Hyperememsis Gravidarum Awareness Day 2016

I haven’t written much about Hyperemesis Gravidarum in a while. It’s hard for me to write about. It’s hard for me to remember. But I realized recently that even harder than remembering it is living through it, and right now there are women all over the world suffering from HG. So today I’m breaking my silence on HG and doing my part to spread the word about this disease.

For those who don’t know, Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a life threatening form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Some folks might say that it’s like morning sickness, and I guess it is, if morning sickness lasted all day every day for months on end and caused you to vomit so much that it endangered your life. It’s awful. It’s ugly and brutal, and it kills mothers and babies. That’s why it’s important that we talk about it.

I’m a two-time survivor of HG, and you can read about my experience under the Hyperemesis Gravidarum category.

If you’re suffering from HG, you can check out my hyperemesis gravidarum protocol here. It might be useful to print this off to share with your doctor if you’re sick or to make notes for yourself on if you’re planning another pregnancy.

Recently, there’s been some buzz in the news about Zofran and the possibility that it has been linked to birth defects. One of the things I’m happiest to share is this study from UCLA that found no evidence that Zofran causes birth defects. This is huge! Zofran has saved the lives of many women with HG, and maintaining access to life-saving treatments is so important. I’ll share a post later with more about my experience with Zofran, but I thought it was important enough to get this life-saving news out as soon as possible. I didn’t want to wait to tell you all.

HG is terrible, but there are ways you can help.

You can participate in research studies. If you or a relative has had HG, you can check here to see if you qualify for the research UCLA is conducting to find out if there are genetic links with HG sufferers.

Click here to learn more about the study.

You can sign this petition asking lawmakers to support more study on HG.

More than anything, you can talk about HG. So many mothers suffer in silence. I spent 12 weeks of my first pregnancy covering up how sick I was because I felt guilty for being a wimp about morning sickness. I’d never heard of HG, and learning that I had it and that it was real probably saved my life. Even many doctors don’t recognize HG as being real, so talking about this and spreading the word can save lives.

If you know someone who has HG, reach out to her. This disease is so isolating. Understand that she may not be up to hanging out, but knowing that you’re thinking of her can really help. So can helping with more mundane things like dishes, laundry, babysitting kids so she can rest, and meals for the family.

She may need help getting to the doctor’s office or the pharmacy. Let her know that resources like HelpHer.org are out there. Keep an eye on her and if it seems like the treatment isn’t working, help advocate for her with medical professionals. I remember going into my 2nd round of HG prepared and ready to fight, but when I was in the thick of it, I just didn’t have it in me to correct the random doctors in the hospital who told me there was nothing wrong with me. Even the fiercest woman may need help standing up for herself when she is so desperately ill.

If you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum know that you are not alone.

I see you. I know your struggle. I remember. I stand with you. Please reach out to friends, family, HelpHer, facebook groups, and wherever you can find support. You are not suffering from this because you are weak. You are so, so strong even though it feels like you’re breaking apart at the seams. More than anything, you are not alone.

HG Awareness Day

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Hyperemesis 101: What it is and how you can help

The British royal family on Buckingham Palace ...
The British royal family on Buckingham Palace balcony after Prince William and Kate Middleton were married. Kate wears a wedding gown by Sarah Burton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the news yesterday about Kate Middleton and her hospitalization due to hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), I’ve seen a pretty significant bump in traffic (mostly thanks to an Inquisitr article about hyperemesis), and since many of my new visitors may not be completely familiar with hyperemesis, I thought it might be a good idea to give a brief overview on what HG is, what it isn’t, and how you can help those who suffer with this illness.

What is hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)?

You’ve probably seen many news outlets referring to Kate’s illness as extreme morning sickness or even just plain morning sickness.  While morning sickness is related to HG, the two are not the same.  Morning sickness is often a normal part of pregnancy and can be handled with home remedies, fresh air, and occasionally small amounts of medication.  HG at its most basic certainly is an extreme form of morning sickness in the same sense that measles is an extreme form of a skin rash.  For HG sufferers, the vomiting and nausea is so severe that we can lose 10% or more of our body weight, become severely dehydrated and malnourished, and even miscarry or lose our own lives.  For some HG sufferers, the danger becomes so great that they are forced to terminate very much wanted and planned for pregnancies.

