How I survived the Gestational Diabetes Test

It certainly wasn’t much fun, but I did manage to survive yesterday’s gestational diabetes test.

There were a couple of things that had me feeling incredibly anxious.  The needle stick is kind of an obvious stressor considering my anxiety from all the IVs I had to endure, but the test itself had me afraid for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I didn’t want to fast.  Not eating right now is really, really bad.  The reality of what I’m dealing with means that skipping a meal could land me on the couch for a couple of days.  I’m not okay with that.  Then there’s the sugar drink itself.  It’s bad.  It’s like flat orange Fanta.  It’s tough for a lot of non-HGers to choke down.  Then there’s the sugar rush, followed by the inevitable sugar crash after drinking something like that glucola.  All-in-all, not fun at all.

The midwives were kind enough to let me off the hook for fasting.  There was a risk that this would give a false positive on the test, but I’m just so afraid of doing any fasting that it was worth the risk.  So I started yesterday morning off like I do every morning: with a bagel and cream cheese at 6 AM.

At 7:50 AM, I started drinking the glucola.  I managed to finish it up by 8:10 AM, so the timing was perfect for my appointment.  We would do the blood draw at 8:50 AM.  Really, though, I was hoping I could just keep the glucola in that long.  I told myself, “You can’t throw it up until after the blood draw, but after the blood draw, if you need to get rid of you you can.”  HG is not a mind-over-matter thing, but somehow giving myself “permission” to throw up later helped me to deal with the wave of glucola induced nausea.

We started our appointment like we always do.  I peed in the cup and checked my levels.  This time, though, the dip stick did not give me happy numbers.  I was spilling protein and sugar in my urine.  Not a great sign.  This meant that my pancreas wasn’t processing the sugar the way it needed to, and my kidneys were having to pick up the slack.  No wonder I felt like hell.

Then came the weigh.  166 lbs.  I checked it a couple of times to make sure it was right.  The midwife said this was quite a major weight gain for 4 weeks, and it was the largest she’d ever seen.  Aaaaand… I lost it.

I just broke down and cried.  Spilling glucose in my urine, big weight gain… This all points to gestational diabetes.  This is the last thing I need right now.  I already have food issues from the hyperemesis gravidarum.  Having to follow an even more special diet is just too much to handle.

At any rate, feeling defeated and huge (although my midwife assured me that huge is one thing I’m NOT), we went in for the measurements and the blood draw.

This went surprisingly well.  I used my Hypnobabies finger drop technique and I closed my eyes and just breathed.  I stayed very relaxed.  She hit the vein immediately with no issues at all.  And it was done.  No pain!

This was a really important moment for me.  It was almost like a test.  I got the chance to test myself and see how I could handle a needle stick, and I was pleased that I managed to do so in such a relaxed fashion.  It was also a test for her.  How easily could she hit my vein?  Apparently, it was effortless!  She did a fantastic job.  Sure, it wasn’t comfortable, but there was no painful digging or rolling or veins blowing or any of that.  The lack of drama surrounding the whole thing went a long way toward helping me feel more confident for the future.

Really, though, with the urine thing and the weight gain, I’ve been walking around wanting to cry for the last 24 hours.  Also, we’re having a heat wave and we don’t have AC, so my feet are swollen.

But in order to help me refocus myself, here are the positives that came out of the appointment:

  • I’m measuring right where I should be for 28 weeks.  So the next person that tells me I’m huge really and truly will get smacked.
  • The baby’s heartbeat is great.  We heard it beating along as she kicked and rolled, and then it slowed down as she relaxed.
  • I did great with the needle.
  • My midwife did great with the needle.
  • I got to meet the third midwife in the group.
  • Mr. Grasshopper got to meet the second and third midwives.
  • I did not throw up!

So there were positives to balance out the negatives, so that helps, I guess.  We should know in the next day or so what my diabetes test results are, so for now I can enjoy blissful ignorance.

