My (daughter's) HG story: Sue Neville

When Caitlin told us she was pregnant, I was so excited – our first grandchild.

I was nervous too, which I didn’t expect. I just wanted everything to go well – Caitlin and the baby to be healthy of course and for us all to be able to enjoy the wait.

Caitlin was my first child – she was followed by 2 brothers – and I never had any sickness during any of my pregnancies. I was bursting with ‘rude good health” as my mother would say.

When Caitlin called and told me she was sick, nausea and vomiting, I was unsympathetic. As was my way, I probably suggested some useless solutions to the problem whilst thinking “Well she’s just going to have to toughen up.”

Caitlin had to go to the emergency department because she was dehydrated and I still don’t think I understood what was happening.

I didn’t appreciate what she was going through. I said all the words – “I’m sorry you don’t feel well” and “once you get to the second trimester this will pass” and “a least the baby’s doing well” – but I didn’t realise or acknowledge how bad things were for her.

Caitlin and her husband came to live with us when she was about 3 months pregnant. We had the space and there were more people around to be with Caitlin and give Roland some help.

I had never known anyone with HG, had no idea what lay beneath the diagnosis, and can say with all honesty those 6 months were some of the hardest and best months of my life.

She vomited multiple times every day. That would have been bad enough in itself but what was so unexpected and what I couldn’t comprehend was the violence of it. The sound of her retching would reverberate through the house – all day and night.

And it didn’t stop – for the whole nine months this went on. I was absolutely helpless and unable to do anything to alleviate any of Caitlin’s suffering.

She would need to spend the day’s just curled up – in bed, on the lounge, on the bathroom floor – and she looked so devastatingly unwell.

I think sometimes as mother’s we are hard on our daughters.

I was.

I felt I had to be tough at times to prepare her and make her ready for what the world would put in her path.

I wasn’t cruel – or not deliberately so – but I sometimes didn’t allow myself to be soft or even kind.

If her heart was broken and she was sobbing and hurt, I would allow that for a while… and then remind her that she had an assignment due and school tomorrow. Life doesn’t give you the luxury of time. So neither did I.

Which brings me to how, when Caitlin was so unwell and her body and spirit so brutally assaulted, this time was also some of the best months of my life.

It was during this time I finally learnt to be kind to my daughter.

She didn’t need me to make her tough – she was unbelievably strong and she had done that all by herself.

She didn’t need me to remind her of all that had to be done – she knew, and she did it.

It is a rare joy to have an adult child – with husband – return home. We just blended together effortlessly.

And I witnessed first hand how sick she was, the toll the pregnancy was taking mentally and physically and how she turned all of that into a desire to help others.

Before she had even had her baby, Caitlin was advocating to the local hospital on ways they could better support HG patients – all in a considered and positive manner to which they couldn’t help but be receptive.

In the almost 15 month since she had the adorable Monty, Caitlin has continued to strive and achieve by connecting with like-minded individuals and groups to provide support for women with HG.

I am in awe of my adult daughter and the person she is, what she is capable of. Unfortunately I sometimes forget she doesn’t need me to be tough, although those lapses are less frequent.

Nowadays, I enjoy watching her be a mother and just letting her be – she’s wonderful.