Unlike morning sickness, HG often doesn’t respond at all to home remedies, and even common morning sickness medications cannot control the illness.  In order to combat the illness, many HG sufferers are placed on 24 hour IV fluid drip either through the traditional IV lines that are placed in the arms or through more permanent PICC lines or other forms of central lines that are placed in the big veins around the heart or through the jugular vein in the neck.  We often have to receive our medications through either these lines or through a pump that delivers the medication below our skin at sites placed in our abdomens or upper legs.

HG sufferers often find themselves on a variety of medications, what we call our HG cocktail, to combat the different aspects of the illness.  Medications like Reglan move food more quickly out of the stomach so it can’t be thrown up as easily.  Zofran, in high enough doses, blocks the body from vomiting.  Drugs like Nexium combat the persistent reflux that causes food to almost spill from our stomachs as we move, bend, or roll over in bed.  Meclazine or Benadryl (sometimes both together) help fend off the nausea.

In addition to the physical illness, many HG sufferers find themselves becoming severely depressed and isolated.  Because many people don’t understand the differences between HG and morning sickness, HG sufferers may withdraw from relationships to protect themselves from people who do not understand the illness and attempt to help by offering platitudes, home remedy ideas, or even scoldings and harsh words.  Some HG sufferers become suicidal either as a result of the severe depression and isolation caused by the illness or as a side effect of the medication (Reglan).  Sometimes HG sufferers experience hallucinations and other extreme mental disturbances as a result of becoming so severely dehydrated and malnourished.

How long does it last?

Unlike traditional morning sickness, HG often lasts through most, if not all of the pregnancy.  While many doctors promise a swift end to the illness at around 12 weeks, many HG sufferers find that the nausea and vomiting is actually at its worst during this time.  This can be a terrible emotional blow to a woman holding on that 12 week mark as the end date to the suffering.

While some HG sufferers vomit constantly for the entire 9 months, many do find some relief during their 2nd trimester.  The HG never truly goes away, but for a time, the vomiting and nausea can reduce somewhat or even cease altogether.

Following the period of respite in the 2nd trimester, most HG sufferers experience what is referred to as the Third Trimester Relapse.  During this period, the nausea and vomiting return, but in some cases the physical changes of the woman’s body means that the 1st trimester HG cocktail may not work.  She may need to work with her doctor to find a new combination of medications to combat the illness.

Typically, once the HG sufferer gives birth and no longer carries the placenta, the HG disappears.

Are there any lasting effects of hyperemesis?

HG can have effects that last long after the birth of the baby.  The severe vomiting can cause tooth decay and other dental issues.  Depression and PTSD are common in HG survivors.  Many continue to have food aversions long after the HG has left them.  For a very unlucky few, the vomiting and nausea continues for some time after the birth of their baby.  A small number of women even have trouble breastfeeding because the oxytocin rush causes them to feel nauseated.  Most HG survivors develop some degree of emetophobia, fear of nausea and vomiting.

What can I do to help?

Do you know of someone with HG or someone with really bad morning sickness that just won’t go away that you think might be a form of HG?  Here are some dos and don’ts to help them.

Do…

Call her.  Ask if how she is doing and really listen.  Isolation is a truly painful part of HG and knowing that your friends are thinking of you helps immensely.

Ask if you go for a visit, but instruct her that she is to stay in bed and not get up.    If she’s not up for much talking, you can help with some light cleaning.  A quick turn around the house with the vacuum, taking the trash out, and washing the dishes can be immensely helpful.

She may be embarrassed about the state of her bathroom, but a clean toilet is much nicer to puke into.  If you clean the toilet with baking soda, you won’t have to worry about the smell of the cleaner making her sick.  Run a load of laundry (including folding and putting away) with an unscented soap like Charlie’s Soap or Rockin’ Green Unscented.  Trust me when I say that the smell of the unscented Tide and All detergents can be a major trigger.  Change her sheets for her.  She’s spending all day in bed, and having clean sheets is a luxury.

Offer to bring meals for the family, but please keep in mind that food smells can cause the vomiting to worsen.  Bringing foods that don’t require cooking like a nice chef salad or other low-scent meal would be thoughtful.  You can also offer to run a few errands for her like a quick trip to the grocery store (might want to talk food needs with her spouse because the mere mention of food can often trigger vomiting), the pharmacy to pick up her meds, or some place like WalMart or Target to get some household basics like paper towels and toilet paper.

If she has kids, offer to take them to the park, the zoo, or on a playdate on a regular basis.  Knowing that her children are having fun with a friend can help ease much of the tension, depression, and guilt she is feeling over not being able to care for them during her illness.