I also got some general pregnancy tips that I thought I’d pass along:

  • The aches, pains, and that horrible charlie horse from Friday night that still hurts?  It’s my body telling me it needs more calcium.  She suggested adding in a supplement to make sure I’m getting 1200-2000 mg per day.  She also said this would help me sleep better at night.
  • That washed out feeling I’ve been having where the stars appear at the edge of my vision and I feel like fainting? Iron.  Apparently there is an iron supplement called Floradix that is supposed to be incredibly gentle.  I’ll be picking some of that up I guess.

Both of these issues are due to changes in my blood volume which deplete my body’s stores of iron and calcium.  Apparently, beginning at 28 weeks, your body doubles its blood volume.  This happens over the next 4 weeks.  Shoring up those calcium and iron levels can help ease some of the big pregnancy discomforts.  And I’m all for that!

So please wish me luck.  I’ll update here once I hear back on the diabetes testing.  Hopefully this will be one pregnancy issue that I won’t have to do any research on!

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My 3rd Trimester Hyperemesis Gravidarum Cocktail

I’m not quite into the 3rd trimester yet, but the hyperemesis gravidarum has been creeping around the edges of my life.  I’ve had to start taking meds again, which is not particularly fun.

I had been waiting to take the Zofran until I really needed it.  I’ve learned that I have a hard time reading my body’s feelings since the HG.  I don’t always recognize mild nausea for what it is.  This means that I frequently wait to take the Zofran until it’s too late and I’ve already thrown up.  There’s nothing like having to scrub down the bathroom in a fast food place.  Yuck.

I decided, this past weekend, that I needed to take a more proactive approach.  I called my midwives, who put me in contact with the back-up OB.  He was kind enough to write me a script for 100 8mg ODT Zofran tablets.  Thank you merciful heaven for good insurance!

I’ve started taking them regularly again.  Not much, but every single day.  I’ve also added Nexium in since I was having trouble with acid reflux.

Of course, with the Zofran comes the joys of the Zofran side effects.  So I started drinking this stuff called Natural Calm, which is a Magnesium/Calcium supplement.

Natural Calm is a powder that you mix into water.  It fizzes up and becomes a lemon-flavored drink.  According to the back-up OB for my midwives, the magnesium helps stop muscle cramps in your legs, a real issue for many pregnant women.  The other benefit is that the magnesium helps you poop.  So bonus all around.

I had heard about this product during my last pregnancy.  One of my mom’s friends recommended I give this a try during my pregnancy with the Grasshopper, but at the time I was concerned about shelling out money for the big jar of the powder only to find out it wouldn’t stay down.

Thankfully, my local natural food store held a health fair this past Earth Day, and there was a table set up with a Natural Calm rep and free samples.  She let me have a taste of it and sent me home with a handful of free samples in a variety of flavors to see which one sat best on my sensitive stomach.

At the time, she warned me to be careful with it.  The magnesium can cause loose stool in some people until your body adjusts to it.  “Trust me,” I said, pointing to my Zofran pump, “That’s not going to be a problem for me!”

I finally reached the point a few weeks ago where I could drink this, so I ended up getting a jar of it.  I got the Natural Calm Plus Calcium formula in Raspberry-Lemon flavor, and so far it seems to be helping.

So at this point, I drink the Natural Calm in the afternoon, and take a Nexium pill and an 8mg Zofran tablet before bed.  The idea is that the nighttime Zofran will carry over into the next morning.

So far, it seems to be making a big difference. I felt sad about having to restart medications, but the positive change in my overall feeling of health tells me that it was the right move.

I’ll be 27 weeks tomorrow.  One more week until I officially reach the 3rd trimester.  I just need to keep taking things one day at a time.

Pregnancy: The Alien Stage

I’m 25 weeks, 4 days along and I have officially reached that weird alien stage in pregnancy where you can actually see the baby moving around in my belly.

I’m feeling sort of like that guy from Spaceballs.  You know, where they’re in the diner?

I prefer to think of things in terms of Spaceballs, rather than Alien because Alien scared the you-know-what out of me.

It’s kind of cool to sit there and watch my belly move, but it’s very strange.  It certainly feels real enough now.  Yes, I am definitely pregnant.  There’s a person in there.

