Ja'Nai's 5th HG Pregnancy
By Ja'Nai Wilkes, HG Survivor and Peer Support
Some time went by and after creating a pregnancy plan, we began trying to conceive again. And it happened pretty quickly. I was home when I found out I was pregnant, so we went to the high-risk clinic together and there I was prescribed Zofran and Phenergan.
The nurse took me back alone to get my weight and ask me a few questions. Then we headed to another room. I had forgotten what to expect for our first appointment for some reason, so when she told me we were doing a “quick ultrasound”, I was thinking “ok, let’s get it over with please. I didn’t know if I could bear looking at our baby inside of me.” Pregnancy after loss is a powerful thing.
The nurse asked me if I wanted her to bring “the dad” back, and I told her no. For some reason I did not invite my partner back. Maybe part of me wanted to protect him from that moment of uncertainty. And maybe part of me believed we would have many more ultrasounds ahead of us. She showed me my baby’s heartbeat for what seemed like hours. I fell in love with this little staticky space on the screen. Our precious baby’s heartbeat flickering like a star, and I was mesmerized. Not sharing this moment with my partner will always be one of my greatest regrets.
I was not in a place where I could mentally take in the loss of two babies and the impending HG pregnancy, but I was not aware of this until much time after the pregnancies. Knowing what I had faced before, I had little hope that we would bring our baby home. I was in such a dark place that it felt like a physical weight on my body. But like a light in the darkness, my partner reminded me that, “This pregnancy will be different.” I was cautious to believe that.
The moments with your partner or a loved one, I believe are some of the most important connections to keep through a HG pregnancy. Even though I had an aversion to people, mainly because of their scent and sounds, he would care for me. HG left me begging to die and my partner was there encouraging, reminding me that I can do this.
Each breath I took burned as I inhaled and burned with each exhale. Constant pain and aches throughout my body, and there was an intense sensitivity to light, sound, motion and touch. My body’s betrayal was unforgivable in my eyes. I remember wanting to cry out in pain, but all I could do was moan. The burning was so intense, like someone had shredded the inside of my throat and poured alcohol down it.
During this pregnancy was one of my most memorable ambulance rides. My partner's mother called 911 because I wasn’t able to eat or drink anything and could not stand well on my own. Once the paramedics arrived, they came into my room and one asked me if I needed to go to the hospital. I sat up the best I could in bed, preparing to get up and I exhaustedly told him, “Yes”. He came over to my side of the bed and repeated his question, “Do you really need to go to the hospital?” So, I decided to say my pregnancy chant, “I am X amount of weeks pregnant. I have Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and I have not kept food or water down in X amount of days.”
I told him I needed to go to the hospital because I was dehydrated. So he pinched the skin on my arm, then said, “You don’t look dehydrated to me”… Please keep in mind that I am vomiting into a little trash can through this conversation.
He asked me again if I really needed to go to the hospital, and my partner’s mother stepped in and pleaded with this man to take me. I don’t know why this person was being so difficult and wouldn’t just take me to the hospital. After he knew my name, birthday and allergies, what more could he need? What more did I need to do to prove to him that this was a life threatening sick and needed to get me -and my baby- to a place that might help? After she pleaded with him, they finally agreed to take me. I helped myself out of bed and BAM! Everything went black…
This wasn’t the first time I had passed out. There was one day I got out of bed by myself and I was so unbalanced that I passed out and on my way to the ground, I fell into shelving and everything came toppling down. My boyfriend picked me up and laid me down. I woke up in bed with bruises from the fall.
This pregnancy had been so similar to the previous... heaving, migraines, vomiting, pain, stomach burning, esophagus burning, muscle cramps, constipation, intense sensitivity to light, sounds, smells, temperature, touch and motion, insomnia, nightmares, intense sweating and mental health changes. Countless needle sticks from blood draws, IV’s and blown veins. Bruises covering my arms and stomach. And so much time away from my young children that my heart did not know how to bear it all.
