Getting real about morning sickness in the 1st trimester
Pregnancy

Morning Sickness: Can We Get Real About How Bad It Can Be?

No one told me it would be like this. Or maybe they did but I didn’t listen. Maybe I was too hopeful it wouldn’t happen to me.

Or maybe not enough women share how it really is.

My intention with this post is not to scare anyone. Many women sail through the 1st trimester. Some have a few bad mornings, some a couple of bad weeks.

But for some of us the 1st trimester (and onwards) is a 24-hour challenge where we sleep, vomit, sleep, vomit and repeat.

I’m writing this post for these women like me.

Because many of us suffer in silence during those anxious first weeks. We tell no one how bad it gets because most people don’t even know we’re pregnant.

We struggle with the guilt of not being grateful we’re blessed with a baby and want desperately for the little one to be fine while wishing this torture would end.

It’s a lonely and isolating experience for these women and I was one of them.

I wanted to share how I struggled so others know they are not alone. I want to say it does pass (for some sooner rather than later) and we’ve got this. But let’s get real about how gross it really is.

You may also like: Newborn Essentials: The baby products we actually used

Morning, Noon and Night Sickness

Whoever decided to call these symptoms morning sickness must be some kind of joker.

For me, morning sickness begun in week 6 with a little nausea in the morning. Great, I thought confidently, I can handle this. Then came the vomit in week 7, the 24-hr sickness in week 8 and eventually a non-stop bleeurgness which lasted well into week 14 and meant I barely left the house for 7 weeks. I had to cancel work, social plans and a trip to Bali as most days I was too flat or nauseous to move further than the sofa.

If this all sounds a little dramatic let me share with you the one photo I have from this period. It was taken on the day of the Royal Wedding when – almost 8 weeks pregnant – I tried to ambitiously conquer the dual tasks of washing my hair and changing the bed sheets. (Just for Meghan and Harry!) At 3pm I managed 1 out of 2 things, by 3.45pm Justin found me here. I remained in this position for a further 2 hours.

Morning sickness in the 1st trimester

Weeks 7 to 9 were the most intense. During these weeks, I was lucky if I could swallow a rice cracker by 7pm and wash myself by 10pm. I spent a lot of that time staring at a blank wall or sleeping as this was the only relief. Looking at a screen gave me motion sickness, climbing the stairs made me retch and watching the TV was fraught with issues such as adverts for KFC that had me spewing into the sink. (The same advert got me twice in 1 week!) In all honesty, I was miserable and didn’t know what to do with myself but wallow in it.

By week 10 I started to leave the house but only to go to Woolworths in the hope of finding something I hadn’t already vomited. Just walking the supermarket aisles was a precarious mission, often involving dry retching and not always ending with me coming home with shopping.

One particularly memorable morning I dragged myself all the way to Kmart for some maternity leggings – as despite losing weight from all the spewing the baby bloat was thriving – and found myself bent over a drain on the High Street dry heaving for all to see. After that I only went out for doctor’s appointments and even then I often puked in my mouth or burped so loudly in the street that old ladies gave me evils.

I’m all class, me!

For those of you who aren’t self-employed I honestly don’t know how you do it. I felt like a vile monster for weeks and couldn’t trust my body in public. When the frequency of my burping was in the double figures daily I didn’t even bother apologising. And don’t get me started on constipation….

morning sickness 1st trimester

Photo by Vítor de Matos on Unsplash

Food, Smell and House Aversions

The smell of my house still makes me feel sick. I think I spent so long in it puking that the once comforting smell of our home now brings on a bout of nausea. The open plan living/kitchen area is the worst offender, I cannot step in it without retching.

My poor patient husband is also on the aversion list – one time trying to comfort me with a hug only to be told, “I don’t like the smell of your head.” My sense of smell was so supersonic I could tell him what he ate for lunch as soon as he entered the room and when he had the audacity to eat aioli with his chips one lunchtime I had to request he sleep in the spare room that evening. (He declined, quite fairly, but we slept facing opposite directions as the lingering odour left me retching.)

In all fairness, Justin has kindly stepped up in all sorts of ways, even when I made it less than easy. The ‘bread incident’ will forever more be a shining example of how much this man loves me. It’s a long story but in short, he was sent out for a loaf, came home with the one that wasn’t in my head and was greeted with an avalanche of tears and sobs that went something like ”I don’t want to be this person but it’s the wrong bread and now I can’t eat my sandwich.” Realising there was no sense to be seen by me, the legend went back out to the supermarket and Facetimed me from the bread aisle so I could choose the loaf I had imagined. How romantic.