When you talk to her, validate her feelings even if they do sound incredibly negative.  Offer a sympathetic ear.  Provide her with information about the illness including links to websites like www.helpher.org.  If you are close enough, offer to go with her to a doctor’s appointment to help advocate for her.  It’s hard to advocate for yourself when you are weak from malnutrition and dehydration.  Many doctors and nurses do not take HG seriously, and for that reason, having a strong advocate at her side is a must.

Give her a link to the hyperemesis gravidarum protocol section of my blog.  Having an example of what one HG survivor did to combat the illness can help her and her spouse advocate for proper treatment.

Dont…

Please don’t ask her if she has tried ginger, nibbling crackers, eating very small meals, or any other home remedy.  If home remedies worked, HG sufferers wouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on medication and treatments.  Please don’t tell her that a little fresh air and sunshine is what she needs.  Outside air often has smells that trigger vomiting and light can be a trigger, too.

Please don’t attempt to relate to her by telling her about your morning sickness.  She would kill for regular morning sickness right now, and hearing about other pregnant women without HG adds to her sense of isolation.  Please don’t suggest that the HG is caused by anxiety, depression, doubt about becoming a mother, or lack of love for her unborn child.  HG isn’t a psychological illness.  Though HG causes many psychological issues, the illness itself is very real and very physical.

When you visit, please don’t wear perfumes or scented lotions.  Those kinds of things can be a major trigger for the vomiting.  Just before visiting, please also don’t eat very smelly foods like garlic bread, onion rings, or other items that she might smell with her hyper-sensitive nose.

Please don’t talk about or mention food.  Conversely, if she asks you to bring something strange like a McDonald’s cheeseburger or a taco bell bean burrito, don’t chide her for eating fast food.  For many HG sufferers, this is the only kind of food that will stay down.

Please don’t express concern over whether the medications she is taking are safe for the baby.  She is under the care of her physician, and they have determined that the risks of not taking the medications (which can include death) outweigh the risks to the baby.  Most HG medicines are perfectly safe during pregnancy, but many HG sufferers still feel incredible amounts of guilt over taking any kind of medication.  Please don’t add to that guilt.

More ways to help…

If you aren’t directly in contact with and HG sufferer, you can donate to www.helpher.org to help support research about HG.

Spread the word.  HG often goes unrecognized by many doctors, nurses, and lay people.  Talk about it with them.  Keep the conversation going.  The more we spread the word about HG, the fewer women will have to suffer alone, in silence, and without treatment.

I hope this has been informative to you.  Do you know someone who has gone through HG?  What are some ideas you have on ways you can help them?  Have you gone through HG?  Tell us about your experience.  What was helpful?  What was not?

An Open Letter to Her Royal Highness, Kate Middleton

Dear Duchess Kate,

I just heard the news that you have been hospitalized for Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  I am so, so sorry to hear that you are sick, and I wanted to let you know that I understand what you are going through.  Hyperemesis gravidarum is a very special kind of hell that most people can’t even imagine.

The newspapers said that you haven’t hit the 12 week mark yet, so I am going to guess that the HG is just starting to ramp up.  I know that you are receiving the very best care that medical science can provide, and for that I am grateful.  This early, things may get worse before they get better, but it will get better.  I promise you, it will get better.  You have a long road ahead of you, but please hold faith in your heart that when your beautiful baby is born, you will feel better.

You may hear some ugly things from people now that this has hit the news.  People may attack you for taking the very medicine that is saving your life and your baby’s life.  They may attack you for losing too much weight, for not eating enough, for not eating enough of the “right” foods.  (Actually, they probably do that already.)  They may tell you to stop whining about how sick you are (even though you haven’t whined at all).  They may tell you to just eat some food and get over it.  We, your HG sisters, have all heard these things, but you will probably hear it worse than we ever did because instead of coming from individuals, it will come from tabloids and newspapers.

Please ignore them.  Let other people worry about it.  Your road right now is hard enough.  Surround yourself with the love and support of your family, and know that there are other women out there who have survived HG and who are thinking of you.  We know what it’s like to not be able to eat.  We know how it feels to think your body is broken.  We know what it’s like when our doctors tell us to go home and eat a cracker and sip some water.  We know you love your baby and we know that you are fighting for your life and the life of your baby.  You are not alone.

I am so sorry that you have hyperemesis gravidarum.  I promise you that it isn’t a forever thing.  The HG community is a powerful sisterhood and I know that there are many who will add their voices and prayers to mine to say that it gets better.  Not today, not tomorrow, but it will get better.

With love and Solidarity,

Molly A.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Is it all in our heads?

