I was so confident of this that I planned a trip to Tobago at the end of my first trimester.
I can’t tell you how funny that is now.
By the end of the following week, I was back at the health centre – in the emergency ward this time – receiving my first IV drip due to dehydration. It turns out that I was one of those lucky few women who can brag that they – like the Dutchess of Cambridge – suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. I’d spent the previous week regurgitating just about everything I ate or drank. Everything. Not even water would stay down.
By the end of my second week of vomiting, I’d received two more IVs for the same reason and the doctor was threatening to admit me to the public hospital if I came back for more. As they kept prescribing Gravol, which either wouldn’t stay down in tablet form or was completely ineffective in suppository form (I was that desperate), it looked like I’d be seeing them soon. I’d also lost 19 pounds and set a personal best record for daily vomiting at 10 times per day. PLUS, I’d been forced to take a leave of absence from work. I wasn’t even strong enough to check Facebook.
Any conversations with women who’d survived pregnancy usually netted me the same advice that a quick Google search of “morning sickness” will get you: crackers, ginger, small meals, walking, etc. One helpful lady even suggested hypnosis. The problem was that I didn’t have morning sickness. I had exorcist-level problems that a cup of ginger tea wasn’t going to fix.
It looked like Tobago wasn’t in the cards.
At the time when all the blogs and books said I should be marvelling at the changes my body was going through, I wasn’t feeling pregnant, so much as stricken with a long, drawn out, terminal illness. I started wondering if this pregnancy was going to kill me, and then I began fearing that it wouldn’t. I was also beginning to suspect that my pregnancy test (which now seemed so long ago) had somehow mistaken signs of cancer for signs of pregnancy. Surely this couldn’t all be caused by a clump of cells the size of a kidney bean.
After watching me repeatedly attempt to vomit on an empty stomach, my partner was starting to wonder as well. So we decided to seek a second opinion. (Though it was really more like a first opinion since none of the medical personnel I’d seen so far had actually confirmed that I was in fact pregnant).
Off we went to a private doctor and I finally had my Hollywood pregnancy moment. My partner (who wasn’t allowed in with me at the health centre) and I sat down with the doctor to receive actual advice on how to combat the sickness that had left me bedbound and miserable. He prescribed medication that actually helped (with an eye towards what would be good for the baby) and assured me that, while vomiting 10 times a day seemed impressive to me, it wasn’t a party until I was spewing upwards of 20 times daily. (I wondered how those poor women found time to sleep between retching.)
He even did a pelvic exam and an ultrasound, which allowed us to see our little pumpkin for the first time. (After which, I really knew I was pregnant!) As a bonus, he also informed me that my blood pressure is high and began treating it to help me avoid complications like preeclampsia. All this for the low, low price of TT$1,600 for the visit and another TT$1,445 worth of blood tests.
Under his attentive care, I rediscovered the ability to retain and digest food and eventually regained the weight I lost. I was also able to return to work and the land of the living.
The vomiting and nausea haven’t stopped completely (just writing this post made me kind of nauseous), but they’re usually confined to the convenient morning or evening hours and don’t usually happen more often than twice a day. No more pulling over to the side of the road to barf into a HiLo bag for me!
But there’s a catch to my new equilibrium. Frequent meals. As in, every three hours or so. Or else.