Trigger warning: hyperemesis gravidarum, depression, anxiety, miscarriage.
“Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven.” When I heard these lyrics from Taylor Swift’s Folklore album, I couldn’t help but feel they were written just for me. I listened over, and over again as I looked at my sweet angel baby’s chubby fingers while she slept on my chest. My pregnancy with her almost broke me. In fact, I think it actually did. And here I am, five months postpartum, still picking up the pieces… but on my way to healing.
In early December of 2019, I found out I was expecting baby #5 (my sixth pregnancy). We were SO happy and everything was going well. I ended up getting the flu mid-December. I tested positive, I was so sick, in bed, throwing up, all the flu symptoms. A week went by, then two weeks. Slowly, my symptoms started shifting. I no longer had a fever, but the body aches were still present. I was throwing up and going diarrhea 12+ times a day. When I wasn’t in the bathroom, I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. I realized that the flu had sailed, just as morning sickness had arrived. But… it felt different. It was more intense than anything I had previously experienced. It was debilitating. But I figured, it was just morning sickness and I needed power through. Weeks went by without relief. In fact, things only got worse.
Christmas went by, New Years passed, and things had only gotten worse. I was finally diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) by my OB, and had to go in for WEEKLY appointments to make sure baby was growing and to track my weight. January, February and part of March I spent in and out of the hospital, hooked up to IVs for fluids, going days without food, weeks without seeing the sunshine or breathing in fresh air, days and days went by without seeing my children’s faces. We tried medication after medication. The first go-to was Unisom and B-6. Unisom would knock me out for 20+ hours. I would wake up at 2pm, throw up, and go back to sleep until the next morning. And repeat. Then we tried Zofran… which offered little to no relief, and then cause hemorrhoids so bad I had to go to urgent care. I tried ginger chews, and ginger gum, and pressure bracelets, and jolly ranchers, and ANYTHING that was suggested to me… just HOPING and PRAYING that something might work.
There was no end in sight. Some women told me that their HG symptoms didn’t let up until the moment they gave birth. By this point, I had lost close to 30lbs.
I spiraled into a debilitating depression. At one of my weekly OB appointments, I started bawling my eyes out. I told her I missed my kids so badly. I couldn’t remember that last meal I ate with them. I couldn’t remember the last meal I had eaten in general. I told her I wished I wasn’t pregnant anymore and that in my darkest moments, I prayed to miscarry. She instantly gave me a depression screening and they decided to switch my meds from Zoloft to Lexapro (which really helped).
Early March, close to 20 weeks pregnant, my symptoms started to let up enough for us to travel to Nevada and stay in a resort for a few days for Spring Break. I wasn’t even close to feeling 50% better, but I wanted my kids to be able to do something fun and memorable for Spring Break. On the last day of our trip, there started to be headlines about toilet paper, and NBA shutdowns, and a virus spreading. We hurried home to quarantine.
After we got home, my symptoms progressively lightened. By 25 weeks, I was feeling almost normal (or as normal as you can feel during pregnancy). I still had diarrhea 3+ times a day for the duration of my pregnancy, but it wasn’t 10-12 times a day like before. I celebrated the fact that I was able to spend time with my kids, that I was able to eat, that I was able to laugh and smile again. For the rest of my pregnancy (12 weeks — because I gave birth at 37 weeks), I mostly felt okay. There were days it came back full force, and the next day I would feel fine again. Quarantine and social distancing helped, because I didn’t feel pressure to get dressed or go out or be social. But the virus added a whole other layer of anxiety to my pregnancy that hadn’t been there before. And after 3 and a half months of self-isolation from late December to early March, the isolation of quarantine was a loneliness I had never felt.
The first 25 weeks of my pregnancy were some of the darkest days of my life. I truly didn’t know if I was going to make it through to the other side. I had no hope. I thought my body was crumbling and I might die. I thought my baby might die.
Now, almost five months postpartum, I look down at Ellis’ face and I feel peace. I’m healing. And her sweet cheeks and chin dimple and wide eyes help. I don’t know why I had to endure so much pain during my pregnancy with her, I’ll never understand it. And back then, there were dark moments that I wished I wasn’t pregnant anymore. But now, I look at her… and I know I would go through it all over again, in a heartbeat, for her.
For more information about HG, please visit the HER Foundation.