Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hyperemesis gravidarum and being open to children

Recently, a reader whom I have met in real life left the following comment on my blog:

How do you handle your family and your home while dealing with repeat hyperemesis? I would love another child, but my fear of HG and the knowledge that I can't take care of my others, makes me so fearful of embracing being open to children. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

It is such a good question, I thought I'd answer it in a blog post of its own.

For starters, I would like to explain (for those who have never been unfortunate enough to experience it firsthand) how bad hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is. It is morning sickness, multiplied a thousand times. It is a lot like food poisoning, except that  it lasts months instead of one day, and never lets up. It means throwing up a dozen times or more, every day - sometimes up until the baby is born. It means getting sick from the mention of any food, or driving past a restaurant, or even just getting an ad for one in the mail. It means that any stimulation to the senses is a trigger for more nausea (smells, tastes, loud noise or repetitive sounds, busy patterns, heat/cold, being touched, etc.). It means having a sore and often bleeding throat from all the bile that is traveling the wrong direction. It means wanting to lie alone in a cool, dark, quiet room all day, and not being able to. It means time dragging on excruciatingly slowly, and forgetting that you ever used to feel "normal".

Hyperemesis is terrible in every way imaginable. Some moms have it much worse than that yet, and require aggressive medical care and supervision. At its best, moms suffering from hyperemesis are horribly miserable and depressed. At its worst, they would rather die than have to live another day in such utter misery. On the hyperemesis spectrum, I am happy that I never have it as bad as some moms I have read/heard about. I throw up 10-20 times per day between weeks 5 and 16, at which point I usually have a very enjoyable and carefree rest of my pregnancy. The nausea takes its toll on my throat and teeth (i.e. very expensive dental bills), but much more than that, on my emotional well being. When it's all over, I suffer from what could probably be categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder: disbelief at what I've just been through, relief that it's over, and fear that it might ever happen again. It takes a good while to get over it - I still feel somewhat shook up from my most recent bout of HG with Anna's pregnancy.

So why in the world would any sane person knowingly go through something so unpleasant? At the risk of sounding cliche - because it's all worth it. As I sit and hold my baby, smell her little head, brush across her downy hair with my lips, I slowly heal and forget about the misery that being pregnant caused. I would be willing to pay a much higher price than that to have her. Like most any parent, if I had to, I would gladly give my life for her. 

The first aspect I would like to address is faith. Faith is seeing the invisible, and knowing that something is true even though we have no physical evidence of it. When you are first pregnant, there is not much physical evidence of that child, other than the nausea. Especially with a first child, we may not realize how happy we will be when we eventually get to meet our child. It takes faith to put up with months and months of misery and physical illness in hopes of getting something wonderful in return almost a year later. 

Secondly is a conviction that regardless of whether something is easy or not, if we are commanded to do it in the Bible, we must obey God. Now, long before I was a Christian I always dreamed of having a large family because I love babies, children, and everything to do with homemaking. I am not having babies because I have to, but because I want to. But even if I didn't feel that way, I would still have to obey the Bible on this matter, or else be in sin. This post is not to prove that birth control is unscriptural. Suffice is to say that such is my conviction based on the Bible, so it really doesn't matter if that is something I feel like obeying or not, or how hard it will be to obey. If the Bible commands us to leave family size in God's hands, then that is what we have to do. It is no longer a question of preference.

Ironically, having what may seem to some such a "restrictive" or "oppressive" viewpoint is actually extremely liberating. It takes all responsibility of this decision making off us parents and places it squarely on God.
 In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. (Proverbs 14:26)

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
(Heb 10:35-36)

I do not have to worry about whether I am short-changing my husband and the other children because for 5 months out of every two years I am too sick to cook all their favorite foods, take them out of the house much, play a lot with them, or even read out loud. I have complete faith that if I obey God to the best of my ability, He will take my imperfections and fill in the gaps as needed. Many Christians understand this concept when it comes to parenting, providing for our families financially, and other areas of our Christian life. Trusting God with our fertility is no different: we do our best, and leave God the rest. If He is putting us through a trial, we can rest assured that He will help us through it, and that we will be better of because of it.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
(Rom 5:3-4)

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
(2Co 12:7-10)

So to answer the original question (some of this post has branched into other aspects), how I handle the home and the family: I don't, at least not to my usual standards. But I realize that there are seasons in life, and while I may be serving my family a different hot cooked meal thrice daily right now, they might have to live off oatmeal for a while next year this time. In the end, God will see to it that it all evens up.


