Thank you so much for your lovely response to last week’s post – adoption is a fascinating topic and I loved learning more about it. Another great topic this week from Emma (aka “Emetomum”) about a phobia that is more common than you might think.
This is my very first guest post and I am excited to write for the lovely Laura at Butterfly Mother! Although the topic of the post isn’t one which is overly exciting – in my opinion. I will essentially write about vomiting and the challenges it throws up (haha, ok sorry) day to day. When tasked with writing something along the lines of “parenting challenges”, my insta-thought was “vomiting”. You’ve probably heard of claustrophobia and arachnophobia but have you heard of emetophobia? I know, I know, these phobias have some whacky names don’t they! But EMETOphobia actually means a fear of vomiting. The emet part relates to emesis, a word which means the act or process of vomiting. And emetophobia presents itself in many forms. The sufferer may be mainly fearful of themselves vomiting or they may only be fearful of others vomiting. If you aren’t aware of this phobia, your initial thought is probably “but no one LIKES being sick!” and I know this haha. But emetophobia is more than a dislike to vomiting. It rules your whole life. I am mainly scared of myself being sick but I am also scared of others, especially if I know it could be a bug or something “catchy”. As you can imagine, this brings quite a lot of worries and woes for a mummy-emetophobe! I will share with you a few of the things that this phobia impacts in terms of being a mum. Fortunately I was able to push through my pregnancy anxieties to even have a baby, and for that I am forever grateful and happy.
Deciding to have a baby. This is something I ummed and ahhed about for literally years. I’d pretty much said to myself that I would never have children because of the phobia and having kids just wasn’t “for me”. I knew deep down that I’d at least like the option, to make a decision that wasn’t purely based on what the phobia dictates. Fortunately I was in a good place mentally when deciding to try for a baby. A combination of therapy and medication helped me a lot.
Finding out I was pregnant. I remember the day like it was yesterday, purely because I knew from the moment I had a positive test, I’d feel insta-sick. The power of the mind hey. I was so anxious that on the evening, I made myself ill. I didn’t vomit but I felt awful and ended up with some sort of flu virus for a few days.
Pregnancy. Pregnancy was really tough for me purely because of the anxiety every day that I might vomit. Otherwise my pregnancy was very textbook. A few friends commented that it was “easy” and I had nothing to “worry” about. But being emetophobic means that being pregnant is far from easy at all. I vomited once and that was difficult enough. It resulted in me losing a lot of weight, not eating properly and spending many weeks being overly anxious.
Birth. Because of the phobia, I had extensive meetings with midwives, consultants and anaesthetists. I also saw an NHS cognitive behavioural specialist through the duration of my pregnancy. I very much wanted a controlled birth experience which would hopefully result in the least anxiety for me. For that reason, I had a planned caesarean. I got a lot of crap from various people about this decision – I was giving in, I was being weak, I was too posh to push, I didn’t understand the full extent of a c-section and even my dad told me that it seemed things were too easy and planned these days for women (wtf). The reality was far from any opinions people had. I’d done so much research in to the pros and cons of each option and I really made sure I was making an informed decision – not just because I assumed a c-section would be the easier option. It was far from easy that was for sure. But it was very controlled, very calm and there was minimal panic. The experience was much better than I ever imagined. I do have a couple of regrets though. I regret not seeing my baby straight after birth. I was really anxious the sight of the blood might make me feel nauseas and ultimately I’d vomit. I also regret not just thinking about my new baby. All I could focus on was “is it all over and what if I vomit still”. I was also very fearful of other women on the ward vomiting –what I’ve I heard them being sick? I had requested a private room (and would have paid) but they had none available. When I transferred to our local maternity unit the next day, the ward was empty and it was just me for a few days.
Early Days. The early days were very much up and down. As any new parent will probably agree, you are all over the place. My biggest fear though was not sleep or breastfeeding or recovery. I was worried about how I would cope with my baby vomiting. I am pleased to say that the baby “spit up” was something I got used to very quickly haha. And even when my boy was six months old and projectile vomited milk everywhere one night, I was there for him and it was ok. I was ok. He was ok. I was being a mum.
Weaning. When we first started weaning our son, my first thought was that the vomit will now start to get chunky. More like adult vomit. It did but it hasn’t been as awful as I’d had it in my head. My husband has been amazing. He has always known the score. Little man always seems to vomit if he has a bad cough, so a lot of times I’ve been sure it has happened through coughing. Knowing it isn’t a bug definitely helps with dealing with things after a vomit episode.
Toddler Years. We have just gotten to 3 and on the whole I think I’ve done amazingly well coping with any vomit episodes. There have been tough times and the pregnancy and birth were hard but I got through it and I have such a wonderful boy to show for it. It has certainly been worth the anxiety and worry!
So there, a snapshot into life as a vomit phobic mummy. I know there will be super hard times to come but I also know that I can get through it. I have to for my son now. He literally means the world to me because I really thought I’d never be able to go through pregnancy to have him. But we are here now – and I’m much happier because he is in my life 🙂
I’m so grateful to Emma for sharing so openly about this. Although I don’t have emetophobia I know very well how damaging anxiety is in general, and I know lots of people who do have this phobia. It’s great that Emma is opening people’s minds with her story. For more from Emma hop over to her blog or find her on Twitter.