Exceedingly British Cravings

I don’t know why I had cravings in the 1st trimester as the enjoyment receptors between my mouth and brain didn’t seem to be working  – I ate food and felt nothing.

For some reason though that didn’t stop me craving things, that rather awkwardly for someone who lives in Australia, were all my favourite things when I was little.

Suddenly I wanted beans on toast, ham and cheese toasties and egg mayo sandwiches – but only how my mum makes them – hence the aforementioned sobbing. I dreamt of Pret, daydreamed about Angel Delight and at one desperate moment went onto the British Corner Shop website and put $150 worth of crisps in a basket. (I would have ordered them had it not occurred to me I risk puking it all up and putting my favourite foods on the aversion list.)

I think most husbands accept that they may have to make late night dashes for pregnant wives wanting ice-cream – I want my poor partner to fly to the other side of the world and buy everything I ate between 1990 and 2013! (Especially the Greggs sandwich I loved aged 16 nom nom nom.)

What Worked – Drugs & Time

The doctor did prescribe me anti-nausea meds called Maxolon but they only worked on the days I didn’t puke them. Puking them was a spectacularly vile experience, not sure what’s in them but it tastes like pure acid coming back up, plus keeping them down caused me drowsiness. So basically I took them sparingly but mostly just tried to grit my teeth and not have my husband divorce me. (I’ve read more positive reviews of Zofran wafers so ask your doctor for help if you’re struggling.)

I write this now – at just over 15 weeks – and would say on a scale of 10 to vom I’m hovering at a 6. Yesterday was an 8 so there is light in the darkness. Eating is still a struggle but not eating makes things uglier. I’m taking little trips out of the house – coz it stinks! – and survived a whole hour in a café working on this. That, my friends, is pure progress.

What Didn’t Work – ALL Other Things

Over the last few weeks I’ve googled the sh*t out of morning sickness remedies and I’m sorry guys but I can’t say any of them helped me.

Every woman is different but I promise you I tried everything I read and still I remained the vomit sloth monster. (A self-appointed moniker.)

Seasickness bands, ginger tablets, ginger teas, ALL ginger things, vitamins, fresh air, eating dry crackers/biscuits first thing, eating small meals regularly… you get the drift.

Time really is the best medicine and as each day I get a little less exhausted and the retching is a little less frequent I see remnants of the old me and feel more positive about the whole thing.

I Know It Could Be Worse

I hope my whining does not offend those who would kill to be in this position – my intention is certainly not to hurt anyone by sharing my experience. I understand and acknowledge that as someone who has not suffered serious complications that I am one of the lucky ones in the grand scheme of things.

I also want to salute, as I did in my last post, all the women who suffer from severe morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). I cannot imagine what a mammoth feat getting through 9 months of sickness must be for these women. I hope they are getting the support and care they need.

If you are or have been suffering from non-stop morning sickness lets wallow with each other and celebrate the moment when it eases. Remember this mantra each time you vomit:

“This too will pass.”

Further reading:

HER Foundation for HG education and research

And this post by Not Another Mummy Blog, which gave me the courage to share my experience. “Let’s start being more honest about how tough it can be. It’s possible to admit to feeling rancid, low, knackered and washed out but still be 100% grateful to be pregnant.”

You may also like:

My maternity wear must-haves

2nd trimester pregnancy diary – Scans, flights & a move overseas

Thoughts on becoming a first-time mum

Life with a newborn 

Newborn baby shopping list: Essentials for the first few months

20 Comments

  • Reply
    Bree
    July 12, 2018 at 9:16 am

    More post like this should exisit. I suffered HG for both of my pregnancies for the full 9 months. I lost friends cause i couldn’t live the house and I dragged my ass to work each day to make sure we got paid.

    Pregnancy sucks but I love my girls. I asked my husband if we could have a third the other week and he looked at me the other day and so are you stupid.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      July 12, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Oh Bree! I’ve only had a taster the last few months of what you must have been through and can’t believe you’ve been champion enough to do it twice already! I actually started feeling guilty on my worse days as I didn’t think I would be strong enough to give this baby a sibling – which is pretty dark and getting way ahead of myself. I also think enough isn’t said about how hard partners struggle with feeling unable to help. I saw this beautiful photo on facebook the other day of a husband beaming at his wife after the birth of their son and him explaining that it had been 9 months since he saw his wife smile and that was what made the moment so special.

