Last time I was pregnant I said to my husband (multiple times I believe), ‘don’t let me remember how sick I am, or I’ll never do this again’. In July this year I was alone at a restaurant on a Friday night, catching up on work, when all of a sudden I felt sick, I rushed to get the bill and just made it home in time to start vomiting. When I wasn’t feeling better two days later I took a test and sure enough, two pink lines appeared. Pregnant.
Unfortunately I am one of those people who suffers from completely debilitating and unrelenting sickness when I’m pregnant. When I tell people I’m expecting they normally act like I’ve won the lottery. And I feel like I’m trapped on a rocking boat, seasick for months. Last time I was worried because I felt the sickness was stopping me bond with my baby, but this time, I know, the bonding will come. Once the nausea lifts, and my belly grows, and my baby starts moving, and we find out the gender, and we give him or her a name. It will happen. I know.
Before I had experienced this I might have thought the joy of carrying a life inside me would help me overcome the sickness. That I would be sick, but so blissfully happy, that the sickness would be insignificant. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
In my experience, pregnancy sickness is misunderstood, not taken seriously, and it goes on and on and on. The length of time is probably what I find hardest to cope with. With my last pregnancy whole seasons passed.
I don’t need advice from people. Three pregnancies in and I’ve tried it all – from acupuncture to ginger tea. The only thing that stopped the vomiting for me is medication. While I would love to take a natural approach to pregnancy, I am extremely grateful that I live in a time and place where medication is available. I resisted so much in my last pregnancy. I put off taking it for as long as possible and took a very low dose. But there’s no medal at the end for doing pregnancy drug free. And there are a lot of things to consider. Taking the medication means I can be a better mum to my toddler, it means I’m less likely to get depressed from months and months of sickness, it means I can get out of bed. Sometimes we have to make trade offs and choose what is least bad.
But there is no magic fix. Sometimes I take the medication and I still feel awful. It always wears off by the afternoon. Evenings, nights and mornings are the worst for me. I can’t cook, and don’t know what to eat.
With each pregnancy I believe I have got better at managing the sickness. The first time it hit me it was such a shock, I had no plan in place, I tried to continue with normal life, I found myself vomiting in bins and public toilets. But I tried to be a hero, I believed I could push through, I made excuses and tried to hide it, I believed we shouldn’t tell people I was pregnant till 12 weeks. It was the worst time of my life. Even though we lost that pregnancy, not telling people did me no favours. It meant I was unsupported and alone, through both a difficult pregnancy and a heart breaking loss.
With my next two pregnancies we’ve shared it earlier with family and friends, we’ve told people that I’m sick, I’ve explained to people what this sickness means (no, I can’t just meet you at the coffee shop, I can’t just pop in and buy milk from the garage, I can’t get a meal out of the freezer…), and I’ve had a lot more support.
This is where I need to give a public shout out to my mum, who rearranged her entire life to spend 5 weeks looking after me and my daughter in South Africa. There are many special people in my life, but none who will bend over backwards for me in the way my mum does. I’m 30, but time hasn’t changed this. If I need her, she makes a plan to be there. And when she left, members of our church cooked meals for us. These were such an incredible lifesaver. This support, and not trying to continue life as normal, has made this pregnancy my most positive one yet.
But, though I am grateful for so much support, it is a lonely journey. No one can do these hard days for me. And while, it takes a village to raise a child, it can only ever take one woman to carry one.
I know I have a lot to be thankful for. And I know it will be worth it. But in the moment it is hard. And night after night as I lie on the couch feeling so sick, I tell my husband that I don’t think I can do this. To be sick for such a long time can be overwhelming and depressing. So, to pick me up, he took a week off work and took me to a beach house. It was exactly what I needed. And I am hopeful that the worst is behind me and that the clouds will lift soon. And until they do, each night I tell myself that I can get through tomorrow. And then the next day. And I’ll make it to the end like that. One. Day. At. A. Time.
If you are pregnant and experiencing something similar, here are my tips to you (based on what helped me):
- Take the medication (Zofran). Don’t feel guilty, it doesn’t make you a bad mum.
- Don’t feel down because your friend / sister / everyone else seemed to breeze through pregnancy and you can’t get out of bed. Everyone experiences pregnancy symptoms differently, some people have almost no nausea, others end up in hospital. It’s not a reflection on you, or your strength.
- Tell people close to you that you are pregnant and sick. Explain what the sickness means. Most people don’t understand it and have no idea.
- Stay away from things that are ‘triggers’ for you. For me it’s supermarkets, malls, garages, cafes, the kitchen, the fridge / freezer, food cooking, the car etc.
- Be proactive in making life as easy as you can. For example we have ordered frozen meals for this time so no one has to cook in our house. If friends and family can help you out that’s great, but it is also ok to get paid help. We’ve temporarily got someone cleaning our house because, though our house is small, I often struggle to get dressed.
- Know that it will pass, that in the scheme of your whole life it is a short period of time, and that once it is over you will have a special child in your life to love forever. They will be beautiful and smiley and cuddly and fun. And, without doubt, worth everything we go through for them.