How many times have you heard this:

“You’d feel a lot better if you would adjust your attitude.”  “You should be more positive.”  “That Molly. She’s so excitable isn’t she.”  “Maybe you should see a tharapist?”  “You’re not sick.  You’re pregnant.”  “You’re weak.”  “You’re hysterical.”  “You’re doing this to yourself.”

From doctors. From nurses. From the lady taking your vitals in the hospital. From a friend. From a relative. From your spouse?

It’s all in our heads.  We’re doing this to ourselves.  It’s our fault we’re so sick.

Over and over and over.

Some HGers aren’t lucky enough to have a support system.  They suffer and suffer believing to their core that what they are experiencing isn’t real.  They blame themselves when they miscarry.  They feel the agony of guilt when they have to terminate the pregnancy that they were so excited for just to save their own lives.  If they’re like the woman a few years back at one of my local hospitals, they die.  It’s their own fault.  If they hadn’t been so weak, so fragile, so excitable.

A new study has come out: Is hyperemesis gravidarum associated with mood, anxiety and personality disorders: a case-control study.

Apparently, according to the abstract, HG is a relatively common medical problem among pregnant women.  Well, gosh.  I certainly learned something today.  I wasn’t aware that it’s common for pregnant women to require PICC lines, constant IV hydration, high doses of multiple medications, and bed rest.  I wasn’t aware either that it’s relatively common for pregnant women to become so dehydrated that they begin to halucinate, to vomit until their esophagi tear and they start to vomit blood, to become so malnourished that they lose their babies, for their kidneys to fail, to die.

I didn’t realize any of that was relatively common.

After looking quite a large sample size of 142 patients and observing whether or not there were mental health issues prior to the pregnancy, these psychiatrists conclude:

The results of the present study suggest that mood and anxiety disorders, and personality disturbances are frequently observed among women with HG and that there is a potential relationship between these psychiatric disorders and HG during pregnancy.

Pardon my skepticism, but this has been done before.  It was a crock then and it’s a crock now.

Look, I get that they’re saying that HG isn’t caused by mental illness. Of course not. This is all couched in the language of statistics.  But how many of us have had doctors who told us to just suck it up before sending us on our way with admonitions to take some ginger and eat some crackers?  How many of you have nearly died because of it?  I know at least one of you personally who has had this happen.  I know it nearly happened to me when I was pregnant with Cricket.  I remember that Friday night when they suddenly went from, “Molly, you’re in really bad shape. We need to get you on TPN,” to “There’s nothing wrong with you. You need to go home.” (Of course I seemed fine at that point! I’d been on IV fluids, a potassium drip, and IV zofran and nexium for 3 days!)

Oh sure.  Plenty of us who have HG are depressed and anxious.  Who wouldn’t be after what we’ve been through?  HG causes mental illness and depression.  The researchers got it the wrong way round.

Post Hyperemesis Gravidarum Pregnancy Wrap-Up

I am about a month out of my hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy now, which is hard to get my head around. I’ve got lots of questions swimming around in my mind.

Did that really just happen? Was it as bad as I remember?

I think the mind shrouds experiences like that in a kind of fog.  I know it happened.  I can go back here on my blog and read about it.  But it just seems so far away and unreal.  Maybe it’s the mind’s way of protecting itself.

Could I have done anything differently?  Did I do anything wrong?

I did so much research going into this.  I have to feel confident that I did the best I could and got really aggressive treatment.  Even with all of that, it was bad.

Really bad.

I still remember that Friday night with the nurses holding me down and trying to get a needle in me and the auditory hallucinations making me think my daughter was there crying for me.  I remember the ER doctor telling me that they were going to put a PICC in and start me on TPN and then 24 hours later another doctor telling me there was nothing wrong.  The night nurse taking my blood pressure so hard that all my needle sticks from earlier in the night started bleeding again.  I remember fighting for a PICC and having the hospital doctors blow me off.  Those three days haunt me.  What if I’d fought harder?  What if my regular doctor had been in town?  What if I’d left the county hospital and headed up the road to the private hospital?  Would my care have been better?  Would they have given me what I needed right then instead of putting it off until it was almost too late?

Did I really survive that?

I remember my mom walking in the door after flying all day and turning right around and taking me back in to the ER because my IV line clotted off.  I remember sitting in triage so scared of the IV stick that I was shaking.  I remember looking as hard as I could at a buckle on my mom’s shoe so that I wouldn’t have to see the needle that Trauma Nurse Andy was getting ready to put in.  I remember my mom hiking up and down the stairs to my bedroom bringing frozen cranberry juice and rehydrating me drop by drop.

