In September we got that positive line and we couldn’t have been happier. We told our families straight away but, like most people, decided to wait until 12 weeks before really announcing it, just in case. I knew about morning sickness, of course, and had already said I was going to work through everything. I didn’t want to wrap myself in cotton wool and I very much felt I should just be able to get on with things until around April (a month before due date) when I would take maternity leave. By week 6, everything had to change. I had been getting gradually more and more nauseous until I started vomiting. I thought it was normal so didn’t seek any help until, after vomiting for 24 hours non stop keeping nothing down, my husband insisted on getting some help for me. By the time I saw the GP I hadn’t even managed a sip of water in 48 hours. He gave me some anti sickness meds and said if I wasn’t better by morning I had to go to hospital. I wasn’t. Friday 5th October I was sent to hospital and diagnosed as having Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I was shocked to discover that what I experienced wasn’t normal, not even close, that I had severe sickness. This was to be the start of a long and difficult journey.
I decided to cancel all my work for the following week, thinking this would give me plenty of time to get back on my feet, and went home thinking that the meds would be the cure and I would be fine within no time. But a week later and I wasn’t feeling better and 2 weeks later I ended up in hospital again needing more fluids (at 10 weeks pregnant). From this point on I was constantly seeing medical professionals and begging for help, I was being passed around the people and being told there was nothing they could do. Meanwhile I was stuck at home, in bed, completely unable to do anything. I felt nauseous all the time and doing anything, moving, would make things so much worse. I was terrified of ending up in hospital again. My husband took all the burden of looking after me. Food was prepared for me to help myself to and my husband rang me twice a day to check up on me. My mum started coming down once a week to keep me company and do some jobs around the house for us. This continued until I had our daughter.
Throughout the pregnancy I was determined to not blame the baby and really struggled mentally with what I was going through. I remember the second time I was admitted to hospital (10weeks) thinking “why am I going through all this? What’s it for?” and thinking about just ending it all. That visit to hospital I was given an early scan, to check it wasn’t twins, but that scan really helped hold me together for a few days and see a positive. Each scan had a really positive effect on me and pulled me up from my dark place, physically showed me that something was happening and it wasn’t just about the constant, never ending sickness. Through those early days I held on to the images of holding a baby afterwards, I surrounded myself in little clothes and imagined someone wearing them. We found out that we were having a little girl at 20 weeks and so named her. I made a conscious effort to always call the bump her and by name, remember that she was real and what we always wanted.
The pregnancy felt never ending for me, I was at home on the sofa or in bed all the time. I felt completely isolated and I also felt that I had no friends supporting me. I was asked by medical professionals whether I had people coming and visiting, I would answer that my mum did as if that was enough but really, apart from that I had very few visits and felt really lonely.
By 30 weeks I had well and truly had enough, I was treading water and I could no longer remember why I was doing it. People kept telling me it will all be worth it but she was my first, how did I KNOW she was worth it, how did anyone know how I would feel. I began to think that people were avoiding me, that they really couldn’t be bothered with how I was feeling even though I made an effort not to moan about it. I tried to hide how I was feeling to most people and most people told me how well I was looking, even though I felt awful inside. I was treading water and I knew I was gradually sinking. I was really desperate to have the pregnancy over but I knew that I had to get to the magic 37 week number. I felt so guilty that I was jealous of those that were having premature babies as I just wanted her out. I tried going to the GP about how I was feeling, but apparently I left it too late, as by the time I spoke to them it was too late for me to go on waiting lists and very little could be done. I was referred for an assessment but the nurse I spoke to didn’t really understand how pregnancy makes people feel, she told me that she would expect me to feel the way I did, but this didn’t help me to cope with it. She didn’t understand that I felt no bond with my baby and that I just wanted it over. She told me to just hold on “it’s not long now”, why do people think that makes everything better? If someone has flu and they are stuck in bed they say that a few days feels like forever, so imagine that you’ve had that for months on end and that you still have a or 2 month left, does that make you feel better? No it makes you even more depressed about how much longer is left to go.
I was told that at my 38 week appointment with the consultant we discuss the option of induction. I was holding on, by my fingernails, to that knowledge that I would get a date. That it would all be over soon and I would be on the next phase of my life, I would make new friends be able to get out the door and not be so lonely. I had been anxiously listening to midwifes telling me the baby was engaging and heading down, wishing for any signs she might be coming early and really just waiting for that appointment. When I got there the consultant point blank refused to talk about it. He wouldn’t listen to me when I said I was depressed and that it was getting worse the longer I waited. He listened to the heartbeat and I felt nothing at all, it was just a noise and it just didn’t mean anything to me. In the past I felt some joy and made me smile. I think he realised that I wasn’t reacting at all but he just said there was nothing he could do and he would set an induction date with me at my next appointment in 2 weeks’ time, after my due date. Did he not realise that to be told that I wouldn’t have the baby by that date we all count down too and I would then have to wait for a date was the worst thing I could imagine? On the way home from that appointment I completely flipped. I told my husband I didn’t want the baby anymore, I want “it” out and I seriously thought about any means possible to cut it out. I was crying my eyes out and was devastated. Over the rest of that Friday I felt worse and worse, the bump became a parasite and I felt dirty, I felt like I needed to wash and wash, like I had something in me that was eating me up. I couldn’t touch the bump, have anything touch it and every moment she moved just reminded me she was still there “killing me”. I felt so disgusting and when I did touch the bump I would shake, cry and need to wash. I felt so guilty that I had turned on her with one half of me but the other half, just kept shouting “end it, it’s making you sick and a prisoner in your own home. What are we waiting for? Now now now.”
