October 02, 2016

she's got that pregnancy pallor

Almost a year ago a plastic stick told me I was pregnant. Excitement! Disbelief! Gladness! Thankfulness!

Reality set in -- I had avoided going anywhere near the American Medical System during our time in Michigan and being pregnant would most likely make continued avoidance a bad idea. I had to find a doctor after deciding what kind of doctor I wanted (OBGYN? GP? Thank you, Google, for telling me the difference), then had to prep myself mentally and emotionally before diving into the labyrinth that is the world of American Health Insurance -- and yes, it really is as complicated and frustrating and rage-inducing and expensive as everyone says it is.

Copays and coinsurance and deductibles and whether my doc was in or out-of-network -- these were my worries. The actual physical being pregnant part? It'd be a breeze. Maybe uncomfortable, eventually. But good pregnancies are genetic. My mom had six great pregnancies. My sisters seemed to survive theirs with minimal discomfort. I stepped up to the pregnancy plate, confident that my sturdy Dutch pregnancy genes would serve me well over the next nine months.

The queasiness started in week 7. I popped back handfuls of pretzels while telling myself that a little bit of first trimester nausea never hurt anyone. Week 8 marked the addition of extreme fatigue. I would have to nap after taking a shower due to the massive amount of physical effort required to stand up while taking said shower. I admitted to myself that this might be more difficult than originally anticipated.

The first time I threw up (week 9) I was actually taken aback. Things were not supposed to get quite so out-of-hand. But it's going to be fine, I thought while sitting on my bathroom floor. Three more weeks to go, then shezam -- first trimester over! Goodbye, stale pretzels! Goodbye, constant nausea and fatigue! Hello, pregnancy glow!

Twas not to be. Weeks 10 through 12 can best be described as a dark vortex spiralling into horrible anguish. Everything just got worse. I was miserable and throwing up everywhere, all the time. I couldn't eat food. I couldn't smell food. Wayne would make himself coffee and I'd go hide myself away in a place far from the kitchen -- it smelled like dying cats. Everything smelled like something dying. I threw up in garbage cans, in the car, on the side of the road, on the front lawn. I threw up when there was nothing left inside me other than flesh and bones -- and even then, it felt like my stomach was trying to get rid of that.

On one dark December morning after a particularly bad three days of inability to keep even water down, Wayne said, Suzanne, maybe you should call your doctor.

The doctor? Why? Isn't this just part of pregnancy? True, my sturdy Dutch pregnancy genes had betrayed me (or were just a myth of my own creation), but this was the first trimester. Apparently it's supposed to be miserable -- that's what the internet says, anyway. I apologetically explained my situation over the phone to the nurse, weakly laughing over the fact that I was probably overreacting (while feeling slightly faint).

"Oh, no dear," said the nurse. "That's not normal. You need to get yourself to the ER."

An hour later I was hooked up to IVs and getting pumped full of anti-nausea meds to calm my stomach and fluids to prevent further dehydration. We didn't have a bathroom scale at home so I had no way of knowing that I had lost 20 pounds in one month. Diagnosis: Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Basically, extreme morning sickness.

Having since done a lot more research on the topic, I know from reading blog posts and online articles that on the scale of HG, my case was fairly mild. There are women who spend nine months literally camped out beside the toilet, pillow and sleeping bag included. Women who have ports and PICC lines put into their arms because they regularly have to be pumped with IVs to keep from getting dehydrated. So generally speaking, things weren't really all that bad. The baby was healthy, I was given information (and meds!) to help conquer the nausea, and the freedom and sunshine and happiness of trimester two was on the horizon.

Spoiler alert: the freedom never came. I probably read every single article on the internet about how long pregnancy nausea and HG can last. Unfortunately there is no definite answer, because everyone is different. What I really wanted to do was google "How long will Suzanne's nausea last?" but Google is not quite that smart. I lived in constant anticipation of the next possibility of wellness -- maybe week 16. Maybe week 20. Maybe third trimester?

The meds certainly helped get things under control. The following months weren't nearly as awful as those dreary days of November and December, but the HG remained. Nausea and puking were my constant companions -- imagine feeling perpetually carsick -- and you will just about understand how my winter and spring went. All of my coat pockets and purses and cubbies in our car were stuffed with bags. I didn't cook dinner for months. I took naps at my desk on lunch break after throwing up in the grody office bathroom. I looked forward to bedtime all day -- sleep was my only blissful escape.

I think it was March when I finally accepted the fact that feeling better was only going to happen once the baby was born. June had never looked so far away. People tried to be encouraging and helpful -- have you tried saltines, etcetera? (Saltines? Saltines! Of course! I'm downing anti-nausea meds, but you're telling me that saltines are the answer?! Eureka!) Other kindly people said, "It's awful now -- but once you're holding that baby, it'll all be worth it."

Straight up honesty: While laying face-down on the bathroom floor next to the toilet, messy with tears and vomit, I remember thinking, "How can anything be worth this?"

It is with much joy and thankfulness that I can now say yes, all of it was worth it. Our baby girl entered the world on a sunny afternoon in June without much fanfare (birth story = went into labour, got magical epidural, birthed baby), and she is a pure delight. I felt better almost instantly. Wayne ordered me a giant roast beef sandwich from Jimmy Johns and I ate it with gusto while a new baby slept on me -- roast beef and newborns -- pure bliss! I remember getting home from the hospital and eating old jello found in the back of the fridge, thinking only of how amazing it tasted and how wonderful it felt to have food hit my stomach, knowing that it would finally stay put!

So now what? you ask. What's the moral of this lengthy post that is really just a whole bunch of whining masquerading as prose? Frankly -- not sure there is a moral. I wish I was able to tie this up neatly with a little lesson I learned, perhaps a quippy truism, then throw a bow on it and call it a day. But looking back, all I can really say is that I didn't do pregnancy gracefully. Yes, I threw up for months on end and felt awful and it was lousy, and that is not exactly a recipe for success. But I cried on floors a lot and felt sorry for myself even more, and honestly I was probably more sick of myself than the people around me.

I had no epiphany or spiritual revelation. I didn't have the energy to read my Bible so Wayne would read it to me, and I'd fall asleep two minutes in. I was weak for nine months straight -- physically and spiritually. If I was reminded of anything during pregnancy, it was that I am frail, messy, human, weak, broken. I'm utterly dependent on the physical and spiritual sustenance that God provides in His mercy, and without that -- I don't even want to imagine!

Fortunately, I don't have to. God is the Giver of all good gifts (Matthew 7:11), including sweet baby toes!

{Photo Courtesy of Katie @ Studio Phrene}


  1. Beautiful writing Susanne! I'm so glad you are done with the HG. My favorite part of you piece, the "birth story"! :)

    1. Jana, we think too much alike! I was going to come down here and comment that the birth story was my favorite part too! Thanks for sharing Susanne, yes, love the writing. Everytime I see you have put up a post I get excited to read it. So glad you are feeling better and have a beautiful, healthy baby girl!

  2. I wish we could have been more of a support for you during those months, Suze! She was worth it though :)

  3. Oh no! I am so sorry to hear about your pregnancy experience and HG. I went through the typical first trimester sickness (24 hours a day), and then at 16 weeks it was like a miracle from God and I felt relief. I can't imagine feeling that way for 9 months. You are a champ and I am so happy to hear that you and baby girl (and Wayne) are a healthy happy family again. Congrats!

  4. Argh Suz - such a rotten pregnancy! I echo Rhi - wish we could have helped you more!!