And then it stopped.

And I felt guilty.

And then it came back a little.  And I felt guilty.  Because for so many women the 3rd trimester relapse is really bad, and mine was controllable with a doze of Zofran in the morning and a Nexium at night.  It wasn’t that bad, but I still hated every second of it.

And then, suddenly, it was over.  And I had a baby in my arms.

Am I normal again?

I think so.  I still eat smaller meals.  I think my stomach shrank.  I can take prenatal vitamins, which is kind of exciting.  I don’t have to take 12 different pills on schedule throughout the day anymore.  I can enjoy my food.  Even foods that I liked when I was pregnant taste better now that the hyperemesis gravidarum is gone.

And more than anything, I’m happy.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely.  Both of my daughters are miracles.  They are amazing people.  I can’t even express how worth going through HG they are.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely not.  After Cricket was born, while I was waiting for contractions to begin again so I could deliver the placenta, I was already asking my midwives to recommend someone to tie my tubes.

As much as I might want a 3rd child, there is no way I can survive HG a third time.  The disease has made the decision for me.  That’s kind of sucky.

Here are some raw numbers for you:

  • Starting weight: 139 lbs
  • Lowest weight: 127 lbs
  • Final weight: 185 lbs
  • Total weight lost: 12 lbs
  • Overall weight gain: 46 lbs
  • Max Zofran dose: 39 mg/day (that’s above the usual max dose of 32 mg that the manufacturer recommends)
  • Worst day: Friday, February 18th
  • Day I got my PICC: Tuesday, February 22nd
  • Day my PICC failed: Thursday February 24th
  • Day I turned the corner: Tuesday, March 15th
I think the bottom line is, I survived.  If anyone can get any use out of my HG experiences, it will make blogging about it worthwhile.  In the meantime, though, and for now, I need to not talk about the HG.  I need to leave it in the past.  There are other things I want to write about, and right now the HG just isn’t one of them.  I’ll leave up my protocol and the HG-related links, but for now, I just really need to take a break from that and write about other things.

A Healing Article from a Hyperemesis Gravidarum Sister

Just this past week I learned that Jessica from The Leaky B@@b also suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum.

I had no idea!

And, in a fortuitous twist, she published a fantastic article that struck to the core of some of the emotions I’ve been feeling about my HG pregnancies: Tone, filters, and information.

It seems like every time I turn around, there is some article that gets published about how if you have a great diet during pregnancy or exercise during pregnancy, your baby will be healthier and have a number of advantages.  Since good eating and exercise aren’t really options for those of us with HG, these articles usually cause me to roll my eyes, feel guilty, and sometimes even angry that I can’t have just a normal pregnancy like everyone else.

Oddly enough, I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t take on guilt simply because of our circumstances.  We should be able to share information to mothers be it about childbirth interventions and risk management or breastfeeding.  We should be able to discuss these issues openly and honestly without the knee-jerk defensive reaction.

And yet…

And yet, when I see the information out there about pregnancy diet and exercise, I experience that same feeling of defensiveness that makes me crazy when talking about non-HG-related issues.

Jessica writes:

Do those articles set out to make me feel guilty that I barely eat during my pregnancies?  No, they are just sharing information and sometimes aim to encourage and inspire moms.  Do the moms celebrating their beautiful pregnancy experience do so to punch me in the gut and knock me down?  I’m pretty sure they are just excited about their own experience.  Does the fact that I have very little physical activity during the prenatal stage of my mothering make me a bad mom?  I don’t think so but it doesn’t mean I don’t wonder from time to time or that it doesn’t hurt a little when I’m faced with the reality that it really isn’t a good thing and could be putting my children at risk.  Blaming the information though doesn’t help me or make my reality better.  Hiding it, or worse denying it, doesn’t help anyone else either.

We should still share information, we should still read information and we hopefully do this in a safe community where processing the information can happen through trusting and supportive dialogue.  I hope that by keeping in mind the fact that we do not know everything there is to a person’s back story and why they make the choices they do we can remember to be more sensitive in how we share information.  I hope that by keeping in mind the fact that we all bring our own baggage to any topic we can remember to try not to take information sharing as personal jabs.  It is through these steps that we can support one another and make a difference for others.

Reading this article really gave me a sense of healing.  It helped me build a bridge from one aspect of my life, writing, and personal views to another.

Thank you Jessica.  You gave me a lot to think about.

