebration and an urgent one at that. I couldn’t wait another minute. If you know Boston, you know traffic. I didn’t care, nor did my husband. Queasy and vomiting in a bag as he drove, I obsessed the entire ride to the moment when I would put the lobster roll in my mouth. By the time we got there I was drooling. I ate two lobster rolls standing at the counter and then we went home.
This is how my eating patterns went, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. I was lucky to crave something, otherwise I agonized about what I could eat and starved in the meantime. It was torture.
I spent hours thinking about food, leafing through food magazines in hopes of finding something to perk me up. Healthy eating flew out the window. I just needed to eat. This was ironic as I was a total foodie … I’d actually planned to write a book about eating well during pregnancy. That idea went out the window, like most of the food I ate.
I ate double cheeseburgers with extra pickles from Burger King, fish filets with tartar sauce from McDonald’s, chef salad with ranch dressing from Whole Foods, toasted cinnamon-raisin bagels with cream cheese from Bruegger’s Bagels, cheese curls with peanut butter, eel sushi with tomato slices, hungry man t.v. dinners, spaghettiOs ‘n meatballs, french fries with mayonnaise, chocolate shakes from Friendly’s. There was no rhyme or reason as to what I craved, I just waited for a craving.
Not A Pig
This post makes me sound like a pig. I wasn’t. I was 5’6″ and weighed 110 pounds. I waited for days on end to crave any of the above and sometimes another few hours for that craving to build up large enough to physically be able to eat it. It was a mental thing and hard to explain. Then I’d go hungry again – the curled up in a fetal position kind of hungry – to wait for another craving to hit.
Find An Angel
I spent a lot of time in the ER at Brigham & Women’s Hospital for re-hydration treatments. It was here that I met Miriam (I highly recommend you look her up to consult or buy her book); an angel of the highest kind with a bag of tricks for HG moms. Like, keeping a slice of lemon in my pocket to smell or sucking on ice cubes. Or using crushed ice for more hydration. She reminded me over and over that this sickness was not in my head and make sure I didn’t fall into the trap of believing that’s true. It’s not. She reassured me that my 5 year old son would be okay even if I stuck him in front of the t.v. for 12 hours a day while I lay on the bathroom floor growing a baby brother or sister for him.
Everything is okay, you just have a severe health condition called Hyperemesis gravidarum.
I went from 1 cavity to 13 in the year after my 1st was born. With my 2nd pregnancy whom I ended up miscarrying, I had 2 teeth pulled. With my 3rd pregnancy, I had another 4 teeth pulled + 15 more cavities. I had to get put under just to have my teeth cleaned because my teeth were ultra-sensitive.
I’d lost enamel on my teeth from the vomiting I did while pregnant; threw up every few minutes around the clock. I was lucky to make it an hour without needing to throw up or dry heave. Each time like battery acid in my mouth, worse if I had an empty stomach. All this throwing up caused my gums to recede. I should also mention that I was in this state of malnutrition WHILE growing a 7 1/2 pound baby made of skin and bones and organs. I am amazed to this day that my babies were as healthy as they were, it is me that suffered the most, still suffers in my bones with osteoarthritis, TMJ, bone loss, etc.
I have experienced severe morning sickness three times. I have a huge amount of empathy for women moving through HG and devote myself in various ways to help others in this boat; sometimes by writing posts like this one, other times by offering phone/email support. Please share this post. There’s not enough help for women with HG.
If you know a mom in the throes of this HELP HER. Don’t wait for her to ask you for help. She probably won’t; she’s lost in a hole of survival. By helping her cope, you can stop a condition which when left to itself can require hospitalization. Dehydration occurs after just 1-2 days of persistent vomiting, watch for this along with malnutrition and consult her doctor in case she needs hospitalization. Though there can be underlying physical causes for severe vomiting during pregnancy, please don’t think for a second that her vomiting is psychically based.
May all bellies be happy!