Here at biglittlethings we donate 5% of our profits to HG Australia, a charity that provides support & raises awareness surrounding Hyperemesis Gravidarum an illness suffered by 2% of pregnant women.
To shine light on the mama's that are going through it & the one's who have survived it - we put out a call for HG mama's to contact us to tell their story. The response was overwhelming. We chose 7 stories to count us down to 15th May for HG Awareness Day & we hope they bring some hope, love, awareness, & that you don't feel alone.
To all the HG mama's, we see you, we believe you & we are here for you.
Our next mama we spoke with is Carly, she tells us how she coped with a toddler whilst pregnant with her second baby...
B | firstly, tell us your name, a bit about yourself & who you’re a mama to.
My name is Carly, I have a three year old daughter, Grace, a 3 month old son, Hugo and a supportive 'HG-savvy' husband, Nick. I am originally from New Zealand and have been living in Australia for 13 years now.
B | when did you feel like that you weren’t just “first trimester sick” & when you were diagnosed with HG? (If you were at all)
My HG symptoms started at about 6 weeks with my first pregnancy and 5 weeks with my second. During my first pregnancy, I remember Googling “normal morning sickness” and every variation of that constantly.
I was desperate to know that what I was feeling wasn't just “normal” because I was so embarrassed that I wasn't coping with it very well. I found that when I started to tell people how unwell I was, they would reminisce about their own pregnancy and morning sickness without truly hearing what I was trying to say.
They would comment about how they had hated feeling a bit queasy for those first few weeks, while I was thinking about how many times I had already vomited that day. The more I spoke to other woman, the more I started to realise that I wasn't feeling the same things that they had and I definitely wasn't just handling morning sickness worse than them. I went to a doctor at the 8 week mark dizzy and dehydrated. The doctor suggested I go to the local Woman and Children's Hospital for IV fluids, but they wouldn't give them to me because my ketones were not high enough.
It was at this hospital visit that I was first prescribed Ondansetron wafers – although it was weeks before I felt that they were providing me relief with my symptoms. The HG was finally acknowledged (and documented in my hospital notes) at 13 weeks when I had an appointment with the hospital midwife and explained that I was still vomiting multiple times each day and was unable to eat or drink normally.
In my second pregnancy, I explained my past experience to a fantastic GP at my first appointment. She outlined the recommended medications and the order in which to take them as the pregnancy and symptoms progressed. She wrote me all the scripts I would need, and provided all workplace sick certificates at the outset. While it was very beneficial to get onto the medications earlier with this pregnancy, the HG itself was so much worse and relief was still minimal.
I advocated for myself a lot harder this time around and wasn't as frightened of the medications or any outdated or unhelpful medical opinions or views.
B | tell us about your HG Pregnancy/Pregnancies.
My first pregnancy was incredibly difficult with my HG symptoms. I have since learned that what I was experiencing was still on the lower end of the spectrum of suffering for HG, but for me it was the hardest period of life I had been through. I had long chunks of time off of work, using up all of my sick leave and having to take leave without pay.
For one week in the office, a new desk was being installed in the front reception – the smell of the wood was such a trigger for me that I had to take the whole week off until the construction was complete. On the days I did go to work, I would vomit several times a day and spend a large amount of time crying on the bathroom floor.
I would pop out to the supermarket frequently to try desperately to find the magic nausea cure (spoiler alert: there wasn't one). When I got home I would sleep on the couch until my husband was home and could make a basic dinner. I lived on fries, mashed potatoes, white bread toast and plain roasted chicken drumsticks. I managed to keep down Hydralyte ice blocks further along in my pregnancy but haven't been able to look at one since then!
My second pregnancy was a lot worse for HG symptoms and we had the added complication of being due to transfer to the UK for my husbands work (which eventually fell through) and a very active 2 year old at home. I had left my job just before I found out I was pregnant and it was a blessing in disguise (and acknowledged privilege) to not have to think about work at all – there is no way I could have gone into an office, but at least this way I didn't have to go through the process of calling in sick and explaining myself every day.
I went to emergency twice this pregnancy for dehydration and was given IV fluids and anti-emetics each time. The relief was immediate, but temporary and by the next day I was unable to keep any fluids or food down again. Despite having worked to try and strengthen my pelvic floor after my first pregnancy, I found that it was almost useless against the constant vomiting and I was in a horrible cycle of vomiting and wetting myself throughout the day. Eventually, I found some relief from the medication Restavit and found that I could do some basic home based tasks if I was up to date with my doses of this medication. If I tried to extend myself with a trip to the playground with my daughter however, I was back at square one again and it would take a week or two to recover from.
