*This post contains some unpleasant content about morning sickness. You have been warned.
Everything feels like it’s sinking. I feel like I have not slept a wink. Moving seems impossible. But the nausea has begun.
I wait until everyone is in the kitchen and then, quietly as possible, dash to the bathroom.
I lean over the sink. Frothy water, then burning yellow, then I rest my head on the cool sink.
Lunch preparation for the kids. I clench my teeth. Get through it. Get through it. Set them down to eat and then run back to the bathroom. I hope they don’t hear.
My husband comes in the door. I immediately go and lie down. Everything aches. We have dinner and I throw it up almost immediately. I lie back on my side, nursing a cup of ice and chewing it slowly.
Hooray!! I’m pregnant again!! Honestly, I’m more excited than I can say. We always wanted to have three children close together. It’s a dream come true.
I am also very aware that people have unspeakable heartbreak around pregnancy; either because of issues with fertility, or pregnancy loss. I understand that it may be hard for some people to read about someone complaining about any element of pregnancy.
These facts do not negate the physically, psychologically, and emotionally draining reality of persistent morning sickness.
Before I was pregnant with Pickles, my doctor told me that it was going to be tough for me to get pregnant. I had had surgery to remove aggressive endometriosis and polycystic ovaries. She told me to try for six months and then we could start with fertility treatment. I cried on the phone to an old friend.
The next week I woke up vomiting and couldn’t stop. I had to prop myself over a beanbag with a bowl beneath my head because I didn’t have the energy to hold myself off. I told my friend that I had the worst gastro of my life to add to my woes. She said maybe I was pregnant.
I had heard of people feeling sick in early pregnancy but nothing like this. This couldn’t be pregnancy. I went to the doctor the next morning and had tests. She called me that afternoon, stunned. I was pregnant. I was over the moon. The sickness, she assured me, wouldn’t last.
But last it did.
For someone with bad morning sickness, the social taboo of not telling people you’re pregnant before 12 weeks is basically meaningless. Anyone who spent any time with me, including everyone I worked with, knew almost immediately. I was vomiting 20-30 times a day. If I was this sick for any other reason, it would be ludicrous for me to be coming in to work.
But morning sickness isn’t something you take time off for. You graciously accept the congratulations of your colleagues while trying not to throw up on their shoes. It’s such a good sign, the baby will be strong. Tough pregnancies mean happy babies. It means the baby will be smart. It will all be worth it in the end. You’ll forget about it all the moment the baby arrives.
And the earnest but excruciating. Just have some dry crackers. Have you tried ginger? What about some lemonade? You should only eat one colour at each meal. Every day a new home remedy, on and on through the weeks and months.
Yet, I was extremely lucky in the circumstances. My baby was planned and dearly wanted. I had (have) a beyond-supportive partner who cleaned up more vomit than he would ever care to recall, and retained his good humour even when the only conversation I would have with him for days at a time was asking him to do research to find somewhere that would put me into an induced coma for the remainder of the pregnancy. I had a wonderful workplace that bent over backwards to make sure I was as comfortable as possible and allowed me to leave early whenever I needed to. I also had the means to afford medication that helped enough for me to be able to function.
I thought a lot about the women who were going through this without these mitigating factors. I spent time reading online forums where women talked about having abortions because the morning sickness was just too horrendous. One woman wrote that she was considering stepping in front of a bus. Others had commented that they too had considered suicide. I wasn’t at that point mentally, but I knew exactly why they would be considering those things.
Before pregnancy, I had never known anyone to have suffered from really bad morning sickness. That made the whole experience more isolating. Now I know lots. Some with vomiting, some with constant nausea that pursues them all day long, day after day for months on end, others suffer in different ways.
The thing that strikes me is how often these debilitating complaints are dismissed as minor inconveniences. Women, myself included, are even told it is all in our heads. Well, to anyone reading this who suffers morning sickness, it’s ok to admit that pregnancy is not all sunshine and rainbows. It doesn’t mean you love the baby less. It has no bearing on your ability to be a good mother.
Find someone to talk to who doesn’t just want to talk about the joy and wonder of pregnancy but it happy to listen to you say that some days you really hate it. Find someone who can help around the house. Talk to your doctor about things that might actually help you.
And for what it’s worth, for me it meant that the actual labour was by far the least arduous part of the whole experience and the sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn was a walk in the park – I wasn’t vomiting, life was good.
For those who have morning sickness and little people to look after, I have no clue. I’ll get back to you when I figure it out.
And for anyone who knows someone with morning sickness, please, please don’t tell them that it’s mind over matter. If you aren’t happy to just listen, or can’t offer practical assistance, just avoid the subject altogether.