At the same time, it’s frustrating.  I just keep feeling like I have decades left to go.  It’s just September 30th (realistically early October), but it seems like the summer is stretching out ahead of me like the Walmart parking lot.  The more I walk, the farther away the darn car seems.

Ashli warned me in the beginning not to look down the time tunnel, but I just can’t seem to tear my eyes away from it.  And every time I get close, someone says, “Oh, look at you!  You’re almost due!” or “You’re in the home stretch!”  And the fact is, I’m not.

I’m still in the second trimester.  My insides are still trying to crawl out to become my outsides.  My back hurts.  My feet hurt.  My pelvis hurts when I walk.  I’m tired.  I just had to refill my Zofran prescription.  And I’m still pregnant.

101 days to go.

Is this what morning sickness feels like?

I haven’t been feeling so hot lately.  I missed a few days from work last week.  I took Zofran a few times.

No, the hyperemesis gravidarum isn’t back, but something sure is making me feel crummy.

I met with my midwife on Thursday evening.  She had some ideas that seem to be helping a bit.

First of all, she told me, I’m not eating enough food.  I need to eat more.  This makes sense since the times I feel the sickest are when I get hungry.  I thought I was eating a lot.  I mean, I feel like I’m eating my family out of house and home.  It seems like every other day I have to go to the store to replenish my snacks.  And trust me, buying in bulk won’t work.  My snack preferences seem to fluctuate day-to-day.  A snack that appeals to me one day, won’t work at all the next.  It’s frustrating.

But, as she said, I need to eat more.  So I am trying to.  And it’s pretty impressive what I’m able to put away.  I feel like I’m eating like a lumberjack!  Right now, my favorite foods are Japanese: seaweed salad and cooked sushi rolls.

A second suggestion she had was for me to try taking a digestive enzyme supplement.  I swung by my local health food store on the way home and picked up some.  The idea is that I’m not digesting things well, as evidenced by my ability to throw up part of my 11:30 AM lunch at 8:30 PM.  My body isn’t moving food through efficiently.  The enzymes are supposed to help me get all of my food digested more quickly so it can pass through my system more easily.

Another thing to help food move through my system is to alternate hot and cold fluids.  She said this would stimulate the muscles in my stomach and intestines to contract and push food through.

So right now, it’s all about moving food through the body.

A bit of good news: While I have taken Zofran a couple of times since this all got started, some of the more traditional morning sickness remedies seem to be helping.

So maybe this is what morning sickness feels like.  I guess I wouldn’t know.  I don’t really have any frame of reference  for what normal looks like.

At any rate, I’m surviving, and that’s good.  Even if I don’t feel cheerful and wonderful each and every day, I’m surviving.  I’m past the halfway point.  I’m headed downhill.  If you’re a hiker or a runner you’ll know that while uphill really sucks, downhill sucks a little too.  But you just have to keep going to get to the flat.  And that’s what I’m looking forward to.  The nice flat part after the baby is born where I can just feel healthy again.

Apparently the Hyperemesis Gravidarum Isn’t Completely Gone

Yeah, the title says it all.  I got a not-so-nice reminder last night that I’m not normal right now.

I’d been feeling off for a couple of days: tired, lots of reflux, and just a general feeling of things not being quite right.  Tie that in with a busy weekend that involved lots of walking around the farmer’s market and exploring Solvang and playing and just generally overdoing it, and you’ve got a recipe for nastiness.

At lunch yesterday, I felt really lightheaded.  Washed out.  My face and lips felt cold and clammy.  I ate lunch and chased the feeling away.  I kept trying to keep that feeling away with food, but by the time Mr. Grasshopper and I were driving home from work (we carpool), I told him about it and said that I thought I might start taking Nexium again.

It’s not that I was feeling heartburn.  It’s that the food kept trying to crawl back up my throat.  Yuck.

I felt worse and worse as the evening wore on.  I made the mistake of powering through it.  Very dumb.

Right before the Grasshopper’s bedtime, it hit.  I lost my dinner.  I lost my afternoon snack.  I even managed to dig deep and lose part of my lunch.  I guess you could say that we get the job done in this house.

