Ja'Nai's 3rd HG Pregnancy
By Ja'Nai Wilkes, HG Survivor and Peer Support
Some time went by and I was blessed to be with my new partner and we began to share our lives together. One day, he asked me to be the mother of his child, then suddenly a real fear of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) SLAPPED me! While I wanted to carry our child, I was hesitant. But like all things, I changed and soon found myself ready to give more love.
I dreamed of the day that he would see our baby for the first time. Dreaming of what he would say, but I couldn’t quite guess. I was ready for the day to come and unwrap this precious gift that only those moments can hold.
His love for his children is obvious and unwavering. I was honored that he asked me to carry his child. An experience I wish for every parent is to have those precious moments when your eyes and hands can hold your immense love embodied within your beautiful child. And I was so excited to soon share this with him.
As we were trying to conceive, I bought pregnancy test after test. Countless, anxious minutes ticked by feeling like I was holding a lifetime in my hands on those little plastic sticks. Was it going to be our turn?
There weren’t too many negative pregnancy tests before one was positive. I found out at work and was so excited! I immediately sent him a picture of the positive test. Overjoyed, I could feel my heart racing and there was warmth inside of me.
After my second HG pregnancy which left me bed ridden more often than not, I was ready to fight this battle again. I knew things would be very difficult, but I was ready, wanting and hoping. We conceived so quickly, surely this was meant to be.
The next day, I took another pregnancy test and again, positive! My partner held a test in his hand and I held one in mine, and he took a picture of the proof of the beautiful life growing inside of me. He quickly shared the news with his family and friends. I did the same, but a little slower.
His happiness seemed impossible to match. I thought of what we would face with HG and it tinged the edges of the pregnancy announcement with ash… but I was ready. I was happy and hopeful. I wanted to bring our baby home, I still do.
We scheduled an appointment at the high-risk clinic. I knew I would need medication soon, because HG pregnancy is all I’ve known. My doctor prescribed Zofran and I had it ready for when the nausea and vomiting would start.
I was about 5 weeks when the smells of everything began to turn foul and started feeding into my constant migraine and growing dizziness. I thought, “You’ve got this. You’ve done this before. You’ve got this.”
I set myself up in my bedroom that week, grabbing my mini trashcan and plenty of plastic bags to throw up in. A bottle of water and a pack of crackers were kept near by for when I could “replenish” myself. That week I slept. Yes, that’s right, I slept.
One day during that week, I woke up to the sounds of my partner and his children's voices echoing through the hall and underneath my closed door. It sounded so wonderful, so I crawled out of bed and joined in. That’s right, I was interacting with people. I even held our bearded dragon, Lady and cuddled with my cat, Mary... There are two pictures of me with some of our animals and it is just wonderful. They are some of my most cherished pictures, my only pictures from this pregnancy. My only pictures with our sweet baby inside of me.
When my children, ages 4 and 2 years old, came over to my house to spend the weekend with me, I told them, “Momma has a baby in her tummy.” My partner shared the news of our pregnancy with his children too, who are older. I was so happy to be giving all of them a sibling. I imagined our growing family and all the days ahead of us, ready to be filled with unforgettable memories. I thought of our beautiful blending family.
We had one week of smiling. One week of joy before my HG symptoms began to quickly increase in intensity.
I had to call out of work days after finding out I was pregnant, because HG isn’t like getting food poisoning, you throw up for a day or so and you get better. I was sick 24/7, each and every day and relief was far and few.
As the sickness drastically increased, my ability to eat and drink went just as quickly. But, this little pill was there for me, right?
As the sickness increased, anti-nausea medications began to become less effective. I would swallow it with a tiny amount of water and hope that it would stay in, or atleast dissolve some in the burning of my stomach just enough to get it to work. But, I would vomit every time. Heave until my abdomen wrenched in cramps. Frothiness and red bits would come up, leaving a metallic taste in my mouth and burning my chest.
I recognized the signs to go to the hospital, and after arriving would exhaustedly say my pregnancy chant, “I am X amount of weeks pregnant. I have Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and I haven’t been able to keep food or water down for X amount of days.” Eventually, I became too sick to talk.
As I started to think about our baby, my heart would ache. Worry quickly consumed me. How could they be getting what they need if I’m not getting what I need? I thought our baby would surely be unwell.
I wasn’t falling into the category of a “typical” pregnancy. This was a nightmare as I continued to starve, vomiting every 20 to 30 minutes. Heaving that would take my breath away. Vomiting until I would choke up what felt like every bit of stomach bile inside of me. I could feel it burning in my stomach, bubbling and increasing. I knew it would be time to vomit soon, regardless if I ate or drank anything. I would vomit, ESPECIALLY if I ate or drank.
We tried different foods and supplements suggested, like eating small meals, taking small sips, crackers and ginger... My mouth was so dry that the cracker would stick to the walls of my mouth and around my gums as I tried to force myself to chew and swallow, only to vomit it back up minutes later. And ginger… well, no one told me that my esophagus would burn so much when it came back up. That I would vomit so hard it would start coming out of my nose!
Even though I desperately wanted to eat, I had aversions to all foods. Even though my thirst was immense, I still had an aversion to water. Everything I ate or drank would always come back up so harshly.
There were more visits to the Emergency Department than I can remember. Waiting for hours, sloppily leaning in a chair or wheelchair before receiving IV fluids and anti-nausea medications. I would feel a bit of relief in the hospital from the smells of my home though.
