At exactly seven weeks pregnant, while vacationing in Israel with my husband, I woke up nauseated and exhausted. Having recently miscarried, my husband was overjoyed while he watched me throw up on the side of multiple highways (sorry, Israel). He was relieved that the pregnancy hormones were strong enough to promote such a reaction, though he of course empathized with what I was going through. (Unfortunately, he didn’t feel badly enough to resist eating delicious Israeli cuisine in front of me.)
I dragged myself through the rest of our trip, but as each day passed, I struggled more and more until I was too sick and dehydrated to be allowed on a plane. It started to become evident that I was not experiencing typical morning sickness; this was much more severe. We headed to an ER to pump me with IV fluids so I could make it through the 11-hour flight. From there, my husband called our parents to let them know where we were, and to share the news that I was pregnant—news I hoped to deliver in-person. I even had to ask my husband to be the one to convey the news to my own mother in fear that I would burst into tears in front of all of the tough Israeli women in active labor.
Unfortunately, my symptoms only worsened once we arrived home. The fatigue was so intense that I could not get out of bed most days. I lost 10 pounds almost immediately. I was only able to muster up enough energy to shower once a week. I was gaunt, pale, and weak. I tried every anti-nausea medication out there, including a round-the-clock subcutaneous medication pump, but nothing helped. I survived for the next few weeks on a steady diet of ginger ale and saltine crackers, as well as the occasional IV fluids. I went to sleep every night between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to avoid the worst of the nausea and I’d wake up at 3:00 a.m., and lie awake in bed for hours.
Even when I was able to re-enter the world after 12 weeks, I still suffered extreme fatigue and a variety of other issues for the rest of my pregnancy. I counted the days until my due date, not just out of excitement of meeting my daughter, but because I simply did not want to be pregnant anymore.
While my symptoms were debilitating, they were not the worst part of my pregnancy. It was not the nausea, the vomiting, or the exhaustion. It was the depression, the isolation, and the loneliness that came along with it.
Severe morning sickness takes a mental toll, not just a physical one. I hated being confined to my bed and not being able to take care of myself. The hours that I had to keep were not conducive to social interaction, nor did I have the energy for it. I was lucky that my wonderful boss supported me working from home, which allowed me to hold onto some of my sanity and continue earning a paycheck. Still, I desperately missed leaving my apartment for anything other than a doctor’s appointment or an ER visit. I missed my friends, food, and fresh air. I forgot what not feeling nauseous and exhausted was like. And all of this was happening during what was supposed to be one of the most exciting and joyful times in my life.
Make no mistake about it; I was beyond grateful to be pregnant, especially so soon after suffering a loss. And I was fortunate to have a great support system by my side. But I was sick and miserable, and I felt like no one understood what I was going through.
When sharing the news of my pregnancy and my severe morning sickness, I was met with the usual expressions given to pregnant woman. I was told that “It will all be worth it in the end, you’ll see,” “It will pass,” “You should be grateful,” and “You should do your best to enjoy this exciting time.” Although well meaning, these words were not comforting to me and were often infuriating. I knew that at the end of this long and hard road, I would have what I wanted for so very long. But it was hard to be excited when I felt so miserable and unhappy. And that alone was heartbreaking for me. The comforting words I received seemed to minimize what I was going through, because they ignored the physical and emotional toll of my pregnancy.
In the end, like everyone said, it was worth it. It did pass and I am grateful. I have a beautiful, funny, sweet, monster of a 2-year-old, and I would endure it all again in a heartbeat for her. And I am trying my best to mentally prepare myself to do it all over again. After all, my severe morning sickness led to a pretty great kid, though she does owe me a food-fueled trip to Israel.