No one told me morning sickness would be like this. Or maybe they did and 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 first 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 women like me.
Because many of us suffer in silence during those anxious first weeks. We tell no one how bad our pregnancy sickness is 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 but at the same time spend all day and night 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.
(Update February 2020: This post is about pregnancy sickness – not HG – as I was very lucky that the symptoms mentioned below didn’t last my full pregnancy. I wrote this post in 2018 at 15 weeks pregnant when I was just starting to feel more normal. By 17 weeks I felt well enough to fly to a conference in Vegas. All your comments and support for each other on this post have been amazing. I hope the morning sickness passes for you as quickly as it did for me. I’ve got everything crossed for you.)
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 yuckiness which lasted well into week 14.
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 my husband found me here. I remained in this position for a further 2 hours.
Weeks 7 to 9 is when morning sickness was the worst for me. 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 apart from hide away and 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….
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 garlic mayo 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 made me heave.)
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 Helped My Morning Sickness – Drugs & Time
I appreciate I am lucky I was never hospitalised with pregnancy sickness. I did become quite dehydrated during the worst of it but managed to keep just enough liquids down in order to not need medical intervention.
My 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 I took them sparingly and 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 – repeatedly – if you’re struggling. I should have gone back and asked for something other than Maxolon – it’s just at the time I was living far from family in Oz and I couldn’t manage getting to the doctors!)
I write this now – at just over 15 weeks pregnant – and would say on a scale of 1 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 title.)
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.”
HER Foundation for HG education and research
The book I’m reading in the first pic is How To Grow A Baby & Push It Out!
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.”
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