  • Reply
    Kristin
    July 21, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    There’s nothing less fun than nausea! So sorry you are going through this! You’re so right about the super smell, though – I busted out laughing at your “the smell of your head” comment. Right now I can’t stand the smell of my house slippers. My husband insists he doesn’t smell anything and I’m convinced that the smell of them should have everyone running from the room.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      July 24, 2018 at 12:35 am

      Hahaha I am super sensitive to everything from my slippers to the sink so I completely understand how you feel. Hope this super power wears off soon!

  • Reply
    Linda McCormick
    July 26, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Oh my God, I hear ya!

    First off, congratulations… and just remember, at least there’s an end to it.
    Your account sounds just like my experience, although I had the joy of it all coming back at 24 weeks and had the voms till the end (along with every other bloody preggo ailment in the book). And even though I was self-employed I had a few clients and had to struggle through working until 36 weeks. After the second baby (yes, I thought it wouldn’t be so bad second time around… it was) I vowed never again!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      July 27, 2018 at 3:19 am

      Oh no that does not sound like fun – that surprise return of the voms at 24 weeks would have done me in! Well done you for going back for round two 😀

  • Reply
    Hazel
    February 14, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Thank you for this article. It makes me feel that im not alone & what im going through is normal. Im 8 weeks into my pregnancy & every point that you mentioned was spot on. Looking at food adverts on TV, even the smell of my favourite blanket, room/house turns me off. Im hyper sensitive to any kind of smell/scent right now, struggling with my diet daily. Couldn’t get myself out to work nor out of my house door. Hope everything will pass soon for me. And i wish you all the best with your newborn.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      February 16, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      Hi Hazel, I totally feel for you as those early weeks can be a real struggle! In my case the worst of the sickness did eventually pass and I hope it does real soon for you too. It all becomes a distant memory when you have a baby to cuddle. Best of the luck with the rest of your pregnancy. Take care of yourself x

  • Reply
    alina
    February 16, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    I’m so glad I read this. Although it may sound sadistic to find joy knowing others have suffered… I am 9 weeks pregnant after years of miscarriages and I know I should be overjoyed beyond belief but morning sickness has made it impossible.
    I have tried every thing under the sun. I am taking Zofran but it only works sometimes. When I’m not hugging the toilet I am crying, when I am not crying I am dispising the smell of everything and everyone!
    Thank you for your encouragement. I will remind myself that THIS WILL PASS!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      February 17, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      Aw Alina, I wrote this precisely because I was looking for people in the same boat when I was struggling. I remember so well the tears, the toilet hugging, the way the smell of literally everything is repulsive. I hope it provides some comfort to you to know I feel your pain and that it does go away. Hold on in there and take it easy on yourself. Sending lots of nausea-free vibes xx

  • Reply
    Bianca
    March 3, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    Thank you so so so much for writing this article. To talking to friends and reading the stuff online made feel weak, like maybe i am over reacting and mostly disappointed in myself for not being able to cope as well as what (till now) felt like every women on the planet.
    I am 6.5 weeks and the last 8-10days have been a quick evolution of what you speak about. I am not vomiting but nausea to the nines, blood hounds smell reflexes and that quick heart beat and sweats simular that before throwing up but instead i do a number two:( … i am truly happy i am baking this lil nugget of joy. But, like you i am self employed and have stopped operations till I’m feeling better. Sending a massive hug to all you lovely ladies out there.
    Xx

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      March 4, 2019 at 9:00 am

      I completely understand where you are coming from! I was so surprised at how bad I felt as I didn’t know anyone else who had a similar experience. Hope you feel better soon. Sending lots of hugs and sick-free vibes 😀

  • Reply
    Zoe
    March 9, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I was so happy to find this post! Thank you for writing this. I’m really in the exact same situation as you with all that you’ve been feeling plus I am self employed and work from home. I’m currently ten weeks and just struggling hard. And I feel so guilty because I think of those women who have to go into work each day or even worse as you say, the poor women who suffer through with HG. While, I’m able to stay at home and work if I can, but mostly I’m too sick to move. I barely keep up with the house work. My husband is being so patient but I can’t help feeling useless and pathetic as I’m in a good situation to be dealing with this but I hate it and feel downright miserable. I was so excited to be pregnant, and can’t wait to meet my little one, but really did not expect this. It has been the longest 10 weeks of my life! Anyway reading this made me feel not alone, and has reminded me that this is not forever. I hope all is going well with your pregnancy, best of luck for your families future! For now I am just counting down the days till the second trimester!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      March 11, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      Hang on in there Zoe! I felt so rough until about 16 weeks and at the time they felt like the longest 16 weeks of my life. Now I have a 9 week old son and can honestly say it was all totally worth if, even if certain foods still turn my stomach. I totally tested my husband’s patience too but perhaps we can call it training to be a parent haha. I hope you wake up sickness free soon 😀

