The Harsh Reality of Pregnancy

I have to say that pregnancy isn't what I thought it'd be. At all. (Be warned: very TMI post to follow.)

My entire life, I've wanted to become a mother more than anything. It's always been my number one aspiration. When I was a little girl, still in single digits, I used to stick a baby doll under my shirt and have pretend baby showers for myself, attended by my sister and all of our stuffed animals. My stuffed bow-tie-wearing teddy bear/husband, Roger, and I always had a large family of baby dolls. And you should know by now that I've been making lists of my favorite baby names since at least age ten.

With time, my mothering desire has only grown stronger, and when I finally got married, I couldn't wait to get pregnant (I took probably 20 pregnancy tests in the first year alone, just because I wanted to be pregnant so badly, I think I imagined symptoms...). But everyone always describes it so dreamily, you know? Nothing is more womanly, more feminine than a pregnant woman.

I'd heard countless ladies say, I loved being pregnant. I ate whatever I wanted, my hair got so full and gorgeous, my skin was clear. I felt so beautiful, powerful, and confident! 

There's all the glowing. Pregnant women just glow, right?

Plus, you can eat whatever weird junk you want and nobody can say anything, because you're pregnant. People even rush around to cater to your every whim. If I wake up at 2 AM wanting a footlong sub with extra banana peppers, my husband will head out the door and get it for me, no questions asked. And hey, ice cream galore!

Oh, and no period for nine months. That's pretty much the best thing ever.

Yep. Nine months of mostly goddess-like bliss (sure, you might have some nausea here and there and maybe some heartburn) that results in a cute little baby to cuddle at the end. That's what I was told.

Now, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, because I am truly very excited and soooo thankful to have been able to conceive and carry this baby.


In my experience, none of this was true. In fact, pregnancy was more accurately represented in Twilight. 

I'm not a Twilight fan at all, but I've seen the movies. And as I've been lying around, feeling awful, getting worse with each week instead of better like everyone said I would, thoughts of pregnant Bella wasting away miserably in Breaking Dawn have come to mind.

Women used to die in childbirth fairly often. It still happens. Women can die during pregnancy from complications. It still happens.

I've been struggling with intense morning sickness from the start, but instead of it going away around twelve weeks- or maybe fourteen weeks- or maybe, bless your heart, sixteen weeks- like everyone said it would, it keeps hanging around. And even now, here at the end, it's getting worse.

I'm at 29 weeks now, and I'm telling you, when the third trimester got here, things got ugly. Fast.

Two weeks ago, I experienced one of the worst days of my life so far, and I haven't been able to bounce back.

It was a Monday and I was scheduled for my usual twelve-hour shift. I woke up early and began vomiting before 5:00 AM, like pretty much any other day of this pregnancy. I put on my uniform, puked again, made myself a smoothie and tried to drink it slowly as I headed out the door to work.

By the time I got to work, I'd thrown up two more times. Once on the road and again in the parking lot. I was feeling pretty dizzy and weak, but this wasn't unusual. This is what I had to do to get by. I clocked in, got report, counted narcotics, and began the morning med pass, wishing I had a desk job.

I'd given meds to maybe two residents before I had to run to the bathroom to vomit again. I splashed cold water on my face, drank a little ice water, and went back to the med cart. I prepared meds for the next resident, my head spinning, my knees shaking. I couldn't really feel the floor beneath my feet as I walked the pills to the resident. I had to leave the meds with him and make a beeline for the bathroom again.

This went on half a dozen more times until I realized, I can't do this. I had never vomited so many times back to back, never at work, and the dizziness and weakness was getting intense. I wondered if I had a stomach virus or something that was sending my morning sickness into overdrive (my husband, as it turned out, had vomited three times at home). I contacted my supervisor and told her I had to go home this time. I really felt like I was going to pass out, plus I might be contagious, which would be bad news for our elderly residents.

So I went home. For the first time since my high school job at Firehouse Subs, I left work sick. I've never called in, always powered through everything. But this was different. I could no longer manage.

I puked several times in the car on my way home. I managed to stop at Dollar General to pick up some Powerade and Sprite, only because I was getting scared of the fact that I wasn't even able to keep water down. I sensed that if I didn't find a way to stay hydrated, I would end up with an IV by the end of the day. I walked in the door to our house puking. I had some Sprite, threw it all up, and went to bed.

I puked in the bed. I had no idea where all this liquid could possibly be coming from, but I could not stop. I put a trash can by the bed and continually filled it.

Then a little before noon, I began to cramp. Low, constant, pelvic pain, like day one of my menstrual period. It began to radiate around to my lower back.

Then came the spotting.

I was still vomiting every ten to fifteen minutes, but I pulled it together long enough to call my OBGYN's office. I told the assistant who answered what was going on, I waited while she consulted the doctor, then she came back on and gave me a very scary set of instructions:

"Dr. J wants you to come on to the hospital. Don't bother with the emergency room, just go straight to labor and delivery."

Now, my OBGYN is almost 2.5 hours away. I reminded her, "We're in Huntsville. Can I just go to the hospital here?"

The line went quiet for a moment as she put me on hold again.

"He thinks it will be best for you to come here, in case... in case of delivery, so he can be the one to oversee your care."

I hung up trembling. I was only 27 weeks pregnant. This was way, way too early. I started crying as Matt and I hurriedly threw things into a suitcase, because of course we didn't have a hospital bag ready yet. We had at least two more months to prepare for all that.

But here we were, rushing to labor and delivery.

