As I lie in bed, 8 months pregnant, trying to occupy my idle mind, I secretly beg for mercy and openly shed an occasional tear. Remembering to be grateful for the life that I am carrying, I make a valiant effort to eat breakfast. Three bites go down, but that’s one too many and I begin vomiting repeatedly. Even though in my normal state I don’t drink soda and certainly not in this condition, I try Coca-Cola instead. Sometimes the bubbles and various mystery ingredients are the only calories I am allowed for the day. It is enticing to guzzle as I am starving and have an additional life to sustain. I know that if I drink too much the cycle will repeat and sooner than I’d prefer I’ll be vomiting again.
I sip. I stare at the same four walls, same broken blinds, same computer screen I’ve been staring at for months and months. I sip. I try not to move the wrong way, whatever that is, and anger the delicate gatekeeper that stands between myself and energy and hydration.
Half of the Coke stays down, so I let my optimistic side daydream about taking my 2-year-old son to the park. We’d play and laugh and stay for as long as he wanted. He wouldn’t have to be afraid in the backseat as I drove to the playground, because I wouldn’t be violently vomiting at the wheel. I wouldn’t have to stop being a partner in his joyous day to spit or puke. We wouldn’t have to leave because Mommy just couldn’t pretend to be healthy a minute longer. It would be a beautiful day full of love and laughter.
I snap back to reality. I’m not at the park. I can’t complete the most expected and seemingly mundane of motherly tasks—taking my son to the playground. I’m here—at home—in the bed, hoping his brain suffers little ill-effect as a result of the large number of hours of TV he has been watching.
My body continues to make a really big deal about an inherently basic job and rather than a sunny day at the park, I continue the cycle of trying to eat and trying not to vomit for the remainder of the day. I fail at both parts of this fickle dance, as I have for the majority of the previous 230 or so days.
Some days with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) are better than others. There are weeks when I do make it out of the house—the number of these surpassed by long periods of time when no one sees me. I learn later that some of my neighbors don’t even know I am here. Minus the beauty, a sighting of me becomes something akin to seeing a unicorn—unexpected, magical and maybe just a little scary. Eyes light up with surprise and hesitant questions are posed.
The end of my pregnancy comes traipsing in slowly, nonchalant like nothing is amiss, and I am losing steam. After nine months of HG, I can’t think clearly; my body feels like it’s dismantling and surrendering. The employees in the ER know who I am. The journey is almost over. It’s time to make an exit strategy.
My younger self envisioned birthing my babies at home in a pool, throwing childbearing caution to the wind. I took the water-birth class weeks ago, stupidly hopeful that my being would get itself together and be capable of such a task. I envy the hard work of my home- and water-birthing friends as it seems I’ve used all of my stamina to just get to the end.
Faced with the choice of a C-section or to let HG continue to hold my family hostage. I choose the surgical delivery.
Two days after my elective C-section, I walked out of the hospital. I was not wheeled, as is standard. I was near healthy again and wouldn’t be contained or treated like a patient any longer. Renewed, revived, and perhaps a little sore, I was ready to take control of my life again with a new baby boy upon my chest.
Over the next few days and weeks, I will go over the choice in my head over and over again.
Would I choose a cesarean again if it meant two less weeks, or even two less hours of torturing the quartet that is my family? I would; it was an act of love. This love so strong, so powerful, unintentional, and even a little desperate. Every day that I wasn’t pregnant meant another day that was given to us to mend the pieces of a shattered nine months. I love my husband enough to see the fight in his eyes dim as he tried to hold the weight of everyone’s needs in his strong, tired arms just a little bit longer. I love my oldest son enough to know that despite his good nature, there were prominent signs of him begging to have his healthy mother returned to him. I love the new life, this feisty boy whom I hadn’t met yet, enough to know that even if he seemed to be thriving, this hostile environment and suffering vessel was not the best I could give him.
Later, as we continued to manage the relationship, financial, and emotional tolls left behind from this gestational nightmare, I was always grateful for that two weeks. Two more weeks to kiss my son without having to turn away to throw up. Fourteen more days to work and provide income to help our sickly bank account recover. A fortnight with which to hold and happily sustain my baby on the outside, instead of resenting the hardship of getting him here. I am thankful for that stolen time.