It is estimated that roughly 3% of women will be stricken with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) during their pregnancy, and many, many more will suffer with severe morning or all-day sickness. I was one of the lucky ones to have HG with all four of mine, each at differing degrees and lengths, but no less horrific. HG is not regular morning sickness. It is a completely different animal, and I would not wish it, or any form of milder sickness, on my worst enemy.
Sadly, most of the general public have no clue what it is and just assume you’re overreacting to typical morning sickness. I was actually a little glad when I heard Kate Middleton, the Duchess, was hospitalized with HG, because I knew it would bring the illness closer to the spotlight, and perhaps invoke a bit more empathy and understanding of it. Then again, there are still idiots who, when they hear you are sick during pregnancy, say the most insensitive and ridiculous things. Go ahead and vomit on them, because if there is one good thing about having hyperemesis gravidarum, it’s that you can pretty much puke on demand. Here are the 10 things I most frequently heard:
1. Just eat crackers before you get out of bed.
OMG, I didn’t think of that! Of course, that will cure me for sure! If only I had some actual saliva left in my totally dehydrated body, I may just be able to chew and swallow some sanity saving saltines. You’re a genius!
2. Being really sick means the baby is healthy.
Uhh….nope! It just means I am really freakin’ sick. Where exactly does it say upchucking all day every day means I will go full-term and deliver a healthy baby? Nowhere.
3. If you’re really sick, it’s a girl!
I had HG four times. I have four boys. That is all.
4. You’ll forget all about this once the baby gets here!
Now this one has a bit of truth to it. It goes along with having labor amnesia (when you simply can’t recall how painful childbirth actually was). Just to be sure I wouldn’t forget, during my last pregnancy I had my husband take a picture of me pushing my IV pole around the house, so when I even whispered “I want another baby,” he would whip out that image and I was done.
5. You can’t lose any weight while pregnant and have a healthy baby.
Yes, you can. Because during the tiny window of time when you can actually eat real food, it is entirely possible to gain 15 pounds in four weeks. Don’t ask me how I know that.
6. If you don’t eat anything, your baby won’t grow.
The human body is an amazing machine. It can do things like turn any and all available maternal body fat and muscle into an actual baby, even during weeks and weeks of living off popsicles.
7. It never lasts all nine months. You’ll be fine in a week or two.
Bullcrap. And for the record, when you puke at nine months pregnant with a huge belly, something fantastically horrible happens. Just make sure you have a place for the vomit and pee to go, like at the same time.
8. That medicine you’re taking to stop the nausea is not good for you or your baby.
Shut up. Modern medicine says otherwise, and so does my gag reflex, and the perfectly healthy boys I delivered after all those meds.
9. Are you enjoying your pregnancy? Isn’t it the best?
Yes! It is a total blast! This miracle inside me that has me bedridden, depressed, malnourished, weak, green, and unable to take care of myself and my other children is just delightful.
So what should you say to a suffering mama? Just ask her, “What can I do to help?” and then help her in any way she tells you to. Shop for 25 different types of sports drinks for her, make 10 different versions of white rice and mashed potatoes until she smells the one she can stomach, and remind her this won’t last forever. The best thing about hyperemesis gravidarum, if there is one, is that it has an end date.
And that date just happens to be when you meet your new baby.