For both of my pregnancies, I had the added complication of painful pubis symphysis that made it difficult to walk or even roll over in bed. I also had heartburn and reflux that would trigger the nausea and set me off in a never ending cycle of heartburn and vomiting.
We found out the sex of the baby both pregnancies as well – it was a very welcome exciting and grounding moment that helped to remind me that this illness had both a cause and a cure and I had to just ride it out until the end.
B | tell us about the support you had throughout your pregnancy with HG
My husband was my number one support and advocate. He was the one who could tell if I was playing down the severity of my symptoms when I was asked how the pregnancy was going and he was the one who called the shots on when to visit hospital.
A part of me still felt that I was over reacting or just 'not coping' and he pulled me out of that cycle time and time again so that I could get the help I needed.
For my second pregnancy, he was essentially a solo parent while I lay on the couch, vomiting very unfortunately triggered by the scent of my daughter (and the house, my husband, the fridge and toothpaste...).
My in-laws are based in the same city as us and were a huge support as well. My mother in law would come down to look after my daughter on her day off every week. At my worst, my husband would set Grace up with the laptop and a movie in my bed and I would doze in and out until my mother in law arrived and let herself in to look after Grace.
I couldn't think or make decisions and I definitely couldn't confidently look after a child in this state. For a two week period, my dad flew over from NZ to stay with us. We still thought that we were being relocated to the UK at that point and he helped to get our house ready for rental, as well as providing basic care to myself and Grace so that Nick could go to work.
While unable to be here in person, my mum was on speed dial and I cried to her frequently about what I was going through. Along with my dad, she also provided great entertainment for Grace via FaceTime when I was running out of couch based activities to keep her occupied.
B | what got you through those really dark HG days?
The dark days for my second pregnancy were a lot darker than in my first. During my first pregnancy I was buoyed by the excitement of having a baby and the unknown of what that would mean for us. In my second pregnancy, I resented being pregnant (with a very much wanted baby) and I felt overwhelming and unreasonable anger at the unborn baby for making me so sick and for taking away 9 months of interaction with my daughter at such a fun and interactive age. For a huge part of the pregnancy, the only thing that got me through each day was the fact that I was too run down and exhausted to actually make any decisions about changing my situation. It is a frightening and horrible feeling to realise that after trying for a baby, you could feel so much hate and anger towards it and wish that it had never come into being.
I had an app that counted the days and weeks and compared the baby to a fruit or vegetable. For my second pregnancy I would open the app every single day just to see for sure that the days were in fact passing.
For my second pregnancy, I found online support groups and it helped me so much to know that I was not alone in my experience.
B | what is something you wish people knew about HG
HG is not morning sickness. I do not feel 'a little bit sea sick' and ginger does not settle my stomach. While deep down I know how wonderful it is to feel that baby in your arms, I wish that people knew their reminders that “it will all be worth it in the end” are not helpful in the dark days of HG suffering. Nobody would want to, or even be able to, exaggerate how it feels to have HG and as hard as I tried, I just couldn't always think ahead to the positive side of knowing the baby would eventually arrive. I found myself begging my husband to take my beautiful daughter out of the house because I could smell her from the other room and it was making me vomit even more. That was such a horrible feeling and one that makes me so sad to think about still.
B |how did you manage to be a mama whilst being pregnant with HG at the same time? any words of wisdom or ways to plan/manage it that worked for you?
The only advice that I have in this area is to outsource absolutely every aspect of your life that you can. During my second pregnancy, we increased my daughters childcare days, had my mother in law come to be with her on the other days, my husband regularly took time off work to support me, we ordered groceries and some meals online and hire a cleaner.
We were in an extremely lucky and privileged position to be able to outsource all of these things and still it was a struggle. I parented a lot from the couch and we watched a lot of TV together! I have beat myself up about it a lot and there are so many things about my daughters life that I am sad were impacted by this pregnancy.
B | what is something you would like a fellow HG mama going through it right now to know?
I absolutely hear your story and empathise with your struggles.
Seek support in any and every way that you can, even if you don't know how to verbalise what you are feeling, crying in a psychologist's office will still help you immensely. Everything that you are feeling is valid and justified and there is no shame in wishing away the pregnancy while you are in the throws of it. I spent a lot of my pregnancy worried that I would not be able to bond with my baby when he finally arrived. I was so thankful to realise that it was not an issue for me, but the ongoing fears around being sick and trauma from what I felt has caused it's own problems.
Know that regardless of what anyone else's experience is or has been, what you are feeling is true and horrible and you are so strong for continuing with the pregnancy and bringing your beautiful babe into the world.