All Things to All People

My midwife, bless her, gave me a bit of a gentle scolding last week.  I needed it.

Lately, I’ve been feeling completely drained.  Not just tired.  More than that.  Sucked dry.  Wrung out.  Physically tired?  Absolutely.  Mentally exhausted?  Oh, yeah.  Emotionally worn out?  You bet.

When she asked me how I was feeling, that’s what I told her.  She pointed out that it sounded like I was simply trying to be too many people.

I’ve written before about trying to do too much and how that causes the hyperemesis gravidarum to flare up.  I’ve always thought of it as a physical thing.  When my midwife framed it in terms of being too many people, something clicked in my mind.

That’s exactly what’s been going on, particularly with trying to crank out an article every single day for World Breastfeeding Week.  It’s been completely exhausting.

My midwife suggested I think about my priorities.  Which Molly is the most important Molly?

Who do I try to be on a daily basis?  What facets make me… me?

  • Mommy to the Grasshopper
  • Wife to my husband
  • Cook
  • Partial housekeeper
  • Good employee at the office
  • Keeper of the house schedule
  • Writer/blogger
  • Lactivist
  • Socially responsible consumer (now that takes some hard work!)
  • Pregnant lady
  • Hyperemesis gravidarum survivor/sufferer
  • Gardener
  • Fish-keeper
  • Dog mommy

This list goes on and on and on.

Which of those is most important right now?  Weeellll….  They’re all important.

Some things I’m already letting slide.  Mr. Grasshopper already does all the cooking.  We’ve hired a housekeeper, and whatever she doesn’t do, he does.  The poor dog doesn’t really get walked right now except to go with my husband to get the mail.  He’s taken over taking the Grasshopper to swim class, grocery shopping, laundry, watering the potted plants, and any other chores that come up as a part of home ownership.

He’s carrying so much of the weight of the household right now, and he’s holding up amazingly well under the strain.

My midwife is right, though.  I need to start shedding more roles.  I’m not sure what this means, though.

I think part of it is that I need to let go of the notion of spending every day striving to be The Best Employee Ever.  I’m up to my neck in projects that I’m frantically trying to complete before I go out on leave.

My last day of work will be September 16th.  That’s a little over five weeks away.  That’s not enough time!

I think what I need to do is this:  I need to stop thinking of September 16th as a deadline and start thinking of it as a new beginning.  If I don’t finish every single thing that I wanted to finish at the office, it won’t be the end of the world.  Time passes.  They will find a way to manage without me.

I need to focus on what’s important.  My family, myself, and my baby.

I’m already reaching that stage of just wanting to hide in a cave.  I just want to be left alone to get ready for the baby to arrive.  I want to get the clothes washed and into drawers, the room set up, the car seats installed, etc.  I just can’t right now because of having to work.

So I need to start looking forward to September 16th, not as the drop-dead date for my projects but as the day that I can stop having to be everything but a mommy getting ready to have a baby.  It’s so hard to change that perspective.  I’m a natural project manager, so my instinct is to manage each task and account for all possible outcomes and potential stumbling blocks.  I try in every possible way to foresee every potential risk and develop a plan to minimize or deal with it.  I mean, look at the protocol I put together for the hyperemesis gravidarum.  Effective?  Useful?  Valuable?  Hell yes.  A little over the top? Weeellll….  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

I have got to learn to just let it go.

What’s up with my white blood cell count?

We’re going to go back in time a bit to last week because I realized that I forgot to post about what ended up happening with the high white blood cell count and all the tests they ran on my to find the cause.

We got the iron thing under control with the Floradix, but my white blood cell count was still high, so they tested me on the 13th for a variety of things to see if we could find a cause (other than HG).

The blood test for H. pylori came back a resounding negative.

The urine test to check for a UTI came back negative.  In fact, apparently my urine was just about as perfect as urine can be (whatever that means).

The vaginal swab to check for a bacterial infection came back negative.

Soooo…  What does that mean?  That means that the mystery of the white blood cells continues.  The midwives, at this point, are willing to chalk it up to stress and the hyperemesis gravidarum.  I’m inclined to agree with that idea.  I seem to vaguely recall having elevated white blood cells when the 3rd tri relapse hit with the Grasshopper, so it makes sense.

Hyperemesis gravidarum just screws up your body for a very long time.

How’s that Hypnobabies thing going?

Way back in March, I posted about hypnosis and childbirth.  It’s been a while since I talked about that, so I wanted to give you all an update on how that’s going.