The worst part though was that I panicked.  Thank God my husband was there in easy calling distance.  He kept me from going down that mental rabbit hole of fear.  He just kept reminding me that I wouldn’t go back to where I was, and that I was going to be okay.  The Grasshopper, bless her, wanted to help, too, so I sent her to wet a washcloth for my face.

As soon as I got through story time, I went to my bed and fell asleep hard.  Not an, “Ahhh.  I think I shall sleep now,” but one of those sleeps where your body and mind just kind of force you down.  Also not fun, but apparently my body needed to rest and heal itself.

I ended up taking a Zofran last night and a Nexium this morning since I was still feeling some reflux.  I’ve still got that heavy tired feeling hanging around, so I stayed home from work to rest this morning a little more.  I’m also pushing calories to make sure I get my furnace going again.

Lesson learned:  Don’t overdo it.  One exciting activity per weekend is enough thankyouverymuch.  And if I start feeling not quite right again, I will not be “powering through it.”  This isn’t a marathon.  The end will come with time, not effort.  I just need to go easy and take it slow.

The Midwives’ Back-up OB

Part of switching from a traditional OB practice to the midwifery practice involves meeting with their back-up OB.  This is to ensure that should hospital transfer become necessary, I am familiar with him.  It also gives him a chance to review my medical records to ensure there aren’t any red flags that the midwives might have overlooked.  He also told me he wants to make sure I’m not a “lunatic.”

The man has a sense of humor!  Seriously, he does.  He has pictures tacked to the ceiling over his exam table of very, very handsome male models saying things like, “Oh, Honey.  I just finished the laundry. Tell me all about the baby’s day!”  And, “You look tired.  Let me give you a back rub.”

I like this fellow.  He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, which I appreciate.

The appointment was pretty straightforward: pee in a cup, weigh, blood-pressure, and meet with the doctor to discuss any concerns.  When I mentioned that I was concerned about the HG resurfacing in the 3rd trimester, he said that it certainly does happen, and he’s perfectly happy to prescribe me the meds I might need.  He prefers to start with the Unisom/B6 combo and then move on to Zofran, Reglan, and Phenargan.  He made big notes that the Reglan and the Phenargan were not options for me and asked me what meds I took when I was HGing.  Then he shook my hand and said he’d see me back next time I decide to have a baby.  Very straightforward and simple.

What I did not expect, though, was the panic that followed on the drive home.  As I was driving, I found myself thinking of the things I had gone through with the hyperemesis gravidarum.  Maybe it was because he was still wearing his green hospital scrubs.  I don’t know.  Something about the visit, though, dredged up some pretty awful emotions.  I didn’t expect to be fighting off the horror of the HG while driving up the 101.  Through a construction zone.  Wiping away tears so I could see to drive.  Yeah.  Not fun.

I just kept thinking, “I told him about the med list, but I forgot to tell him about the IVs and the PICC.  Why didn’t I tell him about that?”  And then, of course, I got to thinking about the IVs.  And the PICC.  And remembering lying there in the bed while the were trying to get the second PICC in and shaking and trying to keep it together so they could get the damn line in and hearing the charge nurse tell the PICC nurse quietly,  “Stop a minute and look at this patient.  She’s shaking.  She’s crying.  It’s time to stop.  She’s been through enough.”  And well, things just went downhill from there.

I talked to my doctor about this previously.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had to swallow back a panic attack, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.  She thinks that the Hynobabies will really help in dealing with the trauma of what I went through.  I sure hope so.  It’s not very much fun.

It’s just another part of the joy that is hyperemesis gravidarum.

At this point, though, meeting with the backup OB was the final step in transitioning over to the midwifery practice.  It’s official!  I’m part of their practice!  Very, very positive.  Now that we’re past the hyperemesis gravidarum, we get to do the fun part!

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.

My Doctor Explains Why my Hyperemesis Gravidarum Ended Quickly

I wanted to provide a quick update on this subject and share some information from my doctor on the subject of why my hyperemesis gravidarum seemed so short compared to what so many others experience.