  1. I agree 100% with your views on family size, and natural birthing. I just recently found a book called super natural childbirth. I read though it and the people who write it seem to be Christians, and even have the plan of salvation in the back. It talks about how to have a pain free pregnancy and child birth. The book has lots of testimonys in it, including the authors, of a pain free experience when they trust in God and claim promises in his word. It also talks about infertility and miscarriage. It's hard to explain it, and sounds crazy to most people , but just wondering if you have heard if it, and your thoughts on it. You can buy the book online for $10, You can also buy a cd. I just typed super natural childbirth into Google and it will come up. I got the book because I am going though infertility, it helped me so much.

  2. Like! :) Everything is all worth it when you see your baby. I was fortunate that I didn't even have any morning sickness with Emma.

  3. You are very inspiring here. I'm trying to get ready to have a second child after a full pregnancy with severe HG (never let up). I'm not religious but the quiet faith I see among quite a few of my HG sisters in the US is something which ticks over in my mind. To see you have such a big family in spite of the HG makes me think maybe I could go through it again (and again). Thank you for posting about your experience. I would love a big family if I can just hold out physically to the ravages of the HG and time is ticking for me too.

  4. Zsuzsanna - thank you so much for answering my question in so much depth! I very much appreciate the time and heart and hard work! You have given me much to think and pray about.... and rest assured that I will be (and am and have been!) doing so! Thank you so much again!!


  5. Oh how awful. It's wonderful to see that you will go through it again despite the illness.

    I get severe carpal tunnel during my pregnancies. It's nearly impossible to sleep because it hurts so bad and I usually end up losing the use of my hands.

    It amazes me how strong the love for our children is that we would be willing to suffer so much for them.

  6. Very well written. I have never suffered from this and have only ever thrown up while pregnant only 3-4 times. I feel soooo awful when someone I know deals with this!

    I think that children are worth it matter what you go through while pregnant. We used to use birth control, but have since given that control over to God and are enjoying letting HIM dictate how many children we have. There is nothing like that feeling of exercising true faith.

    Thanks for your always, very well written and thought out.

  7. All I can say is you ladies who suffer from HG and still go on to have multiple children are made from strong stuff. Just one example of why the natural role of women should never be underestimated - it's hard work.

  8. It's hard work growing something that will last an eternity! That is what one lovely women told me when I was green one day at church. I never throw up but just feel like I am on the verge to 24/7. I had no idea of HG. God bless you!Your right though, it's still such a small price to pay for another child and a new sibling..worth eating oatmeal for a while!

  9. I also don't deal with this, but as sisters in Christ, couldn't one sister help another during this time? Wouldn't that be ideal? If I lived in AZ I would so come and help.. although not sure if adding my 1/2 dozen and your 1/2 dozen would be a help?!? LOL

    Thanks for writing this in such vivid detail to help those of us who do not suffer with HG to sympathize and offer help for those who do.


  10. I have never heard of HG. Zsuzsanna, you are very strong. I think you deserve a medal ! All you ladies that go through this need one. I can see you ladies that deal with it are very strong! Oh, but the sweet baby that you receive after it is such a special gift.

    Is there any known reason as to why some women experience this, and others do not?

  11. I also deal with HG and I wanted to piggyback on Christy's comment. Having family and friends come bring us meals and help clean was a lifesaver for us when I was pregnant with my son. He is our only, so we didn't have to deal with other children while going through this, and my husband loves to cook and will clean when he can too, but he works a lot and it was such a blessing to have help. So my suggestion would be that if someone offers help - give them something to do! (That goes for the early postpartum days too!)

  12. Jessi, I am not familiar with the book.

    Sleepwalker, without my faith in God, I don't think I could do it. It's too much for me to handle in my own strength.

    Diana, I'll be praying for you. If you do become pregnant again, I would be thrilled to help out by dropping off a meal or otherwise encouraging you.

    Kimmie, I have heard of moms getting carpal tunnel. Ouch!! :(

    Christy, you are 100% right. Ladies from our church do help me a lot when I am sick. Several of them have come over multiple times, helping with the cleaning, laundry, etc. It really is something I have to learn to accept more, because I don't like to be on the receiving end.

  13. I am currently pregnant with my 4th child and unfortunately dealing with this (again). Thanks for the encouragement in reminding me that it is all worth it in the end:) It is sometimes easy to forget that when you feel miserable and see no end in sight.

  14. What an encouraging post Zsuzsanna! I'm sure that a lot of ladies are thankful for it.

    I have only ever experienced vomiting in my first pregnancy and only moderate sickly feelings in my last two so I can see how lucky I am. HG sounds awful but I'm glad that you are able to find strength through Christ and battle on!

    Great post!