Long story short: It’s awesome!

I selected the Hypnobabies method of hypnotic childbirth, and at this time I have completed the home study course.  Just this week I started in on the maintenance part of the program.

The course itself is easy and pleasant to go through.  The book is divided into 5 lessons with each lesson building off the previous one.  For the hypnosis part, the hypnosis tracks (which are on CDs that you just lay back and listen and follow along with) start by simply teaching you very basic, guided visualization and self-hypnosis.  From there, the tracks build on that until you learn to put yourself into hypnosis using what they call the finger drop technique.

The finger drop technique is a cue that you train your mind to accept that triggers you to go into deep relaxation and hypnosis.  This is the backbone of the program and one of the main tools I will use during my birthing time.

Hypnobabies is big on associations and cues.  It’s basic operant conditioning when you think about it.  You simply teach your mind to react in a specific way to a specific stimulus.

For Hypnobabies, those stimuli (cues) include the finger drop, where you bring your finger down like switching off a light switch, and words such as “release” and “peace.”  Every hypnosis track starts the same way and has the same music, so I have also learned to associate the voice of the woman reading and the music with the feelings of deep relaxation.

At first, entering the hypnosis feels a little challenging.  The mind wanders and it’s hard to really relax.  Hypnobabies plans for this, and because I listen to the tracks over and over and because the association cues are consistent from track to track, it becomes easier every time I try.

In addition to the new associations that Hypnobabies is teaching me, they’re also working to disassociate old feelings about childbirth.  As a part of this, Hypnobabies uses its own vocabulary to help you disassociate pain from childbirth.  Here are a few examples that you will see me start using in future posts about birth (old word=hypnobabies word):

  • Labor=birthing time: Doesn’t the word labor just sound difficult and unpleasant?  Birthing time is just so much more pleasant to say.
  • Contractions=pressure waves: Everyone knows contractions hurt, right?  We’ve all seen the movies.  Pressure waves though?  That doesn’t sound so bad.  And if you’ve been in the ocean, you know you can ride waves, let them carry you, flow with them.  It’s exhilarating.  When you fight ocean waves things get difficult and out of control, but when you dive into them, go deep, and let them carry you, they will move you and take you places.
  • Transition=transformation: Transition.  That’s that part in the movies where the woman starts screaming at her husband, right?  Pretty scary.  Transformation feels better to say.  It’s less frightening to think about.

Hypnobabies also does not use the word “pain” in any discussions on childbirth.

By dissociating birth from fear inducing words, Hypnobabies teaches you to better handle the intensity of the moment and embrace it with joy instead of shrinking back with fear.  In fact, the very first class talks about the cycle of fear and how that can actually slow down and prevent your body from doing the work it needs to do.  Clenching muscles and panic do not make it easier to birth a baby!

Lest you thing Hypnobabies is just a bunch of CD tracks, let me assure you.  It’s not.  The home study course takes you through a complete childbirth education.  They talk about interventions and risks vs. benefits, stages of birthing, etc.  We took Bradley classes when I was pregnant with the Grasshopper, so most of this is review.  However, if you are a first time mom, you will still get the information you need to help you navigate the birth process from a practical and intellectual standpoint.

So far, I’m loving Hypnobabies (if you couldn’t tell!).  I fall asleep every single time I listen to a track, which is apparently not a problem at all, and when I wake up in the mornings, I feel so much better.  I feel better rested, more confident, and just generally happier.  When I wake up at night, I use my finger drop technique to help me go back to sleep quickly.  When I had blood drawn at the midwifery appointment, I was able to use the finger drop technique to relax and get through it in a calm and peaceful way.

I’m excited to see how it works out during my birthing time.

Here’s another cool thing:  Hypnobabies sells individual hypnosis tracks for a variety of different purposes.  I’ve already ordered Needles are Ok! to help me deal with my needle-related fears, but there are lots of others that are intriguing: Baby Come Out, Breastfeeding Success, Peaceful Sleep Now for All, etc.

Hint: If you “Like” Hypnobabies on Facebook, you can buy the CDs and MP3s there at a reduced cost!  That’s what I did!

There is one that I will never buy, however: Eliminate Nausea Now.

I do not think this CD would be at all appropriate for someone suffering from HG.  Aside from the very definite fact that there is absolutely nothing about HG that is psychological or in the mind, think back to what I said about associations.  The temptation might be there for a desperate HGer to give this a shot.  To me this seems like a very, very bad idea.