Ultimately, it boils down to mean, hard statistics.  The subset of HGers that find their way into the HG community are often ones for whom the HG does not ease in any sort of “normal” time frame.  I put scare quotes around the word normal because there really and truly is a wide variation.  Most of the people who seek solace in the community are ones who need longer term emotional and physical support.  It’s a skewed sample.

You don’t hear as much from HGers like me because many of them aren’t as driven to write about it once it passes.  They simply fall off the radar once they stop feeling ill.  She reminded me that the studies do show that early, aggressive treatment does impact the length and severity of hyperemesis gravidarum.  I happened to fall on the friendly side of the statistics.

She also mentioned that the reason we generally reject the notion that the hyperemesis gravidarum will clear up at 12 weeks is because it’s being told to women at the same time that they’re being told to “suck it up” and that it’s “just part of being pregnant.”  In cases like that, the inadequate treatment almost guarantees that the hyperemesis gravidarum will not clear up.  Aside from that, you really don’t know when it will stop.  False hope can be a devastating thing. I know that first hand from my first pregnancy.

I asked her if what I had was really and truly hyperemesis gravidarum, and she very emphatically assured me that it was.  This really helped me emotionally because there’s a huge part of me that worried that I was just exaggerating the whole thing.  My mind is already starting to erase the memories of the experiences I had.  Knowing that what I experienced was real makes a huge difference for me.

Good News of the Day:  The ultrasound results came back just fine.  Little Muggle-Wump is doing great in there!  And she’s definitely a girl.

Sad News of the Day: Today was my last appointment with my doctor.  I’m being released totally into the care of the midwives.  I am so grateful for how understanding and supportive she is about the whole thing.  While I didn’t like her front desk people and one of her partners, I really and truly can’t say enough wonderful things about the care I received from her.  She is amazing.

Why was my Hyperemesis Gravidarum So Short?

Well, today is it.  I made it halfway through the pregnancy.  140 days down, 140 days to go.  More or less anyway.  That due date really is just a guess date after all.

But darn it!  I made it to the halfway point!

I suppose, at a monumental time such as this, it seems appropriate to do some speculating about why my hyperemesis gravidarum was so atypically short.  This is a post I’ve been putting off for a number of reasons.

Honestly, I feel a little guilty about it.  It sounds crazy, but I do.  Hyperemesis gravidarum is supposed to be a whole pregnancy thing.  Or at lease to 20 or so weeks!  Here I am, an HG sister, who had her HG start to let up around 12 weeks.  That is just really, really abnormal.  I’m not saying I would go back and suffer a little longer.  No, no, no, nononononono.  No way.  But it does sort of take away my HGer cred a little bit.  Here I am going to my daughter’s baseball games while other moms are farther along than I am, bedridden, and on TPN.

Why did I get so lucky?

The fact is, I don’t know.  I’m certain that, yes, I had HG.  Women with morning sickness do not require IVs or PICC lines.  They do not require home health.  They do not require their mothers to come live with them for an entire month to help then with even the most basic tasks like going to the bathroom and taking a shower.  What I had certainly went well beyond morning sickness.  It was frightening and intense and awful.

But it was so short.

Can the short duration of the hyperemesis gravidarum be attributed to my very aggressive treatment protocol?  I suspect that was a part of it.  I started taking the Zofran orally from the moment I started feeling not quite right.  Once I started feeling nauseated and having trouble eating and drinking, we started rehydrating very aggressively at 3 liters of fluids per day right off the bat.  While, ultimately, the IVs and PICC didn’t work out, I think having that kind of very aggressive treatment allowed me to reach the point where my mom could push enough fluids orally.  In the midst of all that, I was receiving the Zofran via the pump in very high doses, with my maximum dosage at around 39 mg per day (most doctors are only willing to go up to 32 mg per day).  We did not rely on Zofran alone, but attacked the nausea from all angles: Meclazine for the motion sick aspect of it, Nexium to prevent any potential reflux from contributing, and Benadryl to deal with any potential allergy aspects or side effects.

