This post is the second part of a post I wrote earlier this year about HG (hyperemesis gravidarium) – extreme pregnancy sickness.
7 weeks into lockdown for the UK is over 4 months in for me. I spent the first part of this year in bed, largely unable to speak or do anything because of HG. Isolation is hard. It’s a concept many in the UK are beginning to understand now unfortunately; it’s impact on mental health and subsequent impact on how we function as human beings. Ironically isolation now for me is a little easier because I can at least communicate with the 3 people I live with most of the time as the sickness has eased a little.
There have been lots of positives for me about lockdown, mainly because lots of activities, including my church’s groups and services are now online so I can actually ‘attend’, and lots of work activities are now online so I don’t have to try and travel or cancel things. I also have my husband and boys around and don’t have to drag myself, looking like goodness knows what, to the school gates for school runs twice a day. And, the sun has been shining most days!
Lockdown has not been rosy though. Being pregnant at this time is full of anxiety for mums with and without HG and for a lot there is much sadness. No baby showers, no presents on the last day of work, no baby shows and fairs, no going round the shops choosing baby items, no antenatal groups (or at best they are online), no partners able to attend scans. All this is especially hard for first time mums. There is also anxiety every time you go to an antenatal appointment that you might catch something, anxiety that your birthing partner might not be able to make the birth, and anxiety that you won’t have the support from friends and family (or health professionals) when baby arrives. Many of these are the same for women without HG but I think there is an extra level for those of us with HG (and although I have it, every HG warrior has their own story and many have sickness far worse than I do). I don’t presume to speak for every woman with HG.
Lockdown with HG has meant it has been harder to get the foods which help me deal with the nausea. I have been juggling home schooling 2 children (age 10 and 7) and attempting to deal with all the emotions that lockdown has brought out in my family and friends, whilst feeling sick and finding talking for long periods very hard (and at certain periods of the day, talking at all). Lockdown has also meant that I haven’t been able to get the help from friends and family I would have done to be able to manage life and sickness.
For me, isolation has taken its toll on my mental health. It has killed my confidence. HG has reduced my capacity to do the basics which means for me, as a normally super capable and organised person, I don’t know whether I am coming or going. I am still working and I am confident that I continue to maintain the high standards my clients are used to – I’m just wiped afterwards. I need to work to keep my business going, earn enough to get maternity allowance and have some money during mat leave, and to keep my brain active and feel like I am contributing. I feel constantly guilty that my 2 boys are not getting what they need from me (I am not cut out for home schooling – I like playing too much!). I feel constantly guilty that my husband, who is also working from home at the moment, is doing far more than his share and I should be doing more. I don’t have my usual mechanisms for coping, for processing, for reminding me that I don’t have to live up to my own incredibly high standards.
The HG has eased since my last post, thank goodness, but I am still on medication and still feel sick all the time – even when I wake up at night. HG has taken away my ability to plan ahead – I just have to get through the day. It has taken away most of the joy of pregnancy. I can’t engage with all the adverts on my social media stream for baby items (at some point I will have to get ready!) and then I see photos on social media of pregnant mums who look amazing with perfect skin and glossy hair; that’s not pregnancy for me. Not only am I huge because I make big babies and have had 2 already, but I also feel like I have been hit by a storm – I have been! When we talk about pregnancy, we rarely talk about the lows. We don’t share the struggles as much as we should. HG warriors, we need to speak up. Yes, we might not be as glamorous as some others but we are fighters and we have come this far. We are also blessed to be pregnant (I know lots who would love to be) – although I know HG does not feel like a blessing (when I found out I was pregnant the word I used to describe how I felt was ‘terrified’!
I don’t want to tell women who are blessed not to have HG not to post amazing photos. Pregnancy is a blessing. However we need to get better at recognising that is not everyone’s experience and we need to talk about that.