Trust me when I say that associations are powerful.  Heck, I was into Firefly when the hyperemesis gravidarum started to hit.  Simply watching that as the nausea started to build has been enough for me to associate this show and everything about it with nausea.  The theme song, the title sequence, and the voices of the characters have become triggers for me.  Heck, it was all I could do to link to that Wikipedia article and write this paragraph.

You do not want this kind of association built for your childbirth method!

The last thing you need to have is an association with fear and vomiting when you hear the Hypnobabies music and the woman’s voice starting to read the scripts.  I think that the possibility in an HGer directly relating the hypnosis techniques for intractable nausea is a strong one.  This is why I choose to stay away from this track.

This track is probably great for women with morning sickness, but I doubt it would help an HGer and the potential for harm is definitely there.  It’s simply not worth the risk in my mind.

That said, the entire Hypnobabies experience has really left me feeling empowered.  I’m looking forward to a beautiful birth.  I’m excited about joyfully welcoming this new baby into the world!

Natural Ways to get Iron

This Sunday, I’ll be jumping off my previous posts of the week and talking about iron.  Since I recently found out that I’m pretty anemic, it seems like a good topic choice.

“Molly,” you might ask, “Why don’t you just get an iron pill?”

A very good and very important question.  I don’t get along well with iron supplements.  First and foremost, they aggravate the nausea.  It’s a huge part of the reason I do not take a prenatal vitamin.  The high iron just makes me ill.  They also can be very constipating, and believe me, I get enough of that from the Zofran.  Finally, they can be difficult for your body to absorb.

Nutritional supplements can be good, but often they pass right through your body.  The trick is to get your vitamins and minerals from food.  For the vitamins that I do take, I try my best to find companies that source theirs from foods.  New Chapter vitamins (my daily vitamin) are sourced from food.  So is Floradix, my new iron supplement.

Sourcing nutrients from food also means they’re easier on the stomach.  So far, I’ve not thrown up a New Chapter vitamin (everyone knock on wood!), and the Floradix seems to sit pretty well, too.

I would like to find some other ways to safely and gently incorporate iron into my diet through simple and easy changes to my eating.  Now, anyone who has had HG knows that this can be difficult.  Finding snacks that don’t make me sick can sometimes be a challenge, so I did what anyone would do!

I called my mom!

And when you call in my mom, she springs into action in a big way!  She pulled out her trusty copy of Prescription for Nutritional Healing and went straight to work looking up foods for me to try.  Some of the ones she listed included (but is not limited to):

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Dark leafy greens (NOT spinach)
  • Purple grapes
  • Plums and prunes
  • Carrots
  • Dried Apricots
  • Liver (yeah right!)
  • Meat
It also listed foods to avoid (also not limited to):
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Other dairy products
  • Sugars
  • Chocolate (damn!)
  • Spinach

Wait a second.  Avoid spinach?  Apparently so!  According to the book (and wikipedia backs this up), spinach contains a compound called oxalate that can block the absorption of iron.  Good to know!

I also asked the good folks over at the Natural Parents Network Facebook page for some gentle and natural ideas to help with adding iron into my diet.

Those ladies came through in a big way.  I got a big thumbs up on the Floradix, but they had some other suggestions as well.  I’m not sure how ready I am to try powdered colostrum or terramin clay (or where I can even find those things!), but they also suggested some simple things like:

  • Cast iron skillets (check!)
  • blackstrap molasses
  • Stinging nettle infusions (will have to check and see if that’s safe for pregnancy)
  • Avoid corn and wheat (not sure how well I can do that since I’m on a bread-heavy diet right now)
  • Fresh parsley
  • Turnip greens and carrot tops
  • Foods high in vitamin C to help the iron be absorbed into my body

The most appealing suggestion, though, was to try out some green smoothies to see if they are palatable to me.

Now I have to admit:  I was not exactly sure what a green smoothie is.

If you’re clueless like me, here’s the gist of it:  Green smoothies are a fruit-based smoothie into which is blended a leafy green of some sort.  This can be spinach, kale, chard, lettuce, dandelion greens, or anything else leafy and green.  They look green, but the flavor is that of the fruit

I swung by Trader Joe’s today, and here’s what I got for my green smoothie experiments:

  • Kale
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Fresh medley of cut pineapple, papaya, and mango
  • Orange juice
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Unsulfered Prunes (can be soaked to reconstitute for blending)
I’ve also got in my pantry:
  • Organic blackstrap molasses
  • Flax meal (high in omega 3s)
  • Agave nectar (if I need to sweeten it)
Let the experimenting begin!