I do think that taking this kind of aggressive approach from the beginning helped in a pretty significant way.

A lot of it, though, I think needs to be chalked up to sheer luck.  I was lucky that I responded to the treatment.  I was lucky that my mom was able to come out and care for me.  I was lucky that it eased up early.  And I was damn lucky to have a doctor willing to deal with the HG quickly and decisively.  So many doctors like to wax poetic about keeping the baby safe.  She recognized that a dehydrated, malnourished, and desperate mother is a far greater risk to a baby than medicines that research has shown to be safe.  She was willing to drop a nuclear bomb on the HG, and that, I think, makes me a very, very lucky patient.

Here is the bottom line:  If you know someone who has hyperemesis gravidarum and you are in a position to help advocate for them, please do.  Early, aggressive intervention seems to have made a remarkable difference for me.  Will every woman respond to treatment the way I did?  No.  But every woman deserves a doctor who is willing to treat her the way mine did for me because that level of treatment gives women the very best chance at relief.

Should I feel guilty about how short my HG was?  No.  I know I shouldn’t.  I know that despite the excellent treatment I got, most of it was just dumb luck.  But I do.  It’s a monkey I am working on putting aside.  No one makes me feel guilty in the HG community.  That’s not the way the HG community operates.  It’s a supportive community.  There’s no one-upmanship that goes on, no games of Top My Tragedy.

Mostly, I just don’t want anyone to feel like I in any way suggest that there is a magic bullet to “fix” HG.  There just isn’t.  We all have to deal with the cards we are dealt.  Sometimes we get lucky and draw a hand with a fantastic doctor, stellar insurance, and a responsive illness.  Other times not so much.  Who can say why this happens?  Not I.

I’m so grateful for what I have at this point.  I feel so… not sick!  I catch myself wondering if this is now normal pregnant women feel.  Mostly, though, I give thanks for the blessing of health that I have been given and pray for similar relief for my HG sisters.  I swear that I will never, ever take these feelings of normal health for granted.

Nurturing My Daughter Through Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I’ve mostly been writing about myself and how I am dealing with this hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy and all the joys that have gone along with it.  I’d like to take a moment to talk some about how my daughter has been dealing with things.

The Grasshopper was one of the first people we told about the new baby.  We wanted to let her know early what was going on so that we could help her deal with the hyperemesis gravidarum.  Not knowing when it would hit, we wanted to give her a foundation of age appropriate knowledge so that she wouldn’t be blindsided by the brutal reality of the situation.

One of the best ways she connects to ideas is through stories, so we began reading Mama has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (but only for a while) to her.  I reviewed this book here if you are interested.

This story really seemed to help prepare her for what was happening.  I was able to tell her that “Mommy is sick.” And she would immediately make the connection and say, “Like Mama Bunny?”  Yeah, baby.  Like Mama Bunny.  Hyperemesis gravidarum was a term that she quickly learned to say, and because the book used to accurate medical term for the disease (as opposed to whitewashing over it), she was able to immediately grasp what was going on.

We experienced a lot of things that the Bunny family went through.  The Grasshopper came to see me in the hospital which was very similar to the hospital illustration in the story.  Grandma came to help out and spend time with her just like Grandma Bunny.  And Mama had a black bag with a tube that gave her medicine just like Mama Bunny had. This really, really helped her process what she was experiencing.

Now, I won’t say it was all sunshine and roses for the Grasshopper.  It was hard on her.  She and I are very, very deeply bonded.  We sleep together (at least for the first part of the evening), and up until very recently we still nursed.  That is to say, our relationship is one of both physical and emotional closeness.  I knew the hyperemesis gravidarum would render that kind of physical closeness difficult, but I didn’t realize how fast it would hit.  One day I wasn’t feeling quite right and the next I was in the hospital.  Having Mommy taken out completely like that was really hard for her.

