Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Bonding with Baby

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.

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9 thoughts on “Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Bonding with Baby

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I wrote recently about how guilty I feel for some of the thoughts I had in my early days of HG when it was at its worst… I remember thinking that I’d actually be relieved if I miscarried and that made me feel so awful because I knew deep down that the fetus was entirely innocent and I hated that my mind still somehow connected the sickness to it in some ways. I still have moments when I think I wish it were just over already and I find it so hard to imagine not being sick and having a child… and this is hard because I wanted to have a baby so much and we thought I might have issues with my Endo.

    For me though I carry anger within me anyway because I have suffered from Endometriosis since my teens and have been so ill with it for years. So when my body actually played fair and I fell pregnant I was overjoyed for all of 5 minutes before the sickness came in… so my anger seems so strong sometimes because it feels like “once again” my body is unable to cope with what should be a normal and natural process… I’m angry that I will never have a pain-free menstrual cycle, I’m angry that I have to have regular surgery and treatment for Endo, and now I am angry that I cannot possibly imagine going through pregnancy again because of the HG. So it’s good to read that anger is there for others too, as it reassures me that it is a natural response to being so ill and that when baby comes I will be able to bond with him… so thank you once again! x

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    1. I remember with both the Grasshopper and this one wishing I would just start bleeding already. Wow, that was hard to actually type. But yeah. I know. I’ve been there. Last time, my anger was all at the baby. I imagined she was hanging from the inside of my rib cage chewing on my insides with long, sharp teeth. This time, imagining the HG as a monster to fight made it easier to keep from hating the baby. It gives me something to be angry at.

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  2. I am so happy that you are able to bond with this baby while pregnant. HG does rob us of much time that should be enjoyable.

    For me I had a deep bond with each of my babies as soon as I knew I was pregnant. When I was dealing with that awful sickness, I knew it was because I was giving life to my children. They were in there forming and growing, being knitting together by our Heavenly Father.
    I got through those days by talking with my baby, rubbing my belly, forcing food and water down (knowing it would come back) for my baby.
    Oh how I want to have more children……. but I don’t want to go through anymore HG 😦

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  3. The paragraphs beginning with “When I was pregnant with the Grasshopper…” and “I spent the entire pregnancy…” really spoke to me. That was exactly how I felt during and for a long time after the birth of son.

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  4. Thank-you for writing about this. I was very sick my entire pregnancy, and felt so guilty for not bonding with the baby. Or caring about the baby! Life was all about survival…just getting thru each day, and hopefully keeping some food down!

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  5. Bonding for me started during pregnancy. Not completely naturally, though, but somewhat intentionally. I was very ill during my pregnancy with my son, but we began the bonding process by regularly reading a week-by-week development book. It is truly amazing to track the miracle that is taking place. It really made a difference for me even after birth. Now, there are a lot of great books and blogs out there to serve this purpose, but the one I’m reading now blows all the others away, and it’s great for every pregnancy, not just the first. Not only does it have even more development details than usual, and personalized, it has a section in it where you can journal or write letters to baby. It’s called “The Wonder Within You: celebrating your baby’s journey from conception to birth” by Carey Wickersham. It’s an awesome combination of week-to-week information, what’s going on with the baby, “Did you know?” plus health advice about what to eat, cravings, nutrition, etc, BUT also with awesome 3D/4D pictures and videos you can link or QR with your phone to and see what your baby looks like at each week stage. I’ve just not seen anything exactly like it! It’s got famous quotes and real mom stories, too. The pregnancy information is as up-to-date as it gets and it’s such a great keepsake. I want to get one for everybody I know who is expecting! I highly recommend it! http://www.TheWonderWithinYou.com.

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    1. I’m glad you found that resource. I was emotionally unable to read pregnancy books and the constant reminder of being pregnant seemed to add to my illness. No amount of good intentions on my part helped this. It only added to the guilt I felt.

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