There’s a dark side to pregnancy and we should be talking about it
“I need your help,…I’m pregnant”, I sobbed. It was January 21st and I was bawling to my three sisters on a four-way whatsapp call. With red, swollen eyes and a drained face I tried to appreciate their enthusiasm about our third baby. I tried, but couldn’t. I had never wanted to tell them like this but I had to. I was incapable of caring for my family and needed their help.
The first trimester is typically tough on me, but this …
Pregnant with our third baby I felt comfortable, relaxed and ever so happy at first. The sixth week had almost passed when it finally did hit: the paralyzing morning sickness I recognized from my previous pregnancies. The first two times around I had also had a very bad case of morning sickness, which for me was an all day sickness that peaked around dinner and kept me up all night. It had been manageable but nevertheless that severe that we had considered this in planning a new pregnancy: I would have to be rested and physically fit as the first four months of pregnancy are, for me at least, typically tough. This time however, I didn’t know what had hit me. I was sick 24/7 and sick as a dog. I couldn’t take care of myself, literally couldn’t get dressed, let alone take care of my family.
I stuck out week six and part of week seven at work but when I came home I lied there curled up on the sofa, moaning, praying to just pass out as soon as possible. Sleep, however, didn’t bring much relief - I woke up several times a night thinking I had to throw up although I never did. It felt like that first day of a really bad stomach bug you know is going to keep you up all night. (Little sidenote: I am terrified of throwing up. I know it’s silly but if in any way I can avoid it I don’t do it. Later I did try but nothing,…) Let me assure you though: you don’t have to throw up to feel terrible.
Just the thought of water disgusted me
By the end of week seven I was a wreck: not only was I not eating anything- except for dry crackers to try and keep the nausea manageable -I wasn’t drinking. Of all things that would worsen my nausea water was the worst. I know, it’s weird but I just couldn’t get a sip down. On Thursday I called in sick and asked my gynecologist if there was any way of seeing her sooner than the 8 week mark. “I need to know for sure that there is a reason for going through this,” I said “because every second of it is agony”. She saw me in between appointments the next day.
I haven’t been able to trust my body since I had a miscarriage
She knows our story, however you may not and I should tell you before I expect you to understand the nauseous depression I had sunk into. Before having Elliot we were very excited to have a baby but it took us a while to conceive. Nothing out of the ordinary really but you know what it’s like once you’ve put your mind to it. After eight months I was holding a positive test! A week after that I was really sick and I would be for the next 12 weeks. During our first ultrasound we were told that I was carrying twins, but that they had stopped developing in a earlier stage of my pregnancy. It was a lot to take in and,… I was still sick. I was given medication to miscarriage but it didn’t work. Finally I had to be scheduled in for a curettage. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything before the procedure and although I hadn’t been enjoying food at all, pieces of crackers spread throughout the day had been keeping me sane. I was barely able to get to the operation room, because I was still so sick. There I was, my breasts big and tender, my belly swollen and pretty much debilitated for months, and it had all been for nothing. This experience left me with the feeling that I can’t trust my body. My body thought it was doing a tremendous job, you see, while all the time it was not at all.
And now I was feeling that same type of nausea. I had been terribly sick with Elliot and later with Amelia but this kind of sick,… immediately reminded me of that summer four years back. Every second was tough to bare and I couldn’t help myself sometimes wishing for it all to be over soon. On the other hand, of course I really wanted this pregnancy to be successful but with the constant, incapacitating nausea came an overall feeling of depression. In general I would call myself a very positive person; I literally jump out of bed in the morning, am very energetic and make the most of each day. Now, I hardly recognized myself. I was just waiting this thing out and except for the loving I tried to give the kids, all I felt and really was, was well… worthless.
“Are we talking hospital admission?”
The eight week ultrasound looked fine, and what was especially comforting to hear; it wasn’t twins. (pregnancies with multiples often have double the intensity of nausea). I sat there, looking like a strung out person on meth (if only I had felt like that) and pushed away the tears while I told her I didn’t know how I would survive and I was hoping for someone to put me in a coma for a few weeks. “Are we talking hospital admission, Laura? We can.” No, we weren't, I decided. She advised me to stay home for the next month and predicted that week 9 and 10 would probably peak and after week 12 it would start to settle or hopefully be gone. With permanent goosebumps from feeling downright awful, I couldn’t imagine this getting any worse. The tip for survival she gave me was to drink Aquarius ( a sports drink similar to Gatorade with extra vitamin B, electrolytes and probably tons of sugar). For some reason I could keep that down and with hydration my general wellbeing improved just that much so that survival seemed achievable.