  15. why not encourage the woman to adopt. Terrible to have to live in agony for 9 months.

    be selfless and save a child's life who needs it.

  16. This is the first time I've seen your blog. But I wanted to comment and say that I suffer from the same thing during pregnancy... only mine's a little different. I get extremely sick and spend some days throwing up, and other days wishing I could throw up (because the sick feeling is so bad!). I also go through being so weak/tired that I can hardly raise my head. I'm currently in my 11th week of pregnancy and my energy is coming back, while my sickness is still in full swing. With my daughter I got better at 13 weeks, so I'm hoping that this time will be the same. I've had several miscarriages, where I didn't get sick... so being sick, at least for me, lets me know that things are good. I'm blessed to have my mom and sister and hubby that are able to help with things wile I'm "out of commission" and thankfully my daughter loves to sit on the couch beside mommy and watch tv. But like you said.... I'd do it again and again... because it's all worth it once they lay that baby in your arms. :) It amazes me that most parents would say that they would "die" for their children... and yet they think that we are crazy for going through what we do for a few months. While it does seem worse than death at times, still... it's the precious miracle of the life of a little baby that is the reward!!

  17. I'm glad you posted this , I didn't know what this illness was called , I'm sorry that you suffer from it though .

  18. Thank you very much for posting this! I am 15 1/2 wks pregnant with our first baby, and I wasn't offically diagnosed with HG, but I'm pretty sure I have a somewhat 'mild' form (although it doesn't feel mild!)

    I find taking one Zofran a day is the only way I can function, although I don't feel great. Just these past few days I'm finally getting better.

    I am so encouraged to see you still have a large family despite HG. My husband's and my dream is to have a large family, and based on some reading I've been doing which says HG often worsens with later pregnancies, I've been so scared that I won't be able to. But your story and other positive LF stories are very encouraging!

  19. This post has triggered a wave of nausea. Thanks. But then EVERYTHING triggers a wave of nausea. Everything except Grapefruit, hummus, and PEEP chicks, not the bunnies, the chicks. Otherwise, it will likely make me hurl.

    I was looking at Syd today in the car as I hooked her in and came to the realization that the reward is so very worth it. I just wish I had it easier.

    Then I had to dry heave out my car door, and I forgot all about that.

    Such is life. If we had spring every day, we would forget how wonderful that first breath of spring is after a long winter is.

    Being able to be home and rest more has made this go round much easier on me.

  20. I thought this might be an interesting article.

  21. Thank you so much for this post. I'm a newlywed and pregnant with my first child, and I am also experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum. I've been looking for supportive stories on different forums, and instead of finding comfort, I've started to feel more alone than ever. It seems like so many other women choose to end their HG pregnancies. I'm not judging them, everyone has to do what is best for themselves and their families, but I also know that for me, that will never be an option.
    Another problem I've been facing is the decision to have more children. I, like you, have always loved babies and children, and wanted to have as many as Heavenly Father will bless me with. But after reading so many discussions, I've started to question myself. I started to wonder if it was fair to my husband and the child I'm now carrying to have more, knowing there's an excellent chance I won't be able to be the wife and mother I want to be during those months.
    But your post has really strengthened me. I do think that once I experience the amazing joy of a newborn that I won't even give it a second thought. But I wanted to decide now, when things are at their very worst, that I would go through it again...because that's a conviction that I could never say is blinded by the overwhelming cuteness of a new baby!
    Thank you again for your post, and I wish the best for you and your beautiful family.

  22. This is my first pregnancy, and I am dealing with HG currently. I'm only at 10 weeks, but I am miserable. I feel isolated and helpless. It's hard to imagine having another baby at this point and repeating this. But, God is faithful, and as my husband reminds me... let's take it hour by hour. Thanks for your insight on this matter.

  23. I recently went through this, and it was the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life. I was hospitalized 3 times, and lost almost 20 pounds in the first 3 months of pregnancy. I did actually verbalize to my doctor that I wanted to die... this article is spot on in terms of how I felt - depressed, alone, so sick that I could not imagine continuing on for another day, and the minutes would pass like hours. It was pure hell.

    My doctor finally put me on a Zofran pump (sort of like what Diabetics use for insulin) that is connected through a needle that goes into your system 24 hours a day. This helped me tremendously, though it did not entirely take away the nausea, it helped a lot. I went from being so nauseous 24 hours a day that I could not take a shower independently, or get out of bed / my couch. In the evenings if I even moved to sit up, I would vomit. Once on the Zofran pump, the HG was manageable; the nausea was still present but not debilitating, and the severe nausea where I was bed/ couch-ridden was limited to 4 hours in the evenings. Also, I consider myself a severely needle-phobic person. I was hesitant to consider this as a viable option as I was terrified of having to stick myself every 2 days with a needle. For those in the same boat, I have to say it was not a big deal at all (it was sort of like a small sewing needle that didn't hurt).

