My HG story: Ally Brown

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Hate the word. Can barely say it or even think about it without cringing or gagging. The memory of gagging on my own saliva. During one of my pregnancies I was continuously salivating and gagging or vomiting from it. Or the memory of choking on my own vomit, my throat raw and bringing up blood. Painful memories of feeling absolutely pathetic and defeated as I laid on the floor vomiting, covered in sweat and urine because my muscles were getting a workout and were contracting so hard to bring up my stomach bile. Blacking in and out of consciousness and having my younger children running amuck. It’s hard for me to write this. My stomach turns and I honestly try to avoid this topic.

My first pregnancy was when I was 20 years old. The vomiting and nausea came on suddenly and severely. It was summer and I had been for a walk on the beach. I thought I had heat stroke or something. But we soon found out I was pregnant. Going into emergency due to the constant vomiting, I remember the doctor telling me “It’s just morning sickness.” Even though looking back out of all my pregnancies, you could say this one was the easiest, I remember the vomiting being bad enough for my husband and I to talk about not having anymore after this baby. We ended up moving in with my parents because I was too unwell to be on my own. I remember being prescribed Zofran and that managed to get me through the rest of the pregnancy.

Over the years we ended up having another seven children.. 12 pregnancies in total. With each pregnancy, I became sicker and more high risk. I would be constantly in and out of the hospital. I hated it. I hated the treatment I would receive from the nurses because they all thought for some reason they had the right to make remarks about making sure I don’t have another one. Instead of helping me to find a way to get through these pregnancies so I could have the family I wanted, it would be easier (according to them) to just not have another. Which in this day and age of medical technology I find that mind-blowing. Especially frustrating when I know in America they will have a nurse visit the mother at home and hook her up to IV and help her take care of it. So the mother could be at home with her family and try to have a somewhat normal routine. But I was told if I was sick enough for IV than I’m sick enough to be in the hospital. The only problem was I would be in the hospital for a few days, finally start to feel somewhat better, stop vomiting.. and the doctor would than take me off the IV and send me home, only for me to be back to constantly vomiting a few days later.

My seventh and eight pregnancies were horrendous. I pretty much survived on what I could keep down - sips of coke - which wasn’t doing my out of control gestational diabetes any favours. I also ended up with pre-eclampsia as well with a lot of my pregnancies. I would collapse and faint, I would start having early contractions on and off that would make me feel like I was going into labour only to all of a sudden stop. I would experience a horrible itchy crawling feeling all over me and be sitting in the bathtub at 1am trying to relieve it. My pregnancies would also flare up my chronic health problems of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. My last pregnancies caused kidney disease and I almost ended up in intensive care. My kidneys most likely wouldn’t survive another pregnancy.

The mental effects this has had on me I cannot even start to begin to describe. I didn’t get to enjoy my pregnancies like everyone else. I didn’t glow.

My seventh pregnancy I was losing weight enough for people to comment. I think that was the worse with the vomiting.. the others it was nausea and vomiting but my seventh it was the whole pregnancy of just vomiting. I am absolutely terrified of pregnancy. More terrified of labour and birth. 22 months after my last baby was born and I still struggle a lot with certain smells and tastes. I still gag and even on the rare occasion will vomit. I get anxiety if myself or my kids have a stomach bug.

I think the care in Australia for pregnant mothers with HG is appalling. I think we should have access to IV at home as well as the option to deliver early due to Hg to be standard practice. I also think HG is very much misunderstood and represented as a form of severe morning sicknesses. As a HG survivor, I know it is so much more. I don’t know if I will ever recover mentally or physically from HG. The damage to my body was enormous. I am very lucky that both myself and my children are here.

For those going through it now, follow your gut. If something feels wrong contact the hospital and demand help. Do what you have to do to get you and your baby through the pregnancy. If it means drinking coke; drink coke. Eating two-minute noodles; then eat two-minute noodles.

And keep your focus on the end result. You holding your baby in your arms. Both survivors. Both HG warriors.