It is with mixed feelings that I write for HG awareness day. On one hand, though it has more and more been acknowledged as a real disease that affects a good number of women (and their families) in recent years, it has a long long way to go to outgrow the common perception that it’s nothing more than bad morning sickness. And so, I want to help spread the word about HG, raise awareness, so that women afflicted by this evil have a shot at getting the support they so desperately need.
On the other hand, as I read through the notes that I took near the end of our last pregnancy to remember the harsh reality of the symptoms associated with HG, I am overcome with anger and anguish. Jessica told me just minutes ago that she thinks she has PTSD because of HG, and she’s realizing this as she’s facing the stories of HG sisters posting their stories on Facebook. I think I am traumatized as well.
Jessica wants to rip HG’s head off. I want to beat the crap out of HG, beat it to a pulp, until it’s an unrecognizable mangled mess on the floor. But we can’t. This oppressor has no face, no body, nothing to target. No sniper can take it down, we can’t fight it with our buying power, we can’t legislate it out of our lives, or use political influence to pressure it into reform. Disease is unlike any other form of oppression in the world in that there is no hope of rescue, short of a miraculous medical discovery or an act of God. Because the oppressor is inside you. Indeed, the oppressor may just be a part of you. Your body fighting something inside your body.
And so it is with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
It wasn’t so long ago that HG didn’t even have a name. When we were expecting Earth Baby, the common belief of nurses and doctors was that Jessica was bringing on the symptoms herself because she just didn’t want to have the baby. They saw her as a nut case, making herself sick to the point of such severe dehydration that her organs were starting to shut down, forcing herself to throw up 20+ times a day while making it look like she couldn’t control it, putting her husband through the sadistic torture of watching his life-filled, passionate, driven, loving, life-cherishing wife whither day after day until she lost weight, health, passion, ability to walk, coherent thought, drive, and the will to fight my desire to take her to a hospital where I thought she would get the help she needed. Only to be told that they thought it was all in her head and she just needed to want to have the baby and everything would be fine, or just get it over with already and abort it.
Our awareness of HG has come a long way. Thank God. Because, difficult as it was this last time with Sugarbaby, we were able to keep Jessica hydrated so that she could keep working, living, and loving through it all. Home care was a daily routine, and it was hard, and there was still a toll taken on our family as our kids watched as IV after IV had to be placed every 2-3 days and their mommy was sick. But she was still here. She didn’t die inside and become a shell of herself, with toddlers pretending to throw up with her because that’s what they saw every day. Not this time. This time I kept my life-filled, passionate, driven, loving, life-cherishing wife and our children kept their loving mommy.
And even still, I’m traumatized. Here is something I wrote near the end of our last pregnancy, trying to give an idea of what HG does to an expectant mother:
“HG is all consuming, drags you down and takes everything away, food, drink, energy, clarity, motivation, but it leaves you with emotion and time so that you feel everything that you’re missing out on, until it’s just too much work to deal with the emotion and that’s taken away too, leaving you numb. And as you react, draw in, withdraw because it just takes too much energy to communicate your frustration and disappointment, HG takes away friends, family, relatives, even the well-intentioned ones until all you have left is time. Time to wait. And as the energy is sucked out of you, HG takes work, hobbies, and finally even your means of mental escape.”
I’m afraid that even over a year later, I still don’t have much positive to say about HG. Actually, I don’t believe I’ve said a single positive thing about it, have I? Thinking on it again today, I’m right back to that visceral desire to give HG a body and obliterate it.
If only I could.