Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is the most severe form of morning sickness. While many more people have learned about it thanks to Princess Kate, most people just don’t get it. I have had hyperemesis four times. And if you think you’ve heard ridiculous advice in pregnancy (and you have, I’m certain!), you should hear some of the whoppers thrown my way. While I recognize that some might find me lacking in smarts for risking HG four times, if nothing else, they should realize that I have become quite the HG-management expert.
Morning sickness is awful. It’s terrible. I hate vomiting, like most everyone else, and relentless nausea is a terrible, terrible thing. In no way do I mean to make light of what other pregnant mamas go through—it all sucks. I have one friend who never so much as got queasy, and so I have no qualms about smack-talking her, maybe even distributing her image so all might join me, but for the majority of you, solidarity. The first trimester is hideous.
What happens, however, is that some well-meaning mamas, having experienced the hideousness that is morning sickness, think that what worked for them will work for my HG. While I would love nothing more, trust me, I have tried it all. Heck, I have tried it all with each new pregnancy, hoping and praying it would be the one time it worked. A foolish consistency is most definitely the hobgoblin of my little mind!
Here are some of the maddening “solutions” that have been lobbed my way over the years and pregnancies.
1. ‘Try nibbling on some saltines.’
This is the most common of all, so much so that the HG community refers to it as being “crackered.” As in, “So I was at the emergency room for the third time this week getting IV fluids, and the nurse totally crackered me.” We get it. Saltines are supposed to settle your tummy a bit. But as a functioning adult, I have indeed tried to eat crackers, only to see them again a few moments later. It’s not only insulting, it’s also frustrating because I would love for a sleeve of saltines to be the answer to my misery.
2. ‘Ginger ale/chews/tea settles my tummy—it’s magic!’
I love ginger. That is one fabulous spice. When I have a cold, I love to brew some fresh ginger tea with a bit of honey and lemon, in fact. But I am throwing up the insides of my body, and no, ginger will not cut it. Because nothing, trust me, nothing, will stay in my body. I spent 20 minutes painstakingly chewing one tiny cube of ice, and in spite of all logic, it came right back at me with a raging fury.
3. ‘You need protein.’
I am certain I do. But see above. If ice isn’t staying put, neither is a turkey sandwich.
4. ‘Have you tried essential oils?’
Oh, boy. Look, I am not above exploring alternative treatments. I take probiotics and avoid unnecessary medications. But please, I am begging you, do not attempt to peddle your oily wares at me right now—unless of course it’s diffusing peppermint to cover up the stench of vomit. Then, be a dear and fire it up!
5. ‘Mind over matter—meditation does wonders.’
People are very fortunate that HG weakens the human body, because otherwise anyone who implies we aren’t trying hard enough might get hit. I love yoga, I love breathing exercises, and I am all about prayer and meditation. But no, they will not stop me from tossing my cookies. And if you could stop implying I’m just a drama queen, that would be great.
6. ‘Did you read this article about the side effects of your medication? Scary stuff!’
This is a rough one. It is true; there are some potential birth defects when pregnant women take Zofran. And while I’ve been fortunate to deliver four healthy and beautiful babies, I have friends whose children have been born with cleft palates and club feet. Like everything else in life, one must weigh the risks against the benefits. Without medication, my babies wouldn’t survive, and some mamas might not, either. So before you hit send on that article, realize that we know. We get it. We aren’t taking the medication to avoid a little discomfort; we’re taking it to save ourselves.
If you know a woman with hyperemesis, I get that you don’t quite understand. It’s not a common condition, and if you’ve had morning sickness, you might think you understand. But HG is not morning sickness. It’s more like morning sickness on crack. Some women have it for their entire pregnancies—even throwing up during their deliveries. We take lots of medications, sometimes through IVs, sometimes even through more permanent ports. If you’ve ever had food poisoning, imagine that—for nine months—along with all of the other pregnancy side effects that are possible. So please don’t cracker us. Please don’t ginger us.
Instead, what you can do is Google it and learn about what HG really is. If we’re up for it, feel free to ask uss how we feel and what it is like. Offer to watch our other kids so we can rest or feed our families non-smelly meals so we don’t have to. That way, we won’t be moved to slap you silly once our strength returns.