  • Reply
    Janey
    March 11, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    I actually cried reading this article because a) hormones and b) that picture of you on the bed is EXACTLY me every time I try to wash my hair lol. I thought I was honestly going crazy or just being a super wimp with how awful I feel. People do pregnancies all the time and survive it and I don’t hear from them, right?! So thanks for being open and honest with how you felt, I really needed to hear it. Week 10 now and praying it doesn’t last much longer… Much love and I hope you’re enjoying all your time with your little one now!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      March 11, 2019 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Janey. It’s nice to hear from people who feel the same as I did as at the time I knew no one else who got it so bad. It’s funny how time seems so slow when you’re struggling with morning sickness and yet seems to fly by so fast when the little one arrives. Go easy on yourself and keep reminding yourself it will end (through the tears – I had many of them too!).

  • Reply
    Mirie
    April 4, 2019 at 2:05 am

    UGH! The relevance in all these including my poor husband’s odor! I think there’s something about our house too that makes my nausea worse. I remember going to visit my family and not experiencing any of these morning sickness at all. Now I’m asking my husband if I could go back and stay there for a while but he can’t bear the thought of me leaving, even when I told him being beside him also makes me sick (no offense babe). Besides all this, it’s a three-hour drive away. He feels it’s his responsibility to take care and watch over me and that’s all right BUT I JUST WANT TO FEEL OKAY! I am so sick and over being so sick. I haven’t done a pregnancy test yet but I’m already experiencing everything and I just know I’m pregnant because I missed my period last month…so I’m probably around 5 weeks now. I’m praying it doesn’t get worse and the thought of going through this for another 8 weeks (56 days) is already driving me nuts.
    I can’t hold any food down and everything that goes in eventually comes out the next 5 minute. I’m hoping to test those sea bands and vitamin supplements to see if it works…and I HOPE IT WORKS ON ME. I can already feel I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight.
    This is my second pregnancy, the first having resulted in a miscarriage at 3 months, and I’m already missing classes in uni for a degree I’m pursuing and all of this including assignments I haven’t done and those I’ve missed is making things even more worse, especially when it’s my final year.
    All in all I can only salute mothers who’ve gone through this situation and still went on to have more children. I think I’m drawing my line with this one. No more! (But then hey, husband might have other plans. He’s told me he wanted to be like Abraham in the Bible who fathers a nation. Poor me. I can barely hold myself together for one. That is just a big NO, NO)

  • Reply
    Christie
    April 24, 2019 at 1:54 am

    I really appreciate this post! I’m in my second pregnancy and after having no morning sickness the first time, the severity and duration of morning sickness with this pregnancy has been very unexpected. Other than knowing of HG, I didn’t realize it could be so difficult! I agree that not enough people talk about the experience (and none of those traditional remedies help). I can relate to a lot of what you wrote, down to the smell of my house putting me off and craving foods I haven’t had since I was a kid. I’ll be in my 16th week tomorrow and while the nausea has been less severe since the 12th week, it’s still a 24/7 struggle. I feel guilty for being too sick to be very excited about the pregnancy and for my lack of productivity. I keep thinking that any week now I’ll feel better and it’s discouraging when it doesn’t come and worries me that it will last the whole 9 months. Anyway, misery loves company, so thanks for your post!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      April 25, 2019 at 7:18 am

      Love your last line! ‘Misery loves company’ is exactly why I wrote this post, it def helps to have others to wallow with! It must have been quite a surprise to feel so ill second time around when you were ok with your first – perhaps it is better this way though as I’m quite apprehensive about going for a second round when I struggled so much first time! Hang in there though, week 17 was definitely the game changer for me and by week 20 the sickness was bearable enough for us to move house – from Australia to the UK. I can also tell you the satisfaction of having your first meal after giving birth – and actually enjoying it – is off the scale!

  • Reply
    Adriana Grisold
    May 11, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Thank you for this article! I’m 12 weeks into my first pregnancy and I never expected the mental struggle of severe nausea. Losing weight and having people give advice like ‘you’ve just got to try and eat’ like I’ve been purposefully starving myself or ‘have you tried toast?’. I have spent weeks scrolling online trying to find anything to help me feel even mild nausea so food and water wasn’t a constant battle. I don’t know what I would do without my amazing husband who is so patient as I struggle each day to leave bed or do any menial tasks for myself. It’s comforting at least to know I am not a failure, someone who is weak or just sooky compared to other pregnant mums who manage.

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