The biggest differences in this pregnancy was that I had contracted the flu from one of my hospital visits, but I was finally admitted into the hospital, not just a several hour Emergency Department visit.
They were giving me even more anti-nausea medications around the clock. The vomiting had decreased, so we felt it was safe to switch from an all liquid diet to solids. When I finally did vomit, all the food I ate had come back up undigested. My doctor sat down and explained that this was going to be our course of treatment and that I could stay as long as I wanted. That’s when I felt the last bits of hope leaving my body.
If this was the treatment we were going to continue, and it is not helping, how can we survive? If I die, would my children be okay to navigate life without me?
I just wanted to eat and drink and bring our baby home safely… And what they were offering wasn’t helping.
I looked at my partner and told him, “I can’t do this anymore.” He told me that he understood and that he supported me. A short time later I scheduled our termination date. The days spent waiting and anticipating our baby’s death was an excruciating pain on top of HG. I could hear the cries of newborn babies echoing through the maternity floor and it was suffocating. There were times that my mind tried to go numb, but the physical and mental ache was too great.
When the day came, my partner drove me straight from the hospital to Planned Parenthood.
It was terrible seeing the familiar faces of the women working at that clinic. It was terrible telling them I had an appointment. It was terrible giving them money to pay for a procedure to end my baby’s life, and it was horrible still vomiting through the wait knowing that these were the last hours our baby would be alive. I was a zombie going through the motions of a parent’s worst nightmare.
This procedure was not performed like my other two abortions. The doctor performing it was “learning” and the doctor supervising sat close by to observe.
I was positioned and the numbing agent was injected into my cervix. She began dilating me and I felt some pain, but figured it was normal. As the procedure continued the pain intensified not like before. Another woman was there and she held my hand as tears poured out of my eyes. All of a sudden she let go of my hand and my heart seemed to drop.
What the Fuck was happening?!
She rushed out of the room and quickly returned with an ultrasound machine. The student doctor stepped aside and the supervising doctor stepped in. She informed me they would need to perform the procedure again. As they rubbed the ultrasound machine on my belly, I kept crying and trying to get up but they kept reminding me that they needed to complete the procedure to “remove all the tissue”. The pain made me forget about HG.
And then there was a physical relief that swept over my body. My baby was no longer inside of me and my body knew it. I knew it. After the doctors left another woman entered and she helped me dress. I could not stop trembling and crying. And I think I know why.
The moments before kept playing over and over as I laid in the recovery room. After about 30 minutes I was escorted out and there my partner was, waiting for me. He had waited all day separate from me, even though I wished so deeply that he could have been the one holding my hand. I can not imagine the weight of seeing your partner deathly sick and pregnant with your child at the beginning of the day, then by that evening, seeing her leave with an empty womb.
On January 5, 2018, we let our baby go days after 10 weeks.
When I went home and weighed myself, I weighed 78lbs. I looked at myself in the mirror and the thing that looked back was someone I did not know, but had seen before. Old and new bruises covering my arms and stomach. Old medical tape residue. Chapped skin. I could see pronounced bones and they looked exhausted from sickness.
To me, HG will always be pregnancy starvation.
One would think after an illness leaves your body that it’s gone for good never to impact you again…
But then you find yourself having a not very healthy relationship with food still. And your aversion to water never really went away. And the thoughts and guilt of not being able to eat during pregnancy tries to choke you with each bite you take, each swallow that isn’t forced back up in violent heaves. “Why couldn’t I do this during pregnancy?!” replaying in your mind, choking you in your sleep.
Now that we are no longer conceiving, I will never know what my partner would say to our child the day they would be born. I will forever be guessing at a moment that can never exist.
Even though our pregnancies ended, our babies’ story didn’t end when they died. Their story is then and it is also now.
I will carry them with me every day of my life.
My name is Ja’Nai and I am a HG survivor.
I don’t know if you will ever read this, but please know that you will always be my hero. You are an amazing father and an amazing man. I am so grateful and happy to be by your side.
I love you.