Hyperemesis gravidarum is difficult. It makes everything so much more difficult not only physically but emotionally as well. For me, from a psychological standpoint, the HG begins to take on a life of its own. In my mind, the HG becomes almost its own entity. It becomes anthropomorphized to the point that I think of it as a separate being. I think I do this as a defense. Anthropomorphizing it gives me something to fight. I imagine it as a beast that stalks and hunts me. When I talk about dealing with my HG, I find myself using imagery more associated with fighting. It’s strange because I generally think of myself as a reasonably peaceful person. Hyperemesis gravidarum has become an enemy to be fought and killed.
I’m reasonably certain that I’m not alone in thinking of it this way.
I think, in a lot of ways, the personality that the illness takes on makes it more difficult to feel bonded with the baby.
When I was pregnant with the Grasshopper, I never felt really bonded to her. I would hear other pregnant women talk about how in love they were with their babies, but I felt… sick. I thought I was broken. I thought there was something wrong with me. I mean, here I was, physically bonded to this tiny creature that my husband and I had made. Shouldn’t I feel some sort of deep, spiritual connection? I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to love her once she was born. When I was very, very sick, I felt angry at her. How fair is that? What kind of mother resents her unborn child?
I spent the entire pregnancy feeling like I was going through the motions of getting ready. Sure, baby shopping was fun, but I never felt what I imagined other women felt. I buried myself in reading, organizing, and other things so that I wouldn’t have to think too much about the actual baby. To be honest, I never nested. I joked with my mom that she nested for me in those last few weeks.
I was immensely relieved to find that once she was out and I wasn’t sick anymore, I fell for her instantly. Holding her that first time was like a spark. My love for her burns like a fire, and sometimes, when I remember how sick I was and think about just how precious she is, it feels like that fire might burn me up. Somehow, the numbness and sickness I felt when I was pregnant with her makes her that much more dear to me.
I was afraid of the transition to motherhood. I expected to deal with postpartum depression. I expected to lament the freedom lost. I expected to resent her after she was born for keeping me up at night.
None of that happened. Somehow, that spark that she gave me helped make motherhood easy for me. For some reason, it was natural. I don’t know why or how, but she made me a better person.
It’s funny how that works out sometimes.
This time is different. When I was sick with this one, I felt anger. I felt resentment. But I wasn’t angry at her. I was angry at the hyperemesis gravidarum. I didn’t feel bonded to her when I was sick, but I didn’t imagine she was chewing up my insides either. Still, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to love her like I love the Grasshopper.
Once the sickness lifted, something happened inside of me. The spark is there. I can feel the embers glowing. I know that once she’s born, the fire for her will catch just like it did for her older sister. We’re going to be okay.
If you have hyperemesis gravidarum now and you’re worried about bonding with your baby, I hope this reassures you somewhat. You may never feel that spark when you’re pregnant. You may not have that magical moment in the hospital that you see in the movies. Being so sick for so long makes it so hard to feel anything else. If you end up having some postpartum depression, it may take a little bit longer. But it will come. Not feeling it right away doesn’t make you less of a mother. You’ll find the spark.