The car ride was horrendous. I kept a small bathroom trash can in my lap and threw up into it over and over and over. By the time we finally got to the hospital, I had vomited over twenty-five times. And it was still coming, even as I sat in the L&D waiting room, waiting for a bed to open up.

By now the cramping and lower back pain was getting intense. I could not get comfortable no matter how I shifted around. When they put me in a bed, slapped on a blood pressure cuff, and hooked me up to fetal monitors, my blood pressure was all over the place and I was having slight contractions. The nurse did a straight cath first thing to see if I had an infection that was causing this, then I was left to wait on the stretcher.

I don't remember too much from that night. I felt completely miserable, and honestly, as I continued to vomit, I felt like I might die. I had never felt so weak or lethargic or uncomfortable. Plus, I was lying in the labor and delivery exam area with cramps, spotting, back pain, "slight contractions." I couldn't stop thinking about the possibility that I might be about to have a two-pound baby in the NICU.

I was terrified.

They admitted me to the hospital around 11:00 PM, when they finally started an IV and began pumping me with fluids. I was so dehydrated and my veins were so collapsed, it took six attempts for the nurses to start my IV. After IV Zofran and a bag of fluid, the contractions subsided and I started feeling more human again.

Much to my dismay, they made me NPO for the next 24 hours. I couldn't even have ice chips until I practically begged the doctor during his rounds to just let me hold some in my mouth (my lips were cracked and peeling and my tongue felt like cotton). He said I could have ice chips, but only if I took it slow, one at a time, and let it dissolve.

I spent Tuesday sucking on ice chips, getting constant IV Phenergan and fluids. I slept most of the time, knocked out from the Phenergan.

By Wednesday, they initiated a clear liquids diet. My first food in 48 hours.

I'd never been so happy about broth and Jello. And that apple juice. Having something to drink was the best treat imaginable at that point.

They brought me the exact same delightful assortment of broth, apple juice, and Jello for lunch and dinner on Wednesday, then by Thursday, they tried me on a regular diet and discontinued the Phenergan to see how I did.

I felt better than I'd felt in months. It was disturbing. Apparently, that's what getting the rest you need and not puking multiple times a day will do for you. I realized I'd been pushing it way too hard for too long, and I was thankful to be feeling better. They discharged me Thursday afternoon, and I went home with a prescription for Phenergan tablets.

I rested at home for the next few days and followed up with my OBGYN at his office the next Tuesday. After being at home, off the IV, I'd started vomiting again, multiple times a day. I'd gotten to where I couldn't stand for more than about 30 minutes without getting dizzy, weak, and sweaty. I had trouble even standing at the sink long enough to wash dishes or at the stove long enough to cook.

This is when my doctor officially diagnosed me with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. He said it wasn't a surprise, given how my entire pregnancy had gone, but he had been reluctant to make the diagnosis until now.

At least I have something in common with the Duchess of Cambridge, I guess. I always knew I was a princess.

During his exam, he also made a comment about my placenta being lower than it had been. I've still been having cramps, back pain, and lots of abdominal pain and pressure, like my insides are going to fall out if I take another step. He said he wants to do another ultrasound in a couple of weeks to make sure everything is okay, and in the meantime, I need to be taking it easy and making sure I'm staying hydrated, especially in this summer heat.

So. That's where I am. Taking it one day at a time, unsure of when (or even if) I'll be able to return to work. When your job consists of haulin' tail on your feet for twelve hours, pushing around giant, heavy med carts, often being the only nurse on the floor responsible for the care of more than 70 residents, many of whom require 2-person assistance with lifting/movement..."activity restrictions" don't get you too far. There's not much accommodating that can be done.

I'm still vomiting multiple times a day and having a really hard time keeping down meals. You'd think I'd lose weight, but I'm maintaining. According to our home scale, I've only gained about fifteen pounds since I found out I was pregnant. One perk of puking, I guess.

I can't believe I still have over two more months to go. Aside from all the vomits/cramps/dizziness/weakness/pains, I'm mega uncomfortable with zero energy, so very constipated, and SO DANG HOT AND SWEATY ALL THE TIME. Baby seems to think my gallbladder is a punching bag, and that 2:00 AM is the best time to wake up and turn cartwheels. I've had crusty nipples for months, I haven't been able to shave for a few weeks now thanks to my bulging abdomen, and I have weird skin tags and long black hairs popping up in the most unusual of places. I have to have at least 10 pillows to sleep, half of which are just there to keep my husband on the other side of the bed, far, far away. Oh, and btw, nobody's rushed out to buy me craving-satisfying sandwiches at 2 AM. I'm struggling with insomnia, dealing with heartburn from even the blandest foods, having a hard time breathing when I lie down at night, flailing around like a turtle on its back to get up to pee five times a night, enduring disturbing baby-related nightmares, and farting uncontrollably and/or peeing my pants when I cough/sneeze/vomit. Oh, and after reading books to prepare myself for birth, I'm having a lot anxiety about epiosotomies, tears, emergency c-sections, name it.


Let your teenagers read this and see if the teen pregnancy rate drops.

I'm not quite prepared for this baby's arrival, but my goodness, I am so ready.


Lacey said...

Oh my goodness, Jennifer!!!!!!! I'm soooooo sorry to hear about all you've been through. I really hope you feel better soon... and if not, that the last two months of pregnancy clip by quickly so you can have that sweet baby in your arms!

AnnaM said...

This is why the US needs to do something about maternity leave! No way should you be forced to work or have to accept unpaid leave. Just crazy.
Hope you're feeling better soon.

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