A novelist writes about the mind, body and soul.

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Acute Morning Sickness – Men! More sympathy please

When news of Kate Middleton’s acute morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum as its known in medical circles, hit the news last week, I was really annoyed by the chauvinistic remarks on my facebook page: They were along the  lines of “if she’s going into hospital for a few days for morning sickness, how long would she need for appendicitis, several months? And “I have a sickness  – I hate mornings” etc.  A few (I presume childless women joined in)  I wrote in her defence “it’s no joke.” Not that I suffered from acute morning sickness, but I know what it’s like to be so seasick that  I remember thinking, I’d rather die than go through this. There is nothing much worse than feeling so sick you can’t move.

I have two friends who have been hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum – neither of them ever got pregnant again. Men on the whole, don’t seem very sympathetic to the idea of women being sick in pregnancy. I remember my husband telling me that my own morning sickness was “psychological” Yes I could have murdered him.

The following is an account sent to me by email from one of my friends when I asked her to remember what had happened, during her last pregnancy. She told me the story recently and I remember her saying that her husband had to stop work to look after their two young children as she spent  about three months in and out of hospital.

I can’t quite remember at what point it started, but quite early on and quickly got bad. Bad being throwing up continuously – bile and blood and all! I think I lasted a couple of days before I went into hospital to be rehydrated, and strangely it stopped after a day or so of being there. So they discharged me and I had a few good days at home and it kicked in again, so back I went to hospital. This was the pattern for a few weeks – fine in hospital, but bad at home. I only had to get in the car to go home and I’d be sick.

I realised there must be some psychosomatic dimension (apparently for some people the colour of the walls can trigger it!) which made it twice as frustrating because I REALLY didn’t want to be in hospital. I tried staying with my sister but that didn’t work. I tried hypnosis and acupuncture, but no good. My consultant told me his experience was that it tended to happen to high-achieving control freaks, which I suppose applied to me once (still a control freak, but not now achieving much). I think a progesterone imbalance also has something to do with it, which is why it’s more common with female babies. (A future queen?)

Anyway, it dragged on and on until I ended up being just as sick in hospital as out, and they started to worry I was losing too much weight and that it was a risk to the baby (I never felt she was at risk – in the end born over 9lbs). So they put me on some hideous food drip through a tube into my chest for 2 weeks – didn’t help! By now I’d really had enough and thought I’d go mad. The anti-nausea drugs didn’t seem to do much and the food was so grim. I used to pace the corridors at night unable to sleep a wink and craving cold milk, looking and feeling a complete fright. Finally they decided to put me on a steroid called prednisilone, which they were a bit anxious about because they didn’t know if it might transfer across the placenta and affect the baby’s future growth, etc. There was a doctor at St.Thomas’s who talked them through it. And luckily it worked, hooray! So home I went, now about 5 months pregnant, and developed a horse-like appetite, got stronger and refused to go anywhere near the hospital again and Grace was born at home.


A PS to post yesterday

I wanted to add one more thing to my post yesterday, Tingling in the  cold Atlantic Sea, about my holiday in Ireland. There was one more aspect of that ten days that was also good for me and no doubt would be good for you too.  Apart from the silence and the view, and the restorative sea air, there was no access to internet. No checking emails, twitter and facebook. No blogs, or browsing  for a full ten days.  You can see that I am back to it now, as I write this at 6.54 in the morning. I am something of an addict. When my husband accuses me of spending too much time on my computer, I protest that I am working. I am a writer I say forcefully, I have to be on my computer. But the truth is, he’s right. I sometimes browse/write emails/checkfacebook instead of talking to the children. I have been known to watch television in the evening and be looking at facebook at the same time. When I’m meant to be writing a novel or an article, I check my emails about five times an hour. I am certainly not proud of this. I didn’t miss it though, when I didn’t have it. A couple of times, it would have been good to look up the weather or keep up to date about what was going on in Libya or discover that Brad and Angelina have checked their children into Ibstock Place school  or that Kate was wearing yet another dress from Reis, but then again, it was a huge relief not to. I did miss radio 4, (couldn’t find it on the radio in the house) but  it was just as good checking the weather by looking out of the window at the spectacular sky – generally there were one or two rainbows, or big bulbous clouds, or a beautiful blue sky or at nighttime thousands and thousands of stars.

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