My poor husband spent the next few days trying to get help for me, it was the weekend so we couldn’t get help. He rang the GP who said to talk to the consultant, who had gone home. He rang a mental health helpline who told him I needed help, to talk to a GP. We rang the out of hours GP who completely didn’t understand and started talking about adoption!! Complete lack of understanding. Eventually after me shouting at him he agreed I needed an appointment, but we never got called back to arrange it. In the end my husband rang the labour ward and they agreed to see me. We went down there and I couldn’t let anyone touch me. They agreed that I should be induced but they couldn’t make the decision and I needed to see a consultant. To cut a long story short I was told to wait till Monday, so I spent the weekend covered up and curled up crying and being watched by my husband. Finally, after mistakes by the hospital and more fighting by my husband and midwife, I saw a doctor on Monday 4pm. She wouldn’t talk about induction until I’d seen a psychiatrist as she thought I was mentally unstable. The psychiatrist agreed I needed to be induced ASAP but of course they’d all gone home so I had to wait another day. I had an appointment on the Wednesday but I decided I couldn’t hold on any longer. I was still in a bad way and all I could think was what if they said no? I NEEDED it to be over. The way I saw it was that labour was the end and I would be fine once holding my baby.
On Tuesday I finally got the go ahead and it was agreed I would be induced, that day. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening it was all ending. But they were too busy so I was delayed until the evening. Over the next few days I was given drugs to induce me but I was constantly put at the bottom of the list because I had nothing medically wrong with me. I spent hours not knowing what was going on and on monitors. No one took me seriously and considered that I would struggle being strapped to a bed being reminded of the bump constantly. I was still feeling very shaky and the smallest thing would set me over the edge. In the end my mum went and spoke to them and things were better after that. Induction was a long process that my body obviously wasn’t ready for. Tuesday it started and early hours of Saturday I had the baby. Nothing about labour was easy, my little girl got stuck so they used suction to pull her out, along with a cut. I had a temperature and my baby was tachycardic, she had also had some meconium in my waters so I was being closely monitored and not allowed to move or remain active. After they got her out I then bled and lost a lot of blood.
All I wanted was to go home and be able to walk out in the fresh air, but due to those issues we had to stay in hospital for several days. Baby was on antibiotics and was jaundiced so needed a light box. I needed a blood transfusion. For days I felt so guilty that I had caused all of this, if I had been stronger, not needed to be induced maybe she, and I, would have been fine. I caused her pain and her first week was so traumatic. I felt like I’d shown no strength but realistically I know that I showed strength to get through those 9 months, to feel nausea every day since before I even knew I was pregnant, to even go through “normal” labour. I still have to remind myself I’m not weak and none it was my fault. I was told, before pregnant, that I was a natural mother, I feel like nothing about this has proved that. I had an awful pregnancy, an awful labour and the first few weeks haven’t been plain sailing as our little one has a milk allergy so we had her screaming in pain, discomfort and no sleep. Now, 1 month later, I’m still struggling to feel that it was all worth it. Now she has special milk she is a bundle of joy, she has started smiling and is quite responsive. She is a big positive but, at the moment, this big positive isn’t enough to overcome the negatives we’ve had to go through. We are still bonding, I’m still learning that she needs me and no one can replace that. She may be OK with cuddles from others but no one else is her mum, that’s me alone.
HG is an illness, it stole my joyful pregnancy, it stole my labour and it stole my bonding time after baby was born. It has also stolen any further children we considered having. I’m sure the trauma of it all will fade over time, I won’t feel so raw thinking about it, but the knowledge that it could all happen again would break me. This time the only way I held on so long was due to hope it would get better, I won’t have that next time. On a more practical level HG has also stolen my job (I may have decided to stop but it forced the issue), our savings and the friends I thought I had. It feels like my life stopped on October 5th, when I first ended up in hospital, and only started again when I finally came home from hospital on May 22nd. I lost months of my life.
Through all of this I have had the unending support of my husband, he has been a rock. My family have been there for me and my mum has given up so much time to be here for us, try and cheer me up and occupy me. A few friends have remained supportive and visited and rung, I’ve discovered who my real friends are. I have also discovered a really supportive group of new friends who have listened to me and been with me every step of the way. HG gave me some things too and this is the biggest gift of all.