I can laugh at this now, but I probably would have killed the cat five months ago when I had HG
This is a response to “Advice from Will Smith” by Hyperemesis Survivor
“If we are going to survive this, you must realize that fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create… danger is very real, but fear is a choice.” ~Will Smith’s character in After Earth
There are many emotions felt by those who have hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)–a form of severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy- from guilt to loneliness to fear. To those who have already experienced or who are in the midst of their time with the illness, hyperemesis gravidarum can be scary business. You vomit until the point of emaciation and you wonder if you and your baby are going to be okay when all is said and done. Some doctors assure you that your baby will be fine. Most do not and some even suggest termination.
Fear occurs when you react to what you think might be true and believe that something harmful will come out of the experience. Hyperemesis should then be the definition of fear for most of us unless we learn to redefine our beliefs about ourselves and the circumstances by which we find ourselves in when we are suffering from HG or when we are about to enter into a state of HG when considering taking on a future pregnancy. Specifically, the term given to the condition of being afraid to vomit is emetophobia.
I was fearful of many things when I had HG such as the fear of having a baby that had something physically or mentally wrong as a result of the fetus not receiving sufficient nutrition; the fear of my health permanently being altered by HG; the fear of the nausea never ending; and the fear of being judged for not being able to handle the nausea on my own. Some fears were based on previous experiences with HG such as having the fear of being treated poorly by healthcare professionals, the fear of being treated like the HG is simply a mental illness that should not be managed medically, and the fear of being perceived as a bad mother because I could not eat like a normal pregnant woman.
After my third and worst pregnancy dealing with HG that resulted in hospitalization for three months off and on; the inability to walk very far on my own; and having anxiety whenever the thought of pregnancy would enter my mind due to the trauma of feeling so misunderstood for so long, I knew that I had to evaluate how I could better handle the way that I think about HG. This was especially pertinent since I wanted to make my life’s pursuit helping other women get through their challenging pregnancies in the best way that they can.
Things changed considerably by the time that I became pregnant with my fourth pregnancy. I learned to be fearless and do things my way. I let no one tell me what I should do whether it was my nurse, doctor, or best friend. I realized that I gave away my power whenever I compromised too much by undergoing treatments that I knew would not work and when I did not advocate for myself for the treatments that I felt would be beneficial to me and my baby.
Likewise, I gave away my power whenever I would let other people’s opinions and beliefs about me override how I felt about myself. Overall, I strived to maintain feelings of being content and at peace with my situation no matter what it was. If I could not figure out how to cure the HG itself, at least I could react differently to how I handled the extreme nausea and vomiting and I how I handled the harsh criticism of others.
At times, I even felt joyful that I could maintain a sense of gratefulness and happiness while in the middle of being physically very miserable. In the end, I learned to turn a very difficult time into one where most of my pregnancy memories are good ones. My fourth pregnancy was a success in terms of having a healthy baby and getting through it being emotionally stable. Even the way that I view my third and most challenging pregnancy has changed, and I no longer view it as being so terrible.
If you are having a difficult time with HG, I would suggest reframing your experiences as an opportunity to practice overcoming whatever fear that you may have. The number of fears potentially associated with HG are endless. Are you scared of dying? Of having a less-than-perfect baby? Of having a dead baby? Of being treated differently or being misunderstood by family and medical professionals? Of not having the support from your loved ones? Of not obtaining adequate medical treatment? Of losing your income? Of not being able to take care of yourself or your other children? Of being hospitalized and having painful therapies? Of the vomiting never ceasing? Of having your children taken away from you? Of losing control over your own body? Of feeling like abortion is your only option? Of having HG again in another pregnancy?…Think about how you can use your time wisely and learn how having HG can aid you in ways that do not produce fear and make you a better person. For me, my main fear was concerned with being judged by others as being an unfit mother and of being mentally ill. Of course, deep down inside, I do not believe these things. I feel that I am, at least, an average mother and the same as most psychologically.
I learned to just be myself and not take on the opinions of others because they are not my own. Who cares if I make people mad and if they are unhappy with me or think that I am a terrible person? These are not my concerns, so I stopped worrying about them. Things got easier for me from there. I better handled the nausea when not stressed over the constant disapproval showed to me. Over time, the criticism even became less frequent or maybe I just stopped noticing when people were being cruel. In a way, I showed kindness to myself by not letting people get me down.
I walk away now, with the gift of not minding at all what others think of me. I have heard just about every negative, hurtful thing a person could say to a pregnant woman and these things no longer phase me. This is something that I would not trade. It was worth a pregnancy consumed with berating to bring me into a new level of self-confidence that will forever benefit me as a mother and when I am a physician taking care of my own patients with HG. Everyone can get through HG, and it can be done without fear. Women can live more joyfully with HG when they choose to let go of the things that they are afraid of, and I believe that we can best do this by supporting each other and being true to ourselves. The nausea is enough. We do not need to burden ourselves with fears that we create for ourselves.