    Additionally for me, the Company that provides the Zofran pump requires you to talk to a nurse daily. This also helped as she advised me what to do in terms of diet (my OB GYN was useless in this area). Here is what worked for me:

    1 - Avoid all protein. My digestion was slowed almost to a stop all day every day. If I ate any sort of protein it would sit in my stomach for 6 hours, make me severely nauseous, and the eventually come back not really digested.

    2 - Water was a cause of nausea for me. In an effort to keep hydrated I would force myself to sip water. The nurse indicated that water alone was very dense and hits your stomach hard. She told me to avoid water, but things like adding crystal light, or drinking vitamin water for some reason made it tolerable. She also told me to think of taking in fluids in shot glass-sized portions.

    3 - Fruit really helped. All kinds - citrus, melons, etc. They generally stayed down and were a great way to get fluids. For me, drinking fluids was very hard and nauseating. This was a great alternative.

    4 - Most bland non greasy foods were ok for me. They got really boring, and repulsive after a while though. Some things I ended up sticking to that helped me get some calories (to stop losing more weight) were vegetarian burritos, and veggie burgers. Nothing too greasy though, but these things helped.

    5 - Stool softeners were a must, as were suppository laxatives. I have never been constipated in my life and the constipation was almost as bad as the nausea. I also think that the more constipated I got the worse my nausea was. For me, because I was way sicker in the evenings, I would take the stool softeners with my lunch (because I threw those up too, and it was horrible!), but I absolutely had to take them. Also glycerine suppository laxatives worked too. My doctor said they were not harmful either.

    I write all this in hopes that someone out there can benefit from what I learned over time.

  24. I have been pregnant 14 times, have 7 living children, am currently expecting again, and suffer from HG from week 5 until the baby is born. I throw up multiple times a day for 8 months. It is horribly difficult, and my body has a lot of wear and tear from it. However, it is worth it. HG lasts only a certain while, but your children will give you joy for an eternity. Many women say they will do anything for their children, but women who have HG have been put to the test. Those who endure want their children more than they hate what the HG does to their life. I am an HG counselor and advocate and have been involved in many research studies. For those who are suffering with HG, I want to encourage you. You can get through it. One day at a time, one step at a time, you can do it. Your baby is worth it.

  25. I am currently in my fourth HG pregnancy. The question of having more children or not has been a central one in my life since my first pregnancy who ended in a stillborn baby past my due date. HG is so debilitating that people who never got it have no idea whatsoever of the misery it brings about .How much I would love to have a «normal» pregnancy! This time it was unplanned (the timing I have not chosen) and it happen to be the busiest time of the year on our small farm situated in a remote location in Québec, Canada. A village of 125 living soul, there is no one right now to help me or my family go through this. Let me tell you that HG is the Army like bootcamp of letting go of EVERYTHING and just trying to get enough liquid down to stay alive. It is incredible! But for me I'd say it is beneficial in this sense: being a super entrepreneur type of person, super active in all sort of projects, HG really knock me down and make me go giant steps towards wisdom, and the central importance of life (people) over things and projects however those may be worthy of praise. I'll soon turn 40 years old, and I decided that It was worth it suffering that much in my mind and body in the attempt to give a new sibling to my 7 and 4 years old children, and a posterity to my husband who is a godly man. For me I am thinking it will be the last time however. I want to be balanced in my approach, and not having children beeing an idol for me. It is saddening, of course, to think I might never hold any more baby of mine in my arms, but I have to let go of that as well. I wish to hold my daughter's baby one day, God willing, and be there to assist her when the need is strong. I want to praise every women HG sufferer who had had the courage to endure such misery for the sake of life. I hope we can make up a bit for those who can't see the supreme value of life and get abortion as casually as one get an haircut! That not to judge any women who abort because of HG. I totally understand you and would never reprimand someone who got aborted. If it were not for my crazy faith, I might as well get an abortion as well. Some woman who planned and hoped for pregnancy for years get aborted because of HG.(with great pain and torment) That give an idea of how serious this sickness can be. I think God has love and understanding over all we can conceive, and that He deals with each of us individually, according to His wisdom. For those of us who kept going through this, may the Lord give us wisdom as to know when we should let go, and the courage to be at peace with it. May all this suffering bring us closer to our ultimate goal in this life, wich is God Himself. Marie


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