For the most part, she seemed to handle things pretty well, but at daycare she became clingy with her teachers and sensitive with her friends.  Things that normally wouldn’t make her cry resulted in full melt-downs.  Thankfully, her loving teachers did not try to push her to “toughen up” or anything like that.  They knew from talking to us what was going on, and they compensated for what she wasn’t getting at home, but giving her extra hugs and affection.  Of course, they did not change their expectations for her behavior in the sense that they let her get away with acting out, but knowing what she was having to deal with allowed them to help nurture her through the toughest parts of the HG.

One thing that we never, ever did was tell her that the pregnancy or the baby was causing the hyperemesis gravidarum.  She knew about the baby in my tummy.  She knew I was sick.  We were careful to avoid connecting the two.

Once the hyperemesis gravidarum eased, things became much easier for her.  Just like in the story, the HG was “only for a while.”  She’s back to her usual bubbly self, which is great.  She’s helping us think of names for the baby.  Right now, the baby’s name is Muggle-Wump after the monkey from Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile.

We’re doing all we can to help her feel a sense of bonding and ownership with the baby now.  We refer to the baby as Her Baby, and the Grasshopper has definitely internalized that.  She’s quick to remind us just whose baby this is!

She seems pretty excited about the baby.  She has a few friends at school who have new babies, one in particular is a baby girl who comes to visit often to pick up her older brother.  I love that she is getting that exposure early on with J and his baby sister.

She does seem to worry a bit about not being “little” anymore.  She reminds me a lot these days that she is little, and I always agree with her and re-assure her that she will be a kid for a long, long time and even when she’s a grown up lady she will always be Mommy’s little girl.  No pushing responsibility that she’s not ready for.

We’ve started talking about her being an “older sister” instead of a “big sister,” an idea from the Dr. Sears book What Baby Needs, a book I like because it depicts attachment parenting (breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, etc) in a simple way for older siblings to see ahead of time.  She seems to prefer this terminology I suppose because it doesn’t seem to force any expectations on her.

At this point, she seems pretty enthused about Her new baby.  We plan to continue to reinforce the idea of participation and ownership from her so that she doesn’t feel shunted to one side after the birth.  The baby will be bringing the Grasshopper her very own baby doll so that she can do the things that she can do the same things that Mommy does if she wishes.  I’ve got a child-sized Ergo baby carrier put away for her, and at some point in the next few months, I’ll take her to pick out fabric for a Grasshopper-sized wrap so that she can carry her doll in a wrap like Mommy does if she wants to.  We’ll also have a step-stool in the baby’s room so that she can help with things like diaper changes if she wishes to.

I want to give her the opportunity to participate as much as possible.  If she prefers to step back, that’s okay, too, but I want her to know that she is and always will be one of the four primary members of the family.

So just to sum up, here are some of the tips in brief for helping older siblings with HG and pregnancy (the last few are still a little hypothetical to us):

  • Prepare them early to know what to expect – Seriously, do get a copy of Mama has Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  It’s wonderful.
  • Avoid letting on to them that the pregnancy (baby) is making Mama sick.  You don’t want them to blame or feel angry at the baby.
  • Let alternate care providers know early on about HG so that they can help nurture your child through it as well.  We lent her teachers copies of the Mama has HG book so that they could talk about the HG in a way that was consistent to how we were talking about it at home.
  • Give them age-appropriate ways to participate in helping Mommy out (making a cool wash-cloth, carrying over a glass of baking soda water to rinse the mouth after Mommy pukes, etc)
  • Help foster a sense of ownership for the new baby by calling the baby Her Baby or His Baby.
  • Give them a mental picture of what to expect once the baby is born through books, play, art, whatever speaks to your child the most.
  • Don’t push more responsibility onto the child than he or she is ready for: try calling them the “older” sibling instead of the “big” sibling.
  • Once the baby is born, help the older sibling feel included by finding ways for them to participate in the care of the child whether that be through diaper changes, imitation play, or other activities.

Have any of you had to help nurture a child through hyperemesis gravidarum or other very serious parental illness?  How did you help them cope?  What about dealing with becoming an older sibling?  Any tips you can share on that front?  Any favorite children’s books that helped with the adjustment?  My mom and I are only both only children.  All this sibling stuff in completely and totally hypothetical for me!