I was depressed and no this was not in my head
We informed our families and they pitched in wherever they could: they picked up the kids from school, took them on outings and served them warm meals. Then disaster struck: Elliot fell sick with the flu, not a common cold but a full-blown two week influenza. I was home with him and did my best to care for him. Then Amelia fell ill and the three of us were home. I was so tired and sick it felt like gravity was constantly pulling me down to the floor. I would often literally crawl to the kitchen to get the kids something. I had no energy and after four weeks of feeling like this non-stop, was losing faith in ever getting better.
Little things I couldn’t get to doing like a quick visit to the store or dropping off the kids at school when Bart had to go into work early, had now become daunting to me. With my energy levels, my self-confidence had gone too and I felt too blue and anxious to do things I do every day usually. This must feel like what the onset of a depression or burn-out feels like,…What really ticked me off was that people suggested that this was all in my head and something I could simply stop if I stopped stressing and put things in perspective. Let me be very clear: this was not the case. It was not in my head and I had no perspective to put things in because I felt like I was going to die for weeks on end. I wish it would have been as simple and now a few weeks after those most acute weeks I also think: you’re pregnant, it’s a good cause, you’re going to have a baby, be happy. But I was incapable to think like that then.
Week nine was horrible and so was week ten but then the mornings started to get a bit better. Later that week I was able to drink water and even had a sandwich. Life was still tough but some of that dark cloud seemed to finally be lifting. I started work again a week early because I felt guilty because there was no one covering for my work. B. and I decided I could only go back if we told everyone the news, even though I was only ten weeks along. Going back to work scared me but it was a good decision because the distraction was welcome and the positive energy from people there rubbed off. I even felt like myself again sometimes, for half an hour or so! Coming home tired, did make the afternoons and nights worse though.
Before they got better, things got even worse
Just as I was getting a little hope, we decided that after six days of fever, Amelia needed medical attention and I took her to the ER. (Earlier our gp had told us it was a common flu but since the fever wasn’t ending and she was not acting like her happy self we decided to take her to the ER...) I ended up staying in hospital with her for three nights. (Adeno virus - dehydration). Meanwhile Bart, my mom and sisters had fallen ill themselves with the flu. Luckily my mother-in-law came over in the evenings to look after Amelia so I could go home and shower (not eat, dinners were still impossible). Besides those few moments Amelia and I were in her little room 24/7. She was feeling so bad that she didn’t want to leave my lap, day or night. With the nausea this hospital stay was a challenge to say the least. Moreover I had just started work and had to call in sick again.
Week 13 now and I’m feeling better each day
The next week was still iffy, Bart and the kids were recovering ever so slowly but there was light at the end of the tunnel. And here we are week 13: I’m sporting a horrid cold, I like to call it a festive conclusion of the Rocky horror show our lives have been for the past seven weeks, but I don’t feel nauseous in the mornings anymore. I start the day with a healthy breakfast and can keep the queasiness at bay if I snack throughout the day. Evenings are still not going excellent but I'm cooking dinners for my family and since a few days I’ve been able to eat a bit too. Today I got out of the house to have lunch with a friend without the kids for the first time in forever and I actually enjoyed the food!
Tricks that worked for me
Those excruciating weeks, I’m sorry to say, nothing gave me relief. I just tried to avoid any smells or room temperature changes (going from the warm living room into the colder hallway for example triggered even worse nausea).
My sister who dabbles in holistic approaches, gave me a red jasper gem. Honestly, I usually wouldn’t have done anything with it but I was desperate. It might have been the placebo effect but I still wear it close to me in my bra every day.
Candy and popsicles
These past two weeks I’ve been able to fall back on tricks that worked for me in my other pregnancies. I usually don’t like candy but I have some with we at all times now. Especially sour sweets or flavors like lemon and orange give me a bit of a kick. Popsicles also help. Besides that I snack throughout the day and don’t have a big dinner or no dinner at all.
Ginger and folic acid
I’ve also been taking ginger medicine (I can’t stand fresh ginger anymore). I’m allowed to take two a day so I take one in the morning and one in the evening. Around noon I take my folic acid as I have the feeling that helps a bit too. It just takes the edge off of it for an hour or so. I haven’t been taking any other prenatal vitamins
Deep breaths and sighs
This and yawning was the only thing that, for a few seconds, took away the nausea.
We chose to tell people before the 12 week mark and I’m very happy we did. Sharing helps and turns out so many moms have difficulties in their pregnancies but no one’s telling each other about it. It’s like we feel guilty for not being happy with the miracle of pregnancy. Well sometimes being pregnant sucks and there’s no harm in supporting other mommies by honestly telling them about that.
I’m on the mend and ready to start enjoying this pregnancy which surely is the last because this, …I don’t ever want to do again.
Were you sick during pregnancy? Let’s continue the conversation on @mommoiselle_com