And there my partner was sitting in a chair in my hospital room, always. He was by my side helping me through this the best he could, reminding me that I am strong.
This was his first encounter with HG, but he was handling it like a champion, always making sure I had what I needed to the best of his abilities and encouraging me that I can do this. When I would beg to die, he would remind me that my children need me.
I will always be grateful for his hard work through this. Full-time job, 24/7 severely sick partner, a household to run, children to care for, going to and from the hospital emergency department almost every other day. He would sleep in chairs or on the hospital floor, then go straight to work after he woke up. Or, he would get off work and go straight home to bring me to the hospital… He will always be my hero.
The physical symptoms were excruciating, but so was the mental anguish. I felt alone, being isolated to a room. The door was shut to block out sounds and waves of smells. The TV was on low to help give me some type of “entertainment”, but mostly I would lay with my eye shut, nauseous, hating the changing lights on the screen and the Sun flickering through the curtains. Light and sound were painful and would often make me vomit.
If food or drink came on TV my nausea would intensify, and I would vomit. The smells of everything were unbearable, so I stayed isolated in my room everyday only coming out to use the bathroom. Even alleviating myself would trigger a vomiting episode.
Going to the bathroom started becoming less and less. I got to a point I could not bath myself and I hated the smell of water. I sat leaned against the shower wall or laying curled on the shower floor with warm water running on me. My partner would turn on and off the water, help me in and out of the bathtub, dry and dress me, then bring me back to the room. He would help lay me down, then made sure I had a clean place to throw up, water and crackers, and medications. Then, he would leave and shut the door.
I couldn't physically tolerate being around other people, even though I desperately wanted him near me.
I was deeply depressed. This pregnancy was more intense than my previous two and I could not figure out why... Why was I still vomiting this way… Why were anti-nausea medications not helping?
I would lay there with my eyes shut, trapped in my mind and body. Needing rest, but only receiving pain.
We didn't take pictures beyond the only joyful week. We didn’t even think of names until years later. I could only think of the pain and our baby… our poor baby. I was consumed with surviving. And my partner was consumed with everything else, plus me. HG had robbed us both of precious bonding time with each other, our children and our growing child.
During one of my visits to the Emergency Department, they did an ultrasound and to my surprise, our little bean was getting everything they needed and was healthy as far as they could tell. But, there was minimal relief. Maybe I was in denial, or the malnutrition was messing with my mind, but it was hard to believe our baby was going to be okay.
I never looked too long in the mirror, because what stood poorly in front of me was someone… something unrecognizable. I had starved to about 85lbs. Darkness around my eyes and splotched skin from acne. New and old bruises from multiple IV sticks.
This entire time I had not been able to care for my children and they were under the care of their father. I missed my children deeply and just wanted to give them a hug and tell them how much I love them.
When my children would see me, they would ask if I could play with them and I had to keep telling them, “No, Momma is sick.”
Some days they would ask me if I was “still sick” and I would say, “Yes”.
Eventually they stopped asking and would just crawl into bed with me, toys in hand. They covered themselves up and we laid in bed together.
One day, I had the strength to get up and find something to eat. I finally had a food craving and I was craving a plain bean burrito, so I went to my purse to count the change… and it was gone! I couldn’t find it. When I asked my partner if he had taken it, he said, “No”. No one else knew where this change went.
My mental state was dangerously distorted. My thinking was so delusional that I moved out because I could not find this money, that I highly doubt now even existed. Even though I left, that did not mean HG went away.
At some point my partner told me that he would keep our baby, even though I had all intentions on keeping our baby with me. Either way... we both wanted our baby.
One day, I called 911 on my own. I was so exhausted. Sounds were beginning to muffle and the room started to go black as my heart kept racing. Luckily, I was able to unlock the house door before passing out while on the phone with the emergency operator. I woke up when the paramedics were loading me on a stretcher into the ambulance.
Sometime that day or the days following, I decided to terminate. My health was declining drastically regardless of medical intervention and I could not do this on my own.
It was surreal hearing myself schedule the day our baby would die. My chest still tightens when I think about it. Counting down the time was horrible. I was numb as I mentally detached myself from our child.
Somehow I found the strength to drive myself to Planned Parenthood and check in for my appointment. I waited until my name was finally called after 4+ hours of waiting for this medical procedure... I just wanted this nightmare to be over.
I had a D&C a few days past 12 weeks.
After the procedure I was shaking. I didn’t know why, but I was. After maybe 30 minutes in the recovery room, I left. I felt the emptiness of my womb with each step.
I never imagined our pregnancy would end the way it did. I never wanted it to be this way. I didn’t know that 1 in 3 HG pregnancies won’t make it to term, but somehow I was finding myself getting closer to being a part of that statistic.
I never thought it would be us.
I never thought it would be me.
I never thought it would be our baby.
The father of our child did not know that I had an abortion. I couldn’t tell him. What would I say? How do you tell someone that their baby is dead and it was by your consent?
A few months went by before I gained enough courage to share with him that on December 13, 2016, I let our baby go. I could not bring myself to speak the words, so I wrote them down in a letter explaining how the illness progressed, and how I terminated our much wanted and deeply loved pregnancy. Inside I